Most of the time, I am grateful for modern conveniences and technology.
I am selfishly pleased when I can run an errand on a Sunday or at 10 o’clock in the evening.
I appreciate the opportunity to email and text others at all hours of the day or night. I like that we don’t really have to dress up for many occasions these days, an excuse to channel my inner slob when I see fit.
Yet there are costs to convenience, technology, and societal pressures.
A young couple will soon give birth to a baby—and they are focused on the professional photo shoot that is scheduled next week rather than the miracle of life that’s soon to take place. A person in retail is in need of a weekend day off, but the need to put food on the table makes it nearly impossible. A man or woman in business is expected to respond to global messages at all hours of the day and night, struggling to make time for family, friends, or even themselves, burning themselves out while getting promoted only to work more.
It’s exhausting; many of us feeling like hamsters on a wheel, going round and round but not really getting anywhere. Or when we do, we’re too busy to acknowledge the win because we move on in an instant, going round and round again.
Lately, I’ve been more cognizant of this than ever.
COVID-19 forced us to slow down and find new ways of communicating, socializing, and living. Some of us resented this, while a great number of us loved it. We extroverted introverts were able to crawl back into our shells, only peeking our heads out when necessary. Those of us who never stopped—guilty as charged here—had no choice but to stop, yet we settled into this new normal, cherishing the simplicity and the peace one derives from it.
That’s not for everyone, of course, and I feel for those who have suffered greatly during this time. Not only physically, but mentally or emotionally. My heart does go out to you and I only speak for myself and those who can relate to this.
But today wasn’t most days, and I longed for yesterday. Not the pre-Covid yesterday, but another era completely when life was far less complex.
A time when stores were closed on Sundays.
We may feel productive in all our busyness of modern times, but are we really? Would we be more efficient if we knew we had six—rather than seven—days to get things done? If everyone, even retail workers, had a chance to just stop for a window of time?
A time when cell phones didn’t exist. We actually had conversations with our neighbors, fellow flight passengers, or while waiting to have our car serviced.
Now we are facedown in our phones, living in a virtual world when real life is right here in front of us if we only look up. Is texting productive? It has its place, but it is also just one more form of communication that we feel as if we need to keep up with.
A time when one parent worked and one stayed home (for those with two parents). Times were not easy. Families didn’t have the best of everything, but most had what was most important—each other. Kids played in the streets. Families sat down to dinner together. There was no mad rush to make it to day care or carpool to 1,001 activities that kids must be signed up for before the age of three. We may not have been fluent in a foreign language by the age of five or ready to play pro sports by the age of 10, but we had someone there for us, someone accessible to us.
A time when latch-key kids learned the value of work. In my circles, welfare was less relied upon back then and parents worked one, maybe two, or three jobs to make ends meet. It was tough on those kids, I know, and they suffered greatly the loss of a parent who they wanted right there with them. But what was instilled was a work ethic, a commitment to making ends meet without excuses.
A time when those latch-key kids had other families, also known as neighbors and friends. We looked out for each other, took care of those who needed taking care of, and never expected anything in return. We had that village it took to raise a child. Where that village has gone is beyond me, but I am at risk for blaming modern times.
A time when a child’s birthday party was a grassroots effort, not a paparazzi worthy event. We invited kids over, had cake in the kitchen, then played in the yard. It didn’t have a theme or require the Backstreet Boys to perform. We all sang happy birthday off-key and ran off our sugar high. A gift was special and we didn’t expect hundreds of them.
A time when the TV turned off at midnight, closing the day with the National Anthem, then going blank. We couldn’t wait for the cartoons on Saturday morning and anticipated holiday shows. We didn’t have the ability to stream or binge on Netflix 24/7. We had to open the print TV Guide, then plan accordingly or miss our weekly show. Some didn’t have televisions at all, but would sit around a radio to listen to the ball game, using their imagination to visualize the plays.
A time when kids played in the dirt, fell off their bikes, and stayed out until the street lights came on. They weren’t on their game boys all day or parked in front of the television or scrolling social media apps. They played and played hard.
A time when people dressed in their Sunday best. It was commonplace to dress for church or when dining out. Shoes were polished and clothes were pressed. We cleaned behind our ears and minded our manners. We may not have had the best, but boy did we feel our best. We stood straighter, walked taller, and took a sense of pride in how we presented ourselves to the world.
A time when people were civil. An adult was referred to as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Ms.” until otherwise instructed and we held doors for others. We offered our seat when an elderly person was nearby and looked out for our neighbors, from shoveling their walk to picking up milk and bread.
A time when patience was a virtue and we had no choice but to be virtuous. We wrote letters. We had to wait until our friends got home to get our message (if someone had been home to answer) and call us back. We didn’t have answering machines—there was just no answer. We didn’t have call waiting—the line was just busy, then we tried back.
There were so many other positives from times past and I strive to keep those alive as best I can in my everyday life, tempering as needed.
I slow down when I can and speed up when I have to. I put the phone on silent and keep it close when I need to. I live in the same clothes since COVID-19—cleaned daily, mind you—and dress up when I deem it appropriate. I talk to my neighbor, hold the door, and give up my seat. I call you “Mr.” until you invite me to use your first name. Some old habits shouldn’t be given up, but practiced daily.
So when you find today’s pace and demands too taxing, take a moment to breathe and honor the times past, then welcome some of those practices back into your life in the here and now.