The Life You Have

Over the years I have watched some of the best people make some of the worst mistakes you could imagine. In a moment of desperation, fear or thoughtlessness things have been done or said that change the course of life for all those who were present. I know of children who have been called degrading names by tired, frustrated parents. I have heard from young women who drank too much at a party and found their date more than willing to take full advantage of them in that situation. I have counseled wives who were shattered by the selfish, thoughtless actions and words of clueless husbands. However, even when tragic things like the above happen, when all is said and done, one fact still remains, the life you have is the one you made.

In this world of endless excuses, victimized helplessness and personal drama, it’s time to face the fact that your life, the one you are living right now, is the one you made for yourself. It may have been created by deliberate planning or the consequences of your own foolish actions. It may have come by the hand of an abuser or by default from your own negligence. However it came, the bottom line in everyone’s life is always the same. We all end up with the life we have allowed to be there. My father, whom I loved dearly, was a prime example.

Dad was never one for planning and he did not have a knack for making money. Don’t misunderstand me, he worked very hard and with honor his whole life, and he refused to ever take a government handout. He was proud of the fact that he always provided for his family, even if at times things were very tight. This struggle to financially survive stemmed from a choice he had made at the ripe old age of twenty. That one decision haunted him on a regular basis for the rest of his life.

Dad was a stubborn Scotsman, but he was also very intelligent and highly gifted with his hands. As a result, in 1925 he was given a full scholarship by his Uncle Martin to go to medical school. Martin also agreed to give dad free room and board as an added bonus in the deal. However, when my father arrived to begin his studies, he discovered his Uncle Martin was a devout Methodist, and he had made three rules dad must agree to live by if he was to provide for his education. There was to be no drinking, no smoking and no women. Dad told me he promptly packed his bags, walked out of medical school and moved back to the family farm.

In that moment, my father’s independent Scottish heritage, and his youthful rebellion to authority, had fatefully overruled his better judgment. That one action changed the course of his personal life and our family financial history. Instead of vacations at nice resorts, dad spent all his free time hunting and fishing to put food on the table. Instead of building a comfortable retirement for himself and my mother, he worked every day until he had a heart attack at age 69 and died quietly at home a few years later, from cancer. I was there when he passed away and I know he was concerned for my mother. After a lifetime of financial struggle he suddenly realized that all he could leave her was a simple country home and a small social security check.

What kind of life are you living at this present moment? Are you happy with the outcome of the decisions you have already made? Dad was not, and if you are not, the solution is very simple; start making better decisions today. If you do, you will like the life you end up with tomorrow. The alternative is to do nothing and embrace what comes from living life by default. The choice is yours, and so is the life you end up with. Now stop making excuses, learn from your mistakes, and use the gifts and talents you have  to make your life a good one! I know from experience you’ll be glad you did.

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