I’ll admit to being at a point in my life in which things are a lot harder than they were a year, even two years ago.
There aren’t many places to hide from what’s happened in the United States over the last eighteen months, and I would think that’s true around the world. I work extremely close to the epicenter of the seismic shift that happened around the Fall of Wall Street not long ago. Every civilized nook and cranny on the planet felt the ripple effect.
Sure, it’s not part of everyone’s daily life, but we all know it’s out there. We all know someone who’s in a challenging employment situation. You might even know someone who’s had to change one or two of their habits or plans because of the way the world reshaped itself overnight.
I don’t mean to be depressing. To suggest that life is miserable and we should all go cry ourselves to sleep. However, I”d be hard pressed to agree with you if you suggested to me that the average (or median) barometer on society’s general well-being hasn’t slipped a bit as we wade through a recession that’s covered the globe in a blanket of systemic difficulties.
Now, it’s easy to get caught up in that. It’s easy to let your lens get dusty; tough times kick up dust, and hiccups seen through dusty glasses tend to look like crises. Difficulties seem to sharpen into focus and the good stuff seems blurry.
I’m saying this because it’s been my own experience.
Earlier this week you should have heard about Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped by a sex offender 18 years ago and lived in isolation, in a hut, until discovery this week. Jaycee emerged with two daughters, 15 and 11, both fathered by her abductor. You can read more here, if you haven’t eaten.
Outrage aside, her story has gutted my perspective.
The world is a big, big place, and sometimes I think we young adults forget how great we have it.
I know…that’s a little played out, and the ‘you’re so lucky’ chorus risks condescending overtones, but when I read Jaycee’s story I literally felt sick having lately felt as if I deserve to have things go easier on me.
As if my problems had any real relevance to the ultimate human struggle.
This women just joined the world as we know it.
She is twenty-nine years old.
Between today and my eleventh birthday, I’ve had hundreds of friends. I’ve had a handful of loving relationships with beautiful women. I’ve played soccer in ten different countries, and in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming fans. I’ve learned about foreign cultures, political histories, emerging technologies, social causes, and human potential.
I’ve spoken to my mother and father over and over and over again. I’ve watched my sisters grow up into truly incredible young women who each has the potential to make the world a significantly better place for other people. I’ve gone from hating family trips to Upstate New York to a man who values my relationships with my 40+ cousins more than he ever thought possible.
I’ve developed a taste for single malt scotch, avocados, and sushi. I’ve been in two car accidents that should have killed me, and emerged unscathed from both. I’ve had coffee with the President’s daughter and I’ve debated everything under the sun with a myriad of different people with different backgrounds and diverse perspectives.
I know how to type. Fast.
I have been disciplined for treating other people badly.
I’ve mended a broken heart.
More than once.
My struggles were faced with a web of support and resources every step of the way. Through the total devastation in fifth grade at the friends chosen for the other middle school, through the broken foot I thought would forever derail my soccer career, and the mononucleosis that nearly did.
The day I lost my first job. The pain of watching friends go through worse; divorce, eating disorders, abuse, suicide watch, and mysterious illnesses. There were people to call. Without fail.
I’m not preaching here. Jaycee’s story stopped me in my tracks. That was my experience and doesn’t have to be yours.
If you do take a second to look around, though…to try and imagine your life matched up next to one with an eighteen year stint in one room in an overgrown backyard…
…tell me what you see.
(A bit of a tribute: if you have any “since I was eleven” sentiments in light of Jaycee’s story, tweet them and use the hashtag #sinceiwas11JC.)
Photo by nyki_m.