Sometimes I worry about what the next number of years will bring for my children. I’ve reached that point where I can’t help but be thinking, "When I was your age…" and as often as not the end of that thought is that I had more of a start on the rest of life than my children do at the same age.
I left home early and put my nose to the grindstone, worked full time and went to first undergraduate and then graduate school, straight through. So, since then my nose has been permanently out of joint…(oh har de har har, as my newly repaired friend, Hoss, might say). Then I went on to buy a house with 5,000.00 down, start my career, marry, have children, work, raise my children, move into bigger houses, work, volunteer in my community, raise my children, work…you get the idea. There was a lot of work mixed in there but still, I think it was easier to get organized, find a path and afford to move forward. I found that the message I had learned from my parents- "Work hard and you can have what you need, work harder and you can have what you want"- was true. And the things that I needed and wanted were fairly clear, as dictated by my family history and the community in which I lived.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for starter people today. My children could work until there is an ice rink in hell and they won’t be able to buy their first homes at age 24 in Ann Arbor, Mi. Not that they want to. And that’s the thing- it’s sort of a two pronged dilemma. I feel as though the options to begin adult life the way I did are not available to my children (insert lengthy rant on government spending here) and I also feel that they don’t necessarily want that life of even steps, progressing from one developmental phase to another along a prescribed path.
Spending the last couple days with my son has been, as usual, an enlightening view into the world of a young professional musician. He’s leaving today to play a show in Detroit, then he’s back for a show at the Hot House here in Chicago, some other Midwestern venues and then he’s off to Europe. Dan’s day starts at about 11 or 12 when he gets up, he runs 5-10 miles, practices and composes for about 6 hours with some breaks for food and to check his e-mail. He talks to friends, fellow musicians, works on logistics, watches The Daily Show. If he has a gig, he’s out until 2 or 3 in the morning. During the summer he works doing heavy landscaping and now that he’s based in NYC he takes jobs through a temp agency.
When Dan was eight we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be an architect. This was at a time in his life when he spent several hours each day building Lego cities. His little sister, almost 3, piped up to say that when she grew up she wanted to "turn letters." They are clearly headed for neither Bruce Graham or Vanna White, but where?
Today, I have trouble imagining their future and I think they do as well. Both have said they want family and children some day. Dan and I had a good talk over dinner out last night about the state of the arts, artists and music in America for both classical and contemporary musicians. He wonders if he will be able to find a supportive environment for him to compose and record his individual music. He wonders how he will balance his career choice with creating a family.
For all of that, I see my children moving forward in the world. They are growing up knowledgeable about current events and past history. They are both extremely savvy in the use of technology and they gather enormous amounts of information by way of their laptops. Both read. Both of them have traveled far more extensively in the course of their young lives than I could ever envision. Daniel is on his 5th or 6th trip to Europe and a trip to Asia is in the works. I am certain Abby has seen and explored more of the "blue planet" than 99% of the population. These are options I didn’t even consider, let alone have, when I was their age.
So I continue to worry about what the future of this world will be for them. I worry about the economy, the environment, political conflict and yet, I am intrigued and fascinated with the unfolding of their lives.
Here is a picture I took the other day of a familiar Chicago landmark designed by architect Bruce Graham. The John Hancock Building is not, by far, my favorite Chicago landmark. I’ll post one of the Opera House in the next couple days along with several others.