My grandparents left behind continents and community, seeking opportunity. My parents worked long, hard hours for quiet, peaceful stability. And I -- well I'm driven by the need for constant engagement, a path that is interesting and uncertain and full of the kind of life that smacks you in the face so you can't look back. A path that allowed me to make mistakes in at least three different countries.
A big house and a nice car have little allure for my kind of millenial. Big houses have mortgages and pools that need constant maintenance. Big houses are full of closets with stuff -- stuff that keeps you from moving when you want to see or do something new. I like pretty dresses too, but not at the cost of mobility, or knowing the burden that my accumulation of stuff puts on other people far from home.
And when I see senseless violence, like the open fire on preschools and pedestrians yesterday, and revolutions that end where they started, I know it's not random. Because those beautiful homes on the water are attached to bigger lawns. Not enough land to grow much, but the kind that put considerable space between you and the neighbor.
I went to "gifted" public schools where I was asked to answer many questions, but never about the missing students. The ones whose parents didn't have time to teach them thousands of words when they were young, or trace the shapes, or learn the colors by mixing different kinds of paint. And the missing students, hidden in their own schools, weren't asked about it either.
For the few years that I rode a bus with kids that were financially poorer than me, I remember feeling uneasy. I remember when Brian told everyone I had a 'big house'. I remember cigarettes in sixth grade, kids bullying the bus driver because of his accent -- the extra syllable when he said bus stop. I remember using the word "fuck" for the first time and trying to mask how weird it felt.
I felt just as unsettled with the kids who had everything they wanted. They had three jet skis and huge wardrobes and still wanted all of these things in all of these catalogs I hadn't seen before. But I remember thinking their lives seemed more complicated than mine -- more rules, more faces to put on in front of more people.
My discomfort was part of the segregation -- not just black and white and brown, but so much more -- that defines a fractured society. One where everybody, regardless of their circumstance, is left without choices. And without the dialogue that should have happened, in the classroom and at home and on the bus, it has become so easy to dehumanize each other. Easy not to see someone as your brother or sister. Easy to think of someone as "the other".
It's the other that gets overlooked and diminished. It's just too easy to hurt the other without feeling the gnawing, unsettling pain of how it feels to hurt your own family and friends. And creating this class of others is a task that all sides seem to have inherited regardless of their wealth or race or circumstance.
But there are signs of light, there are always signs of light.
I think my generation is looking to add to their families, to extend love past their walls. It's apparent in the way we travel. It lives in our efforts to build community, from hipsters with community gardens to "disenfranchised" golden children returning to their roots because escaping was never the solution to success. And we have finally started to value and look up to those who learn and produce and grow without too much emphasis on the institutions or labels behind them.
And even though we plug in and tune out, I think our phones might actually be making us smart. The globalization of information has produced idealists (though sometimes misdirected like I have been many times) because a wireless connection can extend farther than we ever thought possible. Our Twitter feeds can start movements, our Facebooks promote campaigns, our Skype accounts connect us to people otherwise forgotten in so many ways. People complain that there are too many opinions being voiced, but there are also thousands of avenues to hear them.
All we really need to do is listen.