I tell myself that I just want my kids to be better off than I was. I want them to have all the things I didn’t have growing up. The extras, the opportunities, the open doors. It’s what we all want for our children. It’s a noble and loving desire.
And it’s total bullshit.
I want things and stuff and dolla billz because I think it will make me and my family happier. Marketing firms have created lies that suck me into a black hole vortex full of dissatisfaction with my life. Part of me really does think that if I were thinner, if my kids were in more extracurricular activities, if we only ate kale from Whole Foods, then we would reach some sort of utopian nirvana namaste life where everything was chill and sailed smoothly and our smiles would never fade.
It’s not true though. You know that. I know that. But it’s so easy to believe the lies that the sun will shine brighter if I only had this and if I only did that, but that’s ridiculous because as soon as I had all those things, they would be replaced with “Now, if only….” It’s ridiculous for me to think that things can make me happy. It’s totally fine to want things, of course, but things won’t fix my life. My life is fine; it’s my perception that sucks.
For example, I’m 33 years old and I am so over living in an apartment, so naturally I want to buy a house. My folks never had a house so I’m excited to have a place of my own, somewhere I can put holes in the wall without freaking out about getting our deposit back. A place with a yard for my kids to play and maybe a porch for me to sit out on while waiting for said children to scream themselves to sleep.
But a house means a mortgage and property taxes, broken toilets we have to fix, and a lawn we have to mow. If something goes wrong, there’s no landlord to call at 2 a.m. It’s all us, and these things cost a lot of money and take a lot of time, two resources that are very finite in most parents’ lives.
There are two sides to every story, and it’s easy sometimes to get wrapped up in the fantasy of what we want. A new car, a new job, for our kids to start school or get their license or move out because somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that once we acquire these things, life will be “better.” Our worries will be so trivial, if we could just achieve these things. The grass will be greener. The air will smell like lilacs and freshly laundered clothes we don’t have to fold and put away.
A better, greener, lilac smelling life doesn’t exist in the future though. It exists right now where we are. It all comes down to how we see things. Sure, I could focus on how I wish my husband wasn’t so socially awkward when he meets new people, but I choose to revel in the moments when he makes me laugh harder than I have in months. Likewise I could loathe the fact that the walls are so thin I can practically hear my neighbor’s cat pooping, or I can enjoy the fact that my small-ass apartment takes almost zero time to clean, and there’s a handyman on call when a problem does arise.
It’s good to set goals and have high standards. It’s admirable to want a better life for us and for our children. But it’s also vital to our happiness to be wise enough to see both sides of the coin, to be realistic about what those changes will mean in the long run. A big house is great until you realize you have to clean it. But, if you have a big house, can I come and stay with you until I get my own? I’m really tired of my neighbor’s cat.
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