White Picket Fence

I grew up around middle-class people working middle-class jobs. They were fathers and mothers, and they owned houses and had children and came home at 5 or 6 p.m. after a day of doing something that was complex enough to be vague, but mundane enough to stay blended in with the crowd. Generally they seemed fulfilled. But I’m not sure. Because I was too young to ask the question I want to ask now: “Are you happy with your life?”

I grew up comfortable, and often times it gave me the illusion that the world will take care of me. It’s a dangerous way to live. It means there is no awareness of abject failure. But if that’s not scary enough, it also means there is no awareness of uncontained triumph. Because without knowing there is a bottom, you can’t know how high the top is.

That said, sometimes I want the lukewarm life. At times, it seems like we’re all striving for it. For many of us, it’s the only model we know. The “white picket fence” model. Yeah, that sounds decent.

When people reflect on their lives, they often compare it to the models they know, so if you wanted a white picket fence and you got it, then perhaps you feel like you lived a happy life. I guess that’s OK. It’s nice to feel that way. It’s simple when you know just one or two models, because then you don’t even know these models exist. You just think it’s life.

But when you see too many, you realize they are just models — and nothing more. So then, you’re forced to wonder what it is about the white picket fence that makes you happy. And I guess I just don’t know right now.

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