Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happiness Is...

Is living in the rat race a destiny or a choice?

A reader sends me the video above which is an excellent piece of animation, and has some astute things to say about modern life - or how people choose to live their modern lives.   And as a former cubicle-dweller and rat-race participant, I can see how it seems like you have no choice in life but to compete in the rat race.

Or do you?  We all have choices, even when we don't think we have choices.  Living the rat-race lifestyle is a choice, not a mandate.

I wasn't happy in the rat race, so I got out.  I realized that working in a ball-bearing factory at GM was a dead-end job.  And I was right - the plant closed a few years after I left.  Had I stayed, I would have ended up working some dead-end factory job as a plant engineer God-knows-where, cleaning up toxic waste and waiting for the plant to close.

I went back to school while working at Carrier.  Being a technician was a great job, but the pay was low and there was no future really there, either.   Same result, too - the plant has since closed.  My own boss encouraged me to move on, telling me frankly that he could offer me a job, but would end up laying me off within a few years.

So I went back to school while working at the Patent Office and got a job as a Patent Attorney.   My bosses promised me great things, if I worked long hours and put in my time.  Someday, I might make partner! I realized that as a Patent Attorney, I could have my own practice and maybe not make the big bucks, but have more time to myself.  So two years out of law school, I quit the "partnership track" (an illusion if there ever was one) and hung out my shingle.

Oh, and that law firm that promised me "great things" ended up falling apart a few years after I left.   Seems to be a pattern here.   Reading the writing on the wall and following gut instincts is sometimes a good thing.

With my own practice, I made a lot less money - but I worked a lot less, too.   I had enough time to invest in Real Estate, build my own portfolio, and think about creating wealth for myself, instead of for others.   Things I had time to do, now that I wasn't scrambling to find a clean dress shirt at 6:00 AM every morning and rushing off to work.

Today, at age 57, I am retired - no, really retired.  I have closed my files, closed my accounts, and will file my final business tax return in April.   No more work.   My friends who stayed in the race are still running.  They have nicer houses, nicer cars, nicer clothes, more money, and I am sure lots of nice "stuff".   Many of them tell me that I am the lucky one.   I made different choices.

And most people can make these same choices, if they choose to.   Note in the video how so much of what the rats are chasing after is "happiness" in the form of consumerism.   They are trying to spend their way to wealth, which is an exercise in futility.  If only you have the latest phone, the latest flat-screen TeeVee, the latest fast-food sandwich, the latest sneaker, the latest drugs, the latest booze - maybe then you'll be happy.   But of course, as the video illustrates, it is just a trap - as you have to pay for all this shit, and you end up chained to a desk as a result.

But some people claim to be happy with such a mode of living.   And maybe that is true - not for me to judge.   But they so seem to complain a lot about how rotten they have it and what a raw deal they got in life.   Like I said, a friend of mine told me this while we were driving in their $50,000 leased pickup truck.   They got a raw deal in life, and I was "lucky" somehow.

Lucky, or just making different choices?  Valuing my free time and my life over having cable TV and a new luxury SUV.   We all make choices.   But folks would rather not think about that, and instead posit that choices were made for them.   Because let's face it, no one wants to take responsibility for their actions in life.  No one, not even me.

Happiness is... different things to different people