Isolation in North America

I started this blog with a clear goal in mind. I wanted to force myself to write more consistently, so I created a series of deadlines I had to meet. But I was frustrated with modern blogs and wanted to do things a little differently. I set out on a journey to design the kind of blog that I would enjoy reading.
Whenever I read a blog, it bothered me when the writer stepped back to say “sorry for the late post but life has been busy” or something else in what I consider to be more of a “first-person” voice. I didn't care about the situation in their lives, I cared about what their omniscient voice has to say on the topic. I never wanted to step out of character.
But for this article, I’m stepping out of character. This article isn’t about me though. It’s about our society. The most effective way I know how to make my intended point is by sharing my journey.
In October 2019, I visited Utah for a week of adventures and hiking. There's a national park in Utah called the Canyonlands, it’s filled with huge valleys, similar to the Grand Canyon. As I stood on the edge of the canyons I could see far into the distance, seemingly to infinity. I was struck by how big the world is. It seemed that this landscape continued forever. And this was just one park, in one state, in one country of the world. I want to live fully and experience this big world. So, I travel.
I travel for fun, I travel for work and I travel to learn. I live a pretty nomadic life.
Each time I travel though, I long for one thing. I wish for someone to share the experience with. Not in a weird way like I’m searching for a spouse. I quite enjoy being single. But I do wish someone was there who I could know was being equally awed by the amazing rock needles reaching for the sky. I wish I had a friend who could also get excited about eating a giant raspberry fritter. I wish there was someone who could affirm the feeling of peace of sitting by the ocean.
Because of my nomadic lifestyle, I find it hard to build deep relationships. Well, I find it hard to build any relationships. Connecting with people is tough and I’ve never cared to put the practice in. I find it difficult to build relationships even with people I live with, see every day or those I work with. And then once I do build up the courage to reach out and develop friendships, a few months down the road I move and have to start over. 
I’m surrounded by people, but not really connected to any of them.
I’ve noticed this lack of community acutely in the last few weeks. When I’m trying to figure out how to make a meal with lettuce, chickpeas, pork chops and broccoli, without even a butter knife or a pot, there’s no one there to laugh at the crazy situation with me. When I’m frustrated about work, there’s not really anyone who can be a trusted, uninvolved sounding board. When I’m trying to figure out how to be productive or what to do in my next stage of life, no one is around to listen to my thoughts. Studies show that I’m not alone. Well, I am alone, but so are increasingly more people. And it’s especially a problem for guys.
A study was started in the 1930s that set out to evaluate what makes people healthy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is still in progress over 8o years later. Their findings are amazing and a little alarming. Their study shows that friendships have more of an impact on health and longevity than diet and exercise do. But as men allow their friendships to deteriorate, their mental health also lessens. Studies show a striking connection between the two, with friendships and mental wellbeing declining at the very same rate. Studies may show lots of things, but one thing they haven’t shown yet is a clear reason why friendships are declining among men in America. Experts aren’t sure what to do about it because they don't even know what is causing this.  
It’s easy to say that the solution is to be more connected: to make friendships. But our society is increasingly more mobile and nomadic. The structure of our society has changed. What does a connected, relationally rich life look like today? How can we practically build those connections?
I don’t give answers away very often. The constant questioning is purposeful. I want to draw people on a journey and allow them to come to their own conclusions. I’m not going to force my conclusions on anyone. But today, I’m not giving any answers because I have none. But you’re welcome to come along on the journey.


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