April 14, 2021

I just want to be happy

I'm really late to the game, but last weekend I binge-watched The Last Dance on Netflix and, wow, not only was the documentary so powerful and so inspiring, but I found myself watching the entire series with a big dumb smile plastered on my face because these guys—Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, and every basketball player who appeared on screen—these guys were the gods and heroes of the 1990s, when I was in high school and college and just starting to become truly aware of pop culture. 

I've seen some chatter on YouTube and social media platforms from younger generations speculating about how great it would have been to have grown up in the '90s, and you know what? It was pretty freaking great. The internet barely existed—I got my first email address from school in 1993-1994, but didn't have anyone to email, and the world wide web (that's what we called it) was mostly text interfaces: bulletin board systems, Yahoo, text websites that loaded slowly, green writing on black screens, dot matrix printers—cell phone plans kicked you to 'roaming' the moment you set foot outside your zip code, text messaging didn't exist, and we went about our daily lives on a need to know basis. Looking back, I know I was an angst-filled teenager—though probably no more or less angst-filled than the average teen—but, overall, in the '90s, I know I felt happy. And, more importantly, I think I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of what was going on around me and in the world. 

One of the lines that really struck a chord with me in The Last Dance was when, in an early episode, Scottie Pippen says: "My mom and dad were very strong people and they were about surviving, and obviously that's what they were about if they had 12 kids. We used to have a basket in my grandmother's yard. It was in the dirt, so it would be dusty all the time. It didn't matter. I had old shoes anyway. Everybody was close-knit, everybody shared everything, you know. It was just a good time. We didn't even know we were poor."

Before the internet and especially before social media, I feel like, by and large, people could be fairly certain of what they know for sure and the things that are relevant to their lives—the tangible, the immediate, the close, the true, the impactful stuff. It seems so obvious, but in order for anyone to find a real sense of place and to understand the liminal boundary between the self and the not-self, it's important to be grounded and to focus on the spaces we occupy in reality. 

What I'm saying is: In contrast to Pippen's experience, it would be nearly impossible for any child growing up today, exposed to the internet and social media, to not know or believe that they're growing up poor—and you can substitute any adjective for poor: bigger, smaller, smarter, better, prettier, etc. What I'm also saying is: This is not good, for anyone to be comparing themselves to a universe of user-generated true or false information that is not relevant to their reality. It doesn't help. It's not productive. It doesn't make anyone happier.

This year I've been joking around with some of my friends that I'm having a mid-life crisis. I'm not. But I've been spending a lot of time since I moved to the UK in December thinking about my own happiness and where I am in my life and career. (We've been in lockdown here since December 26, so I've had some down time.) Overall, I'm very happy with how things have panned out—when I look at my LinkedIn profile, I feel good about it and it all makes sense. But I'm at a mid-career crossroad, and, while I don't know exactly where the next turn will take me, I feel confident and optimistic about the second half of 2021 and our post-pandemic future—I texted my friend the other day that "The next few months will be pivotal for the entire world as it starts coming out of this pandemic. There will be a million new and exciting opportunities to come!" and I believe it. 

Are people usually this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in their 40s? 

In the meantime, I'm focusing on happiness and giving myself the freedom to explore new projects and creative pathways. Maybe it's the promise of a newly vaccinated world order and the Great British Summer ahead, but it's been a long time since I've felt this good.

Also I got new running shoes and I love them: