"" bshawise: Nostalgia Bomb

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nostalgia Bomb

There are kids everywhere. All of a sudden, from sun up to sun down, they're outside with their baseball bats, tennis rackets and stolen pocket knives making up games and celebrating their freedom. I was bombarded with nostalgia as Leah and I walked Miss Jackson tonight. Remember how magical summer break was back then? Man oh man. It's almost too much to think about. Like super rich cheesecake for the brain.

So we get home, I take the trash out, shower, pour a glass of wine and sit down to read Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers." But I can't stop thinking about those kids. I also can't stop thinking about this part of the book where Gladwell says there are the three factors to meaningful work.
1. Autonomy
2. Complexity
3. Relationship between effort and reward.

I wondered if this can be applied to more than just "work." Is there a relationship between these three factors and the greatness of childhood summer breaks? And if so, is there something to glean?

I grew up on the mean streets of Tecumseh Trail. We lived in the suburbs of Tiffin, Ohio. Our little block was surrounded by farm fields and woods. As kids, we spent a good portion of every day in these fields and woods. We were daytime pioneers, building forts and starting fires. We'd come home for lunch and a quick swim or game of street hockey. But then we'd head back out, Bear Grylls style and attempt to survive Seneca County wilderness.

We were pretty much in charge of our entire day. Autonomy.

Some days we figured out ways to sneak, steal, buy lighters and matches to start fires. Other days we drew up master plans for underground tunnels and hidden hideouts (that were never built) that those Robinsons from Swissland would be jealous of. Complexity.

We left sweat, blood and spit (Big League Chew) in the woods and came home to food and chlorinated-refreshment. We saw daily progress on our forts and if we didn't, we started new ones. There was a tangible relationship between effort and reward.

I wonder if kids naturally migrate toward activities that encompass Gladwell's three factors. Back in the day, with a summer of complete freedom, did we find ourselves spending the day doing things that were autonomous, complex and had a pay-off for our efforts? Things that we look back on and remember as the good ole' days. And the question you saw coming, do we spend our days doing meaningful things now as adults? If not, I wonder why. Those were good times back then. It seems crazy that they just have to stop because we're in the "real" world now. Why can't we earn a living doing meaningful things? That doesn't have to mean curing rabies or whatever. Gladwell's three factors can be found in anything. The question I'm posing is, are they (autonomy, complexity, pay-off) found in our days/lives right now like they were perhaps back when were kids?

I all of a sudden feel like a bomb pop. Remember bomb pops? Man oh man.


tyler said...

isn't that what college is for... or at least it used to be. right? but now we accrue so much debt getting specialized in something that may or may not be what we want to do, but we do it nonetheless for fear of not being able to "pay the bills" that are imperative in this world we've created. then we wrestle with that life for the next 20 years... trying to figure out just what it is we were meant to do... because we all think we're that important... and in the end, it comes down to simplifying our needs... maybe? when needs are simple, the ability to satisfy those needs while participating in something meaningful is easier... again, maybe? whew... that was long-winded. just stirring the pot.

i saw a kid at the pool the other day who looked like Squints. he and others his age lacked the ability to "slow down." it took all they had to stay behind the yellow line during adult swim... or just to walk to the concession stand. it'd be great to go after anything like that again.

clizzzarke said...

You're killing me Smalls!

bww said...

I would love to just have the opportunity to skin my knees again on Eddies driveway. Or go on a newman raid and a Undie Walk. Move a trampoline onto our concrete driveway. Have that feeling of riding in the car the first time with your buddy that was the first to get his license. Run a baseball card shop out of your dads shed, only to sell none because you realize you're selling them to your buddies.