Saturday, January 14, 2006

Two different outlooks

I have this memory from my youth. I was probably 10-11 at the time. My brother would have been 4 or so.

My parents both worked to make sure I could go to a private school. The school didn't have bus service, like US public schools do, and it was on the other side of the city, in the expensive part of town (of course).

This particular day, my dad was driving the car, with all 4 of us in it. (I think my Mom's car was broken that day?). This is a city criss-crossed by interstate highways. We were approaching the point where you get to choose between highway or local streets. My parents started to argue about which way to go. The argument was about much more, however. It was about the way they thought about how to live life.

For my dad, the obvious choice was the highway. It was fast and efficient. Sure, the highway was ugly & ruined the natural lay of the land, but as long as it's there, you may as well use it. As he likes to say, you can take from the system what you want. He knew that his mission was to get to work, and start doing his job, providing for his family.

For my mom, the right choice was the local streets. They're more interesting. You get to see the different neighborhoods, and how people live in different part of the cities. Every day you can take a slightly different route, and you never know what you'll find. (My mom knew every thrift store in the city). It made the trip a valuable part of the day. It also was a way of saying "yes" to local, varied life instead of "yes" to the anonymous highway.

My dad rose to be president of the European subsidiary of a small software company. He figured out how to play the game of corporate life, and played it well. He is financially secure. He thinks of himself as a radical, though, because he doesn't take the game seriously, studies yoga and meditation, and only takes from the system what he wants, instead of doing what the system tells him.

My mom seemed to always take some of the most difficult nursing jobs available. Hospice, home care, etc. They never seemed to pay well. Every now and then a better paying job might come along, but even if she took it, she never adjusted her lifestyle to match. She never ate out. Her house was always small & cramped, and most of the work on it she did herself. This was all deliberate. Any time she didn't like the way things were done at a given job, she always knew she could just walk away. She could choose to do the most meaninful work she could find, without having to compromise for money.

I am a bit of both.

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