Seeking the good life

by Al Goodall

Here we are again, another December and another year under our belts. For those of us on the front lines (and that’s most of us), it’s been a tough year, again. In fact we’ve had five difficult years in a row. Recent reports in the mainstream media tell us that economies around the world are on the mend but it certainly doesn’t feel like any type of economic recovery I’ve experienced in the past.

Our youth are still struggling to find steady work, increasing numbers of people are dependent on food banks, and more folks seem to be only a paycheque or two away from financial dire straits. This is what the talking heads must mean by a “fragile” economic recovery.

Sitting in our den with my two grandchildren the other night, enjoying the quiet time that comes between bath time and bed time, I was thinking about the fragile state of affairs in the world and I couldn’t help but reflect on the quality of life my grandchildren will experience 20 years from now as they move into adulthood. I was reminded that a life well lived is one based in generosity, that to live a good life is to leave the world a better place for future generations, or at least attempt to. There is a richness to a successful life that goes far beyond personal status and material wealth. My father believed that his eternal life would be lived in the memories of the people he left behind and it was incumbent upon all of us to live a “good life.”

The question for many truck drivers today is how do you find the time to live a good life? By that I mean, taking the time to spend with family, friends and community. The majority of our time is spent in the workplace. The trucking industry is no longer the goose that lays the golden egg. Gone are the days of above-average income for drivers. A full-time truck driving job still provides a good income on which to build the financial foundation we need to live that good life, it just doesn’t leave any time for you to live it.

So for the last couple of years I’ve been developing a sense of helplessness. It’s no coincidence that the feeling started to arise shortly after my grandson was born in the summer of 2011 and my thoughts turned to how the world would look 20 years down the road. I’m losing confidence in our ability as individuals to make any kind of lasting positive change in our communities and workplaces.

It’s risky to write about this stuff, because it’s so touchy-feely. It is easy to come off sounding like a victim or a whiner when we should be pulling up our bootstraps and putting our nose to the grindstone, at least in some peoples’ opinion. But the stresses are real.

As drivers we are definitely torn between work and home. So is the answer as simple as, pay us more money so we can spend more time at home? From most of the drivers I’ve spoken to about this, the answer is a resounding yes. But we’re told this is not a realistic solution in today’s marketplace. Back to that fragile economy again.

The only steps I see available to drivers to resolve the disparity between time on the job and time at home is to find a job that pays the same money for less work, or reduce your personal and family expenses to the point that enables you to work less and spend more time at home on a reduced income. Or it may be a combination of the two. None of these options are pretty. The final option is to change career paths. That appears to be an option many drivers are looking at.

So this isn’t a very good way to wrap up the year, is it? But at the same time, if we don’t ask the questions or call a spade a spade, we’ll just remain in the same spot spinning our wheels. I don’t see the next five years being any better than the last five for individual wage earners. The global marketplace is still growing and changing as billions of people strive to get to a place we have been enjoying here in the west for many decades. Perhaps we’ve taken our good fortune for granted or perhaps we have simply become complacent and allowed ourselves to be led down a path not completely of our choosing.

What I do know is that if we want to live that good life, we need to wake up, participate, and influence change for the better in any way that we can.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.