Monday, January 6, 2014

Life Is Tough...Always Has Been

I heard a news bit the other day that really made me pause and think. The story followed a young man and was talking about how he’s going to have to move back home with his parents upon graduating from college because of how tough things are and how hard it is to get a respectable job.  His exact comment was “I can’t afford to pay rent on what I make at Starbucks”  He then went on to complain about how the older generation just doesn’t understand how much harder life is today and they need to lighten up on the young people.

I had two immediate thoughts: 1) this kid is a huge boob, and 2) he needs to get off his backside and find a better job…or maybe two jobs...or three jobs.  He's young, it won't kill him.

This story then caused me to reflect about what life was like when my wife and I graduated from college and I began to wax nostalgic…I decided to write down what it was like…so here goes…

When I graduated from the University of Utah in 1995/96 life was tough…and I loved it!

I had been in school for seven years (changed majors a few times).  I had a half tuition scholarship, but I still had to find a way to pay the rest of my tuition, books and living expenses.  I had been married for four years and had a child on the way. My wife was getting ready to do her student teaching to finish her degree (oh yeah…she was in school at the same time that I was) and I’d just been let go from one of my part-time jobs for being “Overqualified”. (Now that I had a degree, they didn’t want me.  With hindsight I can honestly say it was probably the best thing that boss could have done for me. So thanks Alphagraphics for shoving me out the door!)

Life was tough and it was awesome!

While in school I worked as many as three part time jobs and freelanced every chance I got. In addition my wife had a part-time job to help make our payments on bills, cars, food, tuition and our first baby.  Most of my jobs were minimum wage and part time with no benefits or perks.  The best money I made while in school was working on movie productions for $300-$400 a week.  This was good pay, but had no benefits or stability. One week I’d have work, the next I’d be hoping for some.

Minimum wage at the time was under $4 an hour.  We were barely scraping by.  We lived on food storage, and love.

We lived in a small, drafty apartment.  We drove old cars that required a lot of maintenance (most of which I had to do myself).  We didn’t go on expensive or elaborate vacations or wildly extravagant holidays. I rode public transportation to school and work. Most of our dates were funded by spare change we found between couch cushions.  Our gifts to each other were small and inexpensive…often hand-made.  It was an incredible time that bonded my wife and I in ways that money never could have.

We were happy to be on our own, making our own way in the world.  The thought of moving in with family to save money was abhorrent to us.  It was time to live our lives and be our own people. (we did live with parents on one occasion and I think that lasted about two days before we decided that living in a car would be better.)

I even struggled with the idea of living in the same ward or stake as my family because I didn’t want church callings to be based on the fact that I was related to someone who had served in important positions. I wanted to be my own man.

It was a struggle.  It was one I would never have any other way.

My first full time job out of college came about a year after I graduated.  The offer was for less than $28K a year.  I was an entry level position in a graphics department that was frankly depressing.  Very little creative options.  Highly regulated and corporate.  I was about as low as a creative person can go.  We didn’t even have Photoshop to do work with…but I took the job.  I had no real other option.  I really struggled with that.  I had dreams of working in Hollywood, making movies and having a very creative outlet for my talents.  But with another baby on the way, I needed insurance and a steady income more than I need to ‘express myself’.  It wasn’t easy and I had to swallow a huge slice of humble pie, BUT It taught me lessons in humility and hard work. Lessons that have served me well ever since.

I’ve had ups and downs.  I’ve struggled to make ends meet.  I’ve had to sacrifice a LOT of material things (which, believe it or not, you can actually live without).  Our marriage hasn’t always been bliss and I’ve had to work hard on little sleep and when I was sick.  (READ THESE NEXT LINES CAREFULLY)This is what men do. This is what PRIESTHOOD men do.  We serve, we sacrifice, we toil and sweat for the safety and peace of others.  This is the simple essence of manhood.  I can truly say that I have no greater joy than to see my wife smile and my kids succeed.  I can’t conceive of anything bringing me greater joy.

The LAST thing I wanted out of life was to live off family or welfare. There is HUGE satisfaction in being your own man.  Striking out and making it happen.  This is the essence of integrity.

I don’t tell this story to brag or pat myself on the back.  I tell it to make a point…that is:

Young people today don’t have it any harder than the rest of us did.  Starting out life on your own is tough.  It’s a struggle.  It’s hard. It’s even scary.  There is no manual or class that can really prepare you for life, marriage and parenthood.  You shouldn’t want to have it any other way, because it will make you a better individual, a stronger couple and a happier person. Ultimately it will make you a better man.

There is a beauty in struggle that cannot be imitated.  ALL good things come out of difficulty.  All strong bonds are forged in adversity.  Learning to delay gratification builds more resilience and you soon realize that it isn’t the reward that is sweetest, but the effort to gain the reward that truly makes life worth living.

I could even make the argument that young men today have more opportunities than I did when I graduated college.  In this age of information and technology, I can think of hundreds of ways that I could have made a great living that I simply did not have access to when I was in my 20’s. 

In short…when the young men of today want to whine about how hard life is, I simply have only one answer for them:


Get on with your life and stop stalling, blaming and whining.  It’s very unattractive and makes you look stupid.