True happiness is a relative commodity
Recently I have been reading A Series of Unfortunate Events authored by Lemony Snicket. The first three books of the series were recently put into movie form, but I haven't seen it yet, and I am not sure I am going to.
The series is about a set of siblings for which everything seems to go wrong. If there was ever a negative world, it is the world in which the Baudelaire children live. Throughout the books (at least the ones I have read because I haven't made it through the series yet) these orphans are plagued by inept adults, villains of all kinds and circumstances that would make even the most positive adult shrink before them.
Yet somehow they persevere and seem to come out on top all the time, even with the odds stacked upon them.
To listen to many people who live in Carbon County, one would think that we are the Baudelaire orphans of Utah. It's true that for a rural county we are way different from other places in the state. Our population tends to be more liberal than most of rural Utah and official positions here, along with politics, are not as dominated by the mind set of much of the state.
I, myself like it that way, and take pride in that.
And it's true, we have had some circumstances against us that make it hard for us to progress economically like we would hope to.
There is also an assumption that people in other parts of the state have a negative opinion about us so we are held down and not allowed to grow.
In my experience, it's not that people outside our area have a negative opinion about us, it's that they have no opinion. They don't know much about Carbon County except that we mine coal and have a canyon that has been put on one of the most endangered places in the United States.
I remember just before I moved to this county in 1990 to work at the College of Eastern Utah, all of my friends in Salt Lake wondered what the heck I was doing. "I know you have a job there, but do you really want to live there?" they would say.
Over the years as I have lived here some of those friends have fallen away; I am too far out of the mainstream for me to count anymore. Forget the fact some of them drive right through town six times a year to go to Moab and points south, they act like I don't exist.
On the other hand, some of my other friends have come and visited, and have really liked what they have seen. Some have even talked about coming here. Of my two children that previously lived in Salt Lake, one of them has now been living here for five years and the other sometimes talks about "getting more rural" too.
Before I lived here I almost always lived in or around big cities. I loved small towns but it seemed the right opportunities didn't exist to move to one. When I moved here my wife and I made the decision that this is what we wanted and I cut my pay in half to do it. It was well worth it.
I have always told my kids that you can't do anything about what other people do, nor can you generally change their thinking either. But you can do something about what you do and how you think.
In the books the Baudelaire children always face uncertain futures, with big roadblocks in their way. Somehow, though, they always come out of it, maybe a little ruffled, but in one piece nonetheless.
The series is meant for children, told in a manner that emphasizes the fact that things never turn out the way you want them to, but despite that you can still find overall happiness in your existence and even if you have much less than others, you can still appreciate how lucky you are to have what you have.
Years ago while working as a custodian, I got a piece of advice from a co-worker while we were mopping up a gym floor after a basketball game. I was grumbling about the work and how I could be happier if I was doing something else. He told me there was something wrong with people who thought they should be happy all the time. He said, "That's just unrealistic. Besides, if you were happy all the time, how would you know what it was. There is something wrong with people who think they need to be happy all the time."
This guy wasn't an old sage. He was just 20 years old at the time, but he was definitely wise beyond his years and it made me think.
So Carbon County, be thankful for what you have. This is a beautiful place to live, work and the people who live here are unique and wonderful. Sure it has its problems, and sometimes we may feel like we are having the experience of the Baudelaire orphans.
But just remember that certainly, things could be much worse too.