I came home from a little goofin’ off with the family last night, perfectly content with myself and the world we live in. Ready to get to bed early and catch up on some much needed shut-eye. Ah, the best laid plans.
As I was making my last minute rounds (Twitter, RSS Subs, etc), I came across The Post. Innocent at first glance, but don’t be fooled. It soon began to haunt me…one passage in particular:
“There is no steady job. There is no permanent residence”
It got me thinking about a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks prior to moving back to Colorado. This was at a time when the walls of my professional life had already come tumbling down around me (which is why we left VA and moved back here). My friend, however, was still in a good position, nothing had changed for him in this regard.
We were talking about the state of the economy, the complete and utter lack of corporate responsibility, and the like. And he confided in me that he’d never been as stressed as he was at that moment. That even though his job seemed safe, he lived in a beautiful home, in a great neighborhood…he couldn’t seem to escape the fear of losing his job.
And then he said the thing that, at the time, made me really stop and think. Little did I know it would, much like ‘The Post’, haunt me. He said,
“I make more money than my father ever has, I live in a nicer home, and I offer my kids more opportunity than I ever had growing up. Yet I have trouble sleeping because I’m so stressed out. My dad worked for one company the bulk of his life. He didn’t bring work home with him at night. He got regular vacations each year. And he never once feared he might lose his job. Never once. So we actually took vacations when I was a kid. We remodeled the house. We made plans. I don’t feel like I can do that. Despite having more money than my dad, the total lack of confidence as it concerns my job makes me stressed all the time. Rather than spending money on vacations and such, I feel like I have to save my money because who knows? I might not have a job next week or next month.”
I realized that I, too, had this same fear. Mine was a bit more justified as I actually had lost my job, but even before there was a hint of trouble, when I was making more money than I ever had, I was stressed.
Hmm. The shift we’ve experienced in our generation from what can be described, generally, as excellent job security to what I would claim, today, is the utter lack thereof…there’s more to it than meets the eye, of that I was certain. But the details of a cross-country move quickly overtook my focus, and I forgot about it.
Until last night.
The point of “The Post” was the importance, especially of late, of agile living. Not becoming overly burdened with ‘stuff’, but rather focusing on life’s true priorities and following them wherever they may lead (which is easier to do when one is agile). This agility, in many regards, is great. Positive. Wonderful.
But what of the need for agility? What is it doing to us? I think that’s a question worth talking about. What happens to a child who is raised without the belief, the absolute certainty, that a parent will be there for them? When he or she experiences circumstances that cause them to question the trust they place in others (we’ll make that one a rhetorical question, but if you’d like to explore it in more detail, please feel free to ask :))?
I think we’re becoming a society without roots. More transient in nature than perhaps we’ve been in many many generations. That could be good, it could be bad. As someone who’s moved almost a dozen times since getting married (at age 21), I think there’s some value in the gypsy-style life. We, as a family, have seen so many different places, met people from such varied backgrounds. I don’t think I could say that if I still lived in Lake Forest, CA., where I grew up.
But I also see the negative side of this tendency of mine. On some level, I understand it’s nothing more than a search for greener grass. And it’s rooted in my general disdain for commitment and my less than robust self-confidence. On balance, despite the positives, I think this transient nature of mine has been bad for me. For my growth as a person. For my contribution to others.
But that’s just me. Now multiply that by an entire generation of young people who are growing up, professionally, in a system that clearly doesn’t value commitment from either side of the equation. Where roots run shallow. Does anyone honestly think that behavior is going to remain isolated inside the world of work? And not affect the way we relate and connect to others in our personal lives? I don’t.
No. I think the likely consequence of this is that the majority of people will feel more disconnected in general. Less invested. Commitment, or lack of it, is tied to value. If we see that others (professionally, personally) are committed to us, we feel valuable. We advance confidently into the world. If we see that they aren’t, we question our value. Our confidence diminishes. We’re far less likely to take risks that will lead to growth, to the fulfillment of potential.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘Paradigm’ in a sentence (except for a tweet last night as I was considering this), but here goes. I believe we have witnessed a paradigm shift. I think the events of this last year will prove to have been destructive in a way that nobody is talking about. It’s not just the failed international economy we have to worry about. It’s the affects that the root causes of this failure will have on us as a community of people. On the micro and macro levels. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people out there who truly recognize how different life will be 5 years down the road.
From consumption to communion, I think civilization has changed forever.
I’m not an economist or a psychologist or internetologist, so it’s entirely likely that I’m wrong. But you have, quite literally, the smartest people on the planet to thank for the mess we’re cleaning up…so maybe you want to hedge your bets and consider the rant of someone with considerably less credentials. Just an idea.
But either way, I think it may be time for a little ‘What If‘, ala @CCSeed