What A Difference A Decade Makes

When it comes to physical health in the post-9/11 world, the average lifespan is one less year — something in the 90s would’ve been unheard of five years ago. But that’s not the only change that has come about. People are living longer; cancer is increasingly treated in a more holistic way, and the population is also healthier. If we can all do better by ourselves — and by one another — there aren’t that many things we can’t accomplish.

The number of years has changed a lot over this decade. People live longer, on their own schedules, and as their health improves by simply staying fit. I’ve lived with that change so I can relate. I’ve lost a few years to the physical side of being old, but now I’m focused on my mental health, as well. And that’s not just because of the disease. I have my own life to live after that; the physical world isn’t the only one I’ll be leaving behind.

The old-age crisis I’ve been through is one I’ve faced before. I’ve always been a big fan of health food as well as health-conscious parenting decisions. It’s one thing to be a person of average weight and life expectancy and not make mistakes like I used to, and quite a different task to be a person of average weight and life expectancy in your 30s. One thing I’ve always wondered is — what does my new average life expectancy mean to me? This decade has been one filled with surprises! But if you’ve ever been a teenager and you’ve felt a sense of failure, then you can relate.

I was a pretty average teenager, but you can’t have a satisfying life and a fulfilling relationship when you don’t have those two things. I think it’s the same with my generation of teenagers, too. Sure, the new-age buzzwords, e-books, and e-zines are exciting, but that excitement doesn’t translate to having a satisfying relationship. I remember how exciting it was to get my first credit card and how wonderful it was when I started to write essays and blog about my experiences for fun. My first book,  Living Healthy in a Post-9/11 World  is a collection of essays and advice I’ve given to a lot of young people who are now in their 30s, and many of the experiences I describe are the reality for a lot of today’s teenagers and 20-somethings as well.

But what did it feel like to me when I turned 18? I remember being a teenager and struggling with many challenges: I felt like I wanted to “make it” and be “cool” but I just couldn’t figure out how. I wanted to be more like my friends and make new friends, but I still didn’t really know how this would work. I worried about whether I’d make friends enough because I just didn’t know what was expected of me as a teenager. My first girlfriend and I both struggled because we were all just beginning to learn how to interact with one another, which meant we weren’t exactly great at “making it.” We found that out the hard way.

That’s exactly that challenge for the teenagers and 20-somethings of today. They’re trying to find their place in the world, and many of them don’t know how to behave the way they want to because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to interact or interact effectively with others yet. So the idea that you’re going to be in the same situation as a teenager — struggling to find your place in the world, with some people looking up to you, and at other times thinking, “Why is everyone treating me like that?” — is pretty common now, unfortunately. It should be no surprise; when you think about it, a lot of the biggest problems we face in our culture stem from the way we’ve been socialized since our early years.

I can see that. After all, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make friends, or how to do my chores, or how to make my own sense of worth in this society and beyond.