By Kenneth Justice
“God I hate my life!”
~ I was sitting at an airport terminal on Friday and the mid-30ish woman sitting next to me was clearly in a bad mood,
“Not having a good day?” I asked
“Not at all!” she said, “I got to the Airport two hours before my flight was supposed to leave and after I went through security I figured I had plenty of time to sit and get a drink. So I had a couple cocktails, and then twenty minutes before my departure time I walked up to the gate and they told me that my plane had already left!”
It seemed a tad bit strange to me that she missed her flight while she was sitting at the airport but as we talked longer it became apparent that she isn’t a regular traveler whatsoever. She was dressed in the typical yoga pants that so many women wear these days and had one of those circa-1980’s short-cropped hair cuts (think Madonna), “I teach spin class in Toledo, Ohio” she explained
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania she met a guy from Toledo ten years ago and her story sounded oh-so-familiar to a million other stories I’ve heard like it; her and the dude fell in love, he moved her from Philadelphia to Toledo, they had a couple children, fell out of love for a variety of reasons, and now she is divorced and stuck in a city that she doesn’t want to live in…..but she stays there so her children can finish out school and not feel uprooted from the only life they know.
“I’ve only been officially divorced for less than a month and I’m still not used to this feeling. I feel like my entire life came to a halt and I’m starting all over….I’m nearly forty years old. It’s a strange feeling” she said
What stood out to me the most was the way she kept talking about Philadelphia and how much she missed her hometown….yet because of her children she had made the decision to stay in a place she hated.
“It’s really tough because I associate so many bad things with living in Ohio; it took me away from my family and friends, and now with the divorce I feel as though I’m living in a hell hole” she said
In the past two months I’ve met a number of different people who’ve made major life decisions based on their children. The simple fact of the matter is that when you have ankle- biters it changes your life. Of course, nearly everyone I meet tells me that their children have made life better; but in the fast paced society we live in, it’s hard not to admit that children also complicate things.
The cost of raising children rises every year. The mere cost of gasoline being more than four times the price it was back in the 90’s has really hit our pocketbooks hard. After all, if you’re driving your child to school or to an extra-curricular activity, you’re paying a hell of a lot more than you would have paid twenty years ago.
Even worse is that it seems like Western Culture is becoming less-and-less child friendly. As computer technology, smart phones, and tablet computers begin to dominate every facet of our society; parents are spending less time in face-to-face connection with their children. A recent study found that parents who take their children out to eat in a public restaurant spend more time looking at their smart phone than they do looking little Johnny in the eyes.
As Western Culture becomes more disconnected in our interpersonal relationships I often wonder if the nuclear family is becoming nothing more than something we see in Norman Rockwell paintings; will we ever return to a time when families sit around the dinner table each evening? Will we ever return to a slower pace of life when parents sit out on the porch with their neighbors and watch the children play ball in the front yard?
I’m very sensitive about these questions because having traveled to Latin America quite a bit; I see a world South of the United States that is still clinging to a way-of-life that I only read about in storybooks. Latin America has held on to a level of community and connectivity that I am jealous of; they aren’t worried about scheduling friendships or setting up play dates. They live in communion and connectivity with their family and friends in a day-to-day organic way of life.
But of course, Latin America isn’t really at the forefront of shaping the world we live in. Fast paced Western Countries like the United States, Australia, and Great Britain are the ones setting the trends that the all the nations are adopting.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
I met a lot of good people in St. Louis this past weekend and am very excited about arriving in Minneapolis this coming weekend! If you live in or near the Twin Cities I’d love to have coffee with you or even a beer! I’ll be at two coffee houses on Saturday or you can email me for more info.
Categories: Culture & Society