Unmoored – Rebuilding a community
As we undertake this journey to independence, Mrs. Grizzly and I have many opportunities to reflect on both benefits and problems of this society we’ve created.
There are a LOT of benefits, don’t anyone ever convince you otherwise. Beyond shiny gadgets and ridiculously fast cars, instant delivery of almost anything, or cat videos on the internet – we quite literally have a world full of miracles. Someone from 100 years ago would look at our lives of think we all must be perfectly happy. The BLS has a great survey of what an average life was like back then. The average worker was a farmer, toiling from before dawn till after dusk on back breaking work, happy to scrape by on the meager earnings of a plot of land. Children died early and from horrible diseases that we can easily prevent today. Life expectancy was short, and retirement was non-existent for almost all. Those who didn’t work on farms toiled in factories with almost zero safety protections. Home-ownership was nearly impossible for most. The 40-hour workweek, still a bit of a dream today, was even more distant then. Higher education was a reserved for a tiny fraction of society. Evey high school graduation was a dream. No air travel, no electricity, no air conditioning, no refrigeration. The farmer of yesterday would look at anyone unhappy with our present world and think we’re all a bunch of whiny brats. And they would have a point.
What is missing?
So why are we all so damn unhappy? What is missing from out life? What meaning? What substance? We’ve had a long time to think about this, many long walks to and from the park in our neighborhood with baby bear in tow. For Mrs. Grizzly and I, that missing piece was a community. We have a world filled with miracles, but an ever narrowing circle of people to share that world with. We have become unmoored. We’re all ships lost a sea, untethered to anything beyond a narrow set of goals.
Our current world is isolating. We travel to and from jobs and ensconce ourselves in front of televisions in air-conditioned homes when we return. The only community meeting in our neighborhood was run by a local real-estate agent looking for sellers. I went to one VFW meeting in our area, a sparsely attended thing devoid of any momentum. I didn’t return. Mrs. Grizzly tried and failed to find a working mom’s group to join. We knew the names of only two of our neighbors. One of them moved away, leaving only one.
What was lacking in our life was any larger tribe, any community. We had all the material comforts we could need, but the human side was missing. Those connections, those celebrations that make life worth living: the neighborhood block parties, the church socials, the kid’s sports leagues. Those anchor points in life, those harbors that make returning from the sea worth it.
Why is it missing
A discussion of why this has occurred in our society could occupy entire books. It already has. But for us, it had a very simple cause. We had no ability to engage in any of these things, and neither did our neighbors. We were all just trying to struggle up the corporate ladders in the high-pressure environment of the tech industry. Who has time to organize a block party? Not me or Mrs. Grizzly and certainly not anyone else in our community. The missing piece in our life was fundamentally a choice of resource allocation. And the allocation of that most precious resource: time. We choose to allocate our time to jobs and did not have any left over to build a community, build a home.
Building a home
One of the primary goals of the change we’re making in our lives is to reverse this allocation of time. Instead of dedicating our skill, our ability, and our time to our jobs, we’re going to dedicate those resources to building up what was lacking in our own lives. We’re going to build a home, a community. Instead of being unmoored, lost in an isolating world, were going to do our best to build a harbor.
Well said Grizzly Dad. Good luck with building your harbour. I’m sure it won’t be smooth sailing but the effort will be worth it in the end and many will benefit (even if they don’t know it yet).
Good to see that your dreams are starting to come together , I feel the same way , it is work , home and every week the same thing – when you get to weekend you are to tired to even do anything , can’t wait to see what next for you guys. Love reading your blog .
I find the ability to build a community is going to depend a lot on where you live and your stage in life.
Building a community in college is easy, if everyone is away from home.
Building a community when I was in the Navy was easy – I lived in DC, where most people are transplants, and temporary.
Building a community when I moved to Santa Barbara was HARD. And here’s why:
1. Lot of our friends were grad students (hubby in grad school). They graduated and moved.
2. Lot of my coworkers were local. And still had family, high school friends.
3. Lot of the people I met were friendly, but really not into expanding their “groups” at all, or getting new friends. Superficial friendliness.
It took many years for us to build our tribes. But maintaining is hard. Some of the grad students stayed.
– Some of our best buddies – well – they had 2 kids, which were in 2 activities each – suddenly our weekly or monthly dinners became annual (our kids held off on activities a lot longer).
– Then there are the job changes. The people you see every day, you don’t anymore. After 20 years and 3 jobs, that’s 4-10 people that I want to keep up with. That’s hard.
How we’ve been successful:
1. Nurturing the ones that last and keep working at them. I had a few years of not keeping up with one good friend because we had babies…(she had twins!) But being consistent and asking over and over…and I got myself a once/week running /walking buddy back.
2. The mom friends. We actually have an active group post-birth for new moms and dads. Meet once/week for 2 hours, for 2 months. Then the group breaks off and a new one starts. My first group with kid #1 had a very active group, but a lot of SAHMs. They had all their meetings mid-week during the day. I became the point person for Working moms and had a lot of things at our house. And I’m glad I did. Met people literally across the street (and our kids are 11 and best buds).
Also joined the group for kid #2. Don’t make it to the SAHM things, but try to make it to as many weekend things as I can.
3. The neighborhood. Our house is small, on a busy street, with one bathroom and no garage. The bottom of the single family home market. But my tribe…several years ago we were invited to a potluck in the park up the street. This group has been meeting for 15-20 years (a lot of their kids are grown or in college). It’s every week, weather permitting. Evening in spring/summer/early fall, and a couple of years ago, we started brunch in winter. This is my tribe. People to feed your fish on vacation, house sit, walk your dog, bring you food if you are sick. You will drag me out of my ‘hood kicking and screaming.
The difficult thing for me, in CA, is that it’s pretty common for people to just want to pay for things. Pay for sports, pay for nannies, pay for babysitters, and that disrupts the whole “tribe” thing.
Also wanted to add…enjoyed the comment about how different things were 100 years ago.
I just watched “Cheaper by the Dozen” (the original, made in 1950 about a family in the 1920’s). Of course I was googling at the same time, as it was based on a true story.
Even though the family was upper middle class, times were still pretty tough for them. The father died at 55 of heart trouble, leaving a wife and 12 children. (The youngest was 2.) Interestingly, the mom and many children lived to their 90s. Even back then, the wealthy lived longer.
Did you listen to the S-Town podcast? If so, do any of John B’s comments resonate with you?
I am interested in the status of your plans. No posts lately. Everything still on track??
Missing your blog posts!