Caution- Minor Course Language towards the end!
Let me tell you a story, a story that is so predictable that the fact history keeps repeating itself is cause for concern.
The following story is about a guy named Bill. Bill is a typical North American with a typical North American upbringing. He went through the North American public school system and received a typical assembly line education that prepared him for a typical desk job working for a corporation that has a typical North American value system in which money comes first and humanity lurks in the shadows rarely making an appearance unless for appearance purposes.
Bill grew up in the 70's in a typical middle class home with just enough money to pay the bills and have a couple family days a month. In a way, Bill was lucky because back when he was a child the typical upbringing promoted his mother to be around to help him become the person he is today…to that he is grateful. Bill's father was a factory worker who worked the typical 40-50 hours a week to keep his family afloat…and that was enough…they were happy. Money was tight but they made it work. Still, Bill grew up thinking he needed more.
From his first day of school Bill excelled. He understood most subjects, even those he didn’t understand well he worked very hard to achieve good grades. "Focus on the end goal" was what Bill always told himself when he was doubting his abilities and Bill was an absolute machine when it came to focus. Bill cared so much about his grades and school that he often times neglected to enjoy the little things that make being youthful so special. He never went outside and played with the local kids, never joined any clubs, never went to the movies or played baseball. Bill simply avoided fun because in the end "fun wasn’t part of his end goal".
By the time Bill was in college he still had the focus. He still had the end goal. He put the same if not more attention into achievement at all costs. What were the costs? Very few friends and absolutely no external life outside of school. Fun still wasn't in the cards for Bill, he had a job to earn and money to make. He had big dreams of a big house with multiple cars and an abundance of stuff…surely that will make him happy…at least happier than his parents were. His family was going to have everything they ever wanted.
Somewhere along the line Bill somehow managed to meet a girl, we're not really sure how, but it happened. He spent most of his time on his work still, but that didn’t matter because she was as driven as him….they had a lot in common. They had the dream of a perfect family with lots of stuff and a big house….everything they ever wanted.
The years passed by along with the accomplishments. Bill and his wife both had great careers making more than enough to get by on life. They had a great big house in an extremely affluent community. They had 3 cars, all of which were high end, one of which sat in the garage reserved for days with sun and more importantly free time. Needless to say, the car in the garage saw very little use. Along with the car, the pool and boat often times sat unused as well. You see, somewhere along the line Bill realized that a sports car, a pool and a boat can make life a little more fun so he went out and bought one of each. He had big dreams for these toys…if only there was the time.
Bill and his Wife had two beautiful, smart children. The couple were extremely busy so they hired a live in Nanny to help with the daily tasks with the children. Since Bill and his wife were so busy, the Nanny was the one present for many of the Children's milestones. The children's first words, their first steps, their first swim…you name it, the Nanny didn’t miss it. Bill and his wife made it to some of their children's major milestones…the big dance recital, the playoff game but generally they were left with regret because of the memories they passed by because the needed money. Their children were far from neglected in a financial and experiential sense but in a parental sense, they were essentially raised by their Nanny or grandparents. The kids were very privileged but very rushed and overwhelmed because of all the activities their parents enrolled them in and the pressure placed upon them to do well in school. Often times the children were not in bed until 11 on a school night because of hockey or dance…the kids were tired but they wanted to make their parents proud so they stuck with it.
Did Bill and his Wife ever make time for fun? Of course they did. The family took many high end vacations south or to Europe…where ever there was Wifi available because they always seemed to go on vacation when Bill and his wife were desperately needed at work. Modern days with modern technology allowed them to take working vacations. He and his wife sat next to the pool with their iphones staying connected to the operations back home while the kids were out playing and making friends. This time on vacation truly allowed the kids to be themselves with very little structure…it was always special for them, they just wished their mom and dad would have had a little fun with them.
By the time Bill and his wife approached their late 40's they had everything they ever wanted but they were still unhappy and they couldn't figure out why. They had the house, the toys, the name brand everything, similar friends, vacations, perfect kids…everything was seemingly perfect. Since they were so unhappy Bill and his wife fought about pretty much anything and everything. Bill was never "there" his wife would say. After a while things just got to be too much and him and his wife couldn’t make it work any longer so they divorced and split everything…well they spent a year fighting over it first but they eventually came to an agreement about what stuff belonged to whom. The children went with their mother, Bill was alone…but hey, he still had money.
Bill's transition into bachelorhood went in his eyes quite seamlessly. He "saw" his kids on the weekend when he wasn't working and his kids stayed around. At this point they were teenagers and young adults starting to make their own path's in this world. Bill kept them happy by giving them a credit card with a small balance on it every month so they could buy clothes and such. They loved their father.
Bill embraced his new single life and played the field a little and eventually met a girl that was drop dead gorgeous. Bill bought her everything she ever wanted. She didn’t care that Bill was so busy with work. She loved Bill.
Now this is where things really changed for Bill. His typical North American life was about to take a typical North American turn. The company that Bill had devoted his life to was "restructuring". "Out with the Old, in with the New" they said. "It's time to streamline" they said. Just like that, Bill was out of work. Now you would think Bill would be OK because at this point he had to have saved up some money for retirement and after all he's approaching 60 and surely was ready to retire. Unfortunately you're wrong. Bill lost a lot of his money in the divorce and spent another large portion of it on his house, his cars, his girlfriend and his kids credit cards. Bill did the only thing he could. He sold his house at a loss, sold his cars at a loss, sold his name brand materials at a loss…Bill in general was at a loss. How could this happen? "I had everything I ever wanted" Bill said.
Bill also stopped buying gifts for his new girlfriend, she left him and said "its not you it’s me". Bill believed her. He cut up the kids cards….he rarely sees them anymore. They say "Dad, were just too busy". Bill is alone. Bill is being strangled by life.
No Money, No Family, and no materials to his name. He had just enough money to afford a small apartment, a few clothes, a cheap car and food. "This was not the end goal I imagined" Bill thought. "My life is over" Bill contemplated. "What happened?"
Since Bill had plenty of time on his hands inbetween searching for decent jobs, he was able to look back at his life and come up with a list of regrets. This is Bill's list…a list that is probably just as typical as the rest of his story:
1)I regret thinking that the way my parents lived was not sufficient. They loved each other, they loved us kids, they were there for me when I needed them and most importantly, we enjoyed life.
2)I regret putting all of my eggs in one basket when It came to education just because that was the way "its supposed to be". Just because there is a status quo doesn’t mean I should have just conformed and went along with it. I regret not going against the grain. I liked drama, I liked music, I liked sports, I liked girls, I liked LIFE. Everything became so robotic and predictable. I could have pursued anything…the world is so vast, inspiring and unique.
3)I regret not getting to know my wife better. We fell into a comfort trap that revolved around work. We worked, we went home and repeated. There was no time for "us". We lived the way society told us to live….money first, humanity second. I regret the petty arguments about nothing that ultimately led to divorce. I miss my wife.
4)I regret not being there for my kids. When I say being there, I mean truly there. Where was I for the first steps, the first words, the first bike ride? Where was I at dinner time, at bed time, homework time? Where was I when there was joy, when there was fear, when there was pain, when they really needed me? I regret not raising my children…I was just an outsider providing the financial support that I thought was more important. I miss my kids.
5)I regret putting my trust into a corporation who's administration worries about nothing other than the bottom line and financial returns. Everything was fake, everything was on the surface…there was no substance to my career. I put in my blood, sweat and tears into this company just to be tossed aside like a rotten sandwich in the fridge that Janice in accounting wouldn't even want to touch (thanks John Oliver). And we all know that Janice don't give a fuck. That’s how I feel, corporate culture has literally 0 fucks to give as long as there is money to be made…you and I don't matter unless they can make money off of us. My life was theirs, held captive by financial promises; their golden handcuffs…and they took it without blinking an eye.
6)Most importantly, I regret the way I LIVED my life. I lived my life thinking that I needed stuff to be happy. I thought I needed that house, that boat, those cars, the pool, the fancy clothes, the glamorous career, but in reality I didn’t need piss all of it. What I needed was TIME. I needed time with my wife and kids, time with my friends, time experiencing, time learning, time traveling, time enjoying the little things like the crisp winter air, a spectacular sunset eclipsed by the most beautiful mountains, a warm breeze passing through the palms of a palm tree or seeing my kids scoring the game winning goal and seeing the joy in the my wife's eyes as she watches….I wish I knew then what I do now. I now know what LIVING is. But is it too late? It may be too late for some things in my life because I am an old man and have some limits…but there is always time for change. It’s time to live the way I want to live, not the way I am expected to live. I wonder what my wife and kids are doing?
Typical vs Happy...which do you choose? If you can pull off both, kudos!