Your Life is Not Your Own


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One of the biggest things that shapes my world view is a belief that my life is not my own.

In some ways, that statement seems completely nonsensical.  Because of course my life is my own.  I mean, if it’s not mine then whose is it?

Am I not an individual?

Don’t I make my own choices?

When I get up in the morning, I decide how my day looks.

I can go into work, or I can call in sick.  If I go to work, I decide how hard I want to work during the day.  I choose what I want to eat – I can eat pizza pops and candy all day if I want.  I can flirt with co-workers, come in to the office drunk or high, and pick up prostitutes.  Hell, I can head into my bosses office and defecate on her desk if I really wanted.

I have those choices.  I have that *power* (if you can call it that).

Based on all of the above it seems obvious that my life is my own, and I can do with it whatever I want.

 

Thing is, although I COULD do whatever I want, I don’t (fine – I’ve probably had days that I ate nothing but candy and pizza pops, but they’re rare.  Never more than once a week).

Generally there is some thought process behind my choices; and 99% of the time this involves weighing my choices against my core values.  Values that tell me doing things like flirting with co-workers, coming into the office drunk or high, picking up prostitutes and defecating on my bosses desk are BAD decisions.

I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted to do any of those things, but even if I did, they are choices that would potentially have long term implications on my life.  And these implications don’t just affect MY life, but also the lives of the people around me.  The people I care about.

See, my life isn’t just about me.  My actions may be my own, but they impact other people.

 

I’m a father, and virtually EVERY decision I make has the potential to shape the lives of my children.  Some decisions can radically affect their futures, but even for smaller decisions I need to model behavior to them that shows them how I believe they should live their lives.

In my mind, when I became a parent I gave up the right to focus primarily on me.

 

Even without children, the same rules apply in relationships.  It’s one thing if all you want is to casually date.  Casual dating is all about you, and what you get out of it.  It’s the easy part – the “fun” without any responsibility.  You see someone only when you want, and on your terms.  You can focus on what you get out of that “relationship” and not actually care about the other person (side note, I don’t consider casual dating an actual relationship).  And if they don’t like that?  Too bad for them, you can move on and find someone else.

That approach to relationships works for some, but most people want more out of their relationships.  Most people want at least some commitment from the other person.  For that person to be faithful to them; and maybe to start building something with them.  I think most of us like the idea of growing old *with* someone, and sharing our life with them.

For that to happen, things need to change.  It can’t just be about you anymore.  Relationships are about both people, and both people matter.  Both need to feel valued, and heard.  And for that to happen, the other persons needs/wants have to matter just as much as our own.

In a relationship, your actions are still your own.  You are still an individual, and you can choose to do whatever you want.  But your decisions impact your partner, and as a result you need to take your partner into account in the things you do.

You can still choose to do whatever you want, and not take your partner into account.  But if you do that you are not respecting that other person, and you are not respecting the relationship.

 

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Even if I don’t have children and I’m not in a relationship, I would still contend my life is not just about me.  I still have parents, siblings and friends.  I still have co-workers who rely on me.

There are ALWAYS people who are impacted by my actions and my decisions.

That doesn’t mean I have to live my life for those people.  That doesn’t mean I *can’t* do what I want.  But it DOES mean I should take them into account, and realize that my decisions may affect those people adversely.

 

Pretending I’m an individual who can do what they want without realizing my actions impact others is self-absorption.  Thinking we are special, and we can do what we want because the regular rules of life don’t apply to us is entitlement.

In reality we ALL have moments of self-absorption or entitlement.  It’s just a question of how often do we do these things, and how do we respond when we’ve realized what we’ve done?

To me, I am in control of my own life.  I make my own decisions, and I do my best to deal with the impacts of those decisions.  And I do that recognizing that while I control my own life, it impacts others.  So I need to take others into account.

And in that regard, I accept that my life is not my own.

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14 thoughts on “Your Life is Not Your Own

  1. My first question is what eff are pizza pops?

    The second thing I want to say is YES. I am all about putting your honest foot forward but I think living life in general with consideration for how it impacts others is key and quite honestly, what’s lacking with modern day society.

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    • K, I just checked and it turns out pizza pops are only available in Canada. WTF? Seriously? I’m sure there’s the equivalent elsewhere, and if there isn’t I think I’m about to quit my job and start a company that brings them to other markets. But here they are:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_Pops

      As for not thinking of others – I do agree that it seems to be something that is more and more common. I don’t know if it’s just my old man “back in my day…” thinking, but people do seem to be more and more entitled and selfish these days.

      Not saying I’m never selfish (cause I can be). But by and large I live my life considering how my choices will impact others.

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    • Hi Boots, I know what you mean when you say that. I would love to be doing a lot more travelling too, and if there were no jobs/dependents/mortgages it seems like a really attractive way to go.

      Interestingly, I have a friend (who I’ve written about in the past) who did that, kind of.

      A number of years ago he decided the grind of a day job was too much, so he quit his job and moved away to become a white water rafting instructor. He spent a few years doing that when the season was on, and travelling the rest of the year.

      Guess what he’s doing now?

      He’s back in the city, doing the same job he did before.

      I asked him about it, and why he left and why he came back. His answer?

      “Andrew, it doesn’t matter how exciting and amazing something seems at first. When you are doing it every day, EVERYTHING starts to become routine”.

      I’ve written on hedonic adaptation in the past, and I think this is a perfect example of it.

      Travelling all the time *seems* amazing, because we aren’t doing it. And there’s a lot of good in the day to day life we have that we have stopped seeing, because it’s become routine.

      My buddy found that his nomadic lifestyle was actually pretty lonely, and started to miss a lot of thing things that to him were “home”.

      But he had to leave in order to miss them.

      I guess that’s what a bit part of my life now is about actively looking for the good in my life, and actively celebrating it. Trying to be conscious of the things that are easy to take for granted.

      That said, I could definitely use a few more trips…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your friend made a lot of sense. Anything you do often can also become boring. I now remember that when I was a flight attendant, I did have that feeling. Going to a new city wasn’t as exciting because I knew I’ll be back there again and again and again.

        With my present situation, I long for those days where I didn’t have much but my suitcase and was always on the go. While I love being a mom to my two boys, I also sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like if I had owned my life, without anyone to answer to, or worry about.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So much truth to your post. Some of us understand that while parenthood changes everything it is extremely rewarding while others can’t handle it and eventually implode. Nothing is permanent, with patience children grow and your life little by little can be more about the couple than the dependent children. There should be joy in all stages, but for that we must embrace selflessness💜 thank you for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I think kids are (inadvertently) one of the big killers of relationships. And it has NOTHING to do with the kids themselves.

      Instead, I see two “problems” with kids.

      1) life becomes all about the kids. And in the process, the couple forgets that if not for the relationship, the kids wouldn’t have existed in the first place. But they lose sight of the relationship and stop focusing on each other, because the kids require so much energy.

      2) people were never really ready for kids, and the amount of energy they require. They put all their energies there, and then when they have some downtime they want to spend it by themselves, or doing “their thing” – killing the relationships over time.

      Some couples ensure that they don’t forget about the relationship while raising kids, and are able to have a happy relationship and family.

      Others lose sight of the relationship, and as the kids become independent they are either able to start focusing on each other again, or they look at each other and realize they have lost each other and aren’t interested in trying to find each other anymore.

      I’m a firm believer in the notion that the best gift you can give your children is to actively love their other parent (assuming you’re still together). Keeping the relationship strong is one of the best things you can do for the kids, as they learn from what their parents model to them.

      My kids haven’t seen “healthy” in years, and even though it won’t be with their mom anymore I hope I am able to one day show them that. I don’t want them thinking what they saw the past few years was normal.

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      • I could not put into words, frankly out of guilt, but I agree. They should never know it thought. Many adults can’t step back and realize it, it takes a huge amount of selflessness to navigate it and come out well at the end–UNFORTUNATELY. By the way it is seldom when children experience ‘healthy’
        Take care, m

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I think the issue is mostly with the parents, and the mindsets we have. There is all this internal pressure to be the best parents we can be. But we go too far I think. Our kids don’t need everything, and they don’t need perfect. Actually I think they need us primarily to let them explore and discover the world while we guide them, letting them fail and teaching them that’s alright,as long as they strive to improve.

        I don’t know, I think maybe we expect too much of our lives. Our relationships, our children, our belief that we need to be happy.

        I’m a regular guy, and I’m alright being regular. There’s a lot of things I strive for and want to do, but to me the end result is less important than the journey, if that makes sense.

        My next post is on “enough”, a topic I probably write on a fair bit but have never done a full post on. The last few years have been a discovery on what is enough for me. And I think I understand what that means for me know, and that goes a long way towards me being at peace with my life.

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  3. Pingback: What is Enough? | thezombieshuffle

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