When I was in high school, still breaking in my new driver’s license, some buddies and I took a half-hour road trip into The ‘Ta to hang out for the day, maybe see a movie.
Long story short, our 1978 Dodge Omni (dubbed “The Omni-vore”) shot craps on the Canal Route, forcing us to ditch the Interstate at the 21st Street exit. I’ve not been to Wichita in, what?, 15 years?, and this story takes place at least 10 years before that. Which is all to say that I’m not sure what the neighborhood is like today. But back then the prospect of finding yourself, at the age of 16 with a busted car in a dodgy part of town with no cell phone (nobody had even heard of the Motorola DynaTac yet) was extremely dicey.
Everything turned out okay in the end. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime because it’s kind of a funny story.
But… fast forward a year or two when I’m on a student tour of Europe. It was the most fun of my short life up to then. While in Paris, a friend and I became separated from the tour group in the subways. Here we are, a couple of Midwestern kids from nowhere Kansas where the words “public” and “transportation” don’t have any real meaning when you put them together, lost on one of the more renowned subway systems in the world.
It was both terrifying and exhilarating. It was exhilafying.
Again, everything worked out okay in the end. I mean, I’m here writing this, right?
Fast forward again to adult life when my Supermodel Wife and I and some close friends returned to Europe on our own terms. The experiences above, and many more like them, had cultivated a sense of adventure and appreciation for discovering the unknown and unexpected. I had come to realize that, with a certain frame of mind, there’s no such thing as “being lost.”
Just have an idea of where you want to end up, and enjoy the process of getting there. All you really need is a map and a brain. And really, the map is optional. Cell phones and GPS units? They just get in the way of enjoying where you are. They’re a kind of safety net that dilutes your experience.
Then a few months later, somebody flew a couple of airplanes into the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan.
We all know what happened, so I don’t want to belabor the point. But a comment from a blog friend got me thinking about how there are now adults who were third-graders on the day of the 9/11 attacks. My oldest daughter, now in elementary school, has never known a “pre-9/11” world.
And that’s a shame.
That the “kids these days” have never known it otherwise is a concern. Aren’t we deifying invulnerability way too much? Are we sacrificing liberty and risk and reward, at the altar of safety and security? Are we raising a generation that will be unprepared when the illusion of safety is exposed?
It’s tough. Because I want my kids to be safe. But I also want them to experience the kinds of things I experienced — learning that it’s okay to be frightened, just keep your head. Don’t be afraid of new and strange places and people.
I guess I just think that living in fear within a cultural corral is a sad way to go through life, and you’ll miss out on a lot of the best things life has to offer.
tagged: 9/11, Europe, Wichita, safety, security, terrorism