I have never learned the fine art of being able to let go and no longer care. Maybe that is another trait neurotypical people are born with that we the mentally ill aren’t. Even though one of my favorite comedians was George Carlin, I have never been able to bring myself to the nihilist thinking of if the world is going to fall apart then I’m going to enjoy the ride down. I think I’m more of an idealist in that I know we as a species have problems, issues, and baggage but we can compensate for said hangups and move onto something better. I guess I never quit dreaming and seeing what we can as a species accomplish. I missed the memo that said I had to be a pessimist and a grump once I became a man.
The scientists, engineers, doctors, and humanitarians of the world have done some really amazing things just since I was old enough to start paying attention twenty five years ago. And twenty five years is just a blip on the radar of human history. I would have been life time hospitalized in 1966. I wouldn’t be blogging in 1986 with the audience I now have (I appreciate all my visitors). I wouldn’t be able to keep in contact with my college friends in 1996 nearly as easily as I do now. My father always told me one of his greatest regrets was not keeping in contact with his college and Air Force friends more and taking more photos when he was in school and overseas. With Facebook I hear from people I was just casual friends with on an almost weekly basis. I have even had good conversations with people I have never met in person. But because we have similar interests we can connect quite easily. With my cell phone I can cheaply talk to friends and family at all hours or call for emergency help. In the late 1980s about the only people who had cell phones were Wall Street tycoons. And as good as my $99 Wal Mart cell phone is, I don’t even really need it as much as I used to. Anymore I can most of my banking, order books through Amazon, order clothing (I have an odd size so I have to special order sometimes), and even get pizza and deli delivery via the internet. If I were so inclined to get back into the dating game, I’d just go to any one of a number of internet dating sites and let their algorithms match me to a woman with similar interests. None of this was possible when I was growing up. It is an excellent time to be alive.
For years I have heard that my generation of Americans was going to be the first that was worse off than their parents. As far as I’m concerned, we’re worse off only in certain areas. Sure GenXers and Millenials have higher levels of student loans and more job insecurity than did the Boomers and World War 2 generations. But what money we do have can go much further than in the past. You really think Andy Griffith could have accessed an entire encyclopedia of knowledge on his rotary phone in the 1960s? You think that Archie Bunker would have as good of a chance to survive cancer in the 1970s? Sure many of the high paying manufacturing jobs have left Europe and North America, but blame technology and automation as much as China or trade deals. Just Google the monetary worth of manufactured goods in the U.S. or E.U. and compare it to before the beginning of automation. It’s probably higher now though done with fewer laborers. Yes you may be discontent with your job as a convince store clerk or a fryer cook at KFC, but with as cheap as many things are getting now, you may not need the $40,000 a year job right out of college to have an alright life.
I make less than $15,000 per year from all sources. But I still have two computers, an automobile, a cell phone, a good wireless internet connection, no debts, and I’m not going hungry. Yet according to the U.S. government statistics I am living in poverty. But I have pretty much everything I want and definitely everything I need. I don’t need the four bedroom house with the picket fence (especially not when I have pay home owners’ association fees, property taxes, shovel snow, and fix my own plumbing when the pipes break at 3 am on Sunday morning). I think the ideas of having a large house in a good neighborhood, a mini van and an SUV, lots of trinkets to impress people I don’t care about, a stressful job that could be automated or outsourced at a moment’s notice, a marriage that is always strained because of not enough time with the wife and kids, are overrated. I never got the memo that said I had to have all of that to be happy and content. I don’t have any of those “hallmarks of success” and yet I don’t feel like less of a man because of it. Some people may think less of me because I don’t have a lot of money, a prestigious job, a trophy wife, children, a big house, or a SUV. But that is their hangup and a reflection on them, not me.
Sure I make less money than my parents did (and many of my friends can claim the same thing). But we definitely have more flexibility, more adaptability, more connectivity, better access to knowledge and information, and less of our budgets are going to basics like food and rent. Even with as little as I make only half of my money goes to food and rent. And I don’t even get food stamps. Take heart GenXers and Millenials, even though you may never have the job stability or the money your parents and grandparents had, you definitely have more freedom and flexibility because you are not as tied to one area. And you GenXers and Millenials will find out that once you get your debts completely knocked out (which will take time and discipline), you will find you can live on much less than you thought and you suddenly have lots of options. My parents are tied to their small farming village because they would have to sell their house, their acreage, their cars, and most of the trinkets they acquired over the years of being tied down. Me, besides my bed, my dresser, my book shelf, and my two couches, I can throw everything I own in my car and be moved within a few hours if need be. And being able to do so much more online now, I can easily transfer to a new bank, new insurance company, and find pretty much whatever I need wherever I wind up. I wouldn’t give up my freedom and flexability so I could be tied down just because I have a house and some money. Freedom and flexability are currency in the information age. I wouldn’t want to live in the past. I would go nuts from the lack of freedom and lack of options.