Saturday, April 05, 2008

The road not taken…

The path which appears to be rough and full of hardship, is rarely the one I decide to take. Why should I? I am a privileged American. I deserve to take the easiest route. I almost always expect some form of reward for the simplest accomplishment. I want recognition in the double digits and by golly I am going to get it. It's all about me.

I don't want to suffer or want or wait. I want everything now or yesterday if possible. I want a 32-inch waistline, but I don't want to sacrifice one bit to achieve it. I want and want and want and I want more. I want more stuff before I pay off the stuff I bought last year or the year before it. I want a new car, a newer more expensive car and I don't want to wait until I can afford it or the one I have now.

When I get old, real old, I want to sit on a stack of worldly goods the size of Mount St. Helens before it blew to smithereens. And I will still want more. I am the average American; the one pursuing happiness through spending and accumulating stuff I don't need and all of this behavior is transferred through me to my children. I'm teaching them to put themselves ahead of everything else.

Everyday I prove to my children that this is my philosophy by spending every moment working one, two or three jobs and by playing with all the stuff I have bought. I work to buy. Any spare time is taken by plotting to buy more stuff, even if it is on credit. I am addicted to getting stuff now and paying for it later, even if it is much later and at far greater cost. It's the American way. Happiness is bought in this country and I accept it as the only way to live.

If I get a windfall through a rebate/inheritance/refund, I have it spent the same day, but not on credit purchase repayment, but on new stuff! New stuff! New stuff to me equates happiness. Happiness is the path I travel and it is indeed the easiest path and one that winds lazily down the hill I call life. Down, down and down and easy.

What if I am on wrong path? What if I take a closer look at the other trail; the one that may be more difficult and less traveled as an option? The other road requires self-discipline and appears to be bumpy, twisty and climbs upward toward difficult heights. Why should I subject myself to that kind of abuse? Isn't the easiest way always the best way?

What if buying and accumulating worldly goods were not my main goal in life; what then could I do with my time? If I were to restrict my purchasing to items I actually need, would I still require the extra jobs? Instead of buying more stuff that keeps me drained financially, would I have more time to spend with my family? Would my wife be able to quit her job and be there for the kiddos? Would my relationship with my wife improve? Would my obligation and commitment to my wife and family flourish?

What if my kids did not come home from school to an empty house? Would my children have a higher rate of success in the future? Would the extra supervision my kids receive pay better dividends to my family's future than the extra money a two paycheck does now? What about the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Would I be less fulfilled? Can my family experience true American happiness on one paycheck?

Most American parents believe in both husband and wife working so they can provide their children with all manner of purchases with little or no effort by the children. They believe by buying lots of stuff for their kids, the kids will not have to suffer and this is why so many American kids grow up with no work-related skills and expect everything to be handed to them free of labor or effort on their part.

In many countries, the true pursuit of happiness is when the whole family works together for mutual benefit and they relax together in the evenings. True peace and happiness is found in fellowship and sharing life's experiences and has little to do with purchases.

Here in America, the land of fruit, milk, honey and Mom's apple pie, I think I am guilty of pursuing the wrong dream. I've made a serious mistake by allowing myself to take the commercial path of excessive purchases, over the simple pleasures of enjoying my family's presence. My kiddos are now grown and moved out and I spent their whole life working every kind of overtime and spare job I could muster, so we could have an extra level of unnecessary comfort and now I realize it is too late to reclaim lost time.

I think it is in the minds of everyone in our city about the young 14 year old mother and the tragedy at Cedar Bayou Jr. High. I think we all wonder how no one noticed she was pregnant or how our schools have many children walking around like zombies on Xanax and other drugs. I'm afraid so many of us are caught up in pursuing careers and extra dollars so our kids can have a softer life and we don't realize that a better life for us and them is in how much time we choose to spend with each other.

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