The race of life

The Race of Life

I often have conversations, both professionally and personally, where people ask me for my opinion of “why kids have changed” or “what is the ‘problem’ with kids these days.”  These are such hard questions to answer because kids have not changed, the world has.  And the ‘problem’ is that we are shoving them into this world that we never experienced and therefore don’t really know how to prepare them for it.  Trying to give kids the exact same skills that I needed to be successful in high school in the 90s when it is almost 2020 is quite like trying to fit a square peg into a round whole.  There are certainly still plenty of lessons that are valuable and deserve to be shared, but I think it is important to do so within the context of how their experience is vastly different than ours was.


I am not a distance runner.  As a younger athlete, running was always a warmup or a punishment.  Yet, I have decided that I am going to run a half marathon in January of next year.  How am I training?  I am running a little bit at a time.  I have a schedule and I am doing a combination of walking and running on different days and cross training so that my body can handle running a half marathon in six months.


Why am I doing this?  Because it would be ineffective and illogical for me to try and run a half marathon without preparing for it.  If I tried to, I would fail.  Or at least fall short of expectations, get lapped and come in last.  I also would struggle a lot more than I would if I prepared.


Adolescents in this modern-day world are metaphorically mere weeks away from running the half marathon that is adulthood and they are often not prepared.   In a lot of ways, they have not trained or been coached to train for this race.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “why don’t they teach ___________ in school?” I would be blogging from my ocean front property.


So, what is missing?  That is a tough one to narrow down, but I think that the missing link is our connection to each other.  We are so connected, we are disconnected.  What I mean by that, is that we are interacting so frequently through our devices, that it is almost like we have forgotten how to interact in real life-what I call “face to face, heart to heart.”  Pay a visit to any restaurant, waiting room, airport, board room, park, you name it, and you will find people (in some cases, literally every single person in those places) on their phones.  Hunched over, avoiding eye contact and scrolling through social media, texting or answering emails.  AND THESE ARE THE ADULTS.  For teenagers and younger, this life is all they know.  This is how they interact, or rather avoid interaction.  This is their normal.  Ask some of them to have a face to face conversation and they feel anxious, avoid eye contact and stumble on their words.  In so many cases, the discomfort they feel from having to engage in human interaction feels just like asking me to run my race tomorrow.  No freaking way can I do that.  But we expect them to do it so easily-without any preparation or, to be fair, a good example to emulate.


Here is the part that gets me.  You are likely nodding your head right now.  Or at least agree that face to face interactions need some work but what are you doing to train the younger generation?  Are you reading this right now as you sit in the dentist’s office with three other people that you did not acknowledge when you sat down?  In the last 24 hours, how many text messages have you sent?  How many likes have you clicked?  How many stories have you viewed?  Okay, now, how many minutes have you spent intentionally connecting with the other humans in your life?  When I have those conversations about “what is wrong with kids today,” the conclusion is often the same “they spend all of their time on their phone.”  This is true in so many cases, but I think that it is because they are not challenged to do otherwise-unless it is a punishment (sound familiar?).  And, with that, we do not challenge ourselves to do the same.  We send a text for convenience instead of calling, we spend energy creating the perfect social-media worthy photo so that our “friends” can see what we are doing instead of enjoying the moment at hand, and we even order food through an app so we don’t have to talk to someone on the phone.  These are not the workouts that prepare us for our race.


This is not intended to be a diatribe about how evil technology is.  Technology is wonderful and serves us in so many ways.  I simply think that we need to push ourselves to exercise our connection in the same way that I have to drag my butt out of bed in the morning to get my miles in.  So, I challenge you to get your minutes in.  Spend 10 minutes every day intentionally connecting with another human, If you have teenagers, I challenge you to have a conversation with them about ways that they can connect with the humans in their lives.  And I challenge you to choose one day of the week where every family member puts their phone away when they arrive home from work or school and you spend the evening in “face to face, heart to heart” connection.  You, and your kids, will be running that half marathon before you know it.


With Gratitude, Jessica Brubaker

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