Still Waiting (Part II) …

Jane Austen quote on Youth

Last week, I devoted a post to considering some assumptions I carried around as I grew up and joined the world of work.  If you want to check my earlier comments, click here – you may find some familiar thoughts:  Still Waiting (Part 1)

Now to think about the expectations I created for myself based on those assumptions.  Here’s the short list:

I expected to always be employed by someone else …

The concept of self-employment was foreign to me and to those who influenced me as I was growing up.  Surprisingly, most of the people I knew were self-employed:  Farmers or small business owners.

However, the message I received from most adults was simple:  Prepare to work for someone else for a very long time, then retire.   I guess this was the gold ring of working

I expected to always be working …

I don’t mean the idea of never retiring here, since the idea of being old enough to retire was so nebulous I did not consider it at all.  I mean that I expected to always have a job (see “working for someone else”), because almost everyone I knew worked, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or cultural background.

This might be a good time to note that most of the adults I knew worked and lived on family farms, and they worked every day doing farm chores, if nothing else.  You do not really retire if you live on a farm … you just work at home.

Working was just what people did.

I expected challenging, but always doable work …

This came a little later, after my first attempts at working in part-time and temporary jobs in many places.  I learned that one has to learn how to do a thing, but also that once I learned how to effectively do that one thing, life became very easy from a work perspective.

Early successes piled up and I developed the sense that I was so intelligent that I could handle anything.  I was confusing the ability to understand a thing with being able to do that thing.

We think we are too cool to fail …

I expected the world to stay relatively consistent with my experiences …

While events occurred and shifts were felt, much of life, especially in my home town and surrounding area stayed much the same as it had been for decades.  I found going home akin to taking a short jaunt in a time machine.  

I was sensitive to the generations which coexisted, but did not yet connect the dots of change.  Change was something that happened Out There somewhere … and that was where I thought I existed.

I expected to always be most up-to-date …

A conceit of youth is that we think we are always the “hip” ones, and have just invented thinking, enjoyment, and sex.  Because we grow up with a technology, we consider ourselves as the benchmark for competency, even though we will lose this crown as soon as the next technological wave comes along.

Never understood then why my parents were visibly unimpressed with my latest and greatest technological wonders.

I expected to always be happy …

Being young is a time of exuberance and optimism for the most part … nicely combined with all those self-doubts and egocentric concerns that we try so hard to mask.

Maybe because when we are young, we want so desperately to be happy, we romanized the concept as the end-all and final solution to our life’s quest.

Later, we find out that happiness is elusive sometimes … and not necessarily the source of our greatest growth as people.

… Well, all my deeply held expectations did not work out like I had planned.  

My current reality includes working for myself, with periods of “unemployment“, and a daily challenge to understand a rapidly and consistently changing workplace.

I struggle to stay relevant … which brings me to the third and last chapter of this little navel-gazing exercise.    

Still Waiting Part III (What We Need to Learn Now) … coming soon to a computer screen near you.

Reflecting cautiously on old assumptions and false hopes in the Heartland ….



Inspiration:  Life Reimagined (Leider and Webber, 2013)

Why Ask “Why”? …

Why is a dangerous question

Well, the first response to the title might be “Why Not?”, but we need to go deeper.  I think many of us are searching these days, although not for the same reasons or with the same goals …

We are not at the beginning of our careers, relationships, or life, but somewhere in the middle of all this.  We have accomplished things, experienced life, created memories, and learned a bit about ourselves and how we are. 

Now we wonder, for a variety of reasons and with consideration of our individual backgrounds, history, experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and so on … 


Continue reading

Still Waiting (Part I) …

ConvairCar Model 118 by Source. Licensed under Fair use via WikipediaWhen I was a tender youth, I read voraciously … Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Boy’s Life, Saturday Evening Post, Popular Science, Mad Magazine AND Cracked … you know, all the classics.

I had an insatiable appetite for information and the written word, whether a novel about man’s existence or a magazine article about the future.  This trait has persisted and stands me in good stead today, even if it does tend to clog my email account a bit.

I was promised flying cars …

Back in 1957 or so, I distinctly remember an image that caught my attention.  It was a picture of a typical suburban street, with cookie-cutter houses, pavement everywhere, and shining sun above.  For this isolated farmboy stuck at the edge of the world in rural MIssouri, this looked fantastic.  I could not wait to be in that world.

What really got my attention was the artist’s carefully rendered depiction of a car in the driveway.  Not just any car, mind you, but a car with wings!  

My life had no context regarding cars with wings, since at this point, airplanes were still pretty exotic items and usually glimpsed as they flew high and majestic over our farm, above me standing far below with mouth agape, in and out of my life in a few short, but exciting seconds.   At that time, the Air Force base outside Kirksville was still a going concern and the rare appearance of an actual military bomber flying lower than I dared hope to soar loudly and ominously over the barn was a time of near hysteria.  I became adept at playing out a mini-wargame whenever one of these mysterious crafts appeared.  On the days that I noticed or heard them coming, I was ecstatic, because this gave me precious extra moments to act out my boyish fantasies.

About that car with the wings …

This was the promise of the future, along with a bunch of other predictions about work-saving appliances, portable communications, and easy living, most of which meant nothing to me at the time.  However, a car with wings was something to be excited about.

This is what we do as young people.  We grow into the world and try to make sense of it.  As we grow and expand our base of knowledge, we let loose of some interesting but fanciful conceptions and incorporate a widening circle of experience and knowledge.  At least, that is how it is supposed to work.

Another concept I was exposed to early in life was the idea of work …

I was less excited about this concept, since work on a farm means physical labor that never really ends, but only shifts focus and location, as weather and seasons come and go.  Work on the farm consumed much of the day and much of the energy of my parents.   While I knew other people had different jobs, I did not think much in terms of those other jobs … partly because I had little direct knowledge of them and also because I did not understand that “town jobs” like teacher, storekeeper, policeman, gas station operator, or druggist were options for me.

I also learned that you worked for many years, until a magical time called “retirement” when you could stop working.   This was also unclear to me, since all the farmers I knew continued to work hard, regardless of their age.  Retirement was more attached to the afore-mentioned “town jobs” than to my reality.

I have to admit that this retirement sounded pretty good, although the whole idea of what you actually did do every day when retired was rather vague.  Fishing was mentioned and I eventually learned that retirement appeared to include drinking coffee at the restaurant during the work day, sitting on the town square observing commerce, and hanging out with other people of a certain age.  At least that is what the men did … I have no clue what retired women did, or even if such existed.  I guess I just assumed women kept doing what I saw them doing most of the time … cooking, laundry, and taking care of children.

I grew up in a different time … and I am still waiting for those flying cars.

More importantly, I also grew up, as did many others, with some clear expectations for how things would go.  Those expectations were based on what I saw, what I was told, and how things had gone in the past.

Life goes on and the boy ends up in a far different world than expected … stay tuned for Part 2, where I analyze some expectations and find them wanting.  Then in Part 3, I will share what I believe we are now learning about how life will go for us.

Feeling full of purpose and sort of excited about things in the Heartland ….


Inspiration:  Life Reimagined (Leider and Webber, 2013)

Image:  “ConvairCar Model 118” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia