Counting My Blessings

JtunnelsunI had lunch yesterday with an old friend who was visiting to attend his high school 40-year reunion. We met and worked together at a voluntary organization back in the ’80s and ’90s. My friend and I have had a similar upbringing and educational background, but our situations changed over time — his for the worse and mine for the better. It made me think…

…truly how fortunate I am. He’s stuck providing two alimony payments from two divorces for failed marriages, despite counseling and agreement with the views of the Catholic Church. He has one son, who has only recently gotten out of jail from a six-year sentence. He has to work in a hell hole of a work setting for various reasons for at least the next seven years, some of which he brought to himself, and some from just the state/location where he is living now.

I sat with my spouse after I got home from our visit, and asked how our lives diverted and why things are so difficult for him and the same things did not happen to me.

My spouse wisely said, “well, both of you guys are different, and you each took different paths.”

Yes, he’s right. Each step of our life journey is an individual decision. Sometimes one can take a misstep, then correct it, and get back on a good path again. Sometimes a misstep leads to another misstep which leads to another, and so forth.

My friend’s life isn’t horrible. He has a job, although for his experience and academic credentials, it does not pay well. In fact, his current salary is the same as I was earning in 1992. He has a home, albeit a rather small apartment which is all he can afford. He has an old serviceable car, too. So again, it’s not great, but not awful. Just right there in the middle.

We both have changed employers and jobs during our careers. Not perhaps as frequently as the Millennial generation changes jobs, but for me — five employers over 28 years, but each time, progressively moving up. My friend — at least a dozen jobs over the same period of time, with fairly long spells of unemployment between jobs, and of late, movement down on the salary scale rather than moving up.

I have managed finances well and do not owe significant debt. Just a small mortgage that will be paid off in about a year, and that’s it. No school loans, vehicle or other loans, no credit card interest, etc. My friend has a looming balloon payment due on a previous disastrous loan, those two alimony payments, as well as a large student loan that he used to finance a doctorate degree. I am fortunate that I got my doctorate 27 years ago when it was more affordable.

Then I looked at my life with my spouse. We have been together in a stable, loving, and supportive relationship for over 22 years. Our relationship has been seriously tested when my spouse (then-partner) was seriously ill and his disease caused him to behave abominably. But faith, persistence, and the bedrock support of my twin brother and family got me (and us) through that. My friend — two divorces and all sorts of relationship “issues” have been his burden for most of his adult life. Again — I am counting my blessings that I met the right man and we made a good life for “us” (as an “us.”)

I know that everyone’s life, relationships, finances, and choices are different. I was rather shocked that my friend and I started out about the same, but how much things have changed for him — and for me — during the past 40 years. I count my blessings for having a loving, caring and supportive family; a great education; good experiences at my jobs; and a spouse who means the world to me and has made my life 1000 times better than it ever could have been if he were not in it.

Life is short: count your blessings, cherish what you have, and make choices for the better one bootstep at a time.