“That’s just life”.
I’ve been hearing that since I was a child.
“But daaaaad, I want a power pad for my Nintendo, LA Gear hi tops, tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, and the Saved by the Bell board game. ”
Without skipping a beat or even looking up from what he was doing, my dad would say, “that’s just life. So go to your room and run in place for a few hours in your Kmart Keds, while listening to the Paula Abdul songs you taped from the radio and making up your own Saved by the Bell trivia from the hours of that stupid show that you have memorized… and consider yourself lucky for having a roof over your head to do all that in.”
“But daaaad, I want a pager, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a hyper color jumpsuit, and AOL instant messaging like ALL my friends have!!”
And again, my dad would smoothly follow that up with, “that’s just life. When I was a kid and we wanted to get a hold of someone we just yelled their name until they yelled back, we wrote on stone tablets that wouldn’t fit in fancy trapper keepers, the only “hyper color” we had were the weird rashes that we got when the McCormick kids touched us, and when we wanted to message someone we left hieroglyphics on the cave walls and didn’t have to keep track of how many of the 130 free hours we’d used from CD’s we got in the mail!
Cue my eye roll, audible groan, and stomping off to slam my bedroom door.
In other words, it didn’t take long for me to learn to translate “that’s just life” to “stop whining and leave me the hell alone”. I got pretty used to that phrase.
So I was pretty surprised to find as an adult that this phrase still evoked a strong emotional response from me.
“But (person who was NOT my dad), I hate getting up every single morning at 5am, driving through traffic to sit behind a desk doing only boring things, driving home, yelling at my husband because I hate this day and every other day, then going to bed without doing a single thing I actually consider important in life, only to get up the next day and the day after that to do the same thing. It feels so meaningless and I feel like life is a gift and I’m totally wasting it. Sure I understand the value of hard work, but isn’t it possible for that hard work to go into something I love or that makes a difference in the world? Surely we are all meant to do different things in different ways since we are all made so differently. Someone else might totally thrive at this job and love using their gifts here but I just don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
“That’s just life”.
Like the many times when I’d heard this as a child, I lost my temper. But unlike the olden days, this time I didn’t just pout and walk away. Instead I narrowed my eyes that had been widened by the shock, and dove in to make my point.
“Yes, but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. It’s not my husband’s life! While I’m getting up in the cold early morning, he’s lying in bed where he’ll sleep until 10am. Then tonight while I’m getting ready to go to bed early, he’ll be getting ready to go out with the college students he’s mentoring to have fun with them. He’s doing something he loves AND he’s making a difference in the world. Why shouldn’t I try for the same things?”
Needless to say, I didn’t hear much more about it from that person after my sort of rude and as some would say, “socially inappropriate”, outburst.
I just don’t believe it.
The thing is that I’ll believe you if you say, “I too wish I could be living differently but I’m too scared to try” or ” sure that sounds awesome but I’m not willing to work hard enough to create that kind of change”. Whatever you say, don’t say “that’s just life”. Because it’s NOT just life. Life doesn’t HAVE to be like that. In fact, I don’t think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! I think we’re supposed to be truly living and reaching for more in life than just basic survival! I believe we should be doing what it takes to live a life of meaning and using all that is in us to do our very best to find out what we’re meant to do in life… and then take the risk, put in the effort, and face the fears that will lead us to our Rare Existence (whether that guide us to a 8-5 office job with a family, or a shot at the silver screen with a pet monkey).
When I’m wanting a bunch of useless stuff, that might not even be good for me (is a hyper color jumpsuit really good for anyone?!), and I’m wanting it just to be cool like my friends or to chat with said cool friends on the new information super highway, I’m fine if my dad or anyone else says “that’s just life”. But when it comes down to what’s really important in life, don’t say “that’s just life” because really, “that’s just a lie”…. and I refuse to believe it.