Opinions on the Life Plan

Society’s Life Plan

To a degree, at most points in life, we at least believe we have some major questions answered: what we like and dislike and the life we want. Though, probably more-so, we have in mind answers to these questions that we can tell the world, when — truly — we have no idea. I say we have no idea both because whenever I ask someone what they want it’s usually that they want something other than what they have at that moment, though they don’t yet know what that thing would be. Or, what they want usually goes no further than the hackneyed “a relationship”, “kids”, “a house”, “a higher paying job”, “to travel more”, “to have more fun”, or “to work less”; all things which seem so commonly pronounced that I believe people say these things because they haven’t thought much about their foundational desires and are just saying the next thing that is on society’s life plan checklist. Perhaps I’m being unfair, though. Perhaps the life plan truly does outline the steps for what the best life looks like and these simple desires are exactly what people should be wanting. I haven’t spoken with enough old people to affirm nor disprove that society’s life plan is the best plan. And, if I did, I’m not sure how honest their opinions would be. Their rose-tinted glasses may prevent them from objectively assessing their experiences, decisions, and success.

A Generation’s View of the Life Plan

I’ve noticed a contradiction — or rather a helplessness — in how those around my age view the traditions of marriage, kids, and work. They doubt the legitimacy of the life plan. They doubt the importance of these things, yet their lives are quietly guided by these milestones — these checkpoints flashing in the back of their minds.

With respect to marriage, on the one hand, many denounce marriage itself, saying it’s a ploy by our consumerist society to make us spend enormous sums of money and that it’s a way for society to regard those that are married and to look down upon those that are not. On the other hand, almost everybody around me that is in a relationship is married, engaged, or thinking about marriage.

With respect to kids, some argue that the idea of having kids is selfish — our planet is suffering and to have kids further damages the environment. And kids cost a fuck-ton of money. This seems to be a common view on the societal level, but individually I don’t know anyone against having kids of their own.

With respect to work, people argue that our capitalist society requires us to work jobs that drain our souls and rob our time. But, to me, the alternative life of leisure appears worse — less useful and less respectable.

What I believe irks most people is not the checkpoints themselves, but the pressure to cross them off their checklist. They think that all these things are emotionally-vacant to-dos that are there for no other reason but to take away our freedom. Personally, I have find value in each of these traditions. I believe marriage exists because the idea that you’ve found a partner to spend the rest of your life with is special, difficult, and should be celebrated. If you don’t, that’s fine, but your own life could be better if you did. With kids, evolutionally, we were ingrained to reproduce. With kids comes all the emotions — good and bad — that have been reserved for parenthood. If you never or can’t have kids, that’s fine; but your life could be better, fuller, if you did. With work, there’s the pressure of finding a job that excites you and stimulates you. But, most jobs aren’t like this and finding one worthwhile is difficult. But your life could be better if you did find such a job.

A Personal View of the Life Plan

If viewed as demands, these all appear as burdens we must each carry. Instead, if viewed as suggestions, as gentle guides of what to pursue, you are not shackled by this to-do list and can pick and choose what feels right for you at that point in your life. Although, this could just be some complex rationalization of my traditionalist values, my inability to see outside tradition, and a way to justify me not having any of these things.

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Timothy Tan

Timothy Tan

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Collector of Thoughts. This is my attempt to digest, organize, and expand on the daily thoughts that run through my mind.