The pandemic has affected us in many ways this year, whether mentally, financially, physically, or all of the aforementioned… it has been a lot to face—for everyone. And with information already pumped at us constantly, even before COVID-19 hit, it’s safe to say that even if you feel you are handling it, right now, most people need a break.
While this uncertain time period has affected people of every age, I personally think this has affected young people even more (teens to mid-twenties). Why? I think it’s because my generation—millennials—is already looked at as “lazy,” and this pandemic has left a lot of us feeling like we don’t have anything to work toward in the near future. If you’re not in the place you want to be, right now, you’re screwed. That’s how it feels. Like plans—especially career plans and milestones like getting engaged, moving or travelling—are indefinitely on hold.
Is this the reality? Most young people I know have three or more jobs in the Gig Economy, which has morphed into the Hustle Economy. We are stressed out about not doing enough and we feel like we can’t gain much, no matter how hard we hustle. I’m not sure if this pressure is external or if a lot of us young people expect too much. It’s probably both.
Another factor: I think screen time is one of the main problems facing young people today. I’m usually the type of person who loves to consume information. I enjoy pushing myself and learning ways to improve. Reading features about iconic artists, public figures, photography/art/fashion, etc. is one of my favourite pastimes. But do I consume too much? As a business-oriented creative, I’ve tried to teach myself to have a two-to-three-hour window (at the most) where I might use social media apps for recreation.
As a 24-year old in the GTA, I grew up in the “middle ages” when social media and the internet were completely changing how people socialized and interacted online and this subsequently changed everything including socializing, parties, restaurants, school, lifestyle, fashion choices etc. This also led us into unknown online territory where we could be met with all sorts of negativity and influence that older generations didn’t understand. Now that I’m older and reflecting on my teenage years, I believe that a lot of us had to figure out or create our own safe spaces online. For me, that’s meeting or following the work of other photographers, activists, teachers and creatives. This helps me to not only further my work but to connect with opportunities to share my experience and knowledge. To know that I resonate with other people is fulfilling. I don’t think there’s anything more important than making connections—I mean, what is it all really for if you don’t make an impact on someone or something? Is this a question we’re all asking ourselves? I don’t know.
Food is goodness and creativity: I used to find cooking unbelievably difficult as a teenager. Other than making cereal and sort of knowing how to make eggs (boiled or scrambled) and simple salads, I knew nothing. No matter how much my mom showed me how to do things like marinating chicken, make your own potato wedges, the proper way to cook vegetables, etc., I just didn’t care. However, I was interested in eating healthy and according to my values (which made it even harder that I didn’t cook anything.)
I don’t think it helped that I used to lose interest in something if I couldn’t learn how to do it that day (I mean, it’s the internet age, we have access to how-to videos on doing just about anything at our fingertips). Fast forward to my twenties, around then I started to try making things on my own. I kind of knew how to cook rice and quinoa, I had mastered making breakfast omelettes, made all my own salads, knew how to throw things like vegetables and sweet potatoes into a pan for a “one-pot” type of meal. That was still all I really knew how to make on my own after I moved out of my family home for college and lived on my own.
Earlier this year I moved into my first condo. This move was intertwined with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. This started to make me anxious because I knew (this was when COVID first shut down Ontario) that I would have to start going to the grocery store weekly, I had to plan and buy food for all meals for me and my boyfriend. But, despite some angst, I learned and adapted, just like I have done before. And despite my worrying, which seems to be a common issue in my peer group, after a few weeks I actually got into the swing of things. I was cooking quinoa/rice dishes with vegetables, veggie burger patties mixed into salads, etc. The remaining issue is that it all felt super time consuming, which was sad because I know people my age who have it way harder than me. I have a loving family who would provide me with anything, but I really like trying to do things on my own. So, after lots of research, I started to look into the different types of boxed meals that I could order weekly and came across HelloFresh. HelloFresh is a meal kit delivery service that offers weekly options of several differently healthy meal options (vegetarian or non-vegetarian.) I started off by ordering four meals a week that were a mix of meat and non-meat. It was great because every box came with recipe cards on how to make each meal, and helped me out because of how straight forward and visual it was.
I am not a label, but for the sake of explanation, I would be called a “flexitarian” who eats according to my values around animal welfare, sustainability and my interests in other cultures. HelloFresh met these expectations and fulfilled my criteria. It sounds dramatic, but now I actually know how to cook my own pizza from scratch, several different chickpea-based Middle Eastern dishes, spicy plant-based Asian-fusion tacos; brie, onion, and spinach burgers, vegetable noodle linguine with Beyond meat, etc. I think boxed meal programs—no matter which brand you might choose or restaurant you may be sourcing them from, a lot of restaurants have brilliantly shifted to offering meal kits–would help so many young people feel less anxious about preparing meals, especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed by the information overload we are faced with today.
SUSTAIN has also featured HelloFresh as a carbon-neutral company.
Featured Image: The author, 24-year-old Aidan Fisher. Supplied photo.