To Live, or Not to Live
“The best things in life aren’t free.”
I’m an adventurer. Some would say I have the heart of a gypsy. A mover and a shaker. Flighty. Restless. They all work.
So it’s not too terribly surprising that the most cherished of my dreams is to live my entire life backpacking around Europe, making money here and there, washing my clothes in the Canal, saving all my money for an Amtrak ticket to Scotland.
The most common reaction when I tell people my dream isn’t shock or consternation, like I thought it would be. It’s a little surprise mixed with a whole lot of, “That’s so cool,” and “That would be so fun!”. I have to say, I was surprised. Surprised that so many people would love to do it too, and yet none of them have.
I had to ask myself why. But the answer wasn’t as complicated as I’d anticipated. Partially because I had the question wrong. The question wasn’t why they hadn’t, but rather, why I wanted to. Because, after all, I’m the weird one, right?
I went back to a beginning of sorts. Let’s say there’s a young man who wants to start a business, and hopefully a financial empire. So he pursues higher education, gets a job, and in a few years, after he’s paid off all his tuition fees and student loans, he has enough money to start his enterprise. So he does. Not every business idea will take off the first time, but let’s say his does. He starts from the ground up and creates his own company that eventually grows into a larger one. He hires employees, and security guards, and secretaries, and a human relations team. The company continues to grow until it requires a bigger, more modern facility. By this time, he’s married, middle-aged, maybe has some children. And on it goes. But by the time he’s finally reached the level he wanted, it’s time to retire. So the dream is passed on to a son or friend. A son or friend who will rule the empire created before him.
Because very few who set out to build an empire will ever live long enough to rule it, too.
And then there’s the more ordinary, glamour-less career of the one who was thrown out into the jungle of the workforce, and suddenly they’re living to work. They don’t make money so they can enjoy it, or give it to people, or spend it on something fun. They use all their money to try and maintain the life they’re living; full of pleasurable and potentially fun things. But things they end being too exhausted to enjoy.
It’s then I asked myself another question: at the end of their lives, after the desperate struggle to reach the top, or maybe just the mindless humdrum some call happiness, are they really satisfied? Are there things they wished they would have done? Places they wished they would have traveled to?
If so, then why didn’t they?
Being the restless minded gypsy that I am, I wasn’t too thrilled with the choices I was presented with. One of which I was expected to choose.There’s always variations of the choices: getting married, being a stay-at-home mom, getting married and having a part-time job, etc. Significantly better than the first two, but something in my heart kept whispering that there had to be something more.
And I realized that there was. And it wasn’t hidden in the shadows, or very far out of my reach, for that matter.
I realized that I didn’t want to live to work. I wanted to work so that I could live.
I made a commitment right then and there that I wouldn’t ever accept a job indefinitely that I didn’t love just because it paid well. It wouldn’t be worth it in the long run.
“Do what you love, and love what you do.”
In all honesty, how many people can say that?
How many people can say that they’re living out the dream they had when they were a kid? Do I think all dreams are financially practical? Not necessarily. Does that make them unimportant and not worth pursuing? I don’t think so. Because I’m a firm believer that you can achieve your dream if you work hard enough.
Society has played a tremendous role in crippling the dream chasers. But, enigmatically enough, it has been the biggest advocate of spreading the “follow your dreams” campaign.
“Follow your dreams… but only the ones that promise extravagant monetary gain, social recognition or popularity.”
On the flip side, I’m not advocating the beach bum life, either. Lazing around doing nothing but getting sunburned and drinking beer isn’t living either. But living, really living. That’s what I want. To go places, to travel the world not worried about whether someone’s going to steal my laptop or whether I locked my car. I want see romantic things and meet wonderful, romantic people. To do all the things I’ve ever dreamed of doing. And maybe someday meet someone as wild-hearted as me that wants to tag along and ser mi media naranja, as the Guatemalans say.
I just want to live. Really live.
So what am I saying? That society would be better off if everyone quit their jobs and flew to Europe?
Having the kind of freedom I’m attempting to maintain is a mindset. Not always a lifestyle. Part of it comes from a disconnection of personal feeling towards material belongings.
Avoiding materialism, essentially.
Would it kill me to go a week without my phone, the internet or a car? If the answer is yes, then my life won’t ever be truly fulfilling.
“The best things in life aren’t free.”
Actually, the best things in life aren’t things. And those things that are the best really are free.
And they’re freeing, too.
So go follow your dreams. Chase them wherever they might lead you. Give up anything that’s obstructing the way. Because if you truly believe your dream is right and good, it’s worth fighting for.