"Your lucky you live in Canada. Back in Chile, most people don't even get one chance to have a career, let alone get the chance to go back to school or change their career halfway through their life".
About 4 months ago, my father came to visit me in the city and said those (approximate) words to me while we were eating out at a restaurant. I was discussing some of the same things I shared with you in my previous posts, and during the conversation, my dad was quite concerned that I was no longer interested in pursuing a career in the field I had chosen. To be honest with you, when he smacked me with the reality of the situation of people in Chile, and in most parts of the world, I saw red.
The truth is, my dad and I have never had a great relationship. I love the guy, faults and all, but (at least on my side) I've always felt tension when I'm around him and I'm hypersensitive to any sort of perceived criticism coming from him. There is a lot of baggage where my dad is concerned, and I tend to over-react no matter how innocuous or salient a point he has just made. I'll give you a couple of example to illustrate this...the asterisk denote what I'm thinking.
Dad: Can you pass the hot sauce?
Dan: Sure. Here. *WHY DO YOU ALWAYS TRY TO CONTROL ME AND WANT ME TO DO WHAT YOU WANT???*
Dad: That's a nice shirt. You wear a lot of shirts with writing on them.
Dan: Thanks. Yeah, I like them *I'M FUCKING SORRY DAD THAT I DON'T LIKE GAY ASS SWEATERS LIKE YOU FUCKING DO. WHY DON'T YOU STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME OVER IN YOUR IMAGE.
Dad: How's your mom doing?
Dan: Good, she's been doing zumba. She's feeling good. *WHY ARE YOU ASKING? I PHONE HER A LOT. ARE YOU FUCKING IMPLYING I'VE ABANDONED HER? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!*
You get the point. So when he said what he said it made me really angry. I pretty much felt like he was calling me a spoiled brat who was being coddled by society. Okay, I know it's stupid...I know intellectually that he was doing no such thing, and that the remark was not intended as criticism. Maybe. However, I've been thinking a lot lately about that very topic, and about the freedom we have to make life affirming (or destroying?) decisions that in other countries are almost inconceivable. The fact is, in other countries, if you don't work, you don't eat. For an overwhelming majority of the people in the third world, finishing ANY schooling is a major opportunity. Right now, I'm giving money so that a poor kid in Thailand has a chance to go to freakin' ELEMENTARY school so he can learn to read. University in his future? Maybe, but doubtful. Will he ever be sitting at home, unemployed, blogging about what he may or may not do as a future career? Pretty fucking unlikely.
For the longest time after my dad made that comment to me, I felt pretty guilty about what I'm doing. We do have a lot of freedom here that I wouldn't have in another country. Not only that, but there are people living HERE who don't even have that sort of freedom. Mom and dads who have to work to feed their family. Sons and daughters who have to take care of their elderly parents. There are also a lot of people with crushing debts or mortgage payments who can't even consider being without a job. People who would lose their houses or possessions if they didn't use their entire paycheck every month. I had so much damn guilt, that I almost considered just sucking up my feelings of unhappiness and apathy, and give up on trying to change my life.
And that's when I realized something.
The only freedom you have is the freedom you accept. We ALL have an unprecedented amount of freedom in this country when we are born. Some of us picked the wrong parents, so we start with major handicaps, but we can still make choices in how we live our lives. You, me, all of us have the freedom to pursue our dreams, to live the lives we want. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is easy, but nobody said it would be. Every day you get to choose between freedom and commitment, living a flexible life or living a life of stability. For all our freedom, we do the same things human have always done....settle on a piece of land, have children, work, eat, die. In that respect, even though we have more freedom that people in the third world, we choose to do the same things they do anyways.
Well, I haven't. I don't have a house or car payments or kids. I've never really wanted or cared for these things. I don't give a shit about having nice stuff. Being stuck in a job I hated so that I could afford a house I didn't want, and fill it with shit I don't need, frankly terrifies the hell out of me. I may be behind "materially", but that's the price I payed for freedom. So while I sympathize with the people who feel "stuck", I won't take responsibility for it. I'm not going to feel guilty for it.
As to feeling guilty for people in other countries who don't get the opportunities I do..well, what's the point. The fact is, I feel that every human being on Earth should be able to live in an eudaimonic paradise (Star Trek anyone?). But until that happens, I'm going to accept the freedoms I'm offered. You should to. If your life is horrible, if you gave up the dreams that kept your soul alive, for fucks sakes, do something about it! You only get one life, live it the best way you can. If that means sacrificing some of your stuff or security, is that so bad?
Oh yeah, one more thing. If you think that this Dan doth protest too much, screw off. What are you, my dad?