Challenges and Growth

Slow Death

I see them every day, lemmings clutching the steering wheel in a tense rage. Screaming and cursing their fellow traveler. Driving at speeds far exceeding their ability.

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”

– Ellen DeGeneres

For what?   Fathers are you involved in your kids’ lives, or are you stuck at the office most times? Mothers, are you involved in your children’s lives, or are you stuck chasing the dream as well?

Know this, we-you-me are programmed from an early age. Trillions are spent getting us to contribute to the cause and lose focus on what is important and   Stay-In-Debt.

Break free my friend, Break Free.

I understand the need for money as a tool to purchase. My point is the pursuit of it and missing the lives going past.

Perhaps our money problems are not Income problems, but Spending problems?

Allow me to share with you a story, some may consider this sad, maybe it was or maybe it was a transmogrification.

Our hero grew up in middle class America, happy childhood, lived in the North. Let’s call the standard of living a lower middle class. Somewhere in there, unbeknownst to our hero, his mom and his dad met to plan the future as many parents do. You see Dad was an instructor at a company called Boces. He taught basic hands on job skills to folks like welding, plumbing, electrical, etc. He liked his job, although he did not make much in the line of salary. So it was decided he would get a better paying job to afford the Better life for the family. He did what many men have done since the dawn of time, he went out, sacrificed himself, and as it turned out, his happiness, for the good of the family.

Fast forward a few years, and the family moved to FL. They now have a 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath house with an in-ground pool, and have now promoted to upper middle class.   But this came with the cost of DEBT. So now Dad works A LOT. Consequently, he cannot attend kid’s school functions and football games and wrestling meets because he is too busy with work. This increases his stress levels and to compensate, he begins to drink and keep in mind that this is All for the good of the family.   But the effort to achieve the advertised American dream has effected Mom too. She has to work extra hours as well, as the stress of debt and bills builds, she starts to drink too. Gotta keep running faster to stay ahead of the debt boulder, gotta allow bad supervisors and bosses to belittle you and demand more and more time because they have the mortgage and bills and Debt to consider.

Completely sold on this life and the consumerism that masks itself as the ideal dream, decisions are now based on the imaginary specter.

Fast forward a decade and now Mom and Dad are trying to hide their habit, but it eventually kills them. Son is 23 now and both parents are gone, lost to the pursuit of a dream. But parents had life insurance, not a lot, and so life goes on for the son. But, because he grew up, immersed in the dream that his parents were pursuing and so never learned true money management lessons, and so repeats many of the same mistakes.

He did learn some lessons though. He learned that life is short and that memories mean more than things. So he uses the insurance money to gather experiences: NBA Finals, Travel to Korea, chase his own dream in life to open a martial arts school. But he repeats his parent’s mistake of the lifestyle dream as well: too big of a house, dining out too much, living large, etc. Eventually, he is forced to make a choice between the lifestyle and the dream. So he sells the house that he can no longer afford anymore, and continues to chase dream. He is forced to live in back of the school for some time.

It was during this time of low economic success that he finds personal fulfilment. He discovers and observes the societal programing to work long hours in the Hope of financial freedom. He comes to a conclusion: You have work for yourself, and not for someone else. You either work to live or you live to work.

“Make space in your life for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun and joy. Without this, you will burn out in mid-career and wonder where your life went.”

― Jonathan Sacks

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

― Dolly Parton

Please understand that I do not intend to preach or condemn or belittle.

This is a painful subject, not just for myself, but for everyone, I believe. We are constantly bombarded with advertising in one form or another in our lives. This works to program us to feel the need for bigger and better. But is bigger truly better?

Your house may be small and your family large, but does that truly mean that you must upsize your house? Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. Think about this: Can you afford your current house payment without a strain on your budget? Will moving into a bigger house put a strain on your budget that requires you to increase your work load, maybe force you into a second or third job to compensate? I have met people who live in small houses, where children have to share bedrooms and bathrooms, but they do not want for food, clothes, or toys and they have plenty of family time with their parents.

By the same token, I have seen families in the same situation that made the choice to upscale and give the children their own bedrooms/bathrooms and more indulgent toys. The clothes are a better quality and the toys are more expensive, but the family time virtually disappears as both parents are consumed with work hours and are exhausted when they get home. Children are involved now in before and after school activities that keep them away from home too.

Is this truly the American Dream that we are being sold?

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

― Niccolo Machiavelli

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