Mostly I agree with gone2croatan's answer (the first one posted).
But here's what I've observed recently -- and yes, it's because of the change in my own values and world view, and my aspirations for the future.
What's stood out to me most is the ridiculousness of the urban rat race. I live just outside DC, so most of my observations are based on what I see around me. (I work at the Pentagon, as a matter of fact...but I hate it and am only here until I can transition into something else...finishing a master's in nutrition in about 2 months. Woohoo!)
I've just noticed more and more that people don't really have lives anymore; we have routines. We have waking up and scrambling to get dressed, gather our purse or briefcase and possibly shove something down the piehole before hurrying out to the car or hustling to the bus/train. And if you don't have time to cram something down the piehole, you buy a donut/bagel/whatever else passes for breakfast either at work or along the way.
If you love your job, fantastic. But I think most people just sort of make do until the weekend. They might not actively HATE their jobs as much as I do, but the vast majority of people aren't exactly making a living doing their childhood dream. (And yes, I realize that's okay. There's nothing wrong in earning an honest wage for an honest day's work. And there's value in whatever you do - whatever you create, or the service you provide. I'm not trying to say everyone gets lucky enough to "live the dream." That'd be nice, but it just ain't the way of the world. And believe me, I realize darn well that "in this economy," as they say, anyone who has a job at all should be grateful. But you know what? That only gets you so far. I see so many people biding their time until retirement, just "making it through" each day until 20, 30, 40 years go by and by then they're too sick or decrepit to enjoy the time they were waiting for.)
I see people who buy breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the building at work. If they want to spend that much money on food here, more power to them. But it's a commentary on our times: no one's cooking at home anymore! I bring my food almost every day. (Partly because I'm cheap and partly because I just don't trust most of what's available for purchase here, not to mention about 75% of it is off-limits right off the bat because of the way I choose to nourish myself.) I know it's a morale boost and a treat of sorts to buy lunch, but it makes me sad that so few people take the time to prepare real food in their homes anymore.
And should I even mention the line at the Starbucks & Dunkin' Donuts in the building? It's endless. We live in a sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted, sugar-addicted world.
My landlords/housemates are wonderful people. Love 'em. They've given me a fantastic place to live for what amounts to a total steal in this region. BUT...I see them struggling to have lives. They both work in the defense industry and are out of the house by 6:45am. Granted, they get home early too, but like so many people in this area, they work ridiculous hours for the sole purpose of avoiding the traffic. The more I learn about ancestral health and human evolution, the more wacko I find it that we have the same exact schedules come rain or shine, winter or summer, all year long. So even in winter, when theoretically, we should be sleeping A LOT more and sort of living off all the fat we were supposed to accumulate during the summer (gorging ourselves on fruit). So even though it stays DARK out until 7 or 8am, we're up in what amounts to the middle of the night to hurry to work in the dark and freezing cold. No wonder everyone's circadian rhythms are all screwed up.
They're both so busy that they've hired a cleaning service to clean the house. They bought a dog even though no one's home during the whole day, so they had to hire a dog walker to come and just get the poor thing out of the house for a little while. And they live on takeout, cereal, and microwave meals from Trader Joe's. They have the most gorgeous kitchen, and I'm the only one who uses it! (Not that I'm complaining...cooking is a very zen thing for me and I'd much prefer to be in the kitchen alone rather than tripping over other people and fighting for space on the stove.) Everybody's in such a damn hurry that they don't take the time to cook. (And they're both thin, dammit! If I ate the way they did I'd be 3x my size. BUT...neither of them is healthy. One of them pops antacids and aspirin like candy and the other is constantly trying acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Reiki, and things like that, when what she really needs to do is eat better and SLOW THE HECK DOWN for a while. Believe me, I don't wish illness upon them, but remembering that "thin" does not equal healthy and vibrant is the only way I can keep myself from feeling bitter toward them, and despite my observations of their lifestyle, they are genuinely lovely people.)
What all this amounts to is, they've essentially outsourced their lives.
** (I'm not necessarily against hiring a cleaning service. I know that people who can afford it would rather pay someone to provide the service and not use their own time for chores they might find disagreeable or...well, "chores." It's one of the benefits of having some disposable income. BUT, it still helps me make the point: they don't cook their own food, they don't clean their own house, and they don't walk their own dog. And I suspect this one example could be multiplied by a few million and we'd have a picture of at least some Americans. And they don't even have kids!! I can't imagine what families with multiple kids do if both parents work. It's so far beyond my comprehension. I'm single with no kids and I have a hard enough time just taking care of myself. But maybe there are reasons why it takes "more time" to take care of myself: I do cook real food. I try to go for long walks in nature b/c I'm trapped in a windowless cube all day under the harsh fake lights and stale air. I make time to sit in a comfy chair with a book and just be.)
What else besides this have I noticed since my values have shifted toward more basic, simple things? The absolute deficit of any sort of involvement with our environment. People don't trust the world anymore. They don't trust nature. They want everything sterilized, sanitized, individually wrapped, and pristine. We go from sitting in our offices in the air conditioning to sitting in our cars in the AC to sitting in our homes in the AC, much of it in front of some sort of screen, be it a computer, TV, or video game system. Very few people seem to have hobbies where we create anything anymore. Woodworking, sewing/quilting, even gardening or playing a musical instrument. (A lot of people play in grade school but don't keep it up as adults.) I just feel like we have so many lost and dying arts. Even cooking. I think it's absolutely tragic how few young women (and MEN for that matter) know how to actually make a meal from real, whole foods.
HAHAHA -- Looking at this post, I realize these are all very, very "First World" type complaints. (Oh, woe is me, I hate my stable, good-salary job, and I'm so miserable indoors in the nice air conditioning, and what a shame that food is so easily procured here that you literally don't even have to get out of your car.) I really hope that isn't how it's come off. You know that's not how I mean it, right? Ultimately, I just long for a simpler, quieter, slower life. (And I'm working toward it...this DC gig is merely a bridge, or that's what I'll keep telling myself until such time as I'm able to transition to a very different routine and physical environment.) I spent 6 weeks working on an organic farm in PA a few years ago and LOOOOVED it. Happy as a clam wearing dirty jeans and my old USAF desert boots, hauling bags of feed, feeding the pigs and chickens, picking veg. There was so much barter between the farming community. Cash rarely changed hands. Give me some pork, I'll give you some raw milk cheese. Give me some eggs, I'll give you some hay. Very, very trusting kind of existence. (Not that there wasn't money being spent or made, but you know what I mean. The whole approach to life is different. Almost nothing went to waste. Most food scraps were composted, everything that could be reused or recycled was, and most of the paper goods went to the fire pit they had outside. This is something I notice around me all the time now -- the sheer amount of GARBAGE we produce. All that food buying at work I mentioned earlier? Everyone gets a plastic bag, a styrofoam container (!!), and plastic utensils. What's wrong with reusing plastic utensils? Wash 'em off and use 'em again just like the real thing. No, most people just get brand new every day. Thousands upon thousands of people -- and I'm only looking at it from one building in one city. Forget recycling -- most of this stuff doesn't need to be used in the first place! People could bring real silverware from home and keep it at their desks (where most of them eat anyway, while trying to complete a hundred other tasks. And they wonder why they're addicted to Tums.) It drives me insane when I go into a supermarket and I'm overwhelmed by the number of plastic bottles and fancy packaging. Individually wrapped baggies inside boxes inside more plastic covering. WHY?! WTH? I dunno...looks like most people can't even be bothered to bring their own bags to shop with, let alone be concerned about the endless amounts of packaging around us.
Wow...sorry. I think this rant has been a long time in coming, and this happened to be a good place to let it out. Thanks for listening! Maybe someday when my life is different I'll post about all the nice things I've discovered to make up for this little tirade. ;-)