It’s important to remember that everyday we make choices that affect our lives, and the lives of others, because if you think your choice only affects yourself… well, then you have no idea how small and wondrous this world in which we live really is. How insignificant you are, and yet how powerful you really can be.
The choices we make affect the way we are perceived – by others and by ourselves. Our decisions impact our lives and further form who we are. Some we know will only affect the here and now. Others we are aware will affect our futures. What gets really interesting is when those futures arrive, and those decisions from way back when affect us in very unexpected ways.
For example, the other day I chose to buy a Milky Way candy bar. My decision to spend .75 cents on that chocolate and caramel goodness was absolutely a short term effect on my life. I got the hedonistic delight of what I wanted right then and there. I was a happy little speck on this planet for that time, and the people around me were smiling because I was smiling at them!
Another example, back in April I was looking to add some hours to my work schedule in May. There were limited options, but I saw that 7am – 12pm was available on a Saturday morning. I rarely work weekends anymore. I decided that one Saturday was not going to kill me, and the monetary benefit would be worth it. Well, a month later that Saturday was upon me. My alarm going off at 5:30am on Saturday morning telling me it was time to get up and ready for work was NOT COOL. A month ago this seemed like a decent idea. Now, I was wishing I had a made a different decision.
Decisions create cause and effect relationships. Some are good and some are not. Or maybe they aren’t really bad, but longer lasting than originally expected and interfere with, or at least impact, new decisions. How many times have you heard someone say, “If only I had (or hadn’t) done this back in the day, then I would be doing this now.” I will tell you it absolutely pains me to see an 18 year old with a tattoo of their significant other’s name in script across their chest or Tweety Bird holding a lightning bolt and Sylvester skeleton on the back of their calf. I love, love, love tattoos, y’all, but some decisions are permanent – or painfully temporary at the very least. Those kinds of decisions should be well thought out over the course of several (10 or more) years in my opinion, but I digress.
My point is, that some decisions that we make have consequences that show up way beyond the immediate moment of the decision. Here is another example. We really wish that we could go cruising now. RIGHT. NOW. But that is not something we will be doing for a few more years. Why? We made decisions prior to now, that are still affecting us.
#1 – KIDS. We have two teenage boys. One is a senior in high school and other starts high school next year. We have no intention of uprooting these boys right now, and start sailing the world. Not that we couldn’t. Plenty of full time cruisers are out there with their families, home schooling their kids, and living happily. If we had thought of this when our boys were younger we might have seriously entertained the idea. At these ages, we don’t feel that it would be the best of decisions. Baseball, Boys Scouts, Girlfriends, College searches… We will go ahead and partake in this part of our lives before embarking on our cruising. (Although, both of them have said they want to go with us! lol) Not that we can’t change our minds either, but right now, this is the decision we have made.
#2 – PETS. We have a lot of animals residing at our house. When we first moved to Indiana we had 6 – 3 dogs and 3 cats. Then a turtle entered the scene – that’s 7. Then 2 rats showed up – that’s 9. Then a third rat. That’s 10. TEN. T-E-N. The turtle, rats, one of the cats and one of the dogs have passed on, but we still have 2 dogs and 2 cats.. and 4 more rats. The oldest of the 4 -legged clan is 18 years old. So EIGHTEEN years ago a decision was made to get a cat, and that cat is one of many reasons we are not going cruising right now. Never mind the size of boat we would need to have enough room for everyone, but Greyhounds? Not good boat dogs. The cats are too old for it. Our cow dog will probably be fine once she gets used to it, and if she’s still around. But how long will it be before our plan of attrition reaches it completion? We are hoping that the next 5 years (that will see us through to the high school graduation of our youngest) will be enough, but we shall see. That 18 year cat doesn’t seem to be slowing down that much.
#3 – MONEY. The cruising kitty is another hot topic among cruisers and wannabe cruisers alike. Any time we talk to landlubbers we are met with the same skepticism as a lot of other cruisers. How would anyone afford to do this? Well, if you plan well – back to that whole decision making/cause and effect thing again – then there won’t be too much a problem.
If we didn’t have #1 and #2 to consider, we would still be holding off for a little while. Why? We haven’t reached our savings goal yet. Buying a house, previously investing in a business, travel has cost us some money that we would really love to have right now, but we made those decisions back then, and we have made new decisions accordingly. Our plan is to save enough money to buy a boat. Not finance one, but buy one and refit/upgrade where necessary for our wants/needs outright.
Our goal is do have this achieved in another 5 years. We are on a budget because of it. With every decision we make monetarily, we look at how it will affect this plan. If we don’t NEED it, or if it won’t make the transition to cruising, often we don’t get it. If seems lately all I ever say is, “Can we take that on a boat? No? Can we survive the next five years without it? Yes? Then we aren’t getting it.”
Now, we aren’t going to totally skimp on the boys either. We do buy (off brand) sodas, but not a ton of them. We buy Toasty-Ohs instead of Cheerios. We pick and choose VERY carefully which movies we actually watch in the theater, and then we only buy one large popcorn to share and often drink water. They may not get a ton of new clothes, but their shoes don’t have holes in them (Well, Jacob’s usually do, because he skateboards.)
They don’t get every new video game, and the ones they do get they often buy themselves and buy them used. But their computers are in working order and upgraded as needed. We all have smart phones. They have our hand-me-downs, and we have the unlimited family text and data plan for which we pay dearly. We are well aware of this being a “want” rather than a “need,” and we are ok with it.
We will buy their tickets to the school dances and a few sporting events. Jacob will get his batting coach. Ryan will get his math tutor. For birthdays they will both to choose where they want to go eat or what will be on the home menu for dinner, as well as, get to invite friends over to the house or to the local laser tag establishment (with homemade birthday cake!). We will cover Jacob’s monthly camp out fees for Boy Scouts when the money he has raised for his scout account runs out. However, the 3 day school trip to Washington D.C. for which we have to foot the bill to the tune of $1300? Not so much.
See, we could be saving even more money for our cruising kitty. But we have pets for whom we are responsible, and we have our BOYS. We have boys that we want to have good memories of their childhood. Boys that we want to support and encourage, and to KNOW that we did and will continue to do so. Sometimes we will tell them if they want something they will have to buy it themselves. That’s just teaching wants versus needs and financial responsibility. Sometimes, we might say to each other, “If only we weren’t paying for this or that, we could be adding that money to the kitty.” But often we can follow that statement with, “but we wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Live your life. Live your life responsibly. Life your life with no regrets. In other words, love your life.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly
are, far more than our abilities.”
(Credit to J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)