By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer
I can be a bit agist. When people are a lot younger than me, I sometimes am dismissive of them. I’m a friendly person, so they probably don’t know all the judgement that’s going on in my head. But I know it’s there and it doesn’t feel good.
I’ve experienced tremendous personal growth since turning 30. I’ve probably done more to push myself outside my comfort zone in the past six years than during my entire twenties. I’ve made bold career decisions, been a support to loved ones struggling with mental health and addiction issues, gotten my novel published in two countries, and had the courage to end relationships that weren’t right for me. It’s been hard and hugely rewarding. I’ve found inner strength I never knew I had.
So it might be because of all this that I can be dismissive of folks in their early to mid twenties. I think about how clueless and partially-formed I was at that age and I assume that’s where they are in their lives too. If I’m not judging young people, I might give them unsolicited advice. After all, I have all the answers, right?
Last month I attended a long weekend at Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults. They bill it as a “digital detox” and there are a lot of interesting rules. Obviously, no tech is allowed. You hand over your phone at registration. There are no watches. You’re not allowed to talk about work. Silly camp nicknames are used instead of real names. And there’s no age talk. The idea is that we’re all just big kids there and age is irrelevant. I thought it sounded nice in theory but wasn’t sure how it would play out in practice.
The magic started on the way to camp. I carpooled up to Mendocino with three people I didn’t know. Excitedly, we turned off our phones and got to know each other without discussing the taboo topics. Fortunately none of the social intelligence techniques I learned at Jaunty involve these subjects either. One of my carpool buddies looked a lot younger than me, but we didn’t say how old we were. I didn’t say how long I’d lived in different places and I didn’t ask how recently she’d graduated from college. I liked her instantly and felt more open to her without attaching a number.
The first night at camp, using my social intelligence skills, I complimented a woman on her dramatic facepaint and we easily struck up a conversation. It was dark and I assumed she was around my age. When she removed the scarf from her head, I saw her hair was streaked with gray. I looked closer and noticing the wrinkles around her eyes, realized she was more likely in her mid-forties. And then I realized it didn’t matter.
I met a baby faced guy in a onesie who gave great hugs. There was a woman who told me about her baby back home. They were at wildly different places in their lives and I was able to connect with both of them. I participated in workshops lead by people older and younger than myself. They all had plenty to teach us.
One of my favorite moments of the whole weekend was during a late night cuddle puddle. It was cold outside the teepee and perhaps twelve of us were a cozy, blanketed heap of humanity on the floor. For many of us it was one of our first experiences with platonic touch. We told stories, laughed hysterically playing the ha-ha game, and shared insights. Laying on my back I usually couldn’t see whoever was talking and each disembodied voice was a unique person and part of the collective whole. We talked about prehistoric people probably sleeping like this every night.
One person in the cuddle puddle, was a very young guy who looked about twenty-two. He had probably just graduated from college or was working his first real job. But of course we didn’t talk about any of that and as he shared his ideas with the group, I realized he had real wisdom. And of course, everyone has something to share. Everyone no matter how old or young has wisdom. In the same way that we miss out on so much of the world around us when we’re glued to our screens, camp reminded me that I’d been missing out on genuine connections with wonderful people who I had dismissed because of their age.
Now back in the default world, I’m hanging on to that discovery and trying to see people for who they are, not how old or young they are.
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
"Vanity, definitely my favorite sin." My favorite line in the movie The Devil's Advocate was said by the devil himself, played by Al Pacino. It was basically the devil's way to seduce humans.''
Today we are filled with vanity. Our favorite pastime now is, well it's us. It's all about us. It's the next picture or video or branding of us. And it feels good sometimes, I'm not gonna lie. I like getting hundreds of likes and comments on my Instagram too.
Interestingly, vanity seems to get a lot of us stuck in "should thinking." You know, the "I should have a perfect body," or "I should be at Jimmy Hendrix's level of guitar playing," or "I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend by now." This sort of thinking usually comes from comparing ourselves to others, something that's super easy to do with social media.
Just looking at all those happy people in our Facebook feed makes a lot of us feel bad about ourselves. Of course we know they're only posting the fun stuff, but it still can stir up the Should Monkey.
Imagine you're out having a drink with a friend and learn about a mutual friend's exciting news. Maybe she just bought a house, or ran a half marathon, or got an awesome new job, or had a baby, or invented a new kind of toothpaste. If you feel good about where you're at in this particular aspect of your life, you'd probably think this was pretty cool. But if their new success happens to be in an area that you feel lacking in, you might feel jealous instead. Maybe she just got a new job and you hate your job. This might wake up the Should Monkey.
"That bitch," you might think. "Why'd she get that cool job? That should have been me. I should have a job like that. It's not fair." The Should Monkey is pissed off. He throws bananas and you throw back another drink. You leave the bar feeling annoyed and shitty about yourself.
Here's the thing, questioning the status quo and working to make positive changes in your life is awesome. If voicing a want helps spur you into action to bring these desires to reality, that can be very powerful. But giving in to the Should Monkey rarely helps us make these changes and usually just leaves us feeling lousy. It can make us way too hard on ourselves, which can create sadness. It also makes us continuously worry and focus on a daydream of the future.
While it's great to have a goal and a vision, it's also so important to enjoy the present. After all, now is all we have. I recently learned a trick I want to share with you.
Lately I've been devaluing and questioning my "should thinking". I might walk by the Warfield and glance at the headliner posters. Before I know it, I'm thinking "I should be on stage playing on tour too." But before the Should Monkey swings in on a vine, I'll take a deep breath and ask myself: Really? If I was actually in that position how valuable would it be? Are there downsides to it?
If I was on tour all the time I wouldn't get to spend time with my students and loved ones. And I couldn't run Jaunty which is something I really love.
I like finding the awesome in the present moment, even when things are hard. Life isn't a Facebook feed of perfect, happy experiences. There are some real challenges too. But I feel like I can find my way through those challenges better when I focus on doing my best and don't compare myself to others.
Try playing devil's advocate with your "should thinking" and let me know how it goes.