Thursday, December 30, 2004

Contemplating My Birthday

Here I sit on this, the celebratory day of my 28th year. It does not seem that I should be that old, especially since I am only just now finishing my undergraduate education (having crammed my five years into ten). But as I reflect, I realize that there have been a world of experiences in this last decade that (except for the part where I’m as broke as any college student) make this journey more than worth it. Since graduating high school in 1995, I have lived in Baton Rouge, LA, Lexington, KY, southern West Virginia, and now back to my native Wheeling. I got married, spent a summer working for the Salvation Army in Youngstown and Maine, worked in radio, competed at academic functions, acquired a personal library of over 2000 volumes, had a kid, and saw murals of Ceaser Chavez and a urinal at Pitzer College. There have, of course, been down moments: loosing my grandfather to a hear attack, my father to cancer, but all in all I can’t complain.

So what is the point? The crucial point here is that I, me, personally made each and every one of those decisions (okay, with a little help from my wife). Even in the situations that I could not control, like my dad when he got sick, it was me who decided how I would respond. Consider this one of Aesop’s fables: The Oak and the Woodcutter:

The Woodcutter cut down a Mountain Oak and split it in pieces, making wedges of its own branches for dividing the trunk. The Oak said with a sigh, “I do not care about the blows of the axe aimed at my roots, but I do grieve at being torn in pieces by these wedges made from my own branches.” // Misfortunes springing from ourselves are the hardest to bear.

The corollary to this maxim might be that decisions made in one’s own interest are the easiest to bear. Do I regret that I did not more quickly finish school and move into a job, retirement package, and health insurance? Sure, sometimes. But on the whole I tend to think that I place more value on the experience of these last years than I do on cash assets at the bank. In fact, this is clearly the case since I explicitly chose to cash in those assets to allow me to make an investment of a different sort: an investment in myself. It’s still too early to say whether that gamble will pay off – call me in 20 years and ask. But if you ask me if I have any regrets about the decisions that I have made, I will tell you, “Not a one.” I have been allowed to live my own life, and make my own choices. My father was allowed to pass on what he and earned and accumulated in his life to me and my sister, which in turn allowed us to get farther ahead than we might otherwise have.

When people ask me how I can be a libertarian, when they inquire how it is that I can be so supposedly uncaring of those less fortunate, my tendency, like many of us, is to respond with a short treatise in free market economics or a canned rant on government control and inefficiency. Maybe I should just tell them about my birthday.

1 comment:

-Ron said...

Please don't ask my why it formatted that way. I haven't a clue.