I grew up in a small town in West Texas where we had block parties, potlucks, and playing pretend with imaginary swords, guitars, and other various props was all the rage. High school developed into things of late night cruises down the drag, laps around our tiny one corridor mall, or all night sleepovers where we drooled over the ever twisted smile of Johnny Depp. My friends inspired me to embrace life and then live more, they supported me without question when my father died, when my step-father lost his job, when my family could barely make it work.
Graduation day came and we went our natural separate ways to set out on life.
Over that summer a strange new fad took hold and as I stepped onto the college bus, peers did not commune in gossip and laughter. It was like over night we just as a people stopped talking. There was an isolating silence as everyone around me scrolled through their playlists with plugs in their ear. The bus was so overcrowded that I often found myself standing, a football player sitting nearby couldn’t be blamed if they never looked up to see the girl who could hardly reach the rings hanging from the ceiling as she was thrashed about at every bump. I was on a crowded city bus, and somehow I had never felt more alone.
College didn’t get easier as Facebook grew in popularity and Myspace let you rank your top 8. Finally when I worked retail I was paid to indulge and participate as a part of that human connection I had been craving for the past few years. I threw myself into my work, who needed a life, when you had a river of eternal connections flowing through your store each and everyday? I became distracted and numb to the reality of the void epidemic.
Then I became a mother, and the loneliness returned. Facebook was my only source of companionship, it was all anyone seemed to have time for. I could tell you the last dinner that girl that dated that one guy that hung out with that one friend that I had bumped into at a party five years ago ate. I could tell you every brutal detail of the custody battle of the girl that sat beside me in eighth grade science, although we had not seen one another in over a decade. I had images of the most intimate moments, most embarrassing moments, most life shattering moments of what were now complete strangers in the palm of my hand, and I felt so empty.
It is no wonder we have such a surge of bloggers and our Facebook feed screams out in a constant revolving stream. We need to be heard, we need to let our thoughts out, we need to heal our lonely weary souls. But we are seeking a form of attention and a connection that, no matter how advanced, our screens will never truly fulfill.
The move to Alabama was not an easy one to swallow, it would mean being on an island away from my family and without my actual real life, in the flesh, best friend since childhood. But it was so different from that. It was a town that had block parties, weekly gatherings at the downtown farmers market, and imaginary swords, guitars, and other various props were all the rage with the kids. There was a warmth from my group of moms who barely took me two months to find. Our community was so strong, our love for one another so great. The calendar on my fridge went from the rare occasion to scattered in stickers and notes of cookouts, birthdays, and bunco nights.
When my grandmother ended up in the hospital during a Christmas break visit, friends cared for my children. I was able to open up, share with them my fear after Baby K’s first seizure, and they responded with such an outpour of love and support through kind words, surprise Starbucks visits, and a week of delicious homemade casseroles. When Mr. R had his first heart attack, and then his second, and then his third I had support; I was no longer so alone.
Our attachment to our handheld robots has completely altered the course of the economy. We crave life because we live so little of it. We crave experience over necessities. Trips to Disney are no longer a thing of hope but a thing of musts, many times so we can lure more followers on Instagram (20,000 IG Followers > 3 Real Friends).
The concert industry, cruise industry are booming. 78% of Millennials say they would rather spend their income on an experience over a product or necessity, because we no longer know how to function day to day. We don’t know how to tolerate strangers in a store, we don’t know how to hold a conversation of philosophy without a Google fact check, we don’t know how to just sit and be quiet.
I am the matriarch of a millennial family unit, and when my husband had to choose between Vegas, DC, or Orlando for our new home we figured Orlando in the long run would save us time and money. Living at Disney would allow for time and expenses to travel other places for actual vacations. And we are not alone, Orlando is a booming market for Millennials, so much so it is rapidly becoming a capital for our generation. With beaches, Disney, Universal, Concerts, and a hip downtown scene; is it any wonder?
It has been eight months since we moved to Orlando, and I don’t recall feeling so isolated, even in college. Neighbors never emerge, grandmothers accompany their grandchildren to story time, nannies are preoccupied with the children at the playground. Facebook groups are filled with stressful over the top play dates to Disney or Universal. Invitations to little afternoon halloween parties for toddlers require admission to cover the over the top rented venues and bouncy houses. Events are cancelled last minute. Church is cold. Most of the outpour of moms have reached out to me not because I’m a human, but because I am a pocketbook or even the product. Everyone is spread so far apart. My best friend is Tyler, the kid that sometimes brings us our food in our Amway Center Suite. It has been eight months and I’m still an island.
Whatever happened to block parties, potlucks, and just kids playing with their imagination? I’m exhausted with the flashy glam of over the top experiences. I just want my girlfriends that can meet up throughout the week, hang at the house, share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Visit and indulge in just one another’s mere presence. Binge eating is frowned upon in society, should our lifestyle not reflect the same sentiment?
Oh well…better go and check my Facebook…