To my young family members who find themselves at a crossroads,
You are so hopeful and carefree...idealistic and sometimes naive. Sometimes out of touch with reality. But, hey, aren't we all sometimes and such is the state of youth though anyway. As we age, those of us that are either lucky or smart, begin to find that quintessential balance between keeping our feet grounded in reality and yet still letting our heads dream our wildest dreams up in the clouds. It's a tough act to balance but an monumentally important one in the long run. Without that crazy, reckless optimism that never stops reaching for happiness, we become resigned to the difficulties of modern life, going through the motions without feeling. Yet without an awareness of actual reality, regrets line up behind us in a trail of bad decisions.
This new generation seems habituated to instant gratification and many lack good decision making skills that include foresight and determining how present decisions will impact the future. It's not necessarily your collective fault...I think maybe everyone was just too busy while you were being raised to explain the nature of foresight. Technology has exacerbated the situation in an unanticipated marketing ploy hinged on short attention spans. Maybe it's not just this generation. Maybe every generation goes through that young blindness that grasps for instant happiness at any cost. I don't know. But the reality is, although we can be happy while simultaneously homeless and hungry, why choose a path that may lead there when there are other paths that although they may require some measure of change and sacrifice, will ensure a more financially secure future? Our economy is miserable and while it's of the utmost importance to remain positive in the face of adversity, it still seems unwise to throw ourselves under the bus of unemployment that's barreling down the highway at breakneck speed right now. Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. A tough balancing act as well.
While short term decisions made for the sake of having food and shelter may seem like a detour from original, more important hopes and dreams, food and shelter is not to be underrated as key ingredients in comfort. Besides, happiness is not a place. Happiness is not something that is to be attained just as soon as this or that happens. (I'm sure you guys remember me struggling with this one a lot in the past year.)
Abraham Lincoln says it best: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Or maybe it was actually Denis Waitly that said it best: "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." And then of course John Milton who has written such amazing existential profundities: "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven."
But remember, it's easier to be happy with a roof over your head, food in your belly and someone to love. Aristotle said "Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient." Without money of our own we are subject to the charity of others as well as the government and by virtue of that, their conditions and stipulations as well. Benjamin Franklin advised in his booklet Way To Wealth, "When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty." So while it superficially may seem as if you're making decisions solely based on the pursuit of wealth to the exclusion of your hopes and dreams, I beg of you, expand your imagination to think in terms of the future. Think of how your decisions will alter the entire course of your life. Remember to take into account the reality of the world and the nature of of our modern culture. And remember as Jesus advised, "Be in the world, but not of it." Use all the incredible powers of creation inherent in your human mind to use what you have to your greatest advantage. Take whatever life brings and make it suit you. Theologian David Steindl-Rast urges us to remember "Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy -- because we will always want to have something else or something more."
I know the concept of money holds us back in our evolution. And you probably do as well. But the rest of the world hasn't caught on to that yet and that's the reality we live in. Living in ignorance of that reality could, in all actuality, land someone homeless on the street. Being spiritual is only one part of life. Being healthy and abundant are the other two...equally important...equally worthy. The things that draw health and abundance to us begin with gratitude and a willingness to be content with the present moment.
Remember the Optimal Creative Vantage Point - To stand on the brink of what is coming, feeling eager, optimistic anticipation with no feeling of impatience, doubt, or unworthiness to hinder the receiving of it.
I will leave you with this.
I know you wish we would just mind our own business and let you be either happy or miserable as you see fit. We were young once too. We remember that feeling. But we love you. And we have stumbled down many-a-path that led us far away from our dreams, even with the best of intentions. We've worked out a lot in our time here on Earth and we're hoping that since you love us too, you'll value our wisdom and take it into consideration. We want to see you prosperous and happy and we really want to see you avoid some of the greater struggles we've had to wrestle with through the years from making poorly-thought-out decisions.
Thanks for putting up with us.
~ Your Family
Mark Twain -
Whoever is happy will make others happy, too.