May You Live in Interesting Times

Each year, for the past several  years, the idea that the world is changing has taken firmer and firmer root in my mind. My life now, is nothing how I imagined it would be ten years ago. I imagine that life ten years from now will be even more different from the original concept of my mortal journey than I can now comprehend. And  I welcome the change in tides, the subtle shift in color, the twisting and turning rhetoric of our societies. To do anything else is akin to functional suicide.

Not that shifting and changing is easy. It’s hard as hell, whatever that means for you personally. And not that I don’t think every generation on earth has had to shift and change to keep pace with the times. Even hunter gathers had to keep their eyes on the weather patterns and the migration habits of their food sources. I do think my generation has to make these changing a little more abruptly than maybe our parents or our grandparents. I do think the rule book is only partially written. There are plenty of blank pages to stare at and wonder, “Ok, I’m here but where in the world (literally, world for some of us) do we go from here?”

I shared with my father recently that as much as I admired him for holding a job with one employer all these years and creating a sterling reputation and skills set, I couldn’t imagine myself having the same opportunity. And frankly, possibly slightly sadly, he agreed with me. I thanked him for passing on the principle of constant self education and keeping a sterling reputation. He is an inspiration to me in that way but I do not aspire to enter a company and work my way up the ranks like he did.

I think the road my husband and I travel, as well as many of our peers with us, will be a little rougher, a little wilder, with less road markers and fewer guarantees. I imagine we’ll be talking about passive income and savings to stave us over between stints of self employment and contract work instead of retirement benefits and stock markets. Information flows are already so fast that by the time a college class is concocted the real world experience is passing it by and certifications seem possibly more important than the gilded degree we mortgaged our futures for. “Prove that you’ve been there and done it,” the world seems to say to us as we job search, “not that you could do it if we took you in an groomed you.”

I imagine a world where we turn to each other and our networks before we pickup a phone book and look for a specialist. I imagine a world where we as a generation become less and less reverent and respectful towards our elders and traditional authorities as they appear to have less and less to offer  us. We’ll respect some immensely. As a group, I believe we have immense capacity to honor and give credit to those who prove themselves to the tribe. And I’m not really imagining any of this. It’s already happening. Has happened before us and will happen again. Like a tide coming back.

Our generation isn’t special. There’s no special fate out there going around sprinkling dust on our birthdays saying this cadre of people will have hard lives and be rebellious or this group will get it right. What we’re living through are the culminated effect of the decision of every generation before us and every decision we make personally and as a group.

Part of what I’m saying is simple this. Listen to the principles of the past but scrap the tactics. We all want to be happy. We all want to be safe. We all want to have a better, cleaner more peaceful world. But many of us may need to reconsider how to get there. And that’s natural. Terrifying but natural.

I read a lot of anger between generations on the internet. A lot of it is unjustified or single incidents being generalized to an entire generation. One kind of anger going around in some places can be justified, anger towards people who believe that you have to repeat what worked before and steer young well meaning people towards repeating past mistakes and living with the consequences. Well, that and politics pitting young people and old people, well off people and the working poor against each other for their own benefit. But that’s another topic entirely.

As a generation, I think we need to search for what functions in our circumstances today and remember to give our children the freedom to craft their own answers to their world when the time comes.

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