So, I’ve just finished reading Karl Taro Greenfield’s Book “Triburbia.” Its about being a middle aged artist turned businessman in Tribeca New York. The main characters have made it by most American’s standards yet feel relatively impoverished by their wealthier banker neighbors. These men all have beautiful wives and successful careers, children who love them but no real connections. They are, to a man, too self centered to have real connections. They spend decades getting rich, hoping that winning the rat race will make them happy and they find themselves more depressed than before. Oddly enough, unlike Eddith Wharton’s “House of Mirth” or Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” it provides no alternative for happiness other than move to California and start over.
I have been thinking a lot about the book though because it makes me wonder about what I want out of life. What kind of life do I want to lead? As I consider employment options, my anger at working a minimum wage job with a college degree wanes, my fears of being a failure subside, my passion for writing increases and I am still at a loss. What do I want to do? What would make me happy? I have moments of wanderlust punctuated with moments of extreme unease with my life. My life is happy over all I guess but there is still something missing. Something intangible and ineffable. There has got to be more.
Yet all that being said, I am happier now than when I made 3 times what I make now. I am also much more content with life even though I think that the work I was doing a year ago was nobler. I was making a difference a year ago that I am not now. Yet, I am much more content and less angsty. Even as I contemplate these same questions with less certainty I am less stressed than I was two years ago.
I think it has a lot to do with my being more intentional about my life now. I am spending more time thinking about what makes me happy. What I want out of life and finally actually going for it. I am constantly working on creating positive relationships. I am meditating and praying trying to understand more about myself. Yet still managing to serve others and not become completely inward focused. Heck, even as I oscillate between resignation and aversion to where I live and work I must admit it just doesn’t seem that bad compared to a few years ago.
I have a nagging suspicion that this is what adulthood feels like. Less passion, fewer butterflies but ultimately less drama…in everything. I have a degree of control in my life that is unprecedented in my history. I am less impulsive, less defensive more confident. Yes, this is adulthood. I’m becoming my father, slowly but surely. That’s not so bad I guess. My father’s pretty awesome. He’s gearing up to ride his bike 150 miles soon. He’s 63 years old and in better shape than me. I wonder if he ever felt what those middle aged men in Triburbia felt though? He lost his job even before the great recession of 2008. He had always been pretty concerned with maintaining a middle class life. Being unemployed had to be hard on him. I’m not sure if we ever really talked about it though. I mean we had family meetings about cutting back but it was always his job to provide for me so he could never really open up.
My parents both decided to cut down on expenses. They sold their house of 18 years and moved to Canyon “nothing-to-see-here” City Colorado. They started living the kind of lives that you see on movies. The kind where Ivy-Leauge educated professionals are forced to move back in with their middle class hippie parents and realize that maybe they had it right all along. My parents don’t smoke weed or walk around naked but they have permanently excised themselves from consumerism. No more Christmas present rush, no more new SUVs, more black whatever day sales. I think they compost now too.
There’s a picture my mom texted me of her standing on top of a mountain, age 65, with her hands above her head and infectious smile: triumphant. That could be on the cover of AARP magazine with tittle “Life At 65!” None of that ? b.s. from the nineties [Life at 65?] when baby boomer all though retirement meant times shares in Reno, Nevada before you slowly come to accept the home your kids put you in. I’m starting to think that maybe my parents have life figured out.
Maybe I won’t go follow the Depressing Pursuit Of Happiness By The Petty Bourgeois. Maybe I’ll pare down my life, move somewhere cheap, get to know my neighbors, pass out wisdom to my children, teach my truth and continue to learn till I die…when I’m 90…from exposure…in Tibet. It is a comforting thought, until I remember the look on my mom’s face after coming home from a 9 hour work day and seeing my older sister covered in eggs…along with all the furniture. My parents put in 40 years of adulthood before 150 mile bike rides and hiking mountains. I’m not sure if I have that in me. Is their a middle way? Is there that good life in America? I’m twenty-four, my parents are supposed to envy me and my life!
Well…at least I know how to text properly…oh wait…mom and dad do that too now…