From nowhere we came, into nowhere we go. What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night.

~ Attributed to Crowfoot

Help the Captain get his spaceship!

Mithril Angel Wings

Babies

Poor blog… the holidays hit and then everything fell by the wayside, but it would be nice to pick up again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about babies lately. Not so much about having any myself right now, but about how they come into the world. I watched the documentary Babies last year, which was fascinating in how it chronicled the first year of life of babies in Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the U.S. I couldn’t help but feel a bit dismayed though about two rather disparate issues: 1) the, errr, ‘rustic’ setting for the African baby and how it was portrayed, and 2) the over-technologized state of maternity care in America.

Continue reading Babies

Kids (Twentysomething or otherwise)

“Martin Seligman, the positive-psychology pioneer who is, famously, not a natural optimist, has always taken the view that happiness is best defined in the ancient Greek sense: leading a productive, purposeful life. And the way we take stock of that life, in the end, isn’t by how much fun we had, but what we did with it.”  ~ Jennifer Senior

Kind of funny follow-up discussion on Slate on Robin Marantz Henig’s article about Twentysomethings. My favorites were the comments from Samantha Henig:

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, having been privy to the whole editorial process: Robin Marantz Henig is my mother. (So watch how you talk about her!) I actually had the somewhat bizarre experience of giving her a “background” interview for the piece, during which she, in full reporter mode but still very much my mother, asked me such things as when I planned to get married and have kids. (I’m 26 now.) I, in turn, have given the same treatment to many of my friends, grilling them about whether they think they’re adults (an almost universal “no”) and when they think that will change (to which my favorite response was “when someone kills my parents and I have to avenge their death, like Batman”)

On the whole having kids question, another very interesting article in the NYT magazine that I read a while back, All Joy and No Fun, got into the intersections of children, choices, stress, happiness… The part that struck me was the idea that choice, about “whether to have kids, when, how many,” may actually leave us unhappier than if we just had kids by default early on. The article cites a 2003 meta-analysis of 97 children-and-marital-satisfaction studies that found that “parents’ dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care.” The psychologist’s hypothesis: because “They become parents later in life. There’s a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.” Someone I know once said better to have them young when you haven’t a clue what you’re doing, because if you really understood what you were getting into you’d never want to.

The Cliff notes/take home version I got from the article was basically:

  1. There’s been a lot of research showing that parents are not happier than their peers without children
  2. Parents in these times are expected to work for their children (ensure they are “sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed”) rather than the other way around (e.g. when kids helped grow crops or run the store or whatnot)
  3. Children are stressful. Living up to the expectations that you have to raise them perfectly the “right” way is stressful.
  4. But there’s a difference between stress and despair, between “moment-to-moment happiness” and feeling connected, motivated, like you have a purpose in life, which children may bring.

It almost seemed to suggest that parents just don’t have time to be lonely or think too hard about what they’re contributing to the world, describing how they “live in a clamorous, perpetual-forward-motion machine almost all of the time.” Or maybe it’s already obvious in one respect what they’ve contributed to the world. I would love to ask parents I know what they would say looking back, especially the older generation (though I’m afraid if I started that conversation with mine they’d get the wrong idea and start hoping for grandbabies soon…!)

20 Something

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Maybe this will just be a memory list of all the articles and quotes I’ve found interesting. I quite enjoyed the NYT Magazine article by Robin Marantz Henig on What Is It About 20 Somethings?, it hit on a lot of themes I recognize in myself or my peers including instability, exploration, and postponing the trappings of adulthood (or perhaps just not feeling the need to be very grown up). It describes the 20s as a “churning” period of shifting jobs, housing, and putting off or rearranging the milestones that traditionally defined adulthood – “completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.” It could very well be a privilege of being privileged but I know plenty of people who have shuffled those milestones around or have no desire to hit some of them at all.

The article explores psychology professor Jeffrey Jenson Arnett’s view of this period as its own life stage, “emerging adulthood”:

Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made […]

DURING THE PERIOD he calls emerging adulthood, Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background. This is where the “sense of possibilities” comes in, he says; they have not yet tempered their idealistic visions of what awaits […] Ask them if they agree with the statement “I am very sure that someday I will get to where I want to be in life,” and 96 percent of them will say yes. But despite elements that are exciting, even exhilarating, about being this age, there is a downside, too: dread, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of not quite understanding the rules of the game.

Whose game, whose rules, and what do you win for playing?

When I was first out of school and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I wrote a former teacher of mine about how I felt like I needed to immediately choose and embark on an interesting and fulfilling career, which was a shame since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted live, or any of those basic starting blocks. Part of me wants to cave, I told him, say screw the expectations and get a job folding t-shirts at the mall. “I don’t know whether this will help or not,” he replied, “but I feel that most of life is spent searching for one’s place in the world and wanting to break out of expectations.  The former will eventually happen if you keep the search alive and the latter is not a bad thing to break out of in life.”

I get the feeling sometimes that the point of the game is what each of us make it out to be, and the best we can hope is that the values we set are satisfying to ourselves.

Flickr and Forgetting

It has been strange using the Flickr friend finder. I give it access to my email contacts and within a few minutes I am looking through panoramic mountain vistas from a friend’s camping trip with her ex-husband. Photos of African host families and living quarters and life that a colleague took during peace corps in Africa. And the most unexpected, a series of 11 images posted by a lady I had an informational interview with once – her sister’s teeny baby, his first and only Christmas, grinning shots pre-Leukemia diagnosis, the family after his bone-marrow transplant, the little brother born after he died. It is odd, the window we allow others in this online age.

I then Googled her and found out she spent time as a sex columnist before moving on to work in communications for an organization whose work I admire. Read a summary of a blogging panel she was on where the participants spoke of wishing they blogged anonymously, seeming to regret either spilling their secrets, or feeling constrained to not share more.

It still makes me wonder how comfortable I am linking my name to my words, though clearly this isn’t the same vein of personal as a dating blog. How much should be public, how much would be permanent? There was an intriguing article by Jeffrey Rosen in the New York Times on how The Web Means the End of Forgetting, which I finally finished reading, talking about the perils of permanency:

“We’ve known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism, and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is, at an almost existential level, threatening to our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew.”

My rule of thumb lately is to not put anything online that I wouldn’t want seen by my parents or read by my boss. Not because I expect any of them to see it, but because you never know who will, or how long it will stick around.

Then again, after a cursory search, I can’t track down any of those sex column blog posts she wrote =) Maybe forgetting isn’t too elusive after all.