July 28, 2011 |  Category:   life rambling

You know what it is, this mid-summer doldrums I’m in right now? I’ve realized the news is really dragging me down. I don’t even know why I click on every headline about some crazy person killing their toddler over some nonsense, but I do and I need to stop. Not to mention the Norway shootings and this whole debt ceiling stalemate. I don’t even fully understand how the debt ceiling works, but it’s just a larger picture of the state of things around here. It’s sort of easy to just get caught up in your own little bubble world, your own circles, your own friends, your own life. You read the news, but file it away because what you do read doesn’t necessarily affect your life in the immediate sense. But something did catch my eye, a little headline link on CNN that I clicked. “Are America’s best days behind it?”

I read the article and the reader comments and it made me think (for once, a good majority of the comments to this article was on point and not so much like the crap you’d expect to read over at Perez and not a major news site). Most people thought, yes, the best of America is behind us. It made me sad, not necessarily for my future, but for Mia and Claudine’s. I have no idea what kind of state the country will be when they grow to be adults. There’s so much pessimism about the economy out there, and rightly so. It’s such a weird contrast to the general chatter that fills my little internet world – you know, striped shirts and credenzas and summer “frocks” and the like. I’m not exactly saying that this is superficial stuff. We all need this “stuff” to maybe cope and distract, but what I am saying is that the disconnect between this bubble world and the world out there, at least on the surface, feels a bit uncomfortable. I can’t stop thinking about what kind of world the girls will grow up to be adults in. I can’t stop thinking about how we’ll afford quality healthcare in the future when we really need it, or how we’ll afford to send the girls to college.

I’m not one to put this country down, despite all its problems. I may cringe whenever I hear that obnoxious “USA USA” chant that we seem to really like to do, but I also dislike hearing people go on and on with complaints about this country. I don’t know if it’s because my parents were immigrants and so was I (granted, as a baby), but I do have to think that it puts a certain spin in the way I see America. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been had my mother never came to NY and stayed in Korea. Even if we still have a ways to go, gender equality isn’t the same everywhere. Maybe she wouldn’t have been a business woman. Maybe she wouldn’t have been the breadwinner, and maybe I wouldn’t have become these things either. It would certainly be unlikely that I would have the family that I have now. It’s weird to think about your life in an alternate universe had an event not occurred. Of course, I will never know, but I can’t take my life here or my lifestyle for granted. For members of my family, the American Dream was real.

I don’t want to believe that our best days are behind us, but I don’t yet know what I believe in my heart.

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  • PInk Ronnie July 28, 2011 at 1:19 am

    You’re right – there is some sort of strange “disconnect” between my everyday online world and the real work that is out there – struggling, starving, dying. I’m not American and don’t live in America, so don’t feel that I can comment on your country and whether or not your best days are in the past or still to come. I do understand your unease, though, as you wonder what sort of world/country your children will grow up in. My parents were immigrants to Australia when I was five, and I know for sure I wouldn’t have the life I have today nor the family I have today if it wasn’t for their boldness and courage. I hope for your sake too, and your children’s sake, that America’s best days are not behind you…
    Ronnie xo

  • Jocy July 28, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Lovely pictures. They make me miss the U.S.

  • Stéphanie July 28, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Not the same fears because we have here in Belgium a state health care. But we have others problems : maybe you’ve heard that our country is freezed because the winners of the elections (one year ago) can’t find a way and a compromise to work together. It’s not the same electoral system than in the US (if you want more infos :
    Some of them (in the north of the country – where they speak dutch) want to separate the country and have their independance. All their propositions and requests are steps to prepare this. It represent only a minority of belgian people but they can block and totally change the country. It’s very worriying.

  • janet July 28, 2011 at 4:09 am

    I am not American. I can not begin to assume that I understand what it is like to be American. However, I, like many other world citizens, live with an economy that is severely influenced by American politics & economic events. It is hard to live in an uncertain world where to be honest, I do not fully understand terms like “debt ceiling”. But you know what I do think: our children, children like Mia & Claudine, are growing up in a different world where they are encouraged to question things and think of creative solutions. I don’t worry too much about the future because a) I have no control over it and b) I hold out some sort of hope that future leaders will continue to be innovative and less influenced by rhetoric.”The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Winston Churchill

  • Abby July 28, 2011 at 4:14 am

    My husband and I are both dual citizens of America plus two different other countries. We used to live in the US and now live abroad, and we have a lot of conversations about if we’ll ever return. Our feelings are complicated, as you capture well here. For quality of life questions, and insuring a secure future – financially, educationally, health-wise – it makes sense to live elsewhere. But, America is America and there’s an inexorable draw to living there. I won’t be surprised if we end up there, despite it all.

  • Emma July 28, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I’m not American but can understand that feeling …. I feel Australia’s best days are gone sometimes. We’re living in a very different country to what I knew when I was younger in so many ways. Real estate and cost of living is so high here I can’t imagine how Australia will avoid some kind of recession in the near future (we dodged the bullet in 08 so I think it’s bound to happen sooner or later). That said, if you read the news often enough it’ll make you feel very negative about things so I try to avoid that these days!

    It’s difficult to imagine the world children will be living in when they’re adults but then our parents and grandparents thought that too. I guess we all have to embrace change and take it on the chin. Easier said than done! Also, the economy tends to work in cycles so I’m sure things will pick up everywhere, it will just take a few years.

  • Elenita July 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I have been reading your blog for the last couple of weeks and love it. It the only blog that I can really connect with….you are very down to earth. Also, your girls are so adorable and they remind me a lot of my little sister and I when we were little, even in looks. Claudine looks just how my sister did when she was that age.

    I love the news and I try to stay informed as much as possible, but it can really get you down. My husband and I spent some time living in a third world country and we came back with a better appreciation for the USA, but that does not mean we think its the perfect country or democracy. Sometimes we want to pack up and move back down to Central America where life was more simple, but we cant do that. When we have children we hope to teach them to be universal and see the world with open eyes and open minds. We want them to let them know that they are lucky to be born in the USA, but not to take it for granted. Thank you for this post and sharing with us.

  • Theresa July 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Better days behind us… it’s very vague; it’s also very subjective. Yes, the debt ceiling is a financial situation that will affect all of us (even us living abroad) but it will effect certain people more then others because it can ultimately encompasses everything from the type of education our children and grandchildren will be able to have, to the type of medical attention we are able to seek, to the environment, to our mental health because of stress etc. Watching/reading the news is such an issue with me because while I want to stay well informed it is so depressing. So, I usually do more reading then watching so that I have control over what I take in. I try to keep away from “news” that doesn’t really effect society as a whole. Like that girl who was accused of killing her kid, horrible horrible story but I can’t get sucked into it or I’ll get way too consumed and then depressed. The attacks in Norway seem different to me because they were supposedly done for political reasons, so that draws me to read about it, also I am still trying to understand the justice system here in Sweden (Norway and Finland). So, it will be interesting to see what happens with the accused.

    To answer your post, I do think our best days are indeed behind us but I don’t think it has to be as terrible as it sounds. There will still be good times had, love found, the world to explore, etc. However, I think that there was a certain sense of innocence, joy and freedom that is forever gone. It may just be as simple as the theory of modernization. There is just so much more of everything both good and bad.

  • Felicity July 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Great post. Not happy great, but thoughtful great. I do get tired of blogs that are all sparkles and cupcakes and happiness. If you’re life is really like that, you’re living in a bubble and not aware of the world around you! There are so many people that fall into that category, too many. I don’t have kids yet but concerns about the world and specifically the environment are major reasons why. I just don’t know what the future holds and while I know that’s always true, I’m not optimistic about ours. It’s a tough place to be and thinking this way is uncomfortable.

  • Ana July 28, 2011 at 8:52 am

    What an lovely reminder and perfect post.

  • SKR July 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I don’t think the best days are behind us – I just think that the “simple” days are gone. As a 24 year old, recent college graduate, trying to make it on my own for the first time, I think it is important for my generation to become more informed and more involved in our future. This applies to every facet of life…politically, financially, socially, etc. It’s important to instill values of individual responsibility at a young age (I know my parents did), because this fosters responsible citizens. This is directly correlated (I believe) to people who have a passion to make the world a better place (for themselves, for others, for their children). It is possible to work hard and reap bountiful rewards (professional recognition, personal satisfaction, financial stability) – the American Dream is alive. All to often I am discouraged by how “cushy” the lives of my friends were/still are. It’s unfortunate that when they get out on their own they just can’t cope. I strongly believe that if people think outside of themselves, have individual responsibility (for their finances, their actions, etc.), that we can become the country that we once were. Thank you for reminding me that a whole big bad world exists beyond my daily struggles. Eternal optimist? Yes! I hope that other people, especially young people my age, will realize this too and start becoming involved and engaged. Only good things will happen…

  • Claire July 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

    In some ways, I am trying to do what your mother did then right now. Yes, in America as it is right now. Sure, I don’t have a family and have not really moved here for purely economic reasons, so my point of view perhaps does not fully speak to what you and the article speak of. However, there are so many things that America (maybe just New York City?) has that one cannot find anywhere else in the world. I lived in the UK for 3 years as well, and did not feel accepted one bit because of the color of my skin. People assumed I did not speak English and spoke so slowly, with gestures to me. Are race/ethnicity issues a thing of the past here in the USA? No, but there’s some kind of ideal that a large percentage of people are trying to uphold, and things are constantly in dialogue. Also, here, unlike my home country, there’s space for all kinds of choices and not just one way of living life. You can be whoever you want to be, choose whatever profession you want, live in whatever, eat whatever, do whatever, be friends with whomever. And finally (for the purposes of keeping this post from becoming an essay), Americans take initiative. When there’s something that needs to be done, something that needs to change, someone, somewhere will try and do it instead of sitting around waiting for the government or whoever to do so. Working with young people, seniors, and immigrant populations, it warms my heart to see how individuals and communities are providing support for or alternatives to broken systems, in the hope of seeing their fellow man flourish.

  • Annie July 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I think it’s easy to believe that there were real “best days.” Even if previous eras were better economically, we also faced issues like segregation, civil war, and child labor as a common practice. Every era has its pros and cons. I think Americans are going to have to learn to live very differently than they have in the last 30 years, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily moving away from “better days.”

  • jona July 28, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I’m a recent immigrant to the US with a 10 month old and being a SAHM I also let myself get too inundated with the depressing news. This budget ceiling thing is especially worrying for us since after saving up to buy a house we are finally this close to getting one and if this does not get resolved then interest rates will go up again and we can’t afford that! Anyhow, about whether the best days of the US is behind it, I guess it all depends on what we mean by ‘best’. If best is everybody being able to get enough credit to buy McMansions and Lexuses (Lexii?) that they really won’t be able to afford then yes those days are gone. This country still has so much going for it, politicians not withstanding. Coming from a third world country I am still amazed by many things that most probably take for granted (public libraries! free parks with playgrounds! paved roads!).

    Anyway, great entry and I love your blog. Your girls are adorable!

  • courtney July 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I was just talking about this last night with my husband. Not about the bubble or the disconnect between real life and the blog world, which I think is often a way to find beauty and cope with the barrage of shit out there. But about America and the debt ceiling and how things are really changing for this country. While I too worry about the future for my children, I also wonder if this type of crisis isn’t exactly what our country needs. We’ve always considered this to be the land of plenty, whereas older countries acutely understand issues like conservation and sustainability. These are lessons we need, even if it requires a bit of sacrifice on our part. Maybe if we learn how to live a better, more thoughtful existence, then America’s best days are yet to come. That’s my hope, anyway.

  • Seda July 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I agree with one of the comments up here that every era has pros and cons. When the great plague hit Europe or during First and Second World Wars, I’m sure people thought the life will never be the same again, the better/good days are gone. Yes they are gone. But life goes on despite big crises and unfortunate catastrophies and there is always a good life for every person, as long as that life is defined well and we wrk hard enough to get it. That’s what I want to teach my kids.

  • Sebbie July 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Good post! I think that one thing missing right now is any sense of community as a whole. Everyone seems to feel very alone in their situation (financial or otherwise) and people aren’t talking to each other. It’s crazy that with all the ways to connect, people are lonelier than ever.

  • R @ Learning As I Chop July 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    My mother is an immigrant too and I have those thoughts as well. Especially now that I’m going to have my own daughter. The economy might be a mess but at least women can run for office to try and fix it.

  • oilandgarlic July 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I think the period of upward mobility is certainly at an end (for a variety of complicated economic reasons from loss of jobs overseas, weakened unions, higher cost of living plus stagnant wages, healthcare costs, lack of job security and huge disparity between wealthy 1% and middle class).

    For Gen X and beyond, unless certain things get “fixed” like healthcare and college tuition, I don’t think the next generation will be better off at all in terms of wealth and health. They may be better off in terms of overall racial and sexual tolerance and job flexibility and maybe even gender equality?

  • Meghann July 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I agree about not quite knowing what I want to believe about the country. I admit I don’t keep up with the news quite like I should, and sometimes feel guilty about it. But, like you said, it just brings us down. I know it affects my family and I, but how much is there I can really do about it?
    I, too, fear what is to come. How will this all play out? How bad will it get before it gets better…..IF I get to see it get better.
    I guess all we can do is our part and hope for the best.
    Try to stay positive, I guess.

  • Caroline July 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Oh, don’t despair.. The American Dream is over but another value system and era will take its place. I think there’s a lot of hope and opportunity in that transition and we still have a say now in the kind of world our children will grow up in.

    I want to prepare my daughter to think a little differently and strive for a different kind of success. Above all, she will need to adapt to change in a huge way and develop the skills, agility and creativity that’s needed to ensure she isn’t left behind.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post, one that as a parent I appreciate so much! Puts things into better perspective:)

  • Kristi Estes July 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    i don’t think america’s best days are behind us. not even close. i am an american living in australia and american’s fight back hard, work even harder, and have a graciousness i have not felt anywhere else. living abroad has given me such a clearer vision on americans, and there is no way we will just put our best days behind us. chin up everybody.

  • lilcg July 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I’m another child of an immigrant who feels the same way. my grandparents were survivors and they came here with my father when he was three. they worked so hard all of their lives to try to give him a good life and they succeeded (my grandfather could barely speak or read in english and my father was an english professor and poet).

    my father in turn tried to do the same for me. I look at my daughter and worry that I am going to let her her down–that in this world I can’t give her better than I had.

  • Joanna July 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I was sifting through similar thoughts today- I read a string of text messages between a girl at the scene of that mass shooting and her mother… it made me think, ‘I should get my little brothers cell phones, we should discuss how to hide in case of emergencies, how would they react in a life threatening situation, and how can people do that to kids- to anyone?’

    You categorized this post under ‘mindless blabber’ but I really am glad you say what’s on your mind- I think we have a lot to gain from being honest-even on the internet.

    Thank you, Jenna–

    I don’t have kids but I have little brothers that I am like a second mother to… it’s good to know that you are a parent to two wonderful girls who will be their peers.

  • sheri July 28, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    I read your “best days” post and went for a run to mull it over. Here is what I think… Your 2 cute girls will never know if they are living in a better or worse America because it is the only America they will ever know. Politics have been messed up forever!! Our children’s future (I have 2 boys- 18 and 20) is going to be so dramatically different from any other generation before because of so many factors: tech, science, population, etc. Who is to say it will be better or worse.
    I know for sure that you can raise your kids to choose a life that makes them happy. And then who knows? It could be way better for them than those who went before.
    This I do know, Jenna, to do this they need to go to college. Put some tasteful ads in your beautiful blog. Make some money for health care and education. (till the book deal comes through and you don’t need to anymore) Education and good health are so important for a quality life for them.
    Your blog is so special and you are a very talented woman. People really relate to you… I can not believe that any of your readers would begrudge you making an income that you need to educate and care for those girls.
    Keep up the good work Jenna- keep your head up.

  • jen July 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    i really don’t think the best is behind us. life is cyclical. and i believe that when things are down, there’s only one way to go which is up! remember the 80s? i was deathly afraid that we were all going to die from a nuclear explosion and the end of mankind was imminent and i was 10 back then. and yes, i think we sometimes fall into living a life in a bubble. international trips are rare now with two kids, but when i do make it out i realize how lucky i am to live in this country.
    on a side and lighter note, i just saw whimsy and spice featured on the cooking channel in their segment on etsy! did you know that?! awesome!

  • Amy E July 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I agree with a lot of the other posters who are saying its subjective.

    Yes we are in a terrible recession/depression and are more politically polarized than we have ever been, but the best days of America and the prosperity of the post World War 2 era was possible because the rest of the commercial centers like Europe and Japan had been bombed and decimated and we were able to prosper and capitalize on that.

    I think it’s more important to try and live in the moment and not borrow worry for the future. I’m not saying not to plan for it, but to remember to make the now count instead of living in fear about the what ifs.

  • miranda July 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    i can understand and relate to this, and i agree with the comments praising your work, thoughtfulness, and expressiveness. you’re a gifted writer, an amazing photographer, and i’m glad i found your blog. for me, what filters through is to focus on the present, rather than what the future may hold or how the past looks in the rearview mirror. and not on the panorama view, but on what my day, your day, our day holds and how we can make it a little better. or a lot better, sometimes. that’s still within our grasp.

  • Vanessa July 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Six years ago I was so over America. So I left and moved to Sweden. I love Sweden, and it’s always better on paper… But there is something very special about America. It has an energy that no other place has, the people are kind and it has character. I found that, despite America’s many, many flaws, I would rather have live with them than live in a “perfect” country with less character.
    So here I am, in NYC since the end of June. Happy as a clam and loving this country. 🙂

  • Mandy July 29, 2011 at 12:12 am

    i think the world is a far better place than it was when we were born, for a number of reasons. as a second generation immigrant to the UK, the challenges we face today don’t even compare to those our parents had to contend with… and our grandparents. our parents had the same anxieties about the world their children would grow up in, but we turned out ok and sure, the world has its problems, but these problems have nearly always existed – we just never did talked about them, and now we ARE doing something about them, it feels hopeless. i wish for a better world for my children, just like any other parent. the best I can do is nourish my immediate community, because let’s face it, the crazy person that shoots his toddler, the norwegian bombings, the fall of murdoch… none of this should change the choices we make to do the right thing. surely we are being confused by nostagia and the reality that growing up makes you more cynical maybe. the best of america and the rest of the world for that matter is yet to come and if you think any other way, you may as well become one of those crazies you read about in the paper.

  • Funaek July 29, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Jenna, yet another great and honest blog post!

    I often wonder what my life would have been like if my parents had stayed in Korea too. But my dad, who I have a somewhat distant relationship with, surprised me and my sisters recently when he admitted that part of the reason why he left Korea was because he had daughters and knew that we would have it harder and have fewer opportunities in Korea at that time than in the US. Sometimes I think my dad is a secret feminist after having raised three daughters!

    I am in the opposite position from you. My regular job and day-to-day life deals with this economic turmoil and so I seek out the “stuff” to fill up other parts of my life. I try to take pleasure in the day-to-day small things that make me smile and laugh. I don’t always succeed, but it’s an effort I make every day. And never underestimate the joy a great summer frock can bring!

  • Vanessa Rae July 29, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Jenna, once again you’ve helped me gain a little perspective on life. I feel bad for not watching the news and staying as “in the know” as I would like to be. It feels overwhelming when I see or hear such misfortune and misery that seems over my head and out of my control. So I turn to blogs filled with clothes that I can’t afford and a “look” that has so little to do with real people and real life… because it’s easier to float back into the American existence of day dreaming and keeping up with the Kardashians and stressing out because I may never be able to afford this and that and more. I appreciate your honesty and your perspective. Your words remind me that the simple life is worth being present for and honoring… our thoughts, our meals, our words, the little ways we express ourselves day to day. Just keep on keepin’ on.

  • Vanessa Rae July 29, 2011 at 2:17 am

    I saw this over on Dinner: A Love Story, and thought it was a classy way to drop a line. I’m pretty sure you’ve gotten your fill of feedback on the issue but as a loyal reader, I say that with your gifts and talents you could do anything from your heart and the end would justify the means.

  • teri July 29, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I hear you! As an immigrant ( 7 years old) I know full well the opportunities that just did not exist in the Philippines. I understand why people all over the world risk their lives to come here. I am so beyond grateful to be here! Still, I shake my head at where our country has gone in the last decade. What has happened and how did we get here? The wars, the twin deficits, the extreme right wing, public education, poverty and the lack of support for our country’s most disenfranchised…. This all makes me feel so hopeless.
    Yet all the wonderful comments above inspire me to hope and take an active role in making things a little better in my little corner.

  • Field July 29, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Just remember that the news media, they do love the foreboding over the daily heroic tales. For many, reading disaster scenarios in the news gives them a secretly delightful sense of danger in lives where we’re so often protected from things like storms and bears and (for us) tribal warfare. And I think tribal warfare is a nice thing we get to avoid.
    But there’s one thing about this country that I am forever grateful for, and that is a long history of the hapa (hawaiian for halfsie, or mixed). In the face of just about every frustration about this place, I thank it for celebrating people like Eartha Kitt. Vin Diesel. Keanu Reeves. It’s hybrid vigor, and brilliant, and your life and beautiful offspring remind me of it.

  • Laura July 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Sometimes I wonder about the US, because as a Canadian I can see all the issues that the States is facing right now. We get all the American TV programming, and when the lead story is “Why men still like breasts; and the breaking story of Casey Anthony” and I do end up wondering about that bubble, and the disconnect.

  • Jenna July 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    hello everyone, I so appreciate these thoughtful responses. Thank you so much. You guys give me hope!

  • kimia kline July 30, 2011 at 1:19 am

    this post is so beautiful and honest. my family immigrated from iran after the 1979 revolution so i think i also look at the US with a pair of rose colored glasses sometimes. my husband and i also just relocated to india for 1 year, and lord let me tell you–the problems in india are so overwhelming the states seem like paradise. its best days are still to come–i feel so sure of that.

  • shk July 30, 2011 at 2:44 am

    hi jenna,
    i’m an immigrant myself. we came to the us 11 years ago. we have two kids (a toddler and an infant). i’m 38.
    i am shocked and hurt by the recession myself. we were trying to establish roots (i.e., bought a house) but now we are facing a huge debt for something we don’t own anymore. sometimes, i feel like we are supposed to bleed money in order to support a system which is hung by a hair (i was appalled when i learned how the health insurance system worked).
    still, i am happy here. i appreciate many opportunities for those who want to pursue them. i like the fact that you can chose how you want to live your life: you can live in a bubble or you can be involved up to your neck.
    america is not a dream anymore, and yeah, reality bites. as for me, i believe my life would definitely be different if we hadn’t moved here. not better or worse, but a different life.

  • Dana July 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Hi jenna, I live in Chile, far far away from you but I always come to visit your blog, I find it very inspiring and beautiful. I just wanted to say, maybe you could try thinking of the future as something more open than just a country. Think of the whole world! I don´t know, I mean , this just comes to my mind…. you never know where you could end up!
    Hi to the girls!!

  • Susan July 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Beautifully written Jenna, and it is very thought provoking. It might be true…that America’s best days are behind us, and that is saddening. I’m hoping our generation and those to come will do everything possible to keep that from becoming a reality, unless of course, it already is…

  • veli August 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I recently read a book called “A Free Life” by Ha Jin. I don’t know if it’s because I, too, have an Asian and an American background, but I found it so moving. I think it’s a more subtle, compassionate, thoughtful, quiet way of looking at what America is, what it means and can mean. I definitely recommend it!

    On a side note, you do such a beautiful job on your blog about writing truthfully about life. I find it really inspiring to read your work.