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Sense of Life

The Good Old Past, Present and Future
by Elizabeth Kanabe

At a recent meeting that I was sent to for my job, we got to talk with the others at our table during breaks. At lunchtime, an all too familiar conversation started up about the new versus the old days. What used to be "we didnít have T.V. back then" and "I used to walk three miles to school, each way, uphillÖ" now became "we didnít need the yearly trips to exotic islands" and "we didnít need three cars per household" back then. "Children were content back then playing baseball around the corner and going camping for vacation without the Internet and video games."

The mother in the group complained about how every house on her block has to have the SUV now, how both parents need to work to support a family, and how everything everywhere needs to be bigger now for us to be happy. Of course everyone else jumps in to agree how the world moves too fast and no one is as happy now or takes time for what really important in life. So of course I had to jump in.

"What is really important in life?" I asked, to which they responded: family, time with the ones that you love, the time to enjoy life and relax, the chance to watch your children grow up, and so on. Sounded good so far. "What isnít important in life?" I then asked. Well, things such as having that SUV, going to Hawaii for vacation and attending meetings at work over your childís soccer match. It seemed fairly easy to put the two together, but I thought that Iíll ask my next question anyway.

I asked if they needed that second job if they didnít own that SUV and go to Hawaii for vacation, which they didnít want anyways. I asked if the children had actually requested to go to these vacation spots over camping, and if they asked for a larger house and more cars in the driveway, over time spent with their parents. Of course, they hadnít. So then these must be the choices of the parents. And since they had just described a life that they would rather have, a simpler, more enjoyable life, I asked what it was that prevented them from living that life. The only thing that prevented them from living that life, like "the good old days", were their choices.

Times are different, but the great thing about the world that we live in is that we have so many choices. We can live in a part of the country that has that old sense of community more than another. There are communities where everyone lives in modest size houses, and no one drives the latest Ford Explorer. There are also towns where everyone can afford the trip around the world each year and has two SUVs, and the latest sports car too, just for fun. The key is to identify what makes us happy and to live the life that we want to live, not the one that our friends suggest might make us happy.

What makes today better than life a generation ago, is that while we have everything that our parents had, we have more options. We can choose not to indulge in some of these options, but they are there for those of us that prefer to utilize them. Because one family prefers to spend their summers at a quiet town on a lake, doesnít mean that anther canít enjoy the fast paced life in a big city and be happy as well.

Breaking the circle of holding a job for a lifestyle that doesnít suit you in the first place is easy. But there is another way to be happier should you want to keep the second job, the SUV and the trips to Hawaii. That is to realize that you chose to do so. To recognize that you have the power to change that at any time should you become unhappy gives you control, instead of thinking that youíre stuck in some predetermined family life mold that doesnít work for you.

Life needs a constant reevaluation. Are you happy where you are? What do you want the future to be like? Will you achieve that future on your current path? What is in the best interest of your family? What do you value highest in your life, and are you paying enough attention to it? When you answer these questions and are satisfied with the answers, you can say that you make choices based on what you want, not what society forces you into. And you will always be living in the good present day.

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