I’ve been wondering what North Carolina will be like 20 or 30 years from now.
Growing up, my daughter was always intrigued that there were 25 years between her grandfather’s age and mine, the same span that separated the two of us.
That curiosity probably culminated the year she turned 25 just as I was turning 50 and my dad turned 75, just two years before he was gone.
I don’t know how other people feel, but turning 67 this summer I still perceive myself in my mind’s eye as I was when I was 25 or 30.
However, the Census views me as an “older” American although, I won’t cross that threshold for another year, when I reach the age that Americans, on average, view as “older,” according to a Pew study.
But how we see ourselves in our mind’s eye is different than how we feel. People feel about the age they are until they reach 24 and then a gap occurs gradually widening on average to people my age who feel on average almost 10 years younger eventually rising to 13.
Studies show that beginning after age 40, we grow to feel 20% younger than we are.
I’ve never been one of those people who gets anxious as they near various age benchmarks when they are adults. But the percentage of Americans who say they are very happy doesn’t really vary much as we grow older.
A third of people my age say they are “very happy,” which is about average for all Americans. However, the percentage who say they are “not too happy” is twice that of people who are ages 18-29. though lower than those 50-64.
But just as the state inched past Michigan in population becoming the ninth most populous state overall, the ranks of “older” Tar Heels has inched up two percentage points since 2010 as a share of population.
If I am fortunate enough to live to be older than my mother was when she passed in January, I will see that number increase by more than a million people over what it was in 2013 according to Carolina Demography.
That won’t be for another 20 years when “older” North Carolinians are more 21% of a population projected to be well north of 2 million people larger than today.
If I still live in North Carolina by then, I will have lived here for nearly 50 years and well more than half of my life. I will have witnessed the state doubling its population over that time.
The jury is still out as to whether the state’s appeal will have been sustained. Will it have recovered from its recent regression? Will it have recovered the unique sense of place that has rapidly been eroding over the past 70 years?
Will North Carolina have reclaimed its roadsides from the final vestiges of billboard blight? Will the state and its counties be reclaiming clearings to restore their forest canopy?
Will a new generation rise up in my former field of community destination marketing, possibly from among those who hear my guest lectures, determined to reclaim and fulfill their role as guardians of unique sense of place?
Or will I be writing about its continued demise and further decent into mainstream sameness?
Will North Carolina continue on its course to The Geography of Nowhere, a “tragic sprawlscape of cartoon architecture, junked cities and ravaged countryside” forewarned by John Howard Kunstler?
Or will our state and communities have rediscovered that “chronological connectivity lends meaning and dignity to our lives?”
As Kunstler reminds us, “A land full of places that are not worth caring about will soon be a nation and a way of life that is not worth defending.”
God bless America! God bless North Carolina!