Paying the Price

by Sarah A. Hoyt

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Ithink the beginning of maturity is realizing everything has a price.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, if you will.

And then you continue learning it, throughout your life.

If you’re looking at me askance and wondering how I came by such a materialistic view of the world, take a deep breath and read what I wrote again. I didn’t say the price is in coins, or in dollars, or in any symbolic denomination, though I suppose symbolic denominations make the price easy to see, sometimes. More on that later.

What I’m saying is that everything you want has a price. And the prices you don’t see are often the most terrible of them all.

Telling your kids they can have anything they want is outright destructive, if you don’t add “if you’re willing to pay the price.” Telling your kids they are so smart they can go anywhere is again, destructive, because success in life is not “just” intelligence. It requires a lot of other qualities, and the acquiring of them,as well as the performing of various positions that might look easy or prestigious from outside, is always more expensive than you’d think.

People who find it unfair that a CEO gets paid more than a store cashier might also have other mental deficits, but most of all they have failed to realize that there are prices to pay. Yes, of course being a cashier can be mentally and physically draining as well as unpleasant. I trust you to believe me, having known some, so can a CEO’s. It’s more that the CEO never can lay the job down and walk away, and that the job has the potential to eat everything else they love, something cashiering hardly ever does. (Unless it’s your own store and then it’s a wholly different animal.)

And that’s the other thing. When I was growing up in Portugal during a socialist upheaval, there was much grumbling about those dastardly business owners. But if you’ve been one, or known one, you know what every business owner — even owners of writing businesses — must do, what time and love and sheer effort much to to secure any success at all. People who own businesses are often owned by them, and what goes into them is heart’s blood. It’s a price. And you pay it. Knowing that sometimes no matter how much you pay it won’t be enough.

That most selfless and noble of all decisions, marrying for love, has a price too, depending on who you marry and when. In my case, for instance, it cost me accreditation and connections, and things that would have made the price for achieving high business and monetary success less onerous. I paid in my hands in dishwater, in learning to sew and mend, and yes refinish furniture, and other things. Though part of that price was for the right and privilege to lever my lance in the field of fiction writing.

I’m not complaining of the price. Totally worth it. But I also can understand my parents’ resentment — no, perhaps too strong a word — apprehension, concern and frustration at seeing me toss out a degree for which they’d paid — not in money. That I dealt with, but in not having me apprentice or enter the factory and bring in money for the house from the age of ten or so — and choose a much harder path with what must have seemed to them as much, much higher risk and lower potential rewards.

Having kids has a price too. My parents paid it, and I’ve paid it. And perhaps the biggest, most onerous cost of having kids is how it affects everything else in your life.

It makes sense that when you’re little everything you are and everything you do will go to “feed” the children’s needs whether those be in food, or time, or learning materials. It’s like a crisis situation that goes on roughly two decades, as you try to do the best you can, so they can be launched as well as you can afford to.

But more important is the price no one tells you you’ll pay. A friend, on losing her son posted on facebook that being a mother was having a piece of your heart running around in someone else’s chest.

Maybe not every parent is like that, but I’ve found that’s true of me (And not mothers only. I believe my husband feels the same way.)

And yeah, you blame yourself for all their stumbles, failures, and character defects no matter how small, even when they obviously are not your fault. That too is a price. As is understanding that at a certain point they have to pay their own price. If you try to pay it for them it will go wrong. At the very worst they’ll never realize the price. At the intermediate level, they’ll end up in a destination you chose, with a price you paid, and even if everything is great, they’ll wonder if that’s where they want to be. Because it’s not their destination and they didn’t pay.

There is a reason humans give birth in pain. Without it, how much would the average person value the mewling infant that needs them for everything.

You can’t pay the price for anyone else, because how do you know they even want that? And if they do, how do you know they’d pay that price, themselves or have you pay it for them.

Look, look back on your past, how many times did you make a choice of a path that you now wonder why on Earth?

Everyone I know at some point says “if I knew then what I know now.” Like if I knew which country I’d spend my life in, I’d have taken that computer science scholarship out of high school. Far more useful than languages, here. But I didn’t know, and it would have seemed far-fetched. So I went with what I knew, and made a less than ideal decision.

Most of all what our decisions cost is other decisions. You choose to be a stay at home mom, instead of a high power executive…. Or vice versa. Either way you sacrificed your self and the path not taken, and taken a risk.

Given how dependent on the situation and your knowledge at the time the decision is, how can you make it for someone else? You don’t know their own knowledge of their situation, much less do you know as they do what motivates them, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for what they want. Sometimes, even they don’t know it and are acting on an hunch.

It makes sense to make those decisions for little kids. “Yes, you will sacrifice your chance to play in the rain for the goal of not getting cold and potentially sick, because I say so.” Or “You’ll sacrifice the potential fun of petting the mountain lion, because I don’t want you mauled.” Because little kids don’t know any better.

But every year more of the decision should be theirs, because they know what they’re willing to sacrifice, not you. You can advise, inform, and help. You can worry sick that they’re closing the door on opportunities, or ignoring advantages. (That’s your price for the joy of having them.) But you can’t decide for them. You can’t sacrifice for them. You can’t live for them.

Even if you know more now than they do now, you’re not them. Your knowledge of them isn’t as exact, and you don’t know what drives them. Not even your kids, whom you’ve known from birth (and for mothers before.)

You can’t live someone’s life for them, because only they know the price they’ll pay.

My husband I have turned our backs on paths leading to fortune at least three times. TBF we didn’t tell our parents of it, but I’m sure they’d disapprove. But the price required was too high for us, either in time, or in required obeisance to repulsive ideas.

We picked a calmer and poorer life. The price was ours to pay.

Given that parents and children who (most of them) love each other and know each other incredibly well, can’t make that choice for each other, how can a government? Particularly a distant government, of a continent sized nation.

It might seem right and just to them that we incur famine to avoid the Earth temperature going up a degree over a century. It certainly isn’t my decision. The Earth has been warmer in the past with no catastrophe, and I don’t want to starve to death. I don’t even want to surrender the comforts of the 21st century to appease their cult of an angry weather goddess in which I don’t believe.

And it’s not their right to make that choice for the rest of us. Particularly when they use up more fuel in attending the “conferences” for their supposed “emergency” than I’d spend in a 100 years of living a normal 21st century life. Just like it’s not their right to tell us how to defend ourselves, where to live, how many children to have.

None of that is theirs to decide, because they don’t pay the price. We do.

Everything in life has a price. And to force others to pay the price for the result you want is evil.

Plain, unadulterated, irreconcilable evil.

Left to run rampant, it will destroy the world and all in it.


Reprinted from According to Hoyt for June 6, 2022

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