adaptation or sacrifice?
I scrolled through Facebook this morning, and when I got saddened by looking at people’s highlight reels, making my own life seem like a lifeless, thankless tale, I switched to watching a documentary about the tech boom in San Francisco. You know the one, San Francisco 2.0.
This is the life of someone like me right now, out of work, trying desperately most days to “be productive” and feel like my life matters. But there are those days every once in a while, where I have a hard time fighting my overwhelmed mind, and tired body to get off the couch. To do yet another round of job searches or what seems to be an endless to do list of paperwork, (mainly related to being out of work) or chores that I feel I should do because, “now I have the time.”
I am not a Millennial. By all accounts I am a Gen Xer. Born in 1974, familiar with really bad striped polo shirts, intarsia sweaters, and matching corduroy outfits with my sibling. I am also familiar having grown up as the child of Baby Boomers for all intensive purposes, while they were actually a part of the Silent Generation, or Traditionalists, they grew up with the steadfast values gained by this outcropping of their parents who lived through the Great Depression. What that has bred, at least in my family, is a belief system that holds a strong currency in hard work, appreciating not just the value of money in a monetary sense, but also in appreciation of things that cannot be acquired by the dollar; a grateful heart, and a sense that the true contentment earned by what you did to get to your goals. The culmination of your achievements, even more than the achievements themselves. A belief system, that if you are to thrive beyond the essentials in life, you also need to value strong community bonds, have a sense of life beyond material things, and that what we acquire and who we are, are vastly different. This is the legacy that I grew up with. If I was to have children, these are the values I would want to instill in them.
Being a part of Generation X, I am also grounded in a culture of alternative ways of thinking, recognizing hard work and acutely feeling the sense of reward that can accompany it. I also think that my value system includes the understanding that life does not always hand you what you feel you may readily “deserve” and in that case, you must work that much harder to continue to trust in something that doesn’t always reciprocate your efforts. And finally, the belief that you can walk with your head held high knowing that integrity cannot be bought, and how you share your value with the world, is just as important as what you share.
As I watch the documentary, I find myself torn, as I have been for a long time now about the city that I call home for the last twenty years. The city I love, that has shaped who I am, and has been a consistent source of contentment even when I have not been. I am tearing up, and I am trying to figure out why this is making me so incredibly emotional. I can feel the uncertainty to my core. I start to feel that what I am living through in the last few years here; the rising housing costs, the tech revolution, the disconnection of communities by way of smartphones, remote work, and groceries by app, must be in some way akin to what my parents felt at the onset of color television, computers, and the civil rights movement. That somehow in this sheer explosion of change; social, monetary and political, that life in the way that they had been shaped to receive it, was changing right before their eyes. And as much as they worked to adapt, there was a fear of not being able to keep up, not being able to manage it. Unsettling at best, paralyzing at worst.
Now I am the forty something, generation of “old” that looks at the Millennials, and tries to wrap my head around tweeting, managing relationships by only a right or left swipe, and lamenting when the perks of the workplace have not guaranteed me almost everything but doing my laundry. While I have worked hard to adapt, and play by the new rules in which I am forced to face my seemingly outdated value system, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. While I can appreciate that these struggles are shared by many all over the world, being in San Francisco seems to drive this point home in technicolor, like a bright billboard saying “ADAPT OR PERISH”.
In addition to that, I am acutely suffering the fate that many have faced in recent years, in being out of work for the second time in less than 10 years. Along with my “outdated” values, I find myself dangerously dangling on the edge of joining the ranks of those who are affected by the widening generational and wealth gap between new tech immediate gratification, and those that have spent years working toward the building of a traditional career. Being a witness to the changes that have either benefitted, or befallen this great city depending on what side of 1980 you sit on, have shaken me. Not only have I myself have been a party to supporting the newness that has taken hold, but I have also been victim to it. And I can’t help but ask, “As we continue to raise the price on the nature of our happiness, do we in turn lower the value of the integrity of our beliefs?