Many of us, myself for sure, live in the long shadow cast by an idea, a phantom idea, a ghostly, probably not real but it feels so real idea. The shadow of this idea brings a darkness with it that goes where we go and grows as we grow.
I’d go so far as to say we are inculcated–indoctrinated if you will–with this idea.
What is this idea? The shadow-caster? The ghost?
Better stuff, better place, better people, better toys, better car, better neighborhood, better amenities, better clothes.
Better is in us. It grows up with us, too. Your better may not be the same as your friend’s better, but you both have it. It could have looked something like the following –
- You were 12 years old and SUPER awkward (because who isn’t) and you were 100% confident that 13 was the magic number when things would be better. But no. Just more awkward.
- 15, though, 15 is where it’s at! I’ll get my driver’s permit, and I’ll cruise into the horizon (with my dad in the passenger seat because mom gets too skittish when I don’t brake in time).
- Ugh, I’m sick of driving while my parents hit imaginary brakes on their side of the car. It’s all good. I get my license next year, and 16 is when life will really begin.
- At least at 18 people will take me seriously, because I’ll be an adult. (Nobody tells us why that’s the age. The government just decided one day.) Now, if I want, I can
- Enlist in the military
- Buy cigarettes–make America proud
- Vote, because Ben Affleck told me to
18-20ish are the first of the serious ‘who am I’ years…what do I want to be, who will I marry. Can I marry her–no, her–no, her…
- I turn 21 in a few weeks. I’m so glad I’m not one of those pathetic teenagers anymore. Look at how sad their lives are.
After 21, better moves into life stages instead of ages. So, life will be better when I…
- Get a job
- When I get married
- Marriage will be better when we have kids
- Maybe life will be better with a different wife, a different husband
- Better with a different job
- Better if we move here
- Better if that person would die
- Shoot, I didn’t mean it! Do I have to go to the funeral?
- Better when I retire…
And then we run out of better and die.
It really could happen.
You could die always believing that the next better would be better than the better before.
Here’s what I’ve learned about my better, and I’m willing to bet your better is a distant cousin of my better and looks mostly the same.
Better is always a moving target. Better is elusive.
It’s like trying to shoot the squirrels who used my back deck as their personal teeth filing hot spot. Those glorified rats were sneaky. Better senses you’re coming and scampers off, leaving part of your deck chewed up while you’re standing there in pajama pants, holding a BB gun with a heart full of anger and sadness. (no metaphor is perfect)
Whether you want to talk education, politics, economics….someone is always promising something better.
A better plan; better policies; better financing; better curriculum. Blah, blah, blah.
The marketing and advertising world lines its pockets by playing on this intrinsic appetite for better.
This product will make you look better, feel better, think better, hit better, jump better, study better.
Instead of better, we get bitter. We were duped.
Better is the guy who never comes through like he says. Better is the boss who over-promises and doesn’t deliver. Better is the movie with the star-filled cast that you wish you had never seen.
There has to be more to it, right?
I don’t have to live in this shadow forever, right?
More to come