Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Opportunity Costs

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 6, 2013


Christopher, thirty-one, cherishes his free time. He is a science and math teacher, but he has opted to save up money and live off the grid and enjoy nature with his friends. “There is just such a huge opportunity cost of working,” he explains. “I like teaching, but I like not having a job much more. I just cannot see giving up all my time to do the same thing all the time.” I begin to reflect on Christopher’s point of view. He feels rewarded by his job, and he gets good evaluations. He makes enough money to enjoy his life, but what he wants is time, a lot of time. This is worth more to him than the security of saving for retirement, having health insurance, and buying new toys. He does want a family, just not right now. He could move back with his parents, but this has no appeal. He is seeing me,  not to agonize about this decision, but to help him deal with his family, who are  so rejecting of his decision.  “They just want me to have the life they have, and I do not want that.” Christopher explains that from his vantage point, his family’s disapproval is based on narcissism and not on concern for his welfare. “It could be both, ” I reply, suggesting that his family could both want him to reflect well on them, as they see it, and also think about his future and his need for more financial security. “Yes, I think it is both, but it is my life,” Christopher begins to yell, as if he is shouting at his parents. “It is really hard to separate from them,” I say, thinking that Christopher is struggling with making decisions which create an emotional separation from his family. “Yes, although I thought I did that years ago,” Christopher says wistfully. “It is a life-long process,” I respond, saying that the journey through life is one of mergers and separations, constantly re-creating the original family attachments in new ways. “Yes, every decision presents opportunity costs,” I say, using his words, “but also emotional costs, as well,”  highlighting that the largest cost for Christopher is in the new relationships he is forming with his family of origin.

2 Responses to “Opportunity Costs”

  1. Shelly said

    As much as Christopher enjoys “living off the grid” and nit hilding down a job, his not planning for the future is worrisome. Of course his family of origin tries to get him to conform to the norm and at least think a little of saving for a rainy day. For if Christopher won’t, who will he turn to when he’s broke or can’t pay for health insurance? It’s fun to play all day, but someday, he needs to grow up. This isn’t Neverland.

    • As one of my professors said, “you are only young once, but you can be immature forever.” Planning for the future is important, but it is also important to live in the moment. Finding this balance is the key to life. Christopher is struggling, both with finding this balance and dealing with ideas which diverge from his parents. “Some day” may or may not come for Christopher, but who is to say when he should grow up?

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