Citizen Lars

Sometimes, “Not This” is as certain as we can get

Recently a friend was stuck.
Mired in indecision.
He hated where he was, but he was afraid to move on.
He considered just toughing it out and staying put.
I advised he get going. Move on.
What earned me a grateful, “You are very wise” was when I said this:
Sometimes in life, the most certain we get is, “Not here. Not this.”
Not bad if I may say so.
Of course, I don’t want to sound arrogant.
I only realized this after years of mistakes.

For me, last time I was similarly stuck was in college.
I craved an end to high school and college was simply more of it.
I met some cool folks, but most cared only for money or drinking.
The university wasn’t the community of learning I sought.
I tried different majors, tinkered with my options.
None made me happy, only more miserable.
It was time to reconsider, but I was near a degree.
I only needed to last another year.
The problem was I couldn’t endure one more second.
Not one more instant.
So I quit.

At the time, I heard questions from others (and myself.)
What is your plan?
What are you going to do?
I had absolutely no idea.
Only one thing was certain: not this.
Definitely not this.
But then what?
I didn’t know.
Still, I quit.
Without a plan.

It remains among the best decisions I ever made.
Not because anything spectacular happened.
I didn’t start a widget company and become a zillionaire.
My rewards were better: happiness, wisdom, and confidence.
I learned never to stay where you are certain it’s not working.
Even if you’re not sure of your next step.

So what happened after I quit?
I got a job. Then I got another. And another. And so on.
Here I am today, happy and grateful.
Exactly the outline of the plan had I earned a degree.
The rest is history.

Life is full of uncertainties.
A sure thing is rare.
Take one where you find it.
Sometimes, “not this” is the most certain we get.

Citizen Lars

Why Have a Nation At All?

There’s a lot of discussions around the USA about taxes and earned-benefit programs.
Earned-benefit programs are what those who don’t like them call “entitlement programs.”
But people earned them by contributing to the pool.
The loudest voices seem to want to keep as much possible for themselves.

Their complaints are usually the same.
This isn’t a charity.
We’re not here to help others.
Or they scream ‘Socialism!’ as code for ‘That’s bad!’

Most people who fit that caricature want benefits for themselves, but not for others.
Or, they think that misfortune will never befall them.
Or, they boast that if it did, they would handle it much better.

I keep coming back to this question:
If we don’t look out for each other, why do we have a nation at all?

More directly: What makes our nation great is when we look out for each other.
Sometimes it’s like explaining the rationale for civilization to a child.
Yes, we should care for each other.
You look out for me, I’ll look out for you.
You stumble, I help. I stumble, you help.

I am thankful unemployment assistance was there when I needed it.
I gladly contributed to it before and now I contribute after.
Now I am inspired to think I may be helping out a stranger.
Then I thank my fortune that I don’t need it right now.

There’s a lot to be debated in public assistance.
(Such as guarding against abuses, etc.)

But the debate should start with, yes, we are here to care for each other.
If we don’t, why do we have a nation at all?

Citizen Lars

Flexing that Appreciation Muscle

Every so often, I’ll see a news story about a person from a poor, war-torn nation.
I’m always struck by how desperately they want an education.
That desire, that hope, is a huge contrast to my life in the suburban USA.
Elementary education is so automatic, it’s a source of annoyance.
I feel guilty, casually complaining about it, and these people are begging for it.

Similarly, I once helped a local group hand out clothes to the homeless.
When I got back to my own house, it felt like a palace.
It was the same old place, but it felt enormous, almost pompous.
Did I need this many rooms? All this junk?

How much do we have that we consider commonplace, yet someone else wants terribly?
Everything we have, things that we shrug off as no big deal, someone wishes they had.

This led to my favorite meditation tactic: to list the things I’m thankful for.
To make it work, you have to get as specific as possible.
If you just say, “I’m thankful for my friends,” that sounds like one thing.
List each member of the group.
“I’m thankful for Alex. I’m thankful for Betty. I’m thankful for Charles.” etc.

Then list the next item. “I’m thankful for my family.” Then list each person in that group.
Repeat as needed until you get tired of listing all the wonderful things you have.

That’s when you’ll realize just how rich you actually are.