Are We Happy?


Have you ever found yourself judging a person that is drunk on the street or a person who has lost everything due to their gambling addictions? We often frown upon and even disown individuals addicted to narcotics or alcohol or gambling but we don’t bat an eyelid at people drinking gallons of soda or consuming a lot of junk food unless of course they are morbidly obese? Aren’t these food and sugar addictions having a detrimental impact on these peoples’ health and society similar to those addicted to drugs?

I’m not naïve, I know there is a difference but it may not be as big as we think. There has never been a more prosperous time to live in America yet everyone seems to be quite unhappy, addicted to something and constantly searching for that one thing that will finally make all their problems go away. Most people will put on a brave face and act happy but deep down it is evident through our actions that the stress we feel in this country in order to maintain the “good life” is taking its toll. We don’t see how our addictions to sugar or our attachment to attaining material wealth is slowly killing us and making  our lives far more challenging than they need to be. In many cases, we are stuck in unhappy relationships and grow ever more distant from our children and loved ones as we search for happiness in all the wrong places.

If so many people in this country are disillusioned with life, trying to numb themselves with food and buying junk they don’t need while popping prescription pills, then somebody please tell me why we are so determined to set our children up to have the same lives many of our generation are currently living?

Most parents would agree that it is important for their child to excel in the classroom so that they can go to the best colleges. This, in theory, leads to getting a good job with a reputable corporation so that they can settle down with their college sweetheart and have some kids. We want this for our children because that is what will make them happy! Well, are you happy? Do we really believe that following this standard “secure” path will help lead our children to happiness or do we just want them to follow this well -trodden road because it is what any self-respecting parent would want for their off-spring? Are we so concerned with “keeping with the Joneses”, or of what people might think of us if our child doesn’t follow the standard American dream? Are we just fearful that they will be penniless and alone with no career prospects if they don’t follow the same path that we were led down? There are most likely a plethora of reasons we perpetuate this cycle but my hope is that you will at least give it some thought before you make the same demands of them that our parents made of us.

I was in a meeting recently where someone was asked what their eldest daughter was doing since her high school graduation. The poor guy was so embarrassed to say she was attending  a community college! I found this extremely sad that I lived in a culture that put so much emphasis on where someone goes to college. Do we take enough time to decide whether or not going to University at the age of 18 is truly the right decision for our children? Are they truly passionate with the subject matter they want to learn about or are they just succumbing to the pressure of what Mommy and Daddy expect? Are you aware that the universities with the highest suicide rates are mostly in the Ivy League institutions; yes, the same ones that we all hope our children will be smart enough to go to one day! Our current education system and whole way of life is not necessarily working for many of us so why do we insist on trying to protect it and pass it on to future generations?

We have our own children in the local public school, we even put money aside each month in their 529-B college savings plan, so I guess we are conforming like everyone else. However, we do this to keep their options open not because we expect our children to follow this path. We also do not expect their school to fill all their educational needs by any means.  I have no interest in sending our children to college just for the sake of it. If they can’t truly express why they want to go to college, what they expect to learn and why it will benefit them in the future, then I don’t see any reason to help them pay for the experience. I would prefer they wait and truly understand themselves, figure out what they are passionate about or at least have an interest in, and what would be the best course of action to pursue their dreams. If we want our children to be happy, then don’t expect them to get on the same hamster wheel that you did and is now making you unhappy. Don’t be so fearful of what might happen if they don’t go down this road, let them fail and skip the safety net. Let them explore life and hope that they value the things that are important during their time on this planet. Just because your child has a nice car, big house and successful spouse does not mean they are happy.

When someone asks what your child is doing perhaps challenge yourself to answer with pride about how your child views the world, how they are contributing to making the world a better place, what they are grateful for and how they treat their fellow human beings rather than talk about their recent promotion or newest gadget.

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