I was sitting out in the garden one morning after having done a bunch of planting and weeding. I’d taken some pictures, and re-filled my coffee cup, and was just enjoying the sound of the birds, the light breeze, perfect temperature…and I started to think about what had brought me to this point in my life, and the choices I had made.
So much of life is about the choices we make. It’s not necessarily good choices vs, bad choices, just choices in general. What you decide to do for a living, who you choose to marry, where to live, what to eat, what chances to take, the decision to spend or save, whether to promote or change jobs, to invest in your future, take an enormously expensive vacation, to rent or own, to divorce or work it out, to say put or move across the country…
These are all potentially life changing decisions. Any one can make the difference in whether or not you get to live the life you envision. The problem is, you can rarely tell until after the fact if it was a “good” or “bad” decision. And it is possible that they are neither good or bad, just different. Who knows what life would have looked like had we chosen differently at points along the way?
But looking back over my life, “our lives,” with the benefit of hind sight, it appears that we made relatively good choices, or at least we made the best of ones that maybe weren’t the best. The end result is that now, in what is often called the “golden years,” the decisions we have to make are pretty easy. We are able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
We spent the majority of our younger years “deferring” gratification. We saved when it would have been more fun to spend. We worked hard and played cheaply. We didn’t spend a lot of time analyzing whether we were happy or not. We just did what we needed to do, and tried to have fun doing it. Some of our happiest times were back in the days when we barely had enough money to get to the next paycheck. We stayed together even when it was hard. We NEVER fell into the trap of trying to keep up with the Jones’. We kept our eye on our long-term goal – to have a secure financial future.
And now here we are, retired, and able to do pretty much whatever we want (within reason.) I confess honestly that my biggest contribution was to not complain, and go along with Mr. Tattered’s frugal program. Left to my devices we’d be broke, so I can’t take much credit for anything other than recognizing he was right.
The hardest decision I ever have to make now is what to cook for dinner (not whether to buy food or medication.) Or if we want to go to Alaska again, or try somewhere new (not whether to pay the rent or the electric bill.) My biggest concern (that I have control over) is whether I should build another business (and endure the hassles that go with that) or just enjoy my retirement, not whether my health will hold out long enough for me to be able to work until I’m 70 or 80 when I “might” be able to retire.
It’s not scientific, but when I look at people in my life who have it really, really tough, I can see that many of them have made some really crummy choices – divorcing when they have no marketable skills and 5 mouths to feed, spending money on fancy houses and fancy cars instead of saving for the future, opting to turn to drugs to drown their sorrow, not graduating from high school, leaving a high paying job for something more “fun” and realizing too late it was a dead end and wouldn’t pay the bills.
Sometimes I feel guilty that we have it so good while others struggle every day. We are fairly generous with our abundance. We help out members of our family, our church, and a number of “causes.” But we still keep a close eye on our assets, balancing what we want to do for ourselves and others with the need to have the money last throughout our lives.
I fully recognize that we don’t all start from the same place. Some people are hobbled from birth and have much to overcome. We started with next to nothing, but we had opportunity. Some people don’t even have that. And the times are different now.
But still, for most of us, it boils down to choices, doesn’t it?