Dangers of Winter in Young-Adulthood

When I initially read the Strauss-Howe generational theory, so much of how and why our world is the way it is became clearer to me. In the United States we are obviously in a winter season. Institutional mistrust is very high, racial tensions flare (after being largely dormant for a while), and politics is more resembling a circus than an efficient machine to meet the needs of the people.

This series of articles will describe the dangers and opportunities of facing a winter season as a young adult. I can relate to these insights because I myself (a Millennial man) am braving this winter as a young adult. As a young adult, one would like to be advancing in their career, starting a family, and building wealth. Of course, all of these tasks would be best suited for a Spring season, but all of us (if we live long enough) will have all four seasons, so there is no basis for complaint. Bad break? Perhaps, but we must make the best of it.

Dangers

Of course winter is when very few things grow. This is true in a metaphorical sense of our current situation. Our health, relationships, wealth, and economic prospects are uniformly bleak. In a brighter season, we would still feel the effects of mental health crises, but nothing like what we have now. Record numbers of young adults feel mental and emotional despair. A financial crisis, divisive politics, and a pandemic have made our hopes for the future dim. It is no wonder that many young adults are feeling anxious and depressed. When we should be starting families and building wealth, we are more focused on surviving.

Intersexual dynamics have also shifted out of our favor. Due to the divorce boom circa 1980 many young adults have grown up in broken homes, never intimately interacting with a functional male-female relationship. Women have been taught that they should pursue their careers (which is fine), but now feel the pressure of starting a family. Men are receiving messages that they are potentially toxic and need to watch themselves. As with all things in winter, starting a family seems very hard.

Perhaps most talked about is the effect of this winter season on wealth creation. The Great Recession and Coronavirus pandemic tamped down Millennials’ earning potential and income disproportionately. Job losses are also disproportionately effecting Millennials. Record numbers of young adults are actually moving back home at a time when they should be buying homes. No generation since the GI Generation had to endure such bleak financial prospects in the young adult phase of their lives.

Understanding the Seasons

I write a lot about the seasons in my blog. After reading The Seasons of Life by Jim Rohn, I began to have much more perspective about what was happening in our world and specifically the united States.

Winter doesn’t last forever, and also presents some opportunities (albeit the least of any season). Just like winter on a farm, the best time to prepare was last spring (which we were not alive for), and the second best time is now. Winter is a time for introspection and seeking to rebuild community. Although opportunities are rare, we can emerge from the winter season stronger and wiser. In my next article, I’ll talk about the lessons and opportunities in this winter season for young adults.

Coronavirus and Seasonal Neglect

I saw an interesting video the other day that posited that America’s inability to respond appropriately to the Coronavirus is a result of decades of institutional decay and neglect. The presenter blames Republicans although I would posit that it was both Democrats AND Republicans. He goes on to say that we have spent decades slashing government programs and involvement, and right at the time we need a large-scale government intervention, we see the impotence of our system. This makes me think of the idea of the seasons. The season of spring isn’t just to enjoy the flowers, but to also plant for the coming fall so you can make it through the winter.

Success has a way of tricking us that it will always be so. For example, in the 1940’s and 50’s government intervention was large and pervasive in all facets of American life. It had to be. We had just come out of the Great Depression and were tasked with winning World War 2. A weak government would have spelled certain disaster. The plethora of government programs that we take for granted (GI Bill, Unemployment, Social Security, Medicaid, etc.) were made because we already made the mistake of pulling back too much in the decades before the Great Depression. The 1920’s looked a lot like 2020 in terms of income inequality and government dysfunction.

It takes wisdom and discernment to know that tomorrow’s difficulties should have been planned for yesterday. Our current unrest should have been wholly predictable. Indeed, many great thinkers like Peter Turchin and Neil Howe predicted a crisis around the year 2020 years before. If we could have seen the patterns of rising individualism and weakening government and community taking place beginning in the 1970’s and taking off in the Reagan era, we could have predicted our sad state with astonishing accuracy.

Human life has many parallels to the natural world. Anyone who knows about gardening knows that you have to have a long term time perspective. In order for me to harvest in the fall and survive the winter, I have to plant in the spring and tend in the summer. Winter is somewhat predictable. We never know the exact day, but we know the general time. Once the frost comes, it’s too late to sow and reap. You have to bear a bad winter and wait until the next year to start over. Coronavirus is a winter for America. It’s a winter for the whole world, but especially for places that have been seduced by individualism and community destruction (United States, Brazil, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom). Not to say that individualism is wholly negative, it certainly isn’t. But every period of social unrest has been preceded by growing individualism and community decay (read Bowling Alone).

I say all that to point out the obvious fact that the reason we can’t respond to our current crisis is because we spent decades tearing apart the exact institutions needed to respond to a crisis like this. But all hope is not lost. Although it has been, and probably will continue to be, a harsh winter for America, Spring will show up eventually. If we are wise, we will begin sowing the seeds of a new and better country, and preparing for the next inevitable Winter that comes along.

Dear Coronavirus

I read an interesting article in which the author (in jest) wrote a prayer to Coronavirus. While meant to be satirical, it got me thinking about how Coronavirus has taught us many lessons if we wish to extract them. Here is my letter to the Coronavirus:

Dear Coronavirus,

Thank you for showing us the importance of family. In a real emergency we are forced to narrow our social circles to those who matter most. Thank you for reconnecting us with loved ones and reawakening our sense of collective duty. Thank you for giving us a reason to take special care of the sick and elderly. We have forgotten to do that for a while…

Thank you for showing us who our true leaders are. Thank you for exposing the opportunists and those prone to panic. Thank you for showing us the people of strong character, who look out for others and practice what they preach. Thank you for showing us the companies and institutions that care about people as more than just a dollar sign.

Thank you for making us slow down. We have been running furiously (to who knows where) for a very long time. Thank you for making us bored. Thank you for making us sit with ourselves in silence. Thank you for unearthing our need for continual stimulation. Now that we can see our low-level unrest, perhaps we can reorganize our society more mindfully.

You have already shown us so much, and I anticipate you will teach us more with each passing day.

Sincerely,

Mr. Muse

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