The Gunshy Generation

The Gunshy Generation
18 Oct 2018

I’ve had different versions of the same conversation with 3 of my current and former colleagues in the last few days.  It basically goes like this:

“Jonathan, I don’t like my job. I need a change. I want to move. I need something different in my life.” 

“So do it…”

“I can’t. I’ve only got one income. I have responsibilities. This is a bad economy. I could lose my job and all my security.”

“Yes, that’s a possibility but you have solid experience and a graduate degree (in 2 out of 3 conversations) in an industry that’s growing and has huge demand for people with your skills….”

“But that could change tomorrow!”

“And you could die tomorrow….”

“That’s not fair!”

“Sure it is, you’re in your mid 30’s, this is your prime time. Tomorrow is coming faster every day.”

“Jonathan, I want to move to Florida (or Denver, or Austin, or the beach) but there are no jobs there. I need to build equity!”

“Rent your house, get in the car and move to Boca…”

“But the market might collapse tomorrow!” 

“And you could die tomorrow….”

“That’s not fair!”

“Sure it is, you’re in your mid 30’s, this is your prime time. Tomorrow is coming faster every day…”

“Jonathan, I don’t trust anyone. I can’t find a partner who sees me for me. I’m too broken….”

“Take a risk, open your heart, make a commitment to someone. Or at least, give someone the time of day…”

“But I could get hurt. My friends and family might disagree. It could be a bad choice!”

“And you could die tomorrow….”

“That’s not fair!”

“Sure it is, you’re in your mid 30’s, this is your prime time. Tomorrow is coming faster every day…”

We are the Gunshy.

When we graduated from college 10 or 15 years ago, we were told that the world is our oyster. We were given credit cards and cheap introductory mortgage offers and told to “go nuts!!” School debt? That’s no big deal. Buy a house and in a couple of years you’ll have enough equity to pay off the loans and buy an investment property!

It all went swimmingly for 5 years. We traveled. We partied. We bought expensive cars and McMansions at 25 in the suburbs of Phoenix, and Dallas, and Denver. Some of us got married to the right people. Some of us to the wrong people. We worked hard making 60 grand a year, paying our mortgages, and our $500 car payments month in and month out and we used our credit cards when the cash flows didn’t quite meet our expenditures. It didn’t matter–we had equity!

Then it all came crashing down.

In 6 months in 2008 our housing values collapsed and many of us lost our jobs (me included). All of a sudden we were faced with choices we never thought we’d have to make. Should I pay my mortgage or buy groceries? Maybe I can work from home this week so I don’t have to buy gas? After all, it’s up to $4.50 a gallon……

Then we ground through another 5 years of slow “recovery” where, for some reason, the rich kept getting richer, and our bills just kept coming. That better economy the people on TV kept talking about…that wasn’t for us. We weren’t seeing any of it. We were making more money but still stretched thin every month…

And now here we are, in 2018, at 2.9 percent unemployment, with more jobs available in the US than ever before. My generations salaries are larger and we’ve got money in the bank.

And we’re totally scared shitless…

This is the insidious price my generation has paid for the decisions we made when we didn’t know any better. We are afraid to take a risk. We are afraid to make a change We are afraid to love. We’re watching our 30’s fly by and we are, in general, living less full lives. Research has shown that people my age are having less sex, have fewer deep relationships, are spending more time behind screens, and are much more stingy.

For some reason, I’ve been blessed in my life with a need to live outside of the mold of what everyone else has said I’ve needed to do. Admittedly, sometimes it’s worked out, other times it hasn’t. And there are certainly some choices where the jury is still out….But it has always been exciting.

Oftentimes the stories that are the reminders of these “odd” life choices leak out when I’m talking to my contemporaries. I am by nature a sharer and live my life with my heart on my sleeve….When they do, and a memory about a funky day on an island comes up in conversation, I always get a funny look. “I could never do something like that!”

Of course you can. Get on a plane….

There is no doubt that life is about balance–finding the Yin and Yang in everything we do. And I believe that making smart and conservative fiscal, emotional, and behavioral choices is healthy and appropriate. But our scales are shifted decidedly TOO conservative these days–especially for those of us in our 30’s. We value security so highly that we’re willing to trade the possibility of intense, pure joy and life fulfillment for the certainty of calm, safe mediocrity.

Lately I’ve come to realize that I’m a lot closer to 50 than 20. Time is the most valuable commodity I (and you) have. I’m going to use it trying to be as happy as I can. I’m going to take the risks (and the losses) in the pursuit of Joy. Maybe I’m impulsive and unbalanced. Maybe I’m irresponsible. But it’s all coming faster everyday.

And I could die tomorrow….

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