Choice Points/Life’s Signal Markers

Now that I am retired and can look back on my life with the perspective I never could when I was caught up in the mix, the hustle and bustle of work world, the joys and difficulties of child raising, I can see clearly now, like the song says….I can see all the choices that I made and when I made them, and what the eventual results of each and every choice turned out to be….

It’s true, I cannot predict what would have happened if I had taken another choice, but like Yogi Berra, the old Yankee’s catcher who just died once famously remarked: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I think that life is made up of what I like to call a series of choice points, or as Robert Frost the famous poet once said:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

I once wrote a line in one of my songs that : “I wish that i could have seen the future back then, as clearly as i see the past right now”…. It’s like that old saying, everybody has 20-20 hindsight….

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When we are young and caught up in the world of books and schools, with mandatory education starting in kindergarten and progressing through grade school and junior high, most young Americans today press on and graduate from high school….. Those that can’t even make it this far and drop out of high school are pretty much doomed to a lifetime of low paying dead end jobs….

The majority do graduate high school though, and are then faced with the first real major choice point of their lives…Should they get a job and start making money right now, or should they go to college and get a degree so they can earn more money down the line?

For many of course, this is not an option at all; economic necessity usually takes this option or choice point right out of your hands…If you are a pregnant woman or already have a kid, you really have little choice but to plunge into the labor market…If you are lucky, your husband or boy friend is still with you and will contribute his fair share of work and support, but again this is not always the case….Unfortunately “deadbeat  dads” is a phrase that has become part of the general vocabulary…..

But even if you are not a pregnant woman, even if you are a single male, again economic necessity usually dictates this choice…College is not for everyone anyway, and getting a college degree is no sure ticket to making more money, but statistically it does help over the course of a lifetime…

This is because with a college degree, you generally have a better paying range of jobs to pick and choose from once you do enter the labor force….Many people these days, and I don’t know where they find the energy, manage to combine both working a day job to pay the rent and still taking classes at night or on line in the meantime….

There are abundant school loan programs out there, although these are also fraught with hidden dangers when the time comes to pay them back….I posted a blog here on word press on this topic on June 17, 2015 called “The Hidden Educational Quicksand/Exorbitant Cost Of Student Loans…..

This blog is well worth reading if you are considering going this route, because there have been scandalous and abusive pitfalls connected with these student loans that are kept well hidden by the lenders at the time….Exorbitant interest rates and thuggish collection activity has caused many students to wish they had never gone that route….

112108skoolworkgw photo by Gary Walts 11-21-08 Sebastian Goins, left, & Joshua MacVean, both 17 year old seniors at sandy Creek high school, draw a hospital floor plan in a project about workplace safety in the School To Work class at the school.

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Another choice point around the time you graduate (or don’t) from high school is something we are all hard wired to do: The urge to merge, the fundamental biological drive to procreate to ensure the propagation of the species…This is a natural fact and cannot be denied or even argued….It is nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the human race, and the hormones in young people are surging wildly through their veins….

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Of course the selection of a potential mate is perhaps the most fundamental choice point of all…For most young women, you really want to meet Mr. Right, but you usually have to go through a natural selection, a weeding out process, of all the Mr. Right Now’s, who seem great choices at the time but don’t have the staying power or moral fiber to make a lasting commitment…

Even in these enlightened times, in the year 2015, lesbians, gays and transgenders have even a more difficult choice to make, because they are still often persecuted and tormented by the society in general and even by their own families….Thank goodness recent Supreme Court rulings have come down legalizing gay marriages and protecting this fundamental right no matter what the individual sexual orientation of a person may be….

Lesbians and gays now have not only the right to marry, but also the responsibility of raising children of their own, if they so desire to rise a family, and let’s face it, most people do want a family no matter what their sexual orientation may be….

Many couples, straight, gay or lesbians skip the legal marriage part altogether anyway….There are more people living together out of wedlock than ever before, because while getting married is relatively an easy thing to do, getting divorced is extremely difficult, and when there are children and property involved, can and usually is extremely complicated…..

Some societies, like the French or several of the Norwegian countries, like to have their cake and eat it too…In these societies, having a mistress or a lover as well as a husband or wife is considered quite normal and natural…As with food, wine and fashion, it seems the French possess a certain flair when it comes to bed-hopping.

Maryse Vaillant is a psychologist who has written extensively about infidelity in France. She agrees that the French see things differently.”Our culture isn’t as harsh about infidelity as, say, the Anglo-Saxon countries,” she says. “It’s different to the US where cheating on your wife is seen as very bad, by the wife, the cheater and the whole community.

There, people would rather get divorced and remarry, whereas in France we can imagine someone being married and having relationships at the same time. Divorce rates in France are certainly lower than many of the country’s European neighbors, including the UK, Germany, Belgium and Sweden.”

“In Denmark, in contrast with America’s male-oriented gender bias, Denmark’s high level of male-female equality allows for behavior that transcends the gender barriers set by less egalitarian societies. As a feminine culture, Danes have more flexible gender roles, which allow them to be more relaxed when considering romantic relationships. The absence of pressure to fulfill certain gender-based stereotypes fosters a liberal attitude toward sex, dating and marriage.

They consider family and safety as their most important values, and failure is regarded as an accident instead of a disaster. Caring and tender attitudes, as well as expressions of emotions, are not disregarded. Likewise, conflicts are not solved by (fighting) but rather by compromise and negotiation.”

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OK, so it is obvious that the old maxim “Different strokes for different folks” is in full force here when comparing America and it’s value systems to other countries around the world…Nevertheless, since I am an American I will continue to examine the choice points most Americans are faced with and must go throughout their lives bearing the consequences for….

So to sum up, most Americans graduate from high school, hook up with somebody and then either go to work, go to college or somehow combine work and further education….“Then what?” To be continued in Part 2….

For more information on French attitudes towards sexuality see:www.thelocal.fr/20111007/1418

For more information on Danish attitudes toward sexuality see:berkleycenter.geor…Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

For more articles by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com

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