U: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Detours and the Letter U for U-Turns
One of my life-long, great frustrations is when people, particularly politicians, make a statement or imply that everyone’s life has a linear pattern and, therefore, should achieve certain results through one’s “nose-to-the-grindstone” attitude in some tidy, linear way. I am wholeheartedly unsympathetic to those who make intentionally bone-head life choices or are surprised when those choices leave them in pitiful situations. But even people, like me, who are responsible and thoughtful in life have things happen that you don’t recover from quickly or ever. Life is hard. Life is complicated and messy. If rewarding at all, life knocks you on your butt at least once. And loss and illness and tragedy aren’t clean and easily rectified to a former homeostasis.
Everyone has to try and some of us have to work harder than others because we weren’t, as the late, great Ann Richards said, born on third base and think we hit a triple. We all have to provide for ourselves. Of course. But when a guy has physical ailments later in life after playing football for years, I am not sympathetic. If a life-long smoker develops emphysema, diabetes or cancer, I am sorry they are ill but not all that sympathetic. (And I lost two smoking loved ones last year to lung cancer!) Or when a full-grown man lives in his mom’s basement, sleeps until afternoon and won’t find a job, I am not sympathetic to his pathetic circumstances. Not gonna date you. When a single woman has children and no visible means to support them, I am not sympathetic. But when someone qualified for a job is not given opportunities or pay because of her race, gender or sexual-orientation, I am sympathetic. When someone in the military comes back to the States with post-traumatic stress disorder from her combat, I am sympathetic. When someone leaves paid work to care for a family member and gets behind financially and professionally, I am sympathetic. This last scenario happened to me.
I never gave it a second thought to have my dad with me and left paid work when he needed me more. No sacrifice for Mom or Dad would be too great. The very day Mom passed unexpectedly, I moved Dad in with me. They were the best ten years of my life. Those were the greatest two people I will ever know.
So while others worked for ten years, advanced their careers, evolved professional interests, I was turned to my family. Like most people, ten years of experiences change you. I couldn’t make a u-turn to the jobs I had before. That option no longer fit me. The world around me changed, too. So I am not where I’d like to be in my career. I have to spend a whole lot of time and effort finding a new fit.
Not everyone has this detour in life. But in other countries, there is social support for unexpected and planned detours. Now, I was a saver and independent so I could afford to do this. I also nearly single-handedly built an addition to my house, adding equity to my property and bottom line, which mitigated not earning a salary. I paid cash because when you do your own labor, it’s just materials. But I sacrificed. It was worth it, fifty fold. But I am behind financially and professionally, which I hope to remedy as a public speaker and writer. But I haven’t had a vacation since 1998. Even my car is from the last century. And I have no time for much play, either. But I will make it, through no help from society or my government.
And I don’t expect special favors. I know I don’t live in a country that values what I did for my father, a war hero. I’ll be fine. I wouldn’t change my choice for anything or anyone. But even the most responsible deserve a better social system than this country provides. Even the single mom who has kids she can’t support or the lazy guy in his mom’s basement deserves food, shelter and medical care.