Last summer I sat down to dinner one night with the family and some close friends. We sat around and talked about the usual shit they talk about back there, mainly doctor appointments, who was dying, and when Jebus would return and smite all the non white people. But eventually the conversation turned to other more pleasant things and I found myself telling them about a friend of mine who was preparing to sail across the Atlantic. I mentioned how she quit her dead end job, sold her house, rid herself of debt, moved to Europe, and was now preparing for this big adventure. Their reaction was not what I was expecting.
“Is she rich?”, was the first thing they asked. They were absolutely appalled somebody would give up employment, and a house to go on such a ridiculous and dangerous journey. How would she live? What about making money? Why would she give up a good paying job? They simply could not wrap their narrow minds around the fact there are ordinary people out there who do go have adventures and live a real life free from the confines of a stifling job or owning property. It amazed me at first when they reacted so negatively, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
I grew up with these people and not a single one of them I knew ever did anything exciting or out of the ordinary, apart from those who served in the military. But none of them, no one, not a single person had the guts to get up and go out into the world seeking adventure. Sure, they all had dreams of doing something exciting when they were kids, but years of miseducation, and constantly having said dreams shouted down by others eventually took it’s toll. By the time they were out of high school, or college, or back from the military, all they wanted to do was get a job, get married, have kids, and buy a house. Nothing else. All the talk of going off to the islands, or traveling to foreign lands seeking adventure, was just kid stuff, or for the very wealthy. Nope,you were to get those ridiculous notions out of your head, buckle down, get to work at some job, any job, and settle down. Dreaming is for kids.
As you may have guessed, I never listened, and never will.
It’s kind of hypocritical in the way they think. Such a premium is put on education when one is growing up. Go to school, get good grades, go to college, learn, learn, learn. Yet when the time comes to put said learning into action, everyone is there to tell you why you shouldn’t be doing whatever it is you are planning to do.
Think about it. How many times were you asked what you wanted to do when you grew up? When you told those doing the asking, were they supportive? Probably only if your plans met with their approval. Should you dare to express a desire to go out and do something not considered, ‘normal’, or expected, you get shouted down. “You can’t do it!” or something along those lines. Ask why not and you would usually get some vague answer, particularly from an authority figure like a parent…”Because I said so.” Then they would laugh at you making you feel stupid for even coming up with such nonsense. Not a legitimate reply, but when you are just a dumb kid, surrounded by know it all adults, the shout downs and derisive laughter add up, and eventually your dreams get crushed. At some point, you just give up and go with the flow.
As you may have guessed, I never gave up nor went with the flow.
Life is so predictable back there it’s pathetic. Years of living the same thing over and over and over again become habit. A job with a steady paycheck, a marriage one settles into, a house which one lives in for a long time, becomes a sort of security blanket. One gets used to the way things go every year, no surprises, no major upheavals, no unexpected events, so much so, it becomes impossible to think life could be lived in any other way. This is the way things are, this is how they will always be, this is the way life should be. Take no chances, stir up no shit, just keep the job, raise the brats, pour money into the house. At the end, your time is taken up with endless trips to doctors, until you die. You leave nothing behind but a small estate for the kids to fight over. No memories of anything exciting. A life without living. Just endless years of mind numbing existence.
Anyone who attempts to go out and see the world, anyone who leaves the security of those cold, foggy, dead mountains to travel to another part of the world, anyone who doesn’t work, work, work all the time, is considered a slacker, a bum, worthless, and possibly mentally challenged.
As you may have guessed, I am proud to be a slacker, bum, worthless, and possibly mentally challenged.
Not one single thing I have ever done in my life has ever been approved by my family or those I grew up with. Moving to Florida, taking up scuba diving, riding murdercycles, moving to the Keys, living on a sailboat, moving to Hawaii. None of it has ever been looked upon by any of those people with anything more than a sneer or disdain. Why would I move to Florida when things are so nice here in Pa.? There are better paying jobs here. Get married and buy a house. Scuba diving is dangerous. So is riding murdercycles. Nobody but rich people live on a sailboat in the Keys. Hawaii is too far away and too expensive. Amazing how people are experts on things they have never tried to accomplish themselves.
My old man was the worst. He shouted me down at every turn no matter what I wanted to do. He knew all there was to know about anything, just ask him. Yet he never did anything but work, get married, and keep a house. We fought to the end over my life choices. The arguments frequently got heated and I was more than a few times threatened with physical violence if I didn’t toe the line. And I still fight today with what is left of my family and few friends back there. They have no understanding of doing anything out of the ordinary, exciting, or risky. I always wanted to ask those who I grew up with, what caused them to stop dreaming? Why did they simply give up and stay put, doing what was expected? But I suspect the answers would be the same. ‘It’s nice here. We have bills to pay. I got a good paying job. We have kids to raise. The house is our home. Everything I need is right here. It’s scary out there in the real world.”
So be it. If this is the kind of life you want to exist in, have at it. But don’t you dare sit there and tell me I can’t go out and do what I want to do. When you ask someone, especially a kid, what they want to do when they grow up, telling them, “No, you can’t do it.” you are doing them a great disservice. You have no right to destroy somebody else’s dreams, just because you couldn’t make your own happen. It’s one thing to teach a younger person right from wrong. After all, you don’t want them growing up to become criminals, druggies, or vote Republican in the next election. But to sit there and tell someone they can’t do something, simply because you didn’t have the testicular fortitude to try it on your own is just plain wrong.
If your life didn’t turn out as planned, if your dreams got crushed somewhere in the past, it’s your own damn fault for not standing up for what you believed in and wanted to do. It’s your life, not somebody else’s, and only you have the right to make your decisions. Not have said decisions made for you. And if you failed, as most have back in Pa., then don’t take it out by telling those brave enough to move away to a tropical island or sail across the ocean why they can’t do so. All you are doing is expressing your own ignorance and cowardice.
Life is damn short. It could end at anytime. As one of the fritterisms says, We were not put here on this earth to pay bills and die. Life can much more better than working 9-5 for 40 years, paying off some mortgage, raising kids, then dying of cancer. I got started late, but I’m making up for lost time. People like Julia are ahead of the curve and kicking life’s ass.
Life is not about money, or how rich somebody is or how many toys they own or anything material. It’s about learning, exploring, experiencing different things. Taking chances, risking, failing and succeeding. Getting away from safety and security for the thrill of adventure. Is it dangerous? Sure. But try doing the same thing year after year after year. It’s not dangerous, just lethal.
The next time you ask somebody what they want to do when they grow up, and they express something exciting or adventurous, instead of telling them no, ask if you can come along.