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I was thinking (although it was a recurring thought) how our lives are like a big story from a soap opera. The most unprobable things happen to the most unsuspecting people- all around the world. You could be sitting on a bus or on the Tube, looking at the person adjacent to you, minding their own business, and not have a single clue as to what has passed in their life, what mental tourment they are currently wading through or who they are currently thinking about.

On the other hand, are there people in the world who don't have any of these things running through their mind? Are there people who have had a "simple" life- their family unit still happily together, they had the right amount of attention when growing up, they have never felt the guilt of buying sweets when their parents are in financial difficulty, they have never experienced drugs or alcoholism (either first hand or their social circles)? Part of me thinks there must be some people like this, but the more cynical side points out how no one can have everything. If they seem to, they must have some big secret eating away inside them.

I am always interested in people's life stories- curiosity gets the better of me frequently and I guess it makes you feel as though you aren't some joke of a higher entity: a pawn in a fictional show.

I wonder if my kids will be thinking the same thoughts as they grow up; are these musings just a product of teenage angst and identity questioning? Or will they be the "simple" people?
{Gothic Angel}
My best mate had a life like that. She's now going through her "rebellious teenager" stage at 18 because she was too sheltered and well-looked after to rebel at a younger age, and her parents can't cope with letting her go now she's leaving for Uni.

(My cousins also had an upbringing like that - they're heavily christian. I'll leave you to decide if that's a good thing or not.)

I go with the Pratchett philosophy of people develop a personal spectrum of life events which ranges from good to bad (and all my opinions on life have been best put into words by Pratchett. That's so sad). Someone from a "simple" life sees as bad things which someone from a tougher life wouldn't bat an eyelid at. As your life experience increases, your spectrum of good and bad widens at both ends. When you're thirteen, going out and getting drunk is a shocking, naughty thing for some people, an almost daily occurrence for others. By the time you're twenty, the people who thought it was shocking at thirteen might not be doing it themselves, but they certainly won't be considering it anything unusual and terrible.

Also: Life isn't fair. Some people do have it all. The disadvantage to them is the naiivete they will end up having to overcome when they go out into the big wide world. If you lived a classically perfect childhood, what do you know about how to cope when all your friends are paralytically drunk and you have no way to get home?

Meh. That's not my whole set of thoughts and ideas but I need to think it all through, and I used up my serious-post brain cells earlier today. Will edit later.
Whilst talking to a friend, I realised perhaps just how sheltered my childhood was:- I have never lived in a place where I felt in danger- having always lived in the Suffolk countryside in little villages where you know everyone's name, marital status, children and gossip about family feuds. You can walk down the un-lit street at 11pm and know that you are completely safe. Talking to this friend, I was incredibly shocked to know that they used to carry a knife, and wouldn't hesitate to use it if needs be. I have always grown up thinking that only "bad" people carry knives or weapons and that "good" people don't- but here is a friend of mine (someone I hold in high regard) who was supposedly in the "bad" people group? It just doesn't make sense.

GA- as you said, the disadvantage of a "perfect" childhood is the naievety they will end up having to overcome when they go out into the big wide world. This made me think, as I wouldn't classify myself having a perfect childhood at all (I wouldn't change it for all the money in the world, but it still wasn't "perfect"), but yet I guess because I grew up in such a safe and unthreatening environment, I am still naieve of alot of things which go on in places.
I found it interesting that a study of lottery winners found that people who were generally happy before they won were generally just as happy afterwards, and those who felt dissatisfied with life previously continued to feel that way.

Some people seem determined to live their life as if every small event was the largest catastrophe that has ever occured to a person. Maybe this is due to experiences during childhood, but I'm really not sure. I've had a relatively sheltered life: I've had a few experiences of confrontation, but nothing too nasty or that I haven't been able to get out of, and while I know I've been in danger at times, I don't feel that this has been such a significant influence on my outlook that it's changed the core of who I am. Technically, it could be assumed that my life would lead me to be very innocent about the world... But that's a difficult thing to judge. I would say that I'm a realistic opitmist: I hope for the best, and act as if I expect it, but I'm fully aware that the nature of people will often let my ideals down.

There is a lady I'm working with at the moment who approaches every situation as if it's going to go wrong. Another man I work with responds very quickly to the way that people present ideas to him. Between the two of them everything is constantly a disaster of epic proportions!
I don't know where I come on this spectrum of sheltered and a good life. I mean, I certainly don't feel or act like someone who has grown up in a rough area, or dealt with crappy times. But I know I have grown up quite close to the poverty line.

I can remember when my mother couldn't afford the heating bill for a while, so we slept in the same room at evenings and stuff. In the current flat I live in, there's been a total of 3 drug houses that have seperately opened and been shut down by the police. I've been attacked more than once, and needed stitches from one.

But I dunno, I still on an average day don't particularly feel like I've had it hard. I suppose on the oe side it fits the idea that if you've had it hard, you don't see things as so bad. But then in my head I also feel like.. maybe my optimism is just cutting through the temptation to despair about it.

But well assuming I am not thinking about this thread at the time.. if you were to ask me if I'd had a 'hard life' I'd probably tell you no. It was just a life really. Learned some stuff from it, got some grand and some not so grand memories.

Though, I refuse to call myself 'street' (*twitches at that word*). I hate that term, I have a neighbour that claims he's 'street'. I live in the same area as him, shop in the same shops, deal with the same folks. Yet I'm pretty sure he'd consider himself having a harder life than me, purely based on my personality rather than reality.

*shrugs* Too, many variables to really say what makes people who they are. You'd have to ask them.. and there's way too many people in the world to ask every last one.
Much like time, Life is relative.

(here comes the personal story bit)
I lived and grew up in Portsmouth, Naval town not exactly un-rough but not (in my mind) like the Brixtons of the world, My dad left when I was 1 and a half, My step dad was abusive both to myself and my mother, at the age of 17 I had to physically eject him from the house for beating the crap out of my mum and that was one of those "not great" moments on the scale. I've been shot at by poachers almost run over and been in 5 car crashes and been jumped in the street 3 times. I have dealt with stabbing victims, gangs (30 plus) of kids, glue sniffers, a victim of a heart attack and someone who was drowning. I was drinking by the age of 15 and have done my share of drugs (though nothing injected or snorted).

Looking at all that (and thats not all of it I don't think) I still feel that I am a fairly jovial, gentle and innocent guy with a reasonably optimistic outlook on life.

My take on it is that both nature and nurture have a bearing on the kind of person that you will be.

Oh and Gothic Angel, Love the new avatar and quote smile.gif
The common element that seems to run through the posts so far seems to be an attitude of optimism and the ability to ride through things. Perhaps the question should really be: what is the origin of optimism? What causes it? What sustains it?

I've found that my PhD thesis and this site have been very good for me over the years, because they've allowed me to express, challenge, and expand myself, but I suspect that in workplaces I would still be fairly chilled because I keep and awareness of myself as not being defined by what I need to do to earn the rent.

Secluding my sense of self from the things I have to do, and keeping it as being related to the things that I chose to do, have helped me keep in mind that daily life and the events in it often aren't nearly as important as they might appear to be. Does this seem familiar to anyone else?
Secluding my sense of self from the things I have to do, and keeping it as being related to the things that I chose to do, have helped me keep in mind that daily life and the events in it often aren't nearly as important as they might appear to be. Does this seem familiar to anyone else?

I would have to say quite the contrary- I believe I am an optimist. If I find myself down about things, the usual thought process is "I have my health, my family and friends. How can I be so selfish to be feeling sorry for myself when I have so much in life?" and I get out of it (after obsessing about it a little first, perhaps). Everything in my life is important- seeing a shaddow from a piece of plastic on the floor looking like a duck, to the birth of my little brother, to what someone once said to me that I keep treasured in my memory.
I'm not sure what makes me an optimist. My older brother is far from being one, yet we have had the same upbringing (albeit a little different down to the attention we each got from the father).
In his life he has had drug and alcohol addictions, deaths of friends, broken relationships, financial problems, car crashes and never-met dreams of travel. When something bad happens, he always says bad things happen to him and that life seems to be one big joke. I try to get him out of the rut of self pity he would be in by reminding him just how much he does have and how lucky he is, but he never sees it. Also, most of the problems to do with him (i.e financial etc) are because of the choices he has made in life- he is a big gadgets person and likes Sony equiptment so when he started earning money from his job, over time he bought a huge widescreen tv, a dvd player, a playstation 2, a surround sound system and many other things.
I am at the other end of the spectrum and would hate to spend this much money on commercial goods, but I guess it was his perogative. Now he is in a lower paying job, he has still to pay off some of the items (which have now decreased in value) and so finds himself in debt. He smokes, he drinks and yet none of his problems are ever his fault- they are always someone elses. The parking ticket he got was because he didn't see the machine as it was hidden by a sign- therefore he shouldn't have to pay it. The speeding fine he got was stupid as it was late at night and the police should be using their time to do better things than hang about waiting for motorists.
I sometimes wonder if he will spend all of his life trying to get somewhere always _that_ little bit just infront of him, or if he will stop and realise how good life is.
I have a similar take on things as Mata, though I have never thought of it in his words before.

I traditionally used the word objective to describe how I start acting when things get on top of me. (yes I realise 100% objectivity isn't possible). I just have two minds about my self. There's the me that experiences stuff. Then there's me, objectifies and quantifies everything.

That was so badly explained...

Ok I'll use an example. Recently I found out someone I knew was part of a racist group, and the only reason he was ok with me, was because "I don't count".

My initial reaction was to be concerned, upset, then worried. Then my brain kicked into gear.. and to be quite frank I became more curious and fascinated about why i didn't count than offended.

Not sure if that was a good example or not. But I do obsessively try to see the big picture in a sense, and in the big picture things in day to day life rarely matter to be honest.

I could be quite happy if I lost a leg, became deaf or even found out I was related to a telly tubby. I'd just have to get over the short term shock, then i'd be fine... I think.
{Gothic Angel}
I could be quite happy if I lost a leg, became deaf or even found out I was related to a telly tubby. I'd just have to get over the short term shock, then i'd be fine... I think.

I believe I am an optimist. If I find myself down about things, the usual thought process is "I have my health, my family and friends. How can I be so selfish to be feeling sorry for myself when I have so much in life?" and I get out of it (after obsessing about it a little first, perhaps).

I find it interesting that Daria seems to disagree with Mata, whilst you agree, and yet the essence of those two statements seems to be the same, unless I missed something.

It's also observable, as Mata said, that optimists generally remain optimists regardless, whereas someone who is determined to see the worst in everything will do that however bright the horizon. Suppose I update (and explain a little better) my original hypothesis about spectrums of experience:

This leaves us with two "axes" of factors which affect how a person will react to an event in their life - their expereince of the world (eg, how comparitively good is the best thing that's ever happened to them, and how comparitively bad is the worst), and their outlook (optimism or pessimism, for the sake of argument).

In order for someone to truly have the "perfect" life Daria was considering in the first post, they would need to be at the most positive end of both scales. Not only do they need to have been living in a world where they see a lot of good and little bad, but they need to be 'optimistic' enough to realise or believe that they've had it good. If they're a natural pessimist, they simply focus on the less good aspects of all the good things that have happened - Maybe they got the trainers they wanted, but not in the right colour, so it's not good enough, or whatever.

At the other extreme, are the people who *have* had it tough, and know it, and wallow in self-pity, focussing on the bad. That creates an "everything bad happens to me" mentality, though not necissarily in an attention-seeking way. It could manifest as bitterness, cynicism, paranoia - whatever. This person has seen the worst of life and let it affect them, so they stand little to no chance of satisfaction in life.

There are are a million shades of grey, but to come back to the original question - the people who live the soap opera lives are probably those who are the pessimists, and focus on the negative. If you blow up every tiny crisis in your life, it doesn't matter what background you come from, the soap opera element is there. I guess the whole thing agrees with "nature and nurture".

Incidentally - I used to carry a knife, Daria, and I wouldn't have hesitated to use it either. The thing that stopped me was the thought that quite probably someone would be able to get it off me, and then they would have a knife tongue.gif

bryden: Thankyou and yay SoM fanship happy.gif Blame Commie for mine tongue.gif
Very interesting topic.
It really does depend on your life experiences how you view things - before I turned sixteen and a bit into it, I was extremely easy to rile and had ups and downs and all sorts of things like that that I see as petty. My childhood wasn't all that normal and I do live with a chemical imbalance, but where that used to be my excuse for almost everything and a constant reason to fly off the handle whenever I pleased about whatever I pleased, that isn't the case anymore. After a month or two of a few closely grouped together life-altering experiences and losses, it's almost constantly on my mind how precious life is. It doesn't really make me angry to see a lot of teenagers going on about how horrible their lives are because their mother wont buy them this t-shirt from this place, but it is a source of curiosity.

Point being, once you have things put into perspective and you're reminded of your own mortality and that not everyone is just a walking piece of background noise, it's easier to be thankful for waking up. I haven't become extremely religious or 'found God' in any sense, but I am immensely more fascinated by other people and what they've lived. For instance, there's a large group of senior citizens that come into my job every day. In comparison to the group of younger people, they're generally a lot happier and easy going than working middle aged classes - maybe that's because they don't have the stress of work and all of that to bog them down, but you have to wonder if they're so mellow out of boredom. Or perhaps they all know the secret of zen deep down.

It also seems to be true that almost no matter what a wiser person says, they wont be listened to. People can't be told how to live their lives or what the right choices are - they want to live it out for themselves or experience it themselves. That's a little strange too. Try as I might to listen to the 'pretending you're emotionless and cold does not equal winning' argument, I continue to do it as a default.

People - odd. Very very interesting though, and so very different. Everyone is tweaked by everything in their life, it seems, and perhaps things before?
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