Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Cost of Comfort


Living in a first world country at first glance, seems like the perfect picture. Ample job opportunities, education prospects abound, varied and accessible places to find food, laws set in place to protect us, safe roads, a plethora of entertainment options.. Convenience and comfort at an affordable price. It's no surprise millions migrate to the US (and other first would countries) every year to find their patch of ground and get a taste of this life. But what's the cost? 

If we step away from all the glittering gold.. Living in a world that offers this and more has its definite drawbacks. They're not apparent at first, but they come attached like the fine print footnote you decided to click "I read and agree" to without so much as a glance. Even in this charming, promising bubble of a world, major depression is one of the most common disorders. And almost everyone at one point experiences episodes of anxiety, panic attacks, and staggering levels of stress. But how is it that in a world where comfort and self-indulgence are constantly promoted, people in general can be unhappy? Did we lose the key to contentment along the way

There's no one answer to this question, I know. But the reason may lie in the fact that in one's desperate pursuit of luxury living, the basic needs of mankind that constitute the basis for happiness, are left wanting. Ironic, isn't it? Take for example, the father who works long hours at his job. He's bringing home the bacon for sure- sprawling home, spacious yard, all the electronics to run a small country-but absent 90% of the time from the lives of those he's struggling to make "more comfortable". 

Before he knows it, his kids are teenagers, and they might as well be strangers, because he has no idea how to start a conversation with them. His marriage, probably not in a better state either, as he spends his time off going to long drawn out court proceedings deciding who gets what, or he spends his energy bickering with his significant other. All because he pursued a life of comfort.. Isn't that what his family needed? 

No. His family needed him to be present. To be there in the everyday lives of his kids. To attend PTA meetings, to scare the monsters away of frightening nightmares, to be there for his wife when she felt anxious or lonely.. A relationship is solidified by years of small moments conquered together. But alas, hindsight is 20-20. 

As a 24 year old living in a part of the country that is renowned for its fast-paced life, I'm growing weary of it all. True, unmarried and childless, my burden is significantly lighter, but I am still spread thin across life, work, and responsibilities. I constantly battle from gastritis caused by stress. In the mornings I awake groggy, at night I can't shut down my overworked brain. I spend my life in a car.. And suffer acutely from muscle tension that makes the bravest masseuse flee in fear. In my frantic rush from home to work, most times I leave without so much as a crumb of bread in my stomach. Another basic need, but not a priority, at least in this world.

Speaking of massages, I received one Sunday from a professional experienced masseuse. She told me the following after a nearly 2-hour massage: You are so stressed! You must carry everything on your shoulders. I have never seen a worse neck in all my years of massage therapy. 

That's nothing to be proud of. That's my cost of comfort. That and gastritis, and the grinding of my teeth at night. I'm sure I've sanded them down to 1/4 of the size they were. 

But alas..

Living in a third world country is unspeakable and ghastly, at first glance. Dirt roads, no plumbing, village doctors that have been certified by word of mouth, questionable safety.. Right? 

Yet, research has shown the population in these countries are among the happiest. Families spend time together. Work is rewarding, but kept in its place. Communication with friends abound. Fresh food is always available. Neighbors are friendly and actually know each other. Nothing is conveniently located or even "to-go".. But why would you want that, when you can clean and cook your own freshly caught fish, relax in a hammock in the early afternoon, watch the waves crash ashore, and hear the birds sing to each other? At night you rest your head on the softest pillow, a relaxed and soothed mind, and gaze at the stars as you sink into a deep sleep.. Your muscles are tired of course, but from working hard in the fields, and you reaped the benefits. Doesn't that sound like the ultimate comfort?..


Ultimately I guess the question is, what's your cost for comfort? And is the effort truly worth it?