Hey 2011. Can I call you Oh’leven? You have been quite a year. The Year of the Protester, according to TIME Magazine. I know: I mentioned this last week. But I’m so not done dwelling on the significance of it. Oh’leven will forever be the year millions of people—in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, New York, Oakland, Seattle—decided to stand up, move, do something. Because sitting out the recession wasn’t working very well. Neither was waiting for aging dictators to die, or democracy to just happen.
I regret I did not personally take part in the Occupy Movement, which was at its height during our family’s craziest time in 2011: the Big Move from the house we’d been in for 21 years to a smaller home two miles away. Instead of taking to the streets, we were taking endless loads of stuff to Goodwill. But our move felt, in its humble way, like part of this larger story. When our house sold, we traded in a big mortgage with a big bank for a small mortgage with a small bank. We traded in a big house that served us well while raising children for a townhome that will serve us perfectly in our Restless Nest years. We occasionally sold but mostly gave away all kinds of things we no longer needed—basketball hoop, couch, futon, rowing machine, clothes, sheets, towels—to people who need them more. We chose a neighborhood where we can walk and take light rail. When we tell people about making these choices, they get it, because this is the year everybody came clean about being squarely in the ranks of the 99 percent.
It’s so ingrained in the American psyche to aspire to that top one percent that the widespread acknowledgement of actual economic reality—the reality that for most people, it is well-nigh impossible to ever get even near those highest heights—is a big, big collective gear shift. For our daughter and her classmates, who graduated from college in 2011, this shifting of the gears has hit hard. They feel lucky if they have jobs at all, let alone something in their fields of study. They feel lucky if they can scrape together enough money to move out of their childhood bedrooms. Their expectations have skidded from the high times of 2007, when they graduated high school, right into the steep muddy slope of a recession no one hinted to them was just around the corner.
Our move, our daughter’s transition from college to work and living on her own, how these personal events dovetailed with the Year of the Protester: I found plenty to write about and think about this year, as I began my own Oh’leven adventure as a KBCS radio commentator. There have been weeks when it was hard to find the time and, even more, the focus to sit down and write a Restless Nest piece. But I’m so glad I get to do this every week, because it is keeping me writing through a time in my life—in all our lives—of great upheaval.
Every time I sit down to write, I learn something. I let go of something. My lost passport, for example: a casualty of the move, which if I share with you, I have to admit what a small thing it is. How easily it can be replaced. Just as whenever I write about the Big Move, I have to acknowledge how lucky we are to have pulled it off. We sold a house and bought another one in the middle of a recession. We made it through the steeplechase of inspections and repairs and loan approvals and it all actually worked.
Oh’leven, I am grateful. You have not been easy. But no one would ever call you dull.