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That last ray of light on the distant horizon
One of the best things about living in Colorado is our stunning sunsets. The open spaces combined with towering mountains to the west make that magic hour when the sun slips behind the peaks a sacred time. Often, the sky will light up in technicolor blues, oranges, and pinks - an almost daily reminder of overwhelming blessings.
Sometimes, in the mundane, I forget just how spectacular my home really is, and then a good sunset will snap me back to reality.
"LOOK HOW INCREDIBLE THIS WORLD IS!!!!" the light broadcasts across the sky. "AND YOU GET TO LIVE HERE AND SEE IT! YOU'RE WELCOME, TINY-SPECK-OF-DUST-ON-A-BIG-ROCK-HURTLING-THROUGH-SPACE." I'm welcome, indeed.
As the sunlight dims to a singularity behind the peaks, the last ray fighting to remind me of the promise this day held, I find comfort in knowing it will all start all over again tomorrow. Each morning has that sheen of possibility, and each evening contains the peace of reflection, learning, and recalibration. A good sunset can knock the sharp edges off even the hardest days.
Recently, I had my 20-something cousin over for dinner. She's in the process of moving to an apartment just a few blocks from her office downtown. I'm excited for her. It brings back memories of living downtown in my 20s, my first job, going out on weekends, and brunching with friends on patios before this kid-centric season of life crept up on me. I look back on it all with nostalgia-tinted glasses.
Being a 20-something is like living in the sunrise season of a life - anything is possible. Don't get me wrong - my first job also came with a lot of Top Ramen (bought by the flat at Costco) and cans of tuna. As a baby congressional staffer, Chinese takeout was usually reserved for the first week, as the end of the month was tight. Sometimes, I would attend events to eat the appetizers for my meal. I drove a 2001 red Honda Civic until it cost more to fix than it was worth. It was sometimes challenging but also a quintessential 20s experience.
I lived that time, though, knowing it would change. Someday, the political dues and work ethic of those years would pay off. Eventually, I would find the right man and have kids, and we would buy a house and could order Chinese takeout after the 25th. I knew there was a next step. And when it came, I walked forward.
The tiny apartment gave way to a bigger apartment, to a small house, and then to here: our little plot of land with goats and chickens, laughing children, and technicolor sunsets. It's the American Dream.
While chatting at dinner the other night about her move, my cousin said something that surprised me. "I don't think I'll ever be able to own a house," she said casually, as if remarking on a chair in the room. I must have revealed surprise because she continued with a very reasonable explanation of interest rates, income despite a master's level education, societal wealth, median home prices, and the dating prospects in this landscape. She was correct on every front — unassailable logic.
In her position, I would come to precisely the same conclusions.
Look, I know there will be people who say that if she just drinks fewer lattes or forgoes the occasional avocado toast, she could still get there. Maybe so. But, ultimately, there is no escaping the fact that prospects for a 20-something look drastically different today than they did even 15 years ago.
Fewer young people are getting married or having children. Fewer young people identify as religious. Fewer are buying houses.
Maybe it's partly a matter of want. I would never ascribe my wishes to my cousin; it's entirely possible she looks at my life and sees a boring aging Mom. Sometimes I look in the mirror, and that's what I see, too. But, if at some point she wants to step from her sunrise season to the mid-day I'm living in, I want all the options available for her that were there for me.
There are complex economic and social conversations to have over what brought us to this point and how to revive a generation of young people who can look to the future with hope instead of resignation. Likewise, there are no simple answers to these multifaceted challenges.
Today, I remarked to a girlfriend that I will always feel fortunate to have met my husband almost exactly one month before Tinder launched and plunged the dating scene into a vapid hellscape. Before that, Twitter debuted and slashed our already dwindling attention spans. Facebook and Instagram are always here to remind us that no matter how good we have it, someone else has it better. Yet, that’s likely the avenue by which this writing reached you. I should change my relationship status with the current era to "it's complicated."
I know that pretty soon - sooner than I'd like - my day will begin to dim from that bright overhead sun and migrate toward the peaks. Hopefully, I have some neon clouds to toss across the sky on my way there. But, someday, as I fade into that final ray of light, disappearing behind the mountains, I hope I lived in a way so that someone else wakes up to a sunrise that shimmers with the sheen of possibility, awash in the hope for a bright future.