Or so it feels. I came across 2 very interesting pieces on the subject in the past 12 hours - The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and why millennials are unhappy on The Hustle. Could it really be that extra freedom and choice that we are allowed today are indeed making us unhappy? It's undeniable that people today are no happier than they were say 100 years ago despite all the technical advances we're enjoying today. There's never been more depression and suicides now than in the past generations. Schwartz argues that this is the result of a disconnect between expectations versus reality. Keep your expectations low he says and you're much more likely to be pleasantly surprised on the rare occasion your expectations are surpassed. I can't help but think that the guy makes a damn good point.
I'm from that generation that grew up as an only child ('because we wanted to give you the best chances'). What I was taught as I grew up is that I could do so much better than my parents, and I could choose to be who I wanted - so long as it was approved by my mother. This reminds me of a scene from Roseanne I watched years ago where her daughter Darlene tries to convince her to let her go to college in another city. The dialogue goes something like this;
Darlene: 'But mom don't you want me to do better than you in life?'
Roseanne: 'Of course we do darling, why do you think we've been keeping such low standards all our lives?'
This succinctly nails it - Roseanne's generation, with her background simply left school early, got a job/got knocked up and were generally preoccupied with where the next meal would come from. Her children though had much higher expectations and dared to dream.
So why is it that for many of us days pass and resemble one another? Where is our big break in life, the money, the perfect partner and the (dare I say it...) perfect job? If someone had looked into their crystal ball when I was a teenager and told me I would be where I am today aged 38, I would have definitely jumped off the Eiffel Tower. And I can't help but think this is because my expectations haven't been met and that it's my own fault. It's true in many ways, I still believe that I am the master of my own destiny, and wherever I take my destiny is my responsibility - not my burden.
Now is as perfect a time as ever to take my destiny in my own hands so whilst the freedom and choice are still an option, I'm taking steps in that direction. And perhaps review my expectations to 'que sera sera'.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley - Invictus