Do walled gardens make sense?

On Sundays, the family takes a morning hike in an urban park not far from the house. We started it as a way to stay connected as Santiago started high school and Cassie returned to work outside of the house. And then, we were all quarantined together. So, while we are now together pretty much 24/7 right now, we’ve kept up that Sunday ritual and it’s about the only place we go outside of the neighborhood other than a few errands.

This isolation hasn’t been that hard for me, honestly. Short of work travel and trips to the gym, I have tended to stay close to home in the past few years. I like my friends in small doses and I like remote work, or maybe it’s better to say that I dislike commutes and most of the trappings of offices. While I love collaborating with others, those opportunities are a rarity. Office life is most often a series of performative behaviors like staying late to demonstrate loyalty, mandatory fun, and displays of political power.

I worry about the isolation for my son mostly. Being a teenager is hard enough in the best of times, but in this time in which there aren’t enough examples of good behavior, I want him to be able to see his friends, and for his friends to see him. His classmates aren’t perfect I’m sure, but going to a small school with working class roots, he gets to interact with a diverse group of kids that are mostly just trying to do better in the world. There aren’t a lot of trappings of class or wealth there (a nice side benefit of Catholic schools with mandatory uniforms), and most of the kids are the sons and daughters of really hard working middle class families. They’re the children of grocery store managers, construction workers, and immigrants. They’re not entitled, they don’t behave as though adults that aren’t their parents or teachers are invisible, and they’re not sneaky like a lot of teenagers can be (I speak on all of these qualities from experience). Maybe they remind me of my own extended family members that grew up in rural New Mexico - they have a certain naïveté which I devalued when I was younger, but now as get older, realize was also an authenticity and kindness. So yeah, I want him to be around some other sensible kids every now and again.

And similarly, I need to be around good people too. People who remind me I can do better every day by raising the bar. It’s too easy right now to selectively “Zoom” people and shut out these that are challenging to deal with. I really don’t have time in my life for bad faith arguments or deeply negative people. But I am aware that during this hiatus from Facebook that I have almost no direct contact with anyone outside of my family or my work. That’s probably not good for my mind. Besides, social media is not real life. But maybe email newsletters and blogs aren’t either. But I’m going to start using this to unpack some of it. And to do less performance on social media.