I continue on with my self imposed exile to the land which time forgot. The days slog by with endless rain, fog, and dreary cold weather. I rarely go outside other than to make the occasional run to the store, maybe go out to eat, and lately, do some chores for a relative who is now too old to do said chores themselves. Other than those few things, I spend most of my waking hours trying to bring in a few dollars on the computer.
I had forgotten what life was like up here. Getting only brief reminders when I used to just come visit for a week at a time. Now I’m back for awhile I remember why I was so anxious to get the hell out of here. And why I will do so again later in the year.
Life up here is about as opposite a minimalist lifestyle as one can get. Everyone seems intent on owning as much crap as they can possibly afford, or going into debt to obtain said crap. Every house and home is a museum and tribute to the success of the corporate warlords to keep people in a constant state of consuming. Everyone has some sort of house, at least one vehicle, rooms full of furniture, cupboards full of dishes, pots, and pans, decorations for every known holiday, and all the associated “necessities” to maintain said possessions.
Everyone owns lawnmowers, pressure washers, chests of tools, cleaning supplies, vacuums, brooms, mops, buckets, waxes, washes, detergents, bleaches, and other implements of destruction all designed to keep all the crap clean, running, and in presentable condition lest someone should come by and think one does not properly take care of one’s crap.
Where I am staying is a two bedroom apartment filled to the brim with junk. Every closet and cupboard is full of clothes, dishes, or food. If I need something out of the refrigerator I have to move three things to get to it. The closets have so many clothes packed in it’s nearly impossible to squeeze one’s hand in to pull something out.
Meals are an exercise in over consuming. Even a simple meal requires over a dozen plates, bowls, glasses, dishes, and eating utensils. Every item has to have a dish. Every condiment has it’s own bowl. There are extra knives, forks, and spoons for serving in addition to the regular utensils. By the end of the day, the dishwasher is packed full, only to get emptied out for the next day’s eating. The table itself has to have two layers of tablecloth’s. The placemats which sit on said table for decoration are not to be used for eating off of. You can’t even eat a handful of peanuts or a cookie without a napkin, paper towel, or paper plate.
Don’t get me wrong. The food is great, it’s just overkill when it comes to serving. Repeated trips to the store are made every week to stock up on more food. Currently there are at least 5 kinds of cookies in the pantry, at least 6 bags of candy in the cupboard, three kinds of milk in the fridge, three loaves of bread, condiments for everything, and Darwin knows how many different cuts of meat in the freezer.
And then there is the cleaning. The place is in a constant state of being cleaned. Vacuuming, laundry, wiping stuff down, dusting, polishing, and more. If I drop a crumb on the floor, somebody will spot it almost immediately and berate me for it. A spot of food on a shirt or tablecloth is a moment of panic. Efforts to keep things clean border on obsession. Cleaning supplies take up near as much space as the food. Many hours of each week are spent cleaning something.
The building I am staying in is an over 55 semi retirement apartment building. The vast majority of residents here are over 80 with many pushing 90. The wimmen are just like they were when they were teenagers. Obsessed with their looks, they schedule weekly trips to the beauty parlor downstairs. There is constant concern to maintain one’s looks so as not to stir up gossip amongst the other hens. Most are hard of hearing but too vain to invest in hearing aids because it may detract from their appearance. Many of them still drive which is scary in and of itself.
Their days are spent eating, planning to eat, doctor appointments, and church on Sundays. (A subject my family and I avoid for obvious reasons.) The building has many social things going on. Several times a week there are groups who gather downstairs and play cards or virtual bowling. But everyone of them continues to spend money on shopping, food, dining, and maintaining their exotic lifestyles.
As you may well have guessed by now, none of the people up here have a clue about living a minimalist lifestyle. They look at me and my little backpack with my 30 odd possessions contained therein and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. To them, a lack of possessions is a sign of failure. You are judged by how much crap you own and the quality of said crap. The whole idea of living with little more than the clothes on one’s back means you are poor, destitute, and unworthy.
I originally moved away from this place 38 years ago. When I announced I was moving to Florida it was met with derision and confusion. Florida was and still is a far away place where only the rich can afford to live. Even more so for the Keys. Surely I would fail and have to return to Pa., broken and finally coming to my senses, realizing how foolish the dream of moving to such a place was in the first place. Since I have returned it’s almost as if I never left. Everyone still treats me like the younger person I was, uneducated in the ways of the real world, which involves getting a “real” job, which has yet to be ‘splained to me, settling down, getting married, buying a house, filling it with crap, and working to pay it off until I die. The fact I am back here now just reinforced their believing I was wrong to go and have finally seen the error of my ways. I should seek out permanent residence up here, and find some “real” job, and try to salvage what remains of my failed life. No, seriously, this is what they believe. All this computer stuff is cute but not worthy of real employment. But they don’t hesitate to call me when they need help with their systems.
I probably made a mistake in coming back here but eventually, due to the advancing age of some family, I would need to come back to take care of things. I am in at least two wills I know of and if something happens I will have my hands full taking care of the estates. Might as well come up and get a handle on what may be if said something does indeed happen. And I know I won’t be here forever. I pretty much ignore all the gossip and just bide my time. I could never come back here permanently and eventually, I will leave, never to return.
I’m damn proud of being minimal right now. It remains one of the best decisions I ever made. As I watch everyone up here fret over the littlest detail which may cause them to lose some possession, or how they obsess over taking care of their crap, I realize how worthless owning all said crap is. All the stuff they own, owns them. Their homes, their vehicles, furniture, and everything else dictates what they do every day. Everything everyone does up here revolves around the acquisition of possessions and retaining them, no matter what the cost. It prevents them from actually living. Any dreams these people may have had when they were young have long been crushed under the weight of what they felt they had to own.
Those of us who have moved away and live a life of travel, adventure, pirating, looting, and pillaging are looked down upon. We who seek a life not held back by consuming are considered to be touched in the head. To think someone, anyone, would leave this secure place, and forsake all the trappings of this lifestyle for the certain dangers and great unknown is simply unfathomable to the locals up here. And don’t even think about discussing living on a boat. You’ll wind up locked up in the looney bin.
I am grateful for the charity which everyone here has bestowed upon me. Despite our differences, the trip has served a purpose and will continue to do so until I can move on. But damn. It’s a totally different world up here. One which I have no desire to return to. Watching how everyone is a slave to their possessions, their jobs, and the total fear they have of losing everything or taking any kind of risk is sad. Some may travel on short vacations here or there, but few will ever understand the excitement or thrill of packing up a few belongings and starting a new life someplace different.
Minimalism cannot be explained to them. The concept of the digital nomad is absurd in their minds. I haven’t even told anyone I’ve written three books, nor do any of them know of this blog. They would not understand, especially about mermaids, sea serpents, and sea battles. I’m getting questioned constantly about how I am going to afford to live back in the islands. When I mention Hawaii I get major eye rolls and condescending looks. They can only see life through their own lifestyle. A lifestyle which is expensive, high maintenance, and restrictive. Sure, they have many comforts but it’s so easy to lose it all. And losing said comforts is a constant fear in the back of their minds. As I said earlier, their possessions own them.
For now, I will continue to chill out, literally and figuratively. It’s damn cold here all the time. I will be going back to Key West in June for a very brief trip to take care of some minor finances. I will be taking my trusty backpack and few meager possessions with me, just in case something extraordinarily good happens and I can stay. But, unlikely. I will probably come back up here and ride out the summer and fall. I’m welcome to stay. It’s just a matter of time until things turn around and I can return to life again.
Things will get more better soon.
Just not soon enough.