Have you ever started to write, only to go down a rabbit hole with seemingly, no ending in sight? Well, I did yesterday. I made a statement that my generation had it so hard. We suffered and endured. We walked 10 miles to school, uphill, BOTH WAYS. Some things are true. I grew up in the last generation to know the world free of the internet. We grew up without helicopter parenting. My parents allowed my teachers to teach, and my coaches to coach. All issues with friends were handled without my parents. Most of my sibling discord was handled among us, absent of parental interference. We learned how to win. We learned how to fail. Coping was instinctual, free of an unnecessary owner’s manual.
While this is true, some things are not. I walked three small blocks from school. I wore boots. They were cool boots without much water proofing. We didn’t have a need for insulation. We used grocery bags wrapped around our feet and tied with a rubber band. It worked great. The walk to school was uphill at an estimated .5% grade. We didn’t have electronics so there wasn’t a fear of them getting wet.
The biggest advantage I had, in my youth, absent of this current generation of adolescents, was the gift of solitude. Yes, I had friends. Yes, I had siblings. But I also had a lot of down time free from stimulation. I learned basic suffering. I learned how to survive silence. I spent hours, alone in the yard with my imagination. I went on walks to nowhere, looking for nothing. I ran in the summertime air. The only air-conditioned refuge available was an occasional cool basement (The Melograno’s had an air conditioner in their basement), or a movie theatre, if I was lucky. I thrived in silence and pain.
Something happened to me as an adult. Life got easier. Information was suddenly at the ready. I left a pedestrian life for an automobile. Drive-throughs and curbside pickup became chic. Online ordering and delivery were suddenly the norm. Television commercials became obsolete with the invention of TiVo. Cell phone tinkering filled silent gaps in conversation or mealtime. I became sedentary. I lost the two greatest gifts I had when I was young: The ability to use my imagination and the acceptance of occasionally suffering.
Suffering means something different to everyone. To some, suffering is flying coach, while others are fighting disease, poverty, abuse, food insecurity, and more. My suffering as a child was primarily intentional. One day, Ben and I decided to go for a run. I believe we were going into grade nine. We ran to our local elementary school and decided we would run to EVERY school in the city. Every public school. Every private school. We didn’t have GPS, but I believe his mother drove the route. Our 14-year-old selves ran close to 14 miles that day. We did it at swift clip. We did it, purely, to push ourselves. We wanted to SUFFER. We wanted to push ourselves beyond what I thought (I don’t speak for Ben) was possible.
Jacob had will to suffer. He was unlike much of his generation. I am not saying that this generation is weak, but I think technology has become an enemy in some ways. Whenever I watch survival shows/movies, I am amazed on the things I have done in my life. I’ve hiked and snow-shoed in the mountains. I’ve run up San Francisco hills. I even ran the Rocky steps in Philly. I’ve spent nights sleeping under the stars. I’ve foraged for food on occasion. I got lost on Mount Hood and bushwhacked my way to civilization (thanks Ben) and had a blast so doing. Jacob ran 50+ miles weekly in the hot sun. He faced heat stroke and sunburn. He hiked and rowed down rapids. We both did all of this smiling from ear to ear.
I am facing a battle. How do I cope with grief, anxiety, mild depression, financial insecurity, and more? How do I learn to embrace suffering? Age is a factor. This is an undeniable truth. The bigger factor, however, is my need for comfort. It’s become easy. Life has become easy. How do I learn to walk locally in pain? How do I decide to eat for sustenance when my food wants me to be fat? I want to repeat this. My food wants me to be fat. There are more eating options today, than ever. While it seems like a gift, it’s not. I need to LEARN about all the food entering my body. I need to LEARN to walk with pain. I need to RELEARN that comfort isn’t my friend.
This is not to say that I need to move to a mountain cave and live off the earth at 385 pounds. Shit, I just gave Ben an idea. It means I need to summon a different time. I must return to my 1970’s/80’s mentality. Yes, it’s drastic. Is it even possible? I don’t know. I’ve become GEN -Z. I remember, with fondness, the past. Just thinking of the Melograno’s basement, and their cymbals-clapping monkey brings back nostalgic longing of simpler times. Moreover, I question whether I am capable of breaking 25 years of sedentary behavior. I hope so.