Starter People

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.Arch2

11 responses to “Starter People

  1. Well, it is a mother’s job to worry. It is also a father’s job to do the same but that is one area that seems to have changed a lot. Whereas my dad still tends to worry a lot about the future of his two starter people (although we would be more appropriately known as his re-starter people at this age), Nyssa’s dad doesn’t seem to care one way or another. I worry that now, with the junior year started and those pesky but predictable general education courses behind her, she will find that the general side of an English major is TOO general and the technical side of the Geology major is TOO technical and …. well, then what.

    Of course when you and I went to college, the majors we pursued had definitive careers at the end. But now I see that many majors do not.

    As for the future of a career in music, this is the big question for my brother as well. He is established pretty solidly in Europe, travels extensively and enjoys the music. The living out of a suitcase has long since worn thin. I doubt if he will ever marry at this point; his schedule is so hectic. The music industry is tenuous at best. However, if music is his passion, there is something to be said about being in love with what you do.

    More than likely, they will all be fine. We have done a good job. They may not get started with a lot of cash, but we didn’t either. Just look at the ones who did have money starting out….. I wouldn’t want Nyssa to turn out like Paris Hilton… what a waste.

    You are going to put up a picture of the Lyric Opera House? My brother did his apprenticeship there.

  2. That might not be a pretty building, Vicki, but it sure is tall. Does quantity make up for bad design in a building? I guess not.

    The world is certainly far different for kids now. I remember when I was in High School and our life seemed to be going to be harder than that of our parents. That’s indeed how it turned out and I’m sure the same is true for the current generation as well. Still, there’s a lot of things about life now that is an improvement over when we were young.

  3. It is difficult for the current generation of ‘starter people’ to find their paths, but I think, really, it boils down to having priorities straight. Our priority was starting a family, so – finances be damned – little Zoe is due in a few more weeks, even though we will probably be living in an apartment for no less than the first 5 years of her life, assuming no lottery winnings or other financial windfalls. We don’t own a car, we live modestly, neither of us has any post-secondary certification (well, none that ‘counts’) and we want and will get that later… but for us, family was most important, so we are working on that first, with the faith that God will help us work the rest out as needed.

    I’m sure your kids are doing the same thing – picking their priorities carefully and deciding which path to take, whether it’s an easy path or not – based on those. I think the biggest difference now days is that our parents had the option to pursue several priorities/dreams/goals simultaneously (just because of the way the world used to be) but we, the new starter people, need to focus on one goal/priority/dream at a time and make sure it is stable before we can put another goal/priority/dream building block on top of it.

    Okay, I’m shutting up before I take up your entire comment section.

  4. Vicki, with you as their parent, they will succeed. I am certain you filled them with motivation and passion for their chosen fields. It is definitely harder for young people nowadays than it was when I graduated from college, but given determination, they will eventually succeed.

  5. P.S. I sent you an email, but I now realize that your address may have changed since you moved. Anyway, you should try a restaurant in Chicago named Pasha’s, and see their ladies’ bathroom.

  6. Constant worry, even during their successes. I too wonder how they will afford a decent home.

    You have some impressive children Vicki.

  7. I’m where you are. I just try not to obsess on it too much. (worrying is my middle name!)

  8. Nothing beats great sax, so why worry?

  9. And Bernadette would know!

    I was not nearly as focused as you at such an early age. Josh and I both took a long time to find our way and figure out what we wanted to do when we grew up.

  10. I just hope that there is a world left here by the time my kids are grown. Bringing a baby into this strange world is a scary proposition, and with the current state of affairs, it’s more frightening.

    I’m 31, and have worked hard since I graduated from high school. And I’m just now buying my first house, and it’s not much, and I’m getting ‘help’ from my ex-father-in-law. The fact that my kids are 11 and 8 kind of skews my timelines though, so I have to consider that. But it’s still hard. Technology jobs expect you to be there 24-7. I don’t want to live my job. I want to live my life. Priorities shift as you mature, don’t they? I’m still trying to figure it all out!

  11. The picture above is of the Sears Tower not the John Hancock Building. Just thought I’d let you know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s