In a culture that lauds independence, manifest destiny, seeking exhilarating and novel experiences, we, Moderns, are far removed from our predecessors. Duty held fast to our ancestors. It was frowned upon to be a non-conformist or to abandon familial obligations. Obviously, women were stymied by limited expectations, but men were also rather restricted. The eldest son inherited the occupation and the wealth. Period. Younger sons bought their way into the military or matriculated in Seminary. Only the truly mad broke with tradition and duty to become entrepreneurs or ventured into a field unknown to the family. If the patriarch was a blacksmith, the eldest son was heir to the business. Nevermind the fact, the son has harbored a secret desire to become a tailor. A blacksmith he shall be. Or so the prevailing ideology went up until the early to mid 19th century.
Married women who worked did so out of necessity; a form of shaming in society. The only acceptable working women were spinsters and unmarried girls. If the female in question was wed and employed, then surely her husband could not afford his family. This was the ultimate disgrace of a family man. It was assumed the children, without parental guidance are sure to become feral and the bane of society. It was better to put the pauper’s children to work and earn their keep, least they grow up to be miscreants.
Adolescents did not routinely participate in higher education. Many were deemed fortunate if they were literate. Forget writing, if they could read, they were already ahead of 70% of the population. The young adults did not have the luxury to ponder what they would like to be when they grew up, nor change their collegiate majors seven times, nor hope for a sweet ride, nor seek out once in a life time opportunities just for the experience of it. There was work to be done. In some capacity, there was always work to be done.
The average person traveled and died within a 30 mile radius of where they were born. The upper class certainly had more options, but the rigidity of expectations run contrary to natural human values. There was never such a set so bored with existence. It was no wonder they took to deviant behavior! They were simply allowed not to do anything. Truly. Meditate on that for a minute. . . . . They were not allowed to work. Journals of wealthy men and women are filled with a continuous theme of ennui. They often cease to have any self-respect or sympathy in toil. They traveled, they partied and met people but they were not to increase their incomes by plebian means. They could not paint for profit or show, nor write exposes or novels; no designing, no cooking allowed for your family much less to charge people for food you prepared. Certainly, no blacksmithing!
With such an over abundance of repression, what were they to do??? Dream. Hope. Wish on a star. There is more to life than this. They tuck away this “bucket list” and call it fantasy and wishful thinking. It seems a dreary shame.
Do not be mislead. Every day there were ladies and gentlemen who challenged the status quo and went on a lark to fulfill those fantastical desires and somewhere along the way gained some self-respect and belief in themselves. Perhaps they would see the world, learn a new trade, experience a new life; one much different then they were born into. So many of those dreamers died trying to do something different and exponentially more simply died with their dream.
My dear readers, for all the recession woes; we have it so easy. We have leisure. Thanks to modern science and conveniences, no doubt concocted by those very same adventurous ancestors. We owe it to our forbearers to go boldly and experience what they never had the opportunity to do. Fly that combat plane, swim with the sharks, apply for your dream occupation, climb that mountain! There is no use or excuse not to seize the moment. In the name of our great great grandparents, grab your bucket list and go!
Which makes me, simple curious. What is on your bucket list, my dear???