As a young boy I was taught that hard work and determination were key to be anything that you want in the world. Like a good little soldier I bought in completely. I have always been a hard worker, and have no problem paying my dues. I understand that sacrifice is a part of life and adversity is something I have become accustomed to… Even welcome. I have found in my experience that adversity is the cornerstone to personal growth.
In a world of catchy inspirational quotes, “it’s not how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get up”. As I approach the fourth decade of my existence on this planet I find that the traditional American way of life is something that does not resonate with me anymore. While my peers work hard, amassing mountains of debt to be “successful Americans” I find myself gravitating to another path.
I have become completely uninterested in the 4,000 square foot house, or the latest and greatest car that will heat or cool my balls in an instant. The newest Iphone meh or $1,000 suit or web device that will order my groceries for me. Ingredients and recipes or dog toys or hand
selected clothing delivered to my door with the click of button. It has just all become too much. Now, before I go on please understand that I am not anti society or anti people. I have a list of creature comforts that I have come to know and love. I do like technology and have always found the break neck speed of it’s growth very impressive. The ease of life and the speed that it has come about is unbelievable and a little scary. My grandfather, who is 87 at the time of this article, grew up in a completely different world. His mother and father had 6 children and daily struggle was the norm. They lived on a half acre with hogs, chickens and a garden. They grew their own produce (without cancer causing chemicals), processed and stored their own meat (without growth hormones) and generally went to the store once a month for the staples like coffee, sugar, flour, etc. He did not live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. He lived in a city (yes within city limits) in Central Illinois.
Did I mention that they did not have refrigeration? They canned and preserved the bounty from their garden, and cured their meat suspending some of it in their well during processing. Some years were better than others, so they planned for the rainy days. They heated their home with a wood burning stove, which would burn out overnight with temperatures dipping into the teens inside. The youngest child was responsible for lighting the fire in the morning and getting the house warmed up, and the kids picked up twigs and sticks for the wood stove when they were out. Kids were free(ish) labor and everyone pulled together for
the betterment of the family.
Neighbors and community looked different too. Everyone would pull together and help one another. My grandfather bought his first house from a Sears catalog. It came in sections with rudimentary instructions. The entire neighborhood came together to get this house erected with no question of what’s in this for me. They were resourceful and sometimes dangerous in the pursuit of getting a job done but they did it. The trusses of the structure were hoisted using
my great grandfather’s tow truck and a telephone poll borrowed from the phone company. If someone was out of work or having a hard time it was not uncommon to invite the them or other neighbors over for Sunday dinner. Everyone would bring what they could and
sometimes it was the only hot meal a family would have that week. Nothing was wasted, and everything was repaired or handed down to get every ounce of life out of the item. The energy and love in the house during Sunday dinners are one of my most cherished childhood
Now the hardship and extreme upbringing of that depression-era lifestyle was challenging but it built grit. It showed what the human spirit is capable of; They survived and built character along the way. I love sitting with my grandfather and listening to those old stories. Seeing his eyes light up as he recalls and laughs about the trials and tribulations that he experienced
The lifestyle I gravitate towards is more comfortable, but I have faith that in those times of pain and sacrifice that my family will make it through. I am searching for a middle ground between the depression-era lifestyle and the ease of life today. Wish me luck!