(This post has been relocated to another date, though it was really published in December of 2011. There are good reasons for this that will not be explained.)
Other people always tell me that they envy my lifestyle. At least, my peers do (anyone from 18-40 years old I’ll count among that group). There’s no denying that I lead a blessed life. I spend practically every day doing what I love to do, and the small evils are easily recognized as necessary to support maximum time in the mountains and among friends. I have the time, energy, and the little bit of disposable income to be able to pay attention to myself, to my body, and how to make it stronger and keep it healthy. I have few obligations. I owe no debts but to my parents. I’m mobile, and that mobility allows me to meet many fantastic people living extraordinary lives whom I otherwise never would have met.
Extra-ordinary is a good way to explain this way. Outside ordinary– outside the script, the easily described path, the known trajectory. To be outside of this highway that so many take from conception to the nursing home is to draw usually-subtle but pernicious criticism. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this is because those traveling that beaten road understand those outside of it to be a subtle threat to their comfort. We, if they would let us, make them question themselves. But they put up a strong fight, doing nearly anything to avoid introspection. This is my own speculation. They call it immature, or selfish. They lecture. They weave stories about lives off the path to protect their own stories. This, not speculation, is awfully clear.
Tonight, I simply wanted to speak about this as one of the big challenges to my lifestyle, because it’s digging into me and needs voicing if it’s to be removed. This passive guerrilla-war of judgement is hard to be rid of. In truth, part of me subscribes to the idea that I am being selfish, immature, imprudent. This has been ingrained. But to me, inner-conflict has come to be the mark of this life; it is a sign that each step is being considered and lived, not passed by on autopilot. I refuse the path, but will continue to battle with it until perhaps my way leads to full self-realization. I can have no other way.
To relieve any sense of pretension, let me bare my cards. My lifestyle could not be as it is without outside support. I could possibly live as I do without that support, but it would require a much greater frugality, and my mobility would certainly be less. My parents and grandparents both contributed to a trust in my name, from which I receive $500 per month. Because, at this point, I only work at jobs that I enjoy, which don’t pay well, this assistance makes up almost 40% of my annual income. Additionally, I owe my parents $5000 that they loaned me to pay for my NOLS instructor course. I can’t pay this back in part because I make very little money, and in part because I’m selfish and can’t bring myself to sacrifice when I expect that in the future I’ll make more money and be able to pay it back without personal sacrifices.
These debts do make me call my life into question, but it’s others who reinforce this questioning sufficiently to make it a nagging source of doubt. Even my parents, who offer me the distribution from the trust as support for a lifestyle for which they at times voice their jealousy, can’t help but make frequent small, jabbing remarks that betray the other, worried side of their support. This is a dishonest imposition of their own values, but it comes from an underlying protective love that is easy to forgive. Nevertheless, their support is not wholehearted.
I will not change but as I will to change. This is the conviction underlying the route that takes me to the mountains and home again, and through each year towards what I do not know. If you follow this same conviction, I know it by your speech and how you walk your life. If you do not follow it, I forgive you, but our time together will be limited, as our paths will diverge. The challenge of a life off of the well-trodden path is the will to use the razor to cut away what is grasping at your coattails, trying to hold you back.
I falter. Often. But I stand again having learned something. My life will not be as it now is forever, as my ambitions grow and my goals diversify. I will eventually sacrifice some of my freedoms is favor of other values, such as family, charity, or self-sufficiency, but this will come as I see fit to make the changes. Medical school? Maybe. The thought grows every day and the willingness to sacrifice for a career in medicine becomes stronger. But I won’t go because I feel the need to get back on the road. My path may cross it, but it will weave its own way. If this resonates with you, then count yourself a friend. If you are defending yourself word by word, I may see you again, but it will be by chance.