My primary audience is 8 years old and calls me Tante (aunt). She is being raised in a stable family with very responsible parents who are daily investing in her abilities and calling her on her crap. She is lucky - not because her family is rich or influential - because it isn't - but because she has a stable environment, lots of people who care about her, and parents with good values. Still, when she comes of age in 2019, the world promises to be an even more chaotic place socially, politically, and economically. These blog pieces are the things, then, that I would tell her so that she can survive and, hopefully, thrive in that environment. I want her to be able to marry and have children. I want her to have a chance at a middle class life. I want her not to sabotage herself from the get go. This blog is my meager wisdom set aside for her because I love her. When I get done writing it I will put it in book form and give it to her before she can hit the world full stride and have it throw its manure back at her.
In the meantime, I hope this information is of use to people. The media tells us that the American dream is dead, that no one can afford to purchase a home and have a middle class lifestyle. That women have to work outside the home or families will wind up on the curb. This has not been my experience, although I will admit that with outsourcing, terrible unemployment, government idiocy, heightened materialistic expectations, divorce/illegitimacy/lack of paternal investment and a general poor parenting it is harder to get there from here than it was in 1971 when my parents were starting the family journey. On the other hand in 1971 middle class families didn't have two cars, a microwave, cable, cell phones, or credit cards, and they vacationed in a tent. In any case, if you start seeing the big picture early enough and avoid certain devastating mistakes and are able to discipline yourself, a modest middle class life is certainly still possible, with patience and effort.
My advice is aimed at creating and maintaining happy family lives. This has always been my main priority. I live near my parents, my sister's family, and my in-laws. We see them all regularly. I have lived in a number of other places in my university career, and I chose to come back because I wanted my children to know their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and I wanted to maintain and add to the net of family security (since any other sort of Social Security is pretty much a pipe dream for my generation). I also wanted to marry and have children, and I addressed that while I was still in my mid-twenties. I work on my marriage because I truly believe that I am happier and more content in the situation I have now, even with its ups and downs and problems, than I would be divorced. I believe my husband and son are too.
I don't have any advice re: the career ladder or grasping the brass ring. My B.A. in Russian turned out to be mostly worthless, with one significant exception. I chose my Masters degree in librarianship not out of ambition but because at that time I was still single and I wanted a job that I could use to support myself and one that didn't cause me to look at the clock every 30 seconds from 9 to 5. But it was always just a job to me. I wanted to make enough money so that I could have a little house someday and get a friendly dog and dig a nice vegetable garden. My husband and I have accomplished those goals together, but I started on the path by myself.
Likewise, I know nothing about trendy cocktails, fashion, the club scene, or power flirting. I have always been cautious, a risk-averse person with modest goals. Those modest goals, however, are enough to make most people - people without serious entitlement delusions - content in the long run. They boil down to a strongly connected family, responsible finances, meaningful work, and functional creativity.
I sound like the life of the party, don't I? It's never really been hip to be square, but square people have more options. Short-term work and self-denial pay off long term. I wrote the check to pay off our mortgage in full when I was 37. I have a solid marriage and a happy son. And a vegetable garden and two very funny dogs. I am happy. My life, unlike those of many of my contemporaries, is not very stressful. I have time to spend on things and people I enjoy.
If these are goals that sound desirable, I have something to offer in terms of advice, and the younger you are the easier these pieces of advice will be to implement. I worry about our society, I worry about girls today, and I worry about my niece's future because I think, due to the disastrous social and economic choices our society has made in the past 40+ years, these girls: