Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Fully Fulfilled Life

I read an article recently about a caretaker for the elderly who routinely volunteers her time at various nursing homes, who took it upon herself to casually interview some of the patients she cares for.

She asked them about what they "regretted the most in life".

Some of the answers they gave:

---Playing it too safe. Not taking risks, not trying to be more adventurous. Not letting loose and just-getting-wild. Winding up stuck in a routine lifestyle.

---Not having been more honest about their feelings and opinions. Keeping their thoughts to themselves to keep from hurting others' feelings

---Having lived more "for others" and not enough for themselves. Putting their lives "on hold" for the sake of someone else.

---Not standing up for themselves. Caving in to the wishes of others.

The thing that struck me is how these people tended to blame themselves for the way life, more-or-less, had "short-changed" them.
"...I wish I had...", "...I should have...", "if only I had/hadn't...", "I never should have..."

The way I see it, if your life didn't turn out the way you wished it would've it's not necessarily your fault.
One's society puts a lot of demands on them and has expectations of them.

There are all kinds of rules, laws, and obligations a person is expected to abide by
...starting with one's childhood and meeting the demands made on you by your parents
---then, later, teachers and other adult authority figures.

And then there are all the prototypes you're expected to fit into one or more of,
plus others tend to judge you by how you behave, what you accomplish, and how well you fall in with the "system".

There are all kinds of dogmas, stigmas, and prejudices towards acts and behaviors considered improper, heretical, and irresponsible-and-reckless.
If you do anything to ruin your reputation in any way you end up ostracized and disavowed by those around you.

There's always an invisible "ball-and-chain" society puts on the individual.
Shirking or defying your obligations and expectations can often result in severe penalties, whether legal or social/interpersonal.

In hindsight you may wish you were braver and had the nerve to just "cut loose" and embrace your individuality more and just let yourself go and "be crazy"
...but you're forgetting a few odds-and-ends of society's recent past:
for example, back in the 1950s/60s/70s they still had mental institutions and psychiatric wards and society's rules were a lot stricter then as well.
What do you think would have happened if you actually DID "cut loose and live" at that time?
You could have STILL lost a good deal of your "better years" as a mental patient and would up labeled "crazy", a label which harbored a lot of stigma back then.

And had you not disciplined yourself intensely to meet their expectations back then do you think you could have had what it took to take on college and eventually got that degree which enable you to pursue the profession(s) of your interests?

And if you DID take it upon yourself to "blow off" everyone around you back then those friends of yours may very well have written-you-off and moved on to other relationships.
You'd have your independence and would have been freer to pursue some of your wild fantasies
...but, when the novelty of your maverickism finally wore off, and, tired and disillusioned, you finally wanted to settle into a more stable lifestyle, who would you have used as character references when filling out job applications, being that you and all of your former friends were now estranged?
Would you have had to settle for menial jobs or even wind up living-in-the-streets instead of being reasonably sucessfully employed in a decent-paying profession?

And could you have emotionally handled all the interpersonal discord that would have developed as a result of your "speaking your mind" and sparing no-one's feelings in the name of "being more true to yourself"?

We are all the results of our culture, our upbringing, the circumstances we find ourselves under---as well as the consequences of certain personal choices we ourselves make.
...and let us not forget how often we are, more-or-less, sort of "extorted" into having to make certain decisions about what we do or don't do
...and how many things society will not allow us to get away with.

"Is there anybody who can look back on their life and still not be left wanting something?"
(Line stolen from a Korean drama HOTELIER)

I know I'll feel resentful and dissatisfied with my own existence getting closer and closer to my ultimate physical demise, and that's an attitude I feel is perfectly normal
...this world is not custom-made for ANYONE.
But I know not to put the blame on myself
...because this world is one that really delights in jacking people around, even when all they're trying to do is "just live", let alone trying to do anything special or extraordinary
...and all of us are under-the-thumb of every institution in our society, and THAT affects how our lives turn out as well.

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