I haven’t worked for a paycheck in a year now. I’ve always disliked doing this; at first I thought (probably because everyone was telling me) that it was because I was lazy, but this can’t be true. When I was in college I was taking 15 credits, volunteering at a radio station twice a week, volunteering at a farm three days per week, going to meetings and organizing with a Peace and Justice group constantly, and volunteering at a bookstore once per week. None of this amounted to any cash, but you can’t buy the satisfaction that comes along with following bliss. After that, I started and ran a business for a couple of years. I liked it because I didn’t have a boss, I pretty much made my own hours, and I was doing something that (at first anyway) I enjoyed. As I began to make money though, my thoughts didn’t turn to saving for retirement or buying a house, but instead went back to chasing bliss (sometimes she can run pretty fast). Fuck a car, fuck a house, fuck retirement; Rebecca and I got rid of the business (along with many of our possessions), put our fossil fuel powered vehicles in storage and hit the road with nothing but our backpacks and bicycles.
People told us we were crazy; that 20 year olds do stuff like this when they graduate college or need to find themselves, but to be in our 30’s and still wandering (seemingly) aimlessly is unacceptable. We had taken months off to travel twice already, people told us, it’s about time we settled down. Like most people, the opinions of others do have some effect on me. However, none of these ‘responsible, settled adults’ seemed satisfied with their lives; after telling us how crazy we were, they would inform us of how jealous they were; how they wished they had the courage to do what we were doing.
My mother got her first job when she was 16. She bought a car and paid it off at a young age. When her and my father got divorced, she put her head down and worked, saving money the whole time. When I moved out, she used her money to buy a condo, which she later sold at a profit. She took that money and, along with her third husband, moved into a big house down the Jersey shore. Things were great. She only had to work a couple more years and then she would be able to retire and enjoy the years of hard work. Then, the job she had for over twenty years, the one where she was still working part time, laid her off. Just months after that, her husband’s business – the one that paid their bills and made their looming retirements possible – began to suffer. Within a couple of years there was no more business, the house became unaffordable, bankruptcy was a real option, and she was out looking for jobs that weren’t there anymore.
My father started his own business instead of going to college. He has been working for forty years to grow this business. Even though he’s grown to hate it, he commutes hours every day in order to make enough money to retire. He works so hard (he’s a mechanic) and commutes so far (around four hours per day) that his health is deteriorating rapidly. He may actually be able to retire when he turns 62, but how much will he get to enjoy?
I’ve talked to dozens of people who have similar stories. They’re shocked that they busted their asses for so long. They sold their souls, destroyed their health, and sacrificed personal relationships in order to be able to retire in their 60’s, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them. For our generation it’s even worse; there are less jobs than there have been in decades, social security will soon be a thing of the past, and inflation is happening at a seriously alarming rate. Most people can see this, can even verbalize it; yet continue to criticize the way Rebecca and I live our lives, as they pass their days at a meaningless, soul crushing, job.
I don’t believe in life after death; I think when we’re dead, we’re dead. Darkness. Nothing. This is scary as fuck and has kept me up nights since I was a small child. It’s the scariest when I’m working, when I’m stuck in a rut where I have to sell myself for way less than I’m worth in order to pay for things that I should have a basic human right to. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this, if I’ll ever be at peace and accept the fact of death. I do know one thing though; the only thing that scares me more than death is not living.
Today’s thoughts were inspired by an article I read in the Portland Tribune. Here’s what else I read today:
Another non difference in the presidential candidates; The Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented people. That’s more than the even George W Bush. But, yeah, let’s be afraid of Romney.
Here’s a decent, short opinion on the so-called budget crises.