The case for chasing waterfalls

Maybe TLC actually got it wrong?

Like so many Millennials, I grew up under two strong influences: the belief that productivity was a direct reflection of one’s worth and the ascendance of the best-selling American girl group of all time — TLC. And I only recently realized a connection between the two.

If you know TLC’s hits, you know the song Waterfalls. (If you don’t, witness the iconic music video below. Thank me later.)

It’s pretty bleak for such a bop, telling the tale of two unrelated characters who come to similar sad ends in their pursuit of money and pleasure. The lesson is repeated in the catchy refrain — don’t go chasing waterfalls, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. You see, waterfalls are appealing but dangerous, magical but high risk. It’s safer to stay where you are, stick to what you know.

In the context of the song, its sound advice. Inarguable, really, as the lyrics directly speak to the illegal drug trade, gun violence, sexual health and HIV/AIDS and indirectly the oppressive systems that contribute to these complex and inequitable issues. I recognize my privilege in how the song didn’t reflect the waterfalls I was more likely to chase. But as I aged alongside the track and nostalgic discourse led to understanding the metaphor itself (teen me cared more about learning the dance than unraveling the meaning), I realized that chasing a waterfall might be exactly what so many of my generation need.

The Bosa team is stacked with stats on Millennial burnout. We trade articles like playing cards, comparing depressing statistics with conflicting senses of understanding and abhorrence. Memes appear on our Slack messages and texts, full of harried parents, peers emailing through overlapping global disasters and comic scenes of adults resorting to emotional support beverages just to make it through the day. The rivers and lakes that we’re used to? They’re poisoned with the idea of productivity as the measure of our worth. And we’ve been swimming in ‘em our whole lives.

The rivers and lakes that we’re used to? They’re poisoned with the idea of productivity as the measure of our worth. And we’ve been swimming in ‘em our whole lives.

So let’s have our waterfalls. Let’s chase them, knowing that if we fail to find them we’ll at least have gotten a nice hike in and maybe touched some grass. And if we make it? If you pivot careers, or let go of the pressure to do it all so you have time for that couch to 5k, or drop the ball on having a perfectly styled house so you can make music regularly…you’re sitting as pretty as T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili in that metallic water, my friend.

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