As much as I wish we could all live in the moment spontaneously and not worry about the future, that’s not really the best way to live life unless you’re a hot hippie in the 60s, willing to have lots of unprotected sex with strangers for drugs. Because in your spontaneous moment, that’s all that matters: free love and getting high.
I’d like to clarify a lot of things because my honest posts sometimes get met with defensiveness. This article doesn’t mean I think you can’t:
- Live in the moment for a night, or a weekend, or vacation. You don’t need to be constantly worrying about the future. Just glance that way occasionally.
- People who truly aren’t concerned about the future. These people exist. As long as you aren’t simultaneously a victim, go for it, dude. You’ll likely live a lot longer than me (but you’ll probably be working the whole time, and you don’t seem to care – I think you’re crazy).
The people I’m talking to are the self-made victims. The crybabies. Those who want something for nothing. Those who think only of themselves. Those who want everything but don’t want to work hard to get it. Those who don’t understand why they’re never prepared for anything, and think those who are are just lucky or were also given everything they have.
Here’s the thing: Americans want everything, but most don’t want to work for it. Everyone thinks they’re owed something. And those who do the least amount of work want the most. Very few people plan ahead, and most think when they realize something’s there they need, even if they haven’t prepared for it, everyone else that HAS prepared should get out of their way because, “I want it now!”
Here’s a pared down example. Have you driven well, in almost any decent sized city in America? There are always those drivers trying to get ahead. Tailgating, cutting people off because they don’t want to wait their turn, speeding up on a line of stopped cars, then throwing on the turn signal and violently waving arms like you’re owed a spot, when, really, the cars there have been there and waiting far longer than it took you to push your way though. Or the people driving in one lane who suddenly realize they want to get off. Here. RIGHT NOW. So they put on their turn signal and are floored people don’t get the hell out of their way. Or the people who don’t have a clue where they’re going, and are holding everyone else behind them up because they’re lost, and rather than pull over and figure it out, they slow way down, inconveniencing everyone else with their lack of planning or courtesy for anyone around them.
I hate these people. These people are the reason road rage is a thing.
When I go somewhere, I pay attention to the exit signs. And not just the ones posted at the exit, but those friendly signs saying, “Hey, your exit is coming up. Maybe you should prepare to be able to exit.” I print out maps or use GPS. If I get lost or confused and there are cars behind me, I get the hell out of their way until I figure out where I’m going. If I realize I’m about to miss my exit, I don’t about cause an accident trying to get over, I skip the exit, get off at the next one, and turn the fuck around. Hell, I’m even the person who doesn’t hold up traffic for left turns when there’s a way to do it by inconveniencing less people. Why do I do this? I have no idea. The assholes who don’t plan don’t seem to care who they inconvenience. I’ve been pushed out of the way, flipped off, and honked at for not making room for someone who is selfish or who hasn’t planned.
The problem is, this selfishness and lack of planning and lack of long-term foresight extends far, far, far beyond the road. You see people who feel sorry for themselves, and tell others to walk in their shoes. You want me to walk in your shoes or you want to trade lives with me? Fine, then you go to college, but not a party college, to stay at home and save money. You work as many hours a week as you can get away with at your job while still be considered full time, and pick up shifts occasionally with other jobs to make money while you’re in college. And that job you have? Yeah, it’s a job with real responsibilities, where you get to work at a certain time or you’re fired. You have to learn to do a real job, not just a “fun college job” or a mindless job of any kind. You find ways to get promoted and learn as much as you can while in college, then take the lowest ranking job after you graduate. And work your ass off. Stay late every single night, and take as much one-on-one time with the boss as you can get. And no, not in that way you dirty-minded whores. You take his time and mentorship, and you appreciate it. If he gives you a grain of a direction to go, research the hell out of it. Do on-call hours, and volunteer for every project he asks for help with. Work long hours, and struggle to make ends meet because you can see beyond today.
Instead of looking for a husband (or hell, even a date), stay focused on your career. Buy your first house on your own, and truly struggle to make ends meet. Not in the, “Oh man, I’ll never pay my water, but I have a smart phone with a full plan, a full cable package, a really nice car (with a loan), nice clothes, name brand foods, etc.” No, you actually struggle. You buy everything on sale, and make meals based on what’s on special at the store that week. You don’t go out to eat, hardly ever. And when you do, it’s for pizza in your home town. Or maybe very rarely a “real” restaurant. You keep driving your 10 year old car that has a weird starter issue that means sometimes you put the key in and have to wait 10 minutes for it to start. Not because you particularly enjoy that, but because you’re not in a position for a new car. Instead, you plan your life 10 minutes ahead.
When you have the opportunity to go to graduate school, paid for by your employer, who you’ve proven yourself to, working full time for two years, you take the opportunity, along with all of the red tape involved. You do your own application process, ask several people to do recommendations and spend time filling out the application and writing the essays. You do the work and pay the money for your old transcripts. And when you get in, you go. And you take as many classes as you can (and as your employer will pay for), meanwhile working more than full time. A year and a half in, take on a huge project that has you working nearly 80 hours a week, traveling occasionally, and still make it to every single class unless you’re physically out of town. Participate in and do the majority of the work on your class group projects, figuring out how to do all of your school work and still work seven days a week. (Spoiler: lots of energy drinks.)
When you finally get past the project, get your graduate degree, change job titles and take on a more reasonable work week as far as hours go, you’ll FINALLY feel stable in your job and with finances. The only thing no one tells you is this struggle takes ten years. During that time, you don’t make dating a priority because your goal is to be successful and independent. The only problem is, once you get there, those who didn’t work as hard think their struggles make them worthy of handouts, by people like you who “have it easy.” I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of these people who expect something for nothing would be willing to do the work required to change places with them.
These people have lived their lives jumping from boyfriend to boyfriend or husband to husband. Having a bunch of children. Never putting their education first. Never saving a dime of money. Is it harder for some people to get started? Yes. It is. I was lucky to be raised by parents who taught us to save. Who taught us credit cards were evil if misused, but a tool if used properly. Parents who taught us that there was more to life than chasing any old boy just to get married. That we should work hard to get where we want to be. And that while money never makes anyone happy, it does make life easier. Work hard and you’ll make plenty of money to live and be happy. You don’t need a guy to take care of you, take care of yourself. But if you do get married, go all in. But always plan for the future. Plan that if you have children, one might be sick. Save money for that. Plan that if you do stay home, your husband might get sick, or injured, or die. Plan so that you can take care of your family in the worst situation. Hopefully that situation never arises. Plan so you can make your house payment even if you’re required to take a pay cut. Don’t live on the edge of your means (or beyond them). Save money now so when a crisis happens, it doesn’t feel as catastrophic.
All of that is a lot of work. And it requires seeing far beyond right now. It requires making sacrifices today in hopes of tomorrow. You don’t take the easiest job you can find. You don’t float through college, skipping as many classes as you can to still qualify as passing. You don’t find a guy to take care of you. It requires not being selfish, expecting others to do stuff for you. You have to learn to plan ahead, do it the hard way, do it right, and learn and grow.
You can’t shit your life away, taking the easy road and handouts, thinking others owe you. No one owes you anything. That’s the great part about America. Your life is what you make it. And if you’re a victim, that’s because you make it that way. I know people who face the devastation of fire or disease and stay on top. I know people who go through divorce or death and keep moving forward. I know people whose children are addicts, their ex doesn’t pay child support, their employer runs them into the ground, making it easy to give up. But they don’t. Instead, they find a way to keep moving forward. If things don’t go the way you want them to, that’s life.
And I believe those people who want to take shortcuts, think they’re owed something, refuse to wait their turn in line or in traffic, are selfish people with no vision on anything other than themselves or this minute. Learn to do it the right way.
Then when someday, someone tells you, “You should switch places with me, then you’d see.” You can say the same thing back to them. Because I guarantee, they have no idea.