The world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Or so I hear every time I turn on the TV or radio or pick up any kind of periodical (and for the sake of my sanity, I really ought to re-program my morning alarm away from NPR). Markets are crashing, homes are foreclosing, politicians are arguing (oh wait…that’s normal), jobs are disappearing, we’re all riddled with debt and panicking and Godzilla is storming our cities. The DeathStar is hovering dangerously close to us. Where’s Luke’s trusty light saber when you need it?
I wish–oh, how I desperately wish!–that President Obama (I still giggle every time I say that) really was our very own Skywalker, able to bring us back from the brink of the Dark Side, to use the force to once again usher in peace and security. (But who would Yoda be in this scenario? Larry Summers? Eek. That explains a lot.) Oh how I desperately wish that, instead of waking up to more gloom and doom tomorrow, there would be a reason for us to have our own celebratory Ewok party.
But that’s not going to happen any time soon, I’m afraid to say, so I guess I have to create my own little Ewok celebration: I’m going traveling.
I know, I know: It’s a recession! We should all be saving and pinching our pennies! We should cash out our stocks, hide the little we get in return under our mattresses, and hunker down at home eating poor man’s spaghetti (noodles with tomato soup, my grandpa’s favorite depression-era meal). But I can’t. I just can’t do it.
I mean, deep down, I’m really freaking out. Fresh and I are grad students who, before you know it, will be on the job market. We have too many student loans to count–not to mention the remnants of wedding/honeymoon debt–and no real job plans to speak of. Ross wants to work in educational philanthropy, but if everyone’s ‘disposable’ income has evaporated, well, what’s left to give away? Me, I’m in the oh-so-employable field of multicultural education. And unfortunately, given that most universities have hiring freezes on all but the ‘essential’ positions, I have a feeling I’m considered pretty non-essential.
So where does that leave us? Festering at home, wallowing about the state of the world? We tried that over winter break, canceling our trip to the Middle East. Irresponsible in this economic climate, we said (not to mention a little war). The mature thing to do is stay home, we said. Let’s wait until the economy rebalances, we said. But lo! This really sucks, we said. I’ve never canceled a trip in my life before then, and frankly, I never plan to do it again.
Couple this with the fact that Fresh and I thrive on our travels, and we’ve already been pretty stationary since entering grad school (even before the The Great Depression: The Sequel hit a theatre near you), and we’re both moping about the endless expanse of time stretching before us in Madison (not that we don’t love Madison). It’s just…too much to bear.
So we’re throwing caution to the wind. It’s time to rack up those frequent flier miles again. Trips to Mexico, San Diego, London, Ireland are all on the horizon. Maybe even India. (Okay, okay: some of these are for work or are not as glamorous as they sound or are paid for with frequent flier miles. But still.) And you know what? We’re excited again. When Steve Inskeep utters another depressing prognostication about the state of the world, Fresh and I look at each other and say, “At least we’re going to Mexico!” All of a sudden, time and school do not stretch before us in an infinite yawn. There is something to look forward to. Screw the credit market and the non-existent job prospects. Our health and happiness are at stake! Heck! If we keep brooding around our teeny condo for much longer, our marriage will probably be at stake! (Plus, I think we’re really doing our part to prop up the economy: If we all just hunker down and withdraw from all spending, aren’t we condemning ourselves to certain doom?)
If we’re going to be broke, let’s at least go broke doing something we love.
Now, I’ll admit, after reading Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the NYTimes this week, I did have a twinge of guilt. Am I just a conspicuously consuming American? Am I not reading the tea leaves about the imminent demise of the way of life I take for granted? Am I single-handedly dooming the future for our progeny? Have I not made the connection between our current financial crisis and the green future of our planet? I had a twinge of guilt. But then I thought two things:
So it’s off to Mexico City on Monday, to see old friends and make new ones. To shake ourselves out of this personal and global funk. To maybe be jolted into a little perspective taking.
And if you want to hand me a margarita on a sunny patio along the way, I won’t turn it down.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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