Friday, September 27, 2013
I think back 30 years to when I was in my 20s. My friends and I were getting on with our lives. Some of them were very talented people who were making a name for themselves back then. Others were on the path to greater career advancement. Hope was in the air. We were young and we were smart.
Where are we now? A fairly small percentage of us have gone on to have reasonably good careers. Almost all of them did so by moving far away from our hometown. They were able to take advantage of areas of the country, or the world, that were doing a lot better than our dying mill town.
Moving is hard, especially of you have no family or good friends to rely on. One of my friends moved back mostly because his parents could be free babysitters. Child care is expensive. The thing is, it's tough to make a go of it without a personal safety net. It might be as simple as having someone who'll give you a ride into work while your car is in the shop.
There are other reasons to stay in an area with a poor economy. I love the outdoors and wilderness areas. A lot of people who stuck around feel the same way.
There was a price to pay. Decades later, I see a lot of the people basically back to square one. People who were working their way up company career ladders now find themselves back on the lower rungs. One guy started out moving stuff around in a warehouse. Over time he moved into company management. Then he went through years of company bankruptcies, downsizing, unemployment, and constantly having to restart his career. Now he's back to moving stuff in a warehouse. That's much harder to do with a 50+ year old body.
One guy I know who found himself back at square one hung himself. The poor guy just could not deal with it. He blamed himself for a lot of things out of his control.
I knew there was a price to pay for sticking around. Making money was never one of my goals, so I'm not disappointed. Living well, on the other hand, was one of my goals. My lovely wife and I live better than most people with three times our income. We are fortunate, as we could just as easily be homeless right now had things gone a bit different.
Funny thing is, my friends and I are baby boomers -supposedly the well off generation. Perhaps a lot of my generation did well for themselves, but plenty fell between the cracks.