All you have to do these days is turn on the radio or walk past a newsstand and you'll get the dismal state of our economy full in the face -- or the ear, depending on your medium. From the unopened 401k statements that lie gathering dust on so many desks to the penny-pinching and coupon-clipping that go on at thousands of supermarkets across the country, we're all feeling it these days.
Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's serious. Yes, we all wish it would end already. But the bottom of this whole mess remains terrifyingly elusive. We are then, like so many Alices tumbling down a long, dark rabbit hole that seems to have no end.
But let us not lose hope.
Generations have come before us--everyone likes to cite "The Greatest Generation," the heroes of my grandparents' era who beat back the demons of fascism, sleeves rolled, belts tightened and righteousness clenched between their teeth--who have endured worse. From Great Wars to the Great Depression, millions of our blood relatives have endured times that were decidedly not great.
The one commonality that links these times--and the people who lived through them--is the power of perseverance. I don't believe so much that one generation can be greater or braver or better designed to handle adversity than another. What I believe is that adversity can extract greatness from each of us. Through hardship we discover our mettle.
Times like the one we are living through right now, foster--among other things--the kind of creativity and resourcefulness that can only be born out of desperation. The old rulebook is out the window, so now things are getting interesting.
I have a close friend who has been living, for months, with the ever present fear of being laid off. Last night, this woman said to me "I've had enough. I'm deciding to succeed, no matter what's going on. I'm smart, I'm capable. There is no reason I can't." She made a vow to follow a dream and begin researching a small business idea she's had for years.
Another friend lost her high-paying, number-crunching job last year and is finding that life with kids in New York City just keeps getting more expensive. She's a vibrant woman with many talents, one of which happens to be her culinary prowess. Lately, she's decided that she might just be ready to take the leap and start her own homemade food line.
I know Mamas who have committed to planting their own gardens this year, to offset some food costs. There are blogger Mamas writing books about repurposing materials for your home. Whether it's Mamas going back to work or Papas finding second--or third--careers, I know many people who are getting pretty creative when it comes to their survival. Heck, I didn't launch my freelance writing career because I had nothing better to do with my ten fingers.
This, then, is the point, right? It isn't that some generations are predisposed to heroism, but simply that we are all hardwired to meet the challenges life and time present to us. When it comes down to it and that dirty diaper hits the fan, we all do whatever it takes to shelter our families and preserve some recognizable world for ourselves and our children. We never, never, never give up. None of us. That's human nature.
And while we might not be storming any European beaches these days, for combat or pleasure-- that exchange rate is still too high--we're fighting the fight we were given. And we're meeting it with all the courage and creativity we can muster.
I know my grandparents would be proud.