Dropping Out

I’m not quite there but I’m getting to the point where I can see the pleasures of dropping out—not like in the 1970s, when young people wanted to flee a materialistic society and live simply  off the land. That life sounds more appealing now than the virtual one I scramble to keep up with. Long ago (in the time line of the Internet and social media) I got on Facebook, but I sometimes wonder if I should be on Twitter or Instagram in order to keep up with things. Am I missing out by not being more fully engaged with social media?

How much of my precious time do I want to spend in an online world that is moving so fast I can hardly keep up?

It’s that “keeping up with things” that I struggle with. As I get older, I want my life to get simpler, while social media complicates it and challenges me with new terminology (meme, troll) and new platforms that I struggle to make sense of. I’m so out of touch with the electronic world that when I first read a long article in the New Yorker several years ago about a new program—I mean, platform—called Twitter, I was skeptical and scornful. Why would anyone want to write in a format where you were limited to 140 characters? Well, our president for one, along with millions of others.

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Talkin’ About My Generation

It’s only recently dawned on me that my generation—not just Baby Boomer but the older half of that generation—had it easy (unless you were a minority, which is a different story). My lifeline followed the prosperity of this country—starting from the 1950s when an economic and population boom followed the end of World War II. Housing was cheap, and my parents’ generation was flocking to the suburbs, where new subdivisions were being quickly built on what was farmland. I recall that my parents paid $15,000 in 1956 for the house where they raised our family. (Of course, everything was cheaper then; when I was in college, I remember working at office jobs where I was paid $2/hour.)

For my generation, college was affordable (I recall paying around $2,000 a semester), and jobs were plentiful after graduation. I didn’t have to worry about student debt, because my parents, even with seven children, were able to pay the tuition.

My father was a firm believer in the stock market, and his investments grew throughout the decades, with only a few blips here and there. He also saw the benefit of buying property—a few acres here and a few acres there when he had the money—which also accrued value as the decades passed.

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Making Choices in the Pandemic

I have friends who are playing golf and enjoying happy hour, and friends who won’t leave the house until a vaccine is found for Covid-19. Just as the virus reveals the fault lines between those who take responsibility and those who seem oblivious to the threat—seen most easily in those who wear masks and those who refuse—I’m also seeing the different safety thresholds in friends and acquaintances.

It feels like everyone needs to make their own decision, weighing the inherent or possible risks against the rewards. You take into account your health but also your comfort level. For some people feeling secure is the most important factor, while others, like me, need to be out in the world. Stuck inside, I can easily fall into dark thoughts. Outside, even if just a walk around the block, my mind opens up and experiences other worlds besides the claustrophobic one inside my head.

But it’s a different decision for everyone. I have friends who are staying inside and enjoying what they call the “monastic” life—quiet, contemplative and simple. For introverts, the pandemic is proving to be a legitimate reason not to be social.  

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