Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life. – R.S.
One Robin Sharma came up with this quote. It now serves an honored place with 670 some odd Fritterisms, (collect them all!) and inspired this here post. I don’t know if Mr. Sharma was ever in Central Pa. but this quote sure sounds like an apt description of ‘life’ here. A repetitive loop of predictable, non controversial, mundane, and non exciting scripted seasons where nothing new happens, no dreams are realized, and no adventures undertaken. Risk is kept to a minimum, taking a gamble means nothing more than buying a lottery ticket, and rebellion against the system is summarily dismissed. Life here in these mountains is preordained and if one goes off script, they are looked upon with scorn and disdain. Guess who gets scorned and disdained around here when he comes for a visit? Go ahead, guess.
I am always amazed at how different life is here after getting out into the real world. I’m even more amazed at how I was one of the few people who was brave enough to pack up and head over the mountains and out into the great scary unknown. It wasn’t easy, believe me.
If there is one thing this place is good at, besides eating and shopping. it’s beating the dreams and aspirations out of people as they grow up. Remember when you were a kid and someone always asked what you wanted to do when you grew up? The moment you answered, no matter what said answer would be the person asking the question would say something condescending, shake their head no, or tsk tsk in your general direction, immediately putting doubts in your head about said dreams.
Move to Florida? Only rich people can, and you ain’t rich nor will you ever be.
Scuba dive? Live on sailboat? Move to Hawaii? Forget it. Quit living in fantasy land.
Write books, make my own income, travel? You need to settle down right now and get serious kid.
As one progresses through school, the dreams continually get dashed to bits. By the time one graduates from high school, they have been beaten into submission by the system. From there, the choices are simple and clearly defined:
A select few go to college but rarely do they make use of what ever degree they obtain. If not college then a trade school. For males, something in construction/repair. For females, nursing school, teacher, or beautician.
Some take a break and put in a few years of military. Really not a bad move if one is looking to advance with some government assistance. It’s the whole going out and killing other humans or getting killed which tends to limit this option.
For the rest, the next step is simple, immediate, and unwavering…get a job. It don’t matter what job, all which matters is to have a job. To go to work every day. Earn a paycheck. Contribute to society. Work. Work. Work. You are not a child anymore. Time to grow up and get to work. Real work. A real job. Whatever the fuck a real job is. Still waiting on a definition from you JM.
Once said job is obtained, the next step is to get married and start a family. It’s not up for debate. This is what you do.
Then comes the house. The all important house. Find a place, get the mortgage, move the family in, work the rest of your productive life paying off the mortgage, raising said kids, and buying lots and lots of stuff to fill the house with.
Debt is a constant in life up here. It’s just assumed you will be in debt most, if not all of your adult life. Get used to it.
Luxuries are few and far between. The weekends are spent doing chores around the house. There maybe a two week vacation come summer, usually spent on some trip to the beach, visiting other relatives, or perhaps a big splurge and go visit the rat in Florida. If one is doing really well, mayhaps a purchase of a small boat for fishing at the lake, or some other hobby may fit in. But usually one is so busy with the almighty job, taking care of the house, and raising the kids, said hobby winds up as some dusty pile of junk in the corner of an already crowded garage.
Once all this is set in place, the job, the family, the house, all one has to do is sit back, work every week, raise the family, take care of the house for oh, 40 or 50 years or so then one can retire. The work at the job stops. The family has expanded into a new generation, going through the same rituals, and one can finally sit back, relax, and wait to die. Oh, there might be a few trips here or there. Maybe even a few winters in Florida. But the security and familiarity of home keeps one from too much adventure. Better to be safe where everything is known and predictable than take a chance on the unknown. Once one has passed into the great beyond, the house, the stuff, all the things acquired over the, ‘life’, are dispersed to one’s family where the cycle continues without change. Over and over again. No swaying from the hive. No dreams realized. No adventures undertaken. Safe, predictable, and boring as hell. Welcome to life in Central Pa.
No thank you.
Despite all the schoolin’. Despite all the people telling me what I could not do. Despite all the pressure to follow the hive and do as expected. I still managed to escape and at least see some of the world. Moving to Florida, living on a sailboat in the Florida Keys, scuba diving, riding a murdercycle across the land, writing books, learning computer skills, starting my own business, and even moving to Hawaii. It was tough to get away from those who told me I could not do all those things, but once I did escape, all those adventures and dreams came true over time. It was just a matter of ignoring the nay sayers and actually trying.
Taking the chance and moving to someplace where I did not know anyone. Where the customs were different. Where the people looked and spoke in ways not common back in the mountains. Where the climate was way more better. Where the was food different. Where virtually everything I grew up with now seemed old fashioned and boring.
I learned quickly all I was told about the world beyond the mountains was a big fucking lie. Told to me by people who had absolutely no experience with said world but had formed their own opinions based on their own fears and what they might have seen on tv. People who were so afraid of leaving the comfort of familiar surroundings, they would try to impose said fears on anyone who even thought about leaving to explore the big scary world. I was told I could not do all the things I wanted to do, not because I had not the abilities, but because those who told me did not have said abilities themselves. And if they could not go, neither should anyone else.
When I moved to Delaware my old man had a fit. Said I needed to stay in Pa. but could not give me any more reason than, “Because I said so.” When I announced I was moving to Florida he and I had a major fight. I almost disowned him. We eventually made up but it left a major rift in our relationship. I can’t imagine what he would have said had he been alive when I moved to Hawaii. While he was the worst of the lot, I cannot think of anyone in Pa. who supported my decisions to move away and do something different than what was expected.
Even now, when I return for visits, as I am now, I get a lot of eye rolls and condescending looks when I talk about the things I’ve done and where I have been. And a lot of stupid questions…
“What’s it like living in Ha-why-ya?” Yes, they cannot pronounce it correctly.
“Do they have tv there?”
“We went to Florida once. It was hot.”
“Aren’t you afraid of sharks when you go in the ocean?”
“Nobody speaks English there.” Racism and bigotry are rampant in Central Pa. You are either white, or just passing through.
“Why don’t you come back and get a job at Walmart? A friend of mine works there and says it’s great. You need to find something soon.” No, they don’t read the Fritter.
While they all laugh at me for being different, I laugh at them for all being the same.
Look, if living a life like I described above in Pa. is what you aspire too, have at it. If school/family/work/house/retire/death is your dream, have at it. But…
If you dream of adventure.
If you dream of travel to far off places.
If you dream of making your own way in the world.
If you dream of anything different.
Go for it. Get out there and see what happens. You may well fail. Darwin knows I have more than a few times. Did it stop me? No. I learned from my mistakes and kept on going. Never stopping, never being afraid to try something knew.
When someone tells you no. When they say you can’t. Ask them why. While they are trying to come up with an answer, (They won’t.), you can go and do what you want. Unless you think you can fly. Then you might want to pay attention to those who are saying don’t.
I look around when I come to Pa. and see so many lives wasted. People I grew up with, who had dreams of getting out into the world and yet did nothing. Now they are old, set in their ways, and have no ambitions left. I often wonder what the hell happened to them. Why they gave up and settled for the sameness? But they did and for them it’s too late.
Listen dammit. Your dreams are your dreams and belong to nobody else. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can or cannot do with your life. As long as you are not hurting anyone or anything in the process, realizing your dreams, your passions, your adventures is what you should be doing with your life. Not living it according to what others who falsely claim to know better say.
For those of you reading the Fritter, I’m guessing you still have a few dreams and adventures hidden away. Maybe sailing a boat across the vast oceans? Perhaps moving to a faraway tropical isle? Creating your own business? So what’s stopping you? Fear? Of what? Failure? So what. Fail and try again. The real failure is not trying, not taking a chance, not packing up a bag and heading over the mountain to see what is out there. Remember what Robin Sharma said.
Trust me. It’s a big planet out there. Many wondrous and exciting things are out there waiting to be discovered. You won’t find them if you don’t take a chance and go looking.
So get off your ass and start doing some discoverin’.
Yes, you can trust me. I’m a pirate.