I sometimes fail to revisit my own archives, especially on the personal side. But it’s instructive to see where you came from, to know where you’re headed. It’s also a useful check to reflect on where you are now and if you’ve made any progress. This is timely. I wrote this back in April of 2013 when I still lived in Wyoming but didn’t post it for months after I wrote it. – (2/2017)
I tend to personalize things a bit too much. I can’t put a finger on why that started, but as I notice I have to remind myself that it’s not always about you. One of the things I underestimated about being (back) in the hinterland was how much I’d yearn to have connections with real people more regularly.
It’s not to say there aren’t interesting people floating around the stock yards and cornfields or even on campus. Our lives are just different. I realize this is a conscious choice that we make at phases of our lives to dictate what we’ll do, how we’ll do it and why. I think it’s really easy to look at someone else’s life and think “What am I doing wrong? Is there a blueprint to this that I’m missing?”
One of the things about the time when there were people around in my circle constantly, was how fragile I knew it’d be. It seems the more you run into friends who’ve “embrace” the accouterments of grown-up life — spouse/kids/house — is a certain kind of plainness to it all. It’s as if, they’re quite pleased with what they’re doing, but aren’t especially concerned with whether anyone else is happy with it. This is horribly anecdotal and owes largely to how many friends I don’t have who despite good jobs simply haven’t been able to find someone they like to marry and are in a major state of transition. This probably makes it easier for me to cope because in my circle there’s nothing especially odd about my life. There’s a practicality to where we find ourselves and we’re all at various stages of finding it.
I’m not writing about that, though. I’m instead thinking about how we synthesize our networks to find what works for us. People live where they want to, connect with whom they find some commonality and do stuff that (presumably) gives them some satisfaction. One of the things that began my glacial shift politically comes from this idea that you derive so much of your identity to where you live and interacting with people who share your values. I don’t now if it ever occurred to me before how much this was important. It’s this kind of structure that makes rural life sustainable for so many people. They find people who fit them, they make it work and live lives that provide a semblance of satisfaction.
Connections are about sacrifices. You choose your friends and some people come and go. Others remain for a long time. You accept that no one is perfect, that people with warts and all still matter. Choosing a place to live is full of the same kind of sacrifices unless you’re wealthy enough that it doesn’t matter.
As I try to connect the pieces on the board, I find myself assess and re-assessing what’s really important and it seems that right now, it’s not even about people. I yearn for the kind of satisfaction that’s eluded me because of choices I’ve made. That part can’t be overstated, because it’s a lot easier sometimes to dismiss choices as circumstances.
I used to believe that experiences mattered more than stuff. I feel more strongly about that now than ever. I loathe checking boxes, making middlebrow choices in an inevitable rush towards retirement; then stuffing my future kids with a bevy of unrealized expectations aimed at fulfilling promises (for me) that I made to myself but couldn’t keep for one reason or another.
Maybe this makes my thought process seem too much like a zero-sum game, but I don’t see it as that. There’s a balance between making conscious choices towards an unknown future; delaying satisfaction in an effort to play a part in a larger context without understanding whether any of that will really matter to you or not. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for building a foundation from which you can reap the benefits should you find yourself in a situation where you can’t move at the speed you’re accustomed to.
Connection is a process and exercise and right now, it’s about building a sustainable foundation for a live worth living. But the key part of that sentence is the last part, life worth living. If you’re not living it, it’s not worth much.
Also published on Medium.