You unfortunate people on the mainland may have heard something now and then about how laid back and relaxing living on an island can be. Not just Key West but any island. I can speak from experience when I say it’s all pretty much true. When you settle in on an island, life takes on a more slower pace. You find yourself not worrying about mundane things like on said mainland. Sure, problems exist when one lives on a rock surrounded by water. Finding affordable housing, who has the best happy hour, when is this damn wind going to lay down so we can go back out and fish some more. But overall, attitudes with island residents are much more mellow and relaxed.
There is a different view of life on said island. For example, if one should get up in the morning and decide, for no apparent reason to don a pirate outfit and walk down to the square to celebrate sunset, nobody will question their sanity. In fact, make a few phone calls and you could wind up with a full pirate crew joining you. The only ones who will look upon a drunken bunch of grown ups playing pirate with disdain and surprise, would be any tourists who happen to be in the area. And it’s amongst these tourists, back in their home turf, where I have been residing for the last few months.
I knew mainland life was different, but I had forgotten how different things are when you get away from the tropical sun and sea breezes. Life in these hills is by no means laid back. Quite the opposite. Everyone seems to run around like they are being chased by something. Some sort of unseen, unspeakable horror which will engulf them, causing great pain and anguish should they slow down or stray from their appointed path in life. There is a constant tension in the air around here which pushes people to give up any thoughts of adventure, dreams, or breaking from the hive and exploring the world. It’s like life here is scripted and there is no ad-libbing. You are born, you grow up in a family setting, doing the expected. Go to school, then college or a trade, get married, have kids, buy a house, eat like pigs and get fat, work until you cannot, save every dime you can, spend every said dime on crap, stay in debt all your life, worship at some bullshit church, obey the orders of the doctors, then die. Anyone who deviates from said script, as I have, are looked down upon as failures, misfits, and ne’er do wells. Which I am. And damn fucking proud of it.
I am not what the family and friends up here considers a model citizen. I have refused to obey and follow the script by having the audacity to move to a place where only the wealthy can live. I’m looked down upon because I have not kept a job with the same corporate warlords all my life. In their eyes, I am a failure in all I have done or tried to do. My computer knowledge and work is just a cute fad which, “he will grow out of”. I am thought of to be of unsound mind and most people here still treat me like I was 10 years old. I get followed around being told to put things back a certain way, pick up after myself, do things the way they are supposed to be done in their minds. If I don’t, I’m considered stupid and need to listen more better. Any time I talk of life in the islands, of some of the adventures I have had, or of some of the things I have done, said tales are met with nothing more then eye rolls and condescending nods. Any tales of something dangerous, like scuba diving, or riding a motorcycle across the country are tsk-tsked away. Dismissed as the fantasy’s of someone who squandered his education and is probably mentally challenged.
Even though I have set in motion my cunning plans to return to said island paradise later this year, it is still not taken seriously. Some believe I should stay here, find my own place, get something called a, “real job”, (still don’t know what the fuck a real job is. Anyone?) and try to settle in to live out my remaining years as I suffer in silence contemplating all I have squandered away, waiting to die alone, in a room which reeks of cat pee. I’ll get together now and then with family and friends to be reminded of how I wasted my life in meaningless pursuits of a life which only exists in movies and comic books. I must repent for my sins….
Um, yeah. Hold your breath on this one.
I’ve been noticing more and more just how uncomfortable life is up here for many. They go through life like it’s a chore, not living life, but rather just getting on with it like it’s somehow going to be more better when they finally die. (It’s not. Nothing happens after you die? Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong.) They are only comfortable when they are in familiar surroundings which they can control. I saw many good examples of how uncomfortable these people are when they are put someplace unfamiliar, like an island far away. I even wrote about it. What I didn’t realize until I came up here is how uncomfortable these people are even a few miles from home.
Once in a while we go out to eat at one of the many chain restaurants and I’ve taken to people watching, mainly to take my mind off the darwinawful food and crappy service. I’ve notice more than a few times how tense and uncomfortable people are in an unfamiliar surrounding. Any loud noise and they jump. They seem constantly nervous almost like they have stage fright. It’s like they feel everyone is watching them to see if they do something considered rude, obnoxious, or unpopular. Perhaps there are unwritten rules I don’t know about for how one acts in these places and one had better be on one’s best behavior when out there. It brings back fond memories of when I was kid and we went out to eat. I was constantly berated for putting my elbows on the table or not properly laying my napkin on my lap. As if somebody is going to walk by, point at us, and laugh, after which, we would have to sell everything, change our names, and move to a new state.
It’s almost comical if it were not so damn sad. These people just seem sore and intent on not enjoying life. The closest they come to taking a chance is ordering dinner with the fried zucchini instead of the potatoes. Scandalous. Any sense of adventure was long beat out of everyone up here long ago. The schools taught everyone to be obedient worker bees. The parents drilled it into the kids to go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, get a house and vehicle, and work until they died. Maybe, if one was lucky, one would get two weeks vacation a year to go visit some scary far away place but more better, stay home and fix the house. After all, everything one could want out of life is within these mountains. The world beyond is a frightening place full of evil and no good. Stay here where it’s safe and secure. Where the only crisis is not getting the grass cut before the rain moves in.
I’ll put up with all this bullshit for a little while longer. As I said earlier, plans are in motion to get my ass in motion and back to the islands. I’ll still come back up here to visit, to take care of family as needed, but I would never live here again. It’s not my style. Too tense, too constrained, and no imagination. These people don’t know what they are missing, and it’s their loss.
As for me? I’ll be enjoying life in the islands again. As it should be.
Soon. Just not soon enough.