John and Mary are 70 and 71 today. They have two children: their son Mark, who is 43 today and their daughter Sophia who is 39. John was born in a small town near Cincinati. It is in this town that he went to school. Then he started working in a factory in a neighboring city. It was actually in his place of work that he met Mary. They have brought up their children with care and affection and they have tried to pass on the values they consider important. So, for instance they explained to them right through their childhood that working hard at school was important in order to succeed in life and not be in any want. Similarly, both of them as practising Catholics, tried to transmit to their children the essence of Christian values. They live today in a house they set up through the years and they wish to, when the time comes, to be buried in the little cemetery where Pierre’s parents already rest.
John’s and Mary’s lives, a few incidents notwithstanding, have been very linear.
Their son Mark left them when he was about 18 to continue his higher studies in engineering in Los Angeels and succeed brilliantly. It was during a training in London that he met his wife Anna, an Indian-origin British Muslim. After a brilliant start in his career, to the great pride of his parents, he had to radically change his career after he was laid off like many of his colleagues when the company was bought over by a Chinese firm. He now works in Milan, Italy where he was able to find a consultant’s job. He finds it very hard to explain his professional career changes to his parents who themselves find it embarrassing to talk about it to their friends. Their son has, however, tried to reassure them that he makes more money now that he’s a consultant! His wife Anna stayed on in London where she holds an important post of financial analyst in a major bank. Mark and Anna commute on the weekends to get together either in London or Milan. Their 11-year old son Kevin studies in the International School of London. He has already become used to airports and has his own Frequent Flyer Gold card!
Philippe and Anna’s life is already a little less linear… But what will happen to Kevin? Let’s try imagining it…
Kevin is perfectly trilingual. He speaks, English, Italian and Chinese that he started learning on his own interest from the age of 8! Even though he will pursue longer studies than his father, he will start to work very early. His study time will be punctuated by various training and learning programs. He will interrupt his studies at several points in order to spend long periods abroad, for instance in China to perfect his Chinese, but also on various humanitarian missions in different countries.
Come to think of it, it is, in fact, impossible to say for sure when he will complete his studies and start a professional life!
Once older, he will interrupt for longish periods what is called his professional life, either to take up some course or to go once more on new humanitarian projects in several countries. He will also take several long breaks, what we qualify today as holidays, dedicated to the discovery of the world…or of himself.
Similarly, it is very difficult to say when he will take his retirement. Getting old, his life in fact will continue to be punctuated by alternating activities of all kinds, either remunerated or simply done as pastimes.
Kevin who was brought up in great religious freedom (his father is of Catholic upbringing and his mother, a Muslim) will discover at the age of 16 while on a martial art training in Japan, Zen Buddhism. He will go on a number of retreats in the course of his life. If asked about his religion, he will find it hard to answer. He might even sometimes wonder whether he isn’t more Eastern than Western. In any case, he will affirm that spirituality is an indispensable part of his life.
At a personal level, he will most probably marry much younger than his parents… to their great astonishment. He will also divorce much earlier… in fact, he will renounce the idea of marriage quite fast and embrace quickly the idea of a contract of living a shared life with his different partners. He will have several kids with his different partners… and will be completely focused during certain parts of his life in the education of children who are not his. For a few years, he might even live with a gay partner and be involved in the education of his partner’s children!
He will also share with his different partners not just his private life but also professional and NGO projects. Vice versa, his partner (male or female) in a professional project is sometimes the mother of his children or his lover. It is sometimes difficult to clearly divide his personal and his professional life…
Besides, they often work from home. The border between private and work space becomes difficult to define.
Kevin’s life will surely be very different from his parents… not to mention his grand parents!
I can already see many Kevins around when I travel the world…
This short and easy to read article tells us a story about the striking changes or evolution of life styles among different generations. As a Chinese and living in a transitional country like China, I have witnessed enormous changes of value systems, lifestyle, and world view among Chinese young people. And there is no doubt that both professional and private life will be less and less linear, more towards diversified and inter-related. However, I would like to know more about the implication of this story. To what extent the story can actually inform or help us to predict future life?