Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Everyone wants to make their own mistakes.

One of the things that puzzles me the most about human nature is an unwillingness to follow advice. As a teenager I was especially resistant to it, and I often said (or at least thought to myself), "Let me make my own mistakes!"

And I did. My modus operandi was to, whenever possible, not make decisions. Instead, I allowed life carry me like a river. A sort of very boring, slow-moving river that would be the absolute opposite of a thrill ride. When faced with a major decision (or even a minor one), I would consult a Magic 8 Ball. Or I would establish an invisible yes and no on a table top or my knees, then alternate between them with my finger, saying:

Engine, engine, number 9,
going down the Chicago line.
If the train should jump the track,
do you want your money back?

And then I would have to make another decision. If I was riding a train, and the train derailed, would I ask for my money back? Well, I guess. And if I was injured, I might even file a lawsuit against the railroad. I mean, really, that's not a hard decision to make. So, yes.

Y - E - S spells yes
and you are not it.

And there would be my answer, which mathematically is always 'no' if you have alternated between the two choices by syllable and chosen 'yes' to the 'do you want your money back' question, and 'yes' if you would be stupid enough to forego monetary compensation.

But why put yourself through a train wreck at all? Not sure about college? Just don't go. Get a job at the first place you go looking for one. If it's that easy, it was meant to be. Thinking about marriage? Get pregnant - accidentally, of course - which sometimes but not always assures a ring on the finger. And if a ring happens, it must have been Fate! In the years that follow, don't even consciously plan your other pregnancies, either! They'll happen on their own.

In the event your 'plans' of being just a wife and mother don't pan out, and you get tired of working at a particular job, someone you know will always know when there is a job available somewhere else. You won't necessarily make very much money, because, remember, you refused to make a decision about college, and colleges didn't come to YOU, and if you don't have that little piece of paper that says you are smart, no one else will think you are smart and pay you accordingly.

And for heaven's sake, DON'T SAVE ANY MONEY! A few years ago, about twenty-five years too late, I read a neat little book called The Richest Man in Babylon, a collection of parables on finance. Probably the most important advice contained in the book is to pay yourself ten percent of everything you make - and then don't touch it. I remember thinking, I wish I had read this book 25 years ago! But, would it have made a difference? No. And do you know how I know? I gave the book to my oldest son to read. While it's possible he didn't read it at all, I still told him about the ten percent thing. And he hasn't taken my advice. So I told my middle son about the ten percent thing, and he hasn't taken my advice.

So, go ahead everyone. Don't listen to me. Make your own mistakes. I know you want to. Go on and flip a coin or eenie-meenie-mynie-moe your life-altering decisions. Or don't decide at all, and just give Fate the job.