On one of our many aimless drives around Nashville this weekend, Samantha mentioned a post I had written a while back that had at least on some level connected with where a group of mutual friends were at that point in their lives. I looked it up tonight and chuckled about it being six years old nearly to the day. Reading it felt good, because it similarly connected how I was approaching life back then to how things go today.
In 2007, my biggest fear was isolation. We had just moved to Goodlettsville, an area several miles north of Nashville and far removed from our preferred urban confines. Friends were in grad school while we had moved on to the working world (Samantha had finished her MBA rather quickly by comparison). The constant fear was losing touch -- and falling into some sort of imagined trap of working for a living.
Fast-forward six years. Those fears have subsided ... mostly. The difference now is not that we may lose touch (I can tell you what most folks had for dinner last night or what show they were watching), but that we lose those human connections that actually make such relationships meaningful. None of that is on the other end of a smart phone. That fear was present even then, but now it has come to just be a reality that has to be grappled with.
I have also learned a lot about this age (the late twenties to mid-thirties) and the people living in it. One thing is that we are collectively not "nice" people. It is not nearly the scathing indictment that it sounds like. It is a sense of urgency ("I don't have time for this") that drives that home. Imagine why someone would cut you off in traffic. It is not usually out of malice; it is because he or she is in a hurry, and your convenience of staying at a constant speed lost out to their need to move into the lane. We generally regard that as a jerk move, no matter the rationale behind it.
It is through this knowledge that I try to maintain a little bit of clarity in the nuanced relationships between friends, coworkers and acquaintances. I try my damnedest not get offended when left out plans that are made within earshot (or closer). I shrug off disagreements as honest differences of opinion instead of deep mistrust. It typically requires a lot of patience.
The good still outweighs the disappointment, though. For every goofball moment of jerk-ishness, there can still be a warm welcome or an understanding ear. I like to think the opportunity to be a "nicer" person presents itself early and often. Stories of bravery and selflessness in the face of tragedy, on days like today, go a long way towards restoring my faith that all of us possess that capability.
The last six years have been spent working towards better careers and enriched social lives. Either of those things can feel like they have come up short at times, but on the balance, things are quite good. The day-to-day still feels like I really am making it all up as I go along. I suppose that is also part of being this age.
It would probably be fascinating to hear a psychologist (sociologist?) talk about what makes this age operate the way that it does, and how motivations and behavior are interrelated. I am also curious what happens after this one.