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The Solutionist, Chapter 1

Chapter 1

An Introduction To Life

At times, it is challenging to overcome zero inertia and start accelerating beyond just thinking about moving forward.

Now, if that doesn’t sound like something from an engineer, I don’t know what does.

As an engineer, I have been taught to think logically, sometimes at the expense of emotional consideration.  This is not to say I am an unemotional person; I am emotional, almost to the point of embarrassment, like crying at movies.

However, as an engineer, I usually get right to the point and move along the (proverbial straight) line to the end.  Formulas and facts based on scientific research are the norm; if not always the path followed for getting to the goal.

I am not in my chosen area of professional engineering expertise here; I am, however, observant, logical and creative.  I have worked since I was about 13 years old as a dishwasher, a laborer, a janitor, a designer, a supervisor, and a manager.  I have worked with troubled teens through social service programs.  I have been a son, a brother, a husband, father, uncle, grandpa and lots of other good things.  I have experienced my share of discomfort and unpleasantness.  I continue to think of myself as a student.  I have also made my share of mistakes from which I always (finally) learned.  What I am proposing is a rather dramatic change in the way we live and the way we approach solving problems, a better way than how we do things now.

This is not a proposal for political philosophy like socialism or communism or capitalism.  In fact, I believe the changes I am suggesting would not be classified under any “ism”, unless there is something called “sense-ism”.  It is more a change in the timing and structure of our individual and family lives, and a challenge to everyone to participate in making positive changes, and not just in themselves.  It does, however, suggest some changes in our way of doing politics.

We have it wrong in so many ways.

Fundamentally, this is how life works now:

A child is born.  The parents (and other care givers) take care of the child for the first several years.

The child then spends the next twelve to sixteen years going to school for nine months of the year and on vacation for three months each year.

Rather suddenly we are considered adults and enter the “real” world of working for a living (maybe getting a week or two of vacation each year).  We may even get a little special training or advanced education along the way, but then again, we may not.

As adults, we are expected to continue working until allowed to retire, usually after we are in our sixties.

Once retired, we are hopefully able to pursue activities of our own choosing.  Assuming of course we have saved enough money to last the rest of our lives.  This is even more of a problem now, since we are living longer and many have been negatively impacted by the economy.

In each phase of living there are advantages and disadvantages.  Social problems present with the current way of living could be alleviated by strategic changes.

Let’s start with phase one, birth to school.  Of course, as the new arrival, our needs are only met by a parent or other caregiver, because we are unable to care for ourselves.  Assuming we are not left to ourselves, with no care or inadequate care, the disadvantages to the infant-self appear not too bad.  The problem is not always clear; but there are many parents and children “at risk”.  We will explore these risks more in the following chapters.

After five years the child begins regular school.  For nine months, they attend school and look forward to three months of “summer vacation” each year.  Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th…,  what a bore and so much time to get into mischief.  Once again, the parents must find a way to care for the child before school, after school and during summer vacation.  Finding child care after school is a challenge and has created a new classification of individuals known as “latch-key kids”, children who come home to a house or apartment without adult supervision and are supposed to lock themselves in and wait for a parent to come home.

As children move through the system they often find they have too much unoccupied and unsupervised time.  This sometimes leads to a path of trouble.  I have worked with too many young people who have gotten into trouble to the point of having to go to jail.  These problems do not necessarily stem from just having too much time on their hands, but too much time without purpose or insufficient direction certainly contributes to the problem.  Family difficulties, dysfunctions and other influences play a role in starting and continuing these problems.  Outside influences play a greater challenge to children who have both the time on their hands and who may be lacking in supervision.  Once again, the risks explored later may influence the life of the child.

At the end of high school, we suddenly enter the adult world.  Some pursue additional training or higher education for two to four years.  Some, for a very few, a “post graduate” degree is pursued.  Even so, once this short phase is completed it is on to www dot; otherwise known as the worldwide workforce.  Not nearly as exciting as the other www dot we have come to know and love.  At this point, we are usually between 18 and 23 and ready to survive if not conquer the world.  Some, however, are led, pushed or blindly follow along a path where there seems to be little hope.  The assumption is – failure is imminent.  Prison is too often a place to find a home.

The problems, challenges and disadvantages of the adult era of life are almost too numerous to cover.  This is the most unforgiving era of life.  Changing careers is difficult, in part because it is very challenging to work and get higher education or special training at the same time.  It is also difficult to pursue new things because we now have “responsibilities” which may be families, rent and housing expenses, transportation expenses and loan payments; a chilling thought and worries keep us awake at night.  Has our educational system failed to provide us with what is really needed to get through life?  It is not only the educational system, because many individuals do well, but it is widely believed major changes in education are needed.  We just seem not to have it figured out yet or have difficulty accepting changes.

Finding time for rest and relaxation, vacations, travel, entertainment and everything not work is difficult.  Finding time for family, raising children, teaching others and care-giving is also a challenge.  About the time we feel all used up we get to retire.

After only forty years or so we may get to retire.  If we live long enough and have sufficient money to live on we may even look forward to retirement.  I don’t want to paint too gloomy of a picture here, but too many think of retirement as waiting to die.  Some of us think of it as a time where we have waited to live.  The problems in this area of our lives are present also.  Health, money, social standing is offset by having time to do things we didn’t have time for before.  There must be a better way.

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