Today’s blog post might rub some people the wrong way but I hope you’ll understand as you read it that this comes from a place of compassion & concern for my fellow man. (Yes, I consider myself a feminist but I truly don’t see anything wrong with using masculine pronouns when referring to all of humanity because frankly it just sounds better.) Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is the impact of choices on our lives. A lot has changed in my life in the past two years. For example, I’ve graduated from college, become a nurse, gotten married, and moved to a new state, and in just the past nine months I’ve bought a house, a puppy, and a very nice used car and started serving as a preceptor and a charge nurse at work. These are, in my mind, all good changes but change is inevitably difficult at times and, at least for me, leads to a lot of introspection and general analysis of life. In the past year such introspection and analysis have continually landed me on the same theme: the importance of making good choices in life and the consequences that arise when we fail to make good choices.
Let me first say that I am fully aware that what I consider to be good choices and what someone else considers to be good choices may be completely different. And with very few exceptions I am totally okay with that. But if there is one thing I can safely say I know to be true in life, it is that we are each responsible for our own lives and the choices we make, and said choices are the greatest determinant of our own happiness and success. I know that I have accomplished a lot for someone my age and I am very much aware of the fact that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way to where I am now. But I also realize that all the help in the world would have been useless if I hadn’t also made my own good choices (getting good grades in high school which allowed me to apply for and obtain a scholarship to college, seeking out internships and jobs in college that helped me obtain a good job after graduation, etc, etc, you get the point). Please understand that I am not trying to brag or say that I am more successful or better than anyone else. I am well aware that my own idea of success and happiness does not apply to everyone and vice versa. I am just saying that when I think about the miserable situations I see so many people in, including many my own age, I can’t help but notice that all (or at least most) of these people have made a series of bad choices throughout their lives. Let me further explain so I hopefully don’t sound like one of those god-awful judgmental pricks that annoy me so much.
I’m talking about the people who are working dead-end jobs with no hope of advancement who can barely pay their bills (or can’t pay them), who are in miserable relationships with people who treat them like trash, etc, etc; I think you catch my drift. These people are usually the ones who dropped out of high school (and not because they had to take care of a dying relative or something like that), got pregnant in high school or maybe shortly thereafter and often with someone they did not exactly have a solid relationship with, or perhaps graduated from high school but with such poor grades that college or even technical school was never an option. These folks probably did not think about the future beyond tomorrow and never exactly planned out a career or any sort of goals for their lives. The homeless are another good example. I have always had a special place in my heart for the homeless for some reason but when I look at most of the homeless people I’ve met or known about (I did a clinical rotation with the homeless in nursing school and actually got the privilege of talking to a lot of homeless folks) I’ve noticed again the same pattern: bad choices. For some it was drugs, for some it was gambling, for some it was having too many children whom they couldn’t afford to support, and the list goes on and on. Even many of my patients at work whose lives are miserable due to disease are often in the positions they’re in largely because of poor choices they’ve made: failing to control diseases that could be controlled or even eradicated through proper diet & exercise, etc, etc. It’s hard to watch because you know that these people could have had better outcomes if they’d made better choices. It’s a very complicated subject, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
Let me be clear here: BY NO MEANS do I think we should not be compassionate or helpful to those who have made poor choices. ABSOLUTELY NOT. My point is that the greatest lesson I hope to teach my future children is that they better have their act together from day one because life is not fair. For example, lots of people have unprotected sex in high school. But not everyone ends up with some disgusting STI or gets pregnant. But some do. AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE. Lots of people drive drunk and never hurt anyone. But others do. AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE. Lots of people smoke cigarettes their whole lives and never get lung cancer or COPD. But many do. AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE. I think you can see my point. If there’s anything I know about life it’s that it isn’t fair. Some people make one or two bad choices and their whole lives crumble around them. Others make a lot of bad choices and don’t seem to suffer as much. But in my limited experience those I’ve seen consistently make good choices have ALWAYS been better off because of it.
So if/when I have kids someday, these are the things I’m going to teach them:
Stay in school. Get good grades. Work hard at everything you do. When you get a job, be the best because otherwise you will just be a drone like everyone else. Make yourself stand out. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars. Go to college or vocational school and plan a career where you can both support yourself and be happy. Never have unprotected sex with anyone unless you are 100% ready to be a parent RIGHT NOW. Be kind to everyone because you never know what battles others are fighting that you know nothing about. Karma is real and whatever choices you make, good or bad, they WILL catch up with you sooner or later, and you better be prepared for the outcomes of your decisions. I will teach them all these things because I will love them and want the best for them, just as my parents did for me.
Perhaps I will never become a parent (who knows), but nonetheless I will strive to teach these things to my nieces and nephews, my patients, and anyone else who is willing to listen. Because I care. As much as the world sometimes makes me feel cynical and cold, I do love people. Life is crazy. People are crazy. But I love this life that I’ve made for myself (with the help of some great friends and family) and I want others to be able to share in the kind of happiness I’ve found. I don’t mean that everyone needs to have my exact lifestyle, education, or career. I just wish for everyone to find that passion for life and learning that I’ve found. I like to think it’s contagious, and I hope that I can spread it around just through this blog post if nothing else.
I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or rude. That’s not how I meant it at all. I just wanted to share the idea that choices really are important in our lives, and especially with a new year just around the corner it’s something I think we all need to take to heart. I know that many people are great testaments to the fact that sometimes a bad decision can actually end up being a good thing (lots of teen moms would agree with this). And there is a lot of truth in that too. And not every person who makes all good decisions is necessarily going to be completely happy. Again, everyone’s idea of happiness and success is different. And that’s ok. We each must find our own barometer for happiness and success, and then make good choices that align with that. Otherwise we are just drifting along in life with no paddle to steer us toward any goals, hopes, or dreams. And I can’t think of much sadder than that.