“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”-Albert Einstein
I’ve talked before about how, even though I am grateful for the “real” job I have, the home in which I live, and my health…all of which afford me the means with which to provide a comfortable life for my family…I constantly wrestle with this spectre of a life more….consequential than the one currently playing out around me.
For a full 9 months out of the year, I’m on this hamster wheel….5AM, up, exercise, grab a quick bite to eat, out the door, work in a cement box all day, after-work responsibilities (coaching, theatre, etc), home, evening meal, help the kids with homework, maybe a little Netflix with my lovely wife, get the kids in bed, maybe a little reading, maybe bed…either way, the waking hours are consumed living a life of…service…to others…others who, quite often, are increasingly unappreciative and operate with a sense of entitlement…repeat…until you’re old enough to retire because that’s what we’re all told is the right thing to do, and it sure is…safe! Except, in today’s topsy-turvy economy and job market, even government jobs aren’t safe. Then 8 weeks during the summer to try to remember who I am as a person, what I really believe about life, and rejuvenate….and about the time I’m starting to feel human again….it’s back to the wheel. Nose to the grindstone. I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go….and every year, I ask myself, “Does it HAVE to play out this way?”. With almost all of society playing by the same rules, it sure seems so.
But, I’ve gotten a glimpse of what might be another door…another option…one that, if I can screw up the courage to walk through it, I believe will not lead to greener pastures; it will lead to a life without pastures at ALL! Unless, it’s pastures you’re really after…
I’ve started a book called
. And usually, in fact ALWAYS, I am highly suspicious of these kinds of “self-help,” books trotted out each year, usually on Oprah’s book club or some other such drivel, designed to keep the masses seduced with the idea that there’s hope for life after retirement, or even…(gasp!) the possibility of finding our dream jobs (there’s no such thing). But, for some reason, when I found myself walking around Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, killing time while my wife was still on a spending spree in Belk’s, I ran across the book and was immediately drawn to the underlying concepts behind the book. I know it SOUNDS like hooey; but, just a few chapters in and Mr. Ferriss has already given voice to some of the same unresolved maladies that plague my existential being.
One of the first things that captured my attention is the fact that he’s not really talking about gutting your job…unless you really want to. He’s also not talking about how to become rich so you can afford to do whatever you want-in fact, and I agree, it isn’t the money he argues people want anyway…it’s just the freedom to DO what it SEEMS that only unlimited income can buy you. He begins with a very simple, and accurate premise, then…that people really just want more time, and freedom. He also points out that what keeps us from truly living…living the lives we truly want, isn’t that we don’t have enough money to do it….we are just, stuck. And what “screws us to the sticking point?” Our materialistic, slavish devotion to our “stuff,” and our willingness to accept another person’s, or system’s, rules by which we play the game of life. Who says we can’t just change the rules? We need a job to buy more stuff, to keep us “happy” while we go to our jobs to make more money to buy more stuff because we’re tired of the other stuff that didn’t really make us happy in the first place, because NONE of that will EVER make ANYONE happy. What’s holding us down? Our marriage to the idea that we ARE our possessions. Freedom is just an eBay listing away…or, in MY case, a whole SLEW of listings.
Sure, the idea is scary. But, it isn’t a new philosophy. Thoreau said it over 200 years ago…”Simplify…simplify.”
And maybe that’s what resonates with me so strongly so far about Mr. Ferriss…he’s a modern-day Transcendentalist, living the life he’s dreamed, because he’s been able to strip away all those things which are inconsequential to living that life. I look in my closet and study..how many leather jackets do I need? How many pairs of shoes, how many shirts? How many movies, and books (ok, I’d have to keep the books…move them to my permanent library at my parents’ or something), etc….how many REALLY NICE of these things could I have if I just had what I needed? If, instead of 10 watches, I had two…or even one…could I not have that Omega Seamaster I’ve always wanted? Sure. I look around and KNOW I’m burdened by my possessions…we ALL are. Might be time for me to let it go. How many times am I gonna dress up as Indiana Jones for Halloween, anyway?!
I had a friend, with whom I’m discussing the book, ask when the last time was that I was REALLY out of my comfort zone. I try to push myself to do something I’m afraid to do every year. Last year, it was going off the rope swing at the lake…from the HIGHEST jump off. A few years before that, it was adventure racing…my brakes gave out on my mountain bike about 1/3 of the way into the bike section of the race…ten more miles of rocky, hilly, tree-lined single track to go…with only front brakes…then the front ones went out with three miles left. That was uncomfortable. And back in college, I went rock climbing…freestyle…no ropes…out on a cliff hanging over the ocean in Bar Harbor, Maine…didn’t fall, but if I had, it still would’ve been uncomfortable. Heck, part of what I do for money involves speaking and performing in front of large groups of people on a daily basis…and it ALWAYS makes me nervous for the first minute or so. So, I’ve certainly tried, and continue to try, to make myself uncomfortable on a semi-regular basis. But, nothing makes me more uncomfortable than the idea of letting go of all that I think I am…and, at the same time, there isn’t an idea more invigorating than seeing just what would happen if I did.
Is it time for lifestyle redefinition?
As I make my way through the book, and the first week or so back in the hamster wheel, I’ll be letting you, dear reader, follow along on my journey of self-discovery.
Maybe I’ll finally build that sweat lodge I’ve threatened to build for years.
Next post…the low-information diet…or, as I like to call it, an Internet fast.
In the meantime….just try to remember…”There IS no tomorrow!”-Apollo Creed, from Rocky 3.