The New Year’s Eve blue moon. Once in one of these I am able to see the light…
I tend to blog-surf a lot, following links and finding all sorts of gems. While doing so this morning I came across this post by Jim of Earth Home Garden that really got me thinking. His is a long post (as this one became—whoops!), but so utterly worth the read.
When I consider where I currently am, here on January 1 of 2010, I can’t help but think about how I came to be here. I’m about to embark on urban homesteading with my end goal being acquiring my own bit of land & homesteading it (maybe as soon as 2011). I want no part of corporate-type jobs or the bullsh*t that goes with them. I am sick & tired of being fed bullsh*t from popular culture and various government agencies. I’m tired of trying to be someone I don’t really want to be. I am choosing to empower myself, to heal myself, and to support myself, to ultimately to provide for myself in ways that are sustainable, healthy…and dare I say it…enjoyable.
But then again, I’m easily amused, and I can find joy in doing laundry.
But wait. It can’t be enjoyable if I’m not consuming in the regular pop culture way, right?
Wrong, oh so very wrong.
Let me say that yes, I do still consume things, I do still buy things. But I am very selective about what I buy, and I try to buy things from small companies, thrift stores, independent artists, and the like. I am also VERY specific about who/what I do NOT buy from, such as Wal-mart (have not been inside one in about ten years now, and never will again). Truly the only vote we have now is with our dollars, so I use mine wisely.
I’ve always had a little bit of a rebellious streak, but it usually got smothered with feelings of inadequacy coming from my surroundings. So when I think about things, I realize how far I’ve come to be where I currently am. I had a fairly typical upbringing, and I did the school thing all the way to getting a Master’s degree, and for awhile it actually looked like I was going to do a “real” career in academia and be a “normal” person.
Screw normal. “Normal” is soul-sucking, unsustainable, artificial, and diseased.
My upbringing, while filled with some less-than-desirable parts (alcoholism in the family, for one), was nevertheless filled with a lot of very-desirable parts. Tons of outside play and indulging in imagination. I swam in the lake every chance I could; no one worried about it being “dirty”—except for one of my friends and her mom, but I thought they were just nuts, since the lake was my friend. I was amused for hours trying to float as still as possible in the water, hoping fish would come near, and they did. I would catch little shrimp to observe, then pour them back into the lake at the end of the day. There was even an alligator that lived in the lake, but you’d only see him way out in the middle of the lake at dusk, when everyone was inside eating dinner. No one bothered him, and he didn’t bother anyone.
There was a big pasture at the end of the road. I loved to climb the fence to get into it, roam around, pet the cows if they let me get close enough, explore the little creek that ran through the pasture on a far end. I used to go to a summer camp where I got to ride horses every day, swim every day, explore large dirt piles & wander down trails. I distinctly remember, in the 2nd grade, getting in trouble repeatedly for playing with my animal-shaped erasers (I’d build little forts with my stacked books, and the animal-erasers would have so much fun…). Who wanted to learn math or letters when there was an entire imaginary world to explore?
We were not rich or upper middle class; I suppose we were middle or lower middle. I have no idea. But I didn’t care; I had just enough clothing and toys and outside play time to be perfectly content with my world. My mom cooked from her garden (this was normal to me, but apparently not so much to others at the time), and we had lots of animals and a lake. I could roam, play, imagine. To me, all was as it should be.
But then at some point, after the family alcoholism had been around for awhile (I personally didn’t really “notice” it per se, didn’t know what it was at the time), other people’s reactions to me & my family got through to me. As a teenager, I started internalizing these outside opinions, which I suppose is what teenagers do, become influenced by their peers. Oh, you mean roaming around, being intrigued by nature and my own imagination and such isn’t a good thing? I’m weird? And there’s supposedly something wrong with my family? And therefore something wrong with me? Huh? That’s just nuts. …Or is it? Wait, hang on, I didn’t realize…oh no, I’m not like everyone else…and, *gasp*, people don’t like it! It’s bad to be different!
So I slowly started surpressing my true likes & dislikes & needs & ideas & desires. I started trying to be “liked.” To fit in. To be like everyone else. Again, I suppose this is something most teens go through, this socialization. Society needs it to happen so that it can continue to wring from most people what it needs to keep feeding the few at the top of the heap. Imagine if everyone ignored “normal” and were there own wild, unique, imaginative selves…
In college I had a dickens of a time deciding what to major in, because I had lots of interests & loved to learn. But heavens no, you can’t just learn for learning’s sake! Egad, the idea! You need a career, you see. Must prepare for one. Must be Responsible. So since I had enjoyed a couple of required economics classes, I ended up majoring in Economics, which made my uber-practical father happy (and my creative artist mother not so happy). And it wasn’t that bad, because I did find the subject fascinating (and still do today). But after the degree? Work in economics? Heck no. Who wants to do that day in & day out? Not me. But I felt again the frowns & disapproval of people around me. I wasn’t doing what I was “supposed” to do, after money was “invested” in me through school.
I tried many different jobs over the years, all in an effort to find a balance between what I was “supposed” to do—get a “real” job with benefits—and what I was happy doing. I eventually ended up in grad school in English and, after some very painful years there, I finished the M.A. I suppose I’m glad I did it (or maybe I’m just supposed to think that, considering what went into it), although honestly, the student loan burden I’ll have for the rest of my life really does not seem worth it at all. And given that debt, of course there is scorn and pressure from others to the effect of, “you need to pay that off faster, why the he*l don’t you have a high-paying academic or corporate job?! Bad person! Horrible! What is wrong with you?”
I am realizing what’s “wrong” with me is that I have a life-long case of anti-normal-itis. Things that matter to most people simply don’t matter to me, and things that matter to me make most other people think I’m a loon.
And I’m well aware now that one of my worst faults through all of this is letting other people’s opinion of me matter so much. To quote the wonderful Dr. Wayne Dyer: “Your opinion of me is none of my business.”
But it takes awhile to really believe that. I’ll probably be working on it for the rest of my life.
During the past decade I had started to question things here and there, beginning to notice little voices in the back of my mind whispering on the wind about I know not what…but making enough noise to keep me from being content. I felt that something was off, somewhere. I knew I couldn’t be happy swallowing what society was trying to feed me. Oh, I tried. Tried to buy what I was supposed to buy to be “happy” and to look like a person who is Going Places. The right shoes, the right purse, the right makeup, the right skin regimen, the right clothes, the right job. But somewhere along the line, I started to become tripped up in the various games, such as the credit game (you’re Nobody until you Consume at Thrice Your Income!), the work game (if you’re awake, you better be working! If you enjoy it, it isn’t work! Enjoying yourself is for lazy people!), the insurance game (you can’t live without health insurance! You’re gonna get sick and need medication, and you can’t afford it on your own! Give Us Your Spare Cash!), and the dream home game (you don’t have a nice home until it costs half a million dollars! You better have all the latest & greatest! 30 years to pay for! Follow them deed restrictions, too, or else!). I started pausing more and wondering more and questioning here & there, about something, I wasn’t sure what it was that wasn’t clicking for me. Something was wrong with the picture that included an expectation that “successful” people are willing to work 80 hours a week and if you dare ask for your allocated “time off” you must be a slacker and you won’t get far and you better keep working to pay for all the latest & greatest things we are coming up with for you to buy! And these Career Jobs, where you have to workworkwork, come with benefits! BENEFITS! You can’t be secure without our super-duper benefits! Healthcare! Vacation time!
Now don’t you worry your little head about healthcare. We know you’re gonna get sick, either from a super bug (but keep on slathering the antibacterial everything, just in case, forget that pesky science class that taught you that there are such things as good bacteria & bugs, kill them all or they will Make You Sick! Germs, ewww!), or from tainted food (it’s inevitable, you see, since those pesky small time farmers keep refusing to bleach & irridate & sterilize & whatnot and that taints our proper industrialized Safe Food), or from cancer/heart disease/stroke/diabetes/osteoporosis/add-your-fav-here, everybody gets them you see, it’s a part of aging, but we’re gonna help. Just hand over the cash, and you’ll be ok, cuz we’ve got new & wonderful pills to fix it all. Yes, it’s a monthly cost, but don’t worry, work a few extra hours & you can afford it.
“Ugh” doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to such things. “F*ck off” is a little closer, but somehow still misses the real force of my loathing.
I won’t go into a full healthcare rant just yet; I’ll save it for later, lol. Let me just say right now that I am forever grateful and thankful that I do have an inquiring mind, and that mind has led me to learning so much about real food, real health, and how to take care of most issues (or avoid them) on my own. I am grateful for that each and every day.
So after the years of wondering, and exploring, and questioning, and almost succumbing to the lure of a “normal” life and giving in to all that goes with it, January 2009 yanked me back from the abyss when I lost my mom and my job in the same week. It yanked me into a different abyss, to be sure, but one that I needed to enter. Like Persephone entering the dark and unknown Underworld, confronting fears & gaining knowledge, then being led back to the light via Hecate’s twin torches, I feel somewhat reborn in 2010. This past year has really been a roller-coaster of emotions. But it allowed me time to mourn, to think, to really question. To dare to wonder who I am and what I really, truly want out of life. I want to return to my early feelings of contentment and of peace, of living in the moment, of being more intimately connected, daily, to the natural world. I miss it so much, but I’m returning in 2010. Life is too short to wait. There is so much to savor, and I do not want to waste any more time not savoring. I want to drink it all up, like she did or they do.
I am done with trying to force myself into a career or job that others approve of but that I can’t tolerate. I am done with the ridiculous financial trappings most people are expected to jump into. I am going to create a livelihood based on combinations of hometending, sustainability, art, and of promoting these things. I am going to save more than I spend. I am going to learn how to provide for myself and reduce my footprint. My mom taught me that I can be/do whatever I set my mind to…so I am setting my mind to being a better person through a much more honest & simple lifestyle and making a living on MY terms.
And I’m going to share a lot of the journey here this year, and hope that it either helps or amuses you. :) I would love to hear from others on similar paths.