A fellow blogger asked me this in response to something I wrote.
I guess the first thing we have to do is define the word “choice”.
I have a friend who believes I have a choice whether to pay my taxes or not. He believes that because I can simply refuse to pay, that the taxes are voluntary. But if failure to pay results in fines and levies, confiscation of my belonging and finances, forfeiture of my home and vehicles, and eventually prison, is that actually a “choice”? I mean, if I take you to the top of a tall building, point a gun at you and say, “Jump! Or I’ll shoot you.”, have you actually been given a choice?
Sure, we still have choices. But some of them really, really suck.
Take for example the decision to go to college as a full-time employed, 43 year old father. I mean yeah, I can choose to go. I just have to get up at 4 am and drive to work; get off work at 3 and drive home (arriving at about 5 pm) and spend the three remaining hours of my time awake doing school work, every day…for years. I have to give up gaming and the friends I have made there. I have to give up time with my kids, my wife and my friends. Basically, I have to give up my life. Of course the upside is that I may be able to get a better job, at better pay, in a better location. The downside is that after going through all that I may still find myself unable to find a decent job.
Meanwhile, I hate the hours between 4 am and 5 pm, 5 days a week. That has to be negatively impacting my quality of life, right?
There are other choices I can make. Some of those are a little easier.
I have made the choice to get as far out of debt as I can over the next 2 years so that I can afford not to have this job anymore. That one is simple enough, to say at least if not to do.
I can choose to just put my mind someplace else every day at work. This I do regularly. This is how I, and others, survive the work day.
I can choose how I allow the situation I find myself in to impact my mood. But I cannot change the situation. I can decide not to give in to road rage, but I cannot change the fact that my commute blows.
In the end I think the answer is yes, we do still have choices. But with each passing year the window of opportunity closes a little more. The wide open path narrows. The sunny afternoon gives way to to dusk and shadows. And you can choose how you will react to the fact that you are lost, but you cannot change the fact that you are indeed lost.
This whole thought process then leads to introspection and the asking of different questions.
How much is enough? When do you cross the line where the time you trade for money is more valuable than the money you are receiving for it? Would you be happier with less money and more time to do the things you enjoy most?
Not to mention the big questions that both I and Teeny Bikini have asked in different words. “Is this it?” “This is why I am here?” “This is the system the way it was intended?” “Can this really be what life is all about?”
Yeah, I guess we have choices. I just wish sometimes that I could see how a given choice is going to work out before I decide.