My high school teacher introduced the notion of scarcity by singing the refrain of a little ditty that goes something like this:

You can’t always get what you want

And I was the only person to join in, with

But if you try sometimes
You might find
You get what you need

And lately I’ve been grappling with the notion of want and need.

At school I was a Residence Assistant and helped students get through some really rough experiences. After one particularly emotional encounter I wrote NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING EVER on a sticky note stuck to my laptop screen. My role was a regular reminder of how easy I have it.

I don’t need for anything. I’ve got my health, I’ve got an education, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a house, I’ve got loving family and friends, and an incredibly supportive spouse. I mean, come on. I have an iPhone. I have a Starbucks Card.

And yet I catch myself complaining. I’m like a walking #firstworldproblem or #whitewhine.

Still with all the awesomeness in my life I find myself wanting to expand, to improve, on what is already pretty gosh darn good.

And part of me tells myself to be satisfied with what I have, and what I have accomplished, and to take it easy.

And the other part of me starts to freak out at the concept of taking a break – like I’m a shark, and if I stop moving I’d die.

I wonder if it’s a generational thing. You hear all sorts of things about how lazy and entitled the Gen Y/Millenials/Baby Boom Echo/Facebook Generation/Net Generation is. I’m torn between:

Ok, I’ve worked hard for a while. Now I would like to rest on my laurels for a few years.


I’ll show *you* how not-lazy and not-entitled we kids are.

Is it a generational thing? Any other folks out there feeling the same way? Or is this just one of those “becoming a grownup” personal crises that everybody gets to enjoy eventually?

If you have gone through this, and survived, do you have any tips for a fledgling adult like myself?

Words of wisdom. From Pinterest.


8 thoughts on “Satisfaction

  1. It’s a funny thing. As much as I think it’s good to be aspirational, I think it’s also good to make sure you are well aware of your own accomplishments.

    What I’ve been doing is trying to give out praise more freely. To tell people how amazed and inspired I am by them. And occasionally I get it back, too. I’m not one for too much new age stuff, but I think it’s generally true you get out what you put in. So I’d say, do that. I think you’d be surprised at how many people are envious of what you have.

    And at the same time, I think you’d be amazed at how many people who have all the things you aspire to who aren’t particularly happy. 😉

    • That is a very good point. The last one. And the other. I shall take it to heart and dole out praise.

      For example, to yourself. You are an incredibly supportive individual always looking to help out your friends. And I thank you for that!

  2. I think the short answer to your question is no, never stop working for your goals, never stop trying to improve, never stop working for the best life ever. Cuz we’re here for a short time, it may as well be a damned good time. There is no time for total sloth-like laziness.

    I think we can all go about this in very, very different ways. Our goals don’t always have to be so full-on, so ‘let’s take over the WHOLE world!’…but you have to have ambitions, you have to understand that nothing is owed to you and nothing worth it comes easily. That doesn’t mean you have to stress yourself out fully, either. There’s a balance.

    I certainly get frustrated when I see other people in my generation getting lazy or acting like they’re entitled to ALL THE THINGS their parents have, when, frankly, your parents worked long and hard for all those things, you whingey, self-indulged babies. 😉

    I’m working on getting things semi-in order. I had a big time fail with my big deal, grownup relationship. But I’m working on fixing that. I have a house, a car, I have a job, I have the ability to continue to go back to school and learn more. I have some really amazing close friends. I’ve got a decent family. The cutest fur kids ever. Yet, man, do I find stuff to whinge about. Then I look at people who I feel have it all and they’re whinging too.

    For me, it comes down to perspective.

    I know that I’m not finished yet. I know there are HEAPS I want to accomplish. I know what I’ve got to do, for the most part, to accomplish them. I’m not satisfied to waste any time by coasting for a few years. I’m working at making time to relax and unwind a bit. Yes, I whinge. But I try really hard to make sure that if I’m going to whinge and complain about something I’m willing to either, figure out what to do to fix it or if I’m not ready to tackle it just yet, I’m going to accept that it is what it is and try to shut up about it.

    And yes, sometimes I know I complain about inconsequential things, but I know that I really don’t have much to truly complain about.

    The FML types of our generation? The ones that will whine and complain about how terrible their lives are, while at the same time refusing to change any part of how they live their lives to find a solution? Those are the ones I’d like to punch in the face (or the commonly used phrase that my brother introduced me to…’Suck it up, buttercup. Some kids don’t got legs.’)

    If you’re going to sit back and wait someone else to sort your life for you…be prepared to be sitting and waiting for a very, very, long time.

    Ooops, off the soap box now.

  3. Thank you! You made me think of a wise man’s words: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” (yep, that’d be Gandalf).

    I think I just need to find that balance you’re talking about. Keep on constantly seeking self-improvement, but without the stress. Because what good is a life if you’re constantly stressed?

  4. I wanted to share some other brilliant words of wisdom from a friend of mine:

    “The trick is not to think that until you are there you have nothing to be grateful for, to constantly look forward and miss the now. Do both. Make a plan you can be happy with that will help you save and achieve your future goals. But appreciate this time when all you have to worry about is you and your husband and your cats, enjoy your life as it is now, because once those kids come, and careers change, you will never get to be in this stage again.

    There is ONLY now. The only day you’re guaranteed is today.

    Wear the special dress, drink the special wine, wear your good perfume everyday.”

  5. Oh, Emma: I have a feeling that you’re accustomed to hearing the following words: I wish I were as wise as you when I was your age. If you don’t hear that, you might need to listen more closely to what people are saying to you. But seems like you hear it: You seem to be good at acknowledging your blessings.

    I was an early achiever as well. I remember the exact moment a particular thought hit me 19 years and 364 days ago: I was shutting the door of my locker at the YMCA, heading out for a run, and suddenly I realized, “I forgot to piss my 20s away.” Too late: That’s the day I turned 30. Tomorrow I turn 50, and I can recall in much more detail the things I have checked off my to-do list than the things I have checked off my “remember to be grateful for” list.

    There are lots of great quotes about all of this, some of them above, and some in Emerson’s work. I especially love what one of my yoga teachers says as we settle in for rest after practice: “Nothing. Left. To. Do.” That’s rarely a thought we shark-people can get our minds around, but at least we can make it true for a moment, in that “now” you speak of missing, and we can be grateful for the things we have, for the opportunity to rest and do nothing, and then inevitably for the opportunity to get moving again.

    Here is a wonderful quote that squeezes a single, elegant beam of satisfaction out of a wreck of a life (and a sentence that seems to be careering toward darkness): It’s from a story called “We are Nighttime Travelers” by Ethan Canin: “No man makes truly proper use of his time. We are blind and small-minded. We are dumb as snails and as frightened, full of vanity and misinformed about the importance of things. I’m an average man, without great deeds except maybe one, and that has been to love my wife.”

    Thanks for getting this started. Now I need a rest.

    • Rick what a terrific post! I truly enjoyed getting your perspective, thank you. It’s helpful knowing that others, too, forget to piss away their 20s and turn out great all the same.

      I’ll take this opportunity to riff off you Canin quote with a Bradbury one, from his Illustrated Man:

      “We’re all fools,” said Clemens, “all the time. It’s just we’re a different kind each day. We think, I’m not a fool today. I’ve learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we’re not perfect and live accordingly.”

  6. Emma: Well played on the Bradbury quote. Great one.

    I wrote my post yesterday, when I was in my 40s. Today I’m a decade older and so much wiser, seeing the foolishness I didn’t recognize in that younger age and eager to rectify my foolish wrongs of a silly 40-something. I’ll get right on that… (and thanks).

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