14 January 2009

Carpe diem vs. growing up (a list of clichés)

So, when I asked the random questions yesterday, I (not surprisingly) had my own preferences in mind. I would have said tiger, pig, cow, horse. Just kidding. (Have you all received those emails repeatedly, too? Maybe someone is trying to tell me something.)

Anyway, in the Be, Do or Own (Bedouin) competition, I would rather Be. To me, owning something offers little appeal. I believe one's possessions end up owning the owner (cliché #1), and even now, living in a little one-bedroom apartment, I feel I've accumulated too much stuff and want to simplify. To do was a popular choice-- it's the American way, right? I think it is important to do (and not loaf around), but to do above all else to me means to be so focused on the destination that the journey becomes forgotten (cliché #2). This doesn't mean one shouldn't have goals-- it just means that they shouldn't take precedence over all else.

To me, choosing to be means living every moment fully and making the effort to be the person you always wanted to be: the one you wanted to grow up and become, the one your child self would be proud to see herself as. It means being focused on the present, every moment of it, on little surprises that come up and being open to what life brings you. It promises little in the way of reward or social recognition, but those are shortlived highs. Seeking others' approval = a life of slavery. Feel free to disagree.

Onto part II. My partner was the one who came up with the phrase, 'a life of cool experiences,' and it really resonated with me and what I considered living life fully. When I'm old and growing barnacles on my head (yes, this is something that happens to people and not just old ships), I feel that that is the life I will not regret. Within this life, it is also possible to have a great family life and some success, but again, the journey is what drives you. And it is very possible to serve humanity while doing so-- it just might not be in a traditional way.

By this philosophy, traveling is the obvious answer. I feel like, even though I would advise traveling without hesitation if someone asked me this question, most of rational society would counsel taking the job. And say things like 'Oh, but going off and backpacking is so irresponsible-- what if (list of horrible consequences)?' Or 'What a waste of good talent. Talk about selfish.'

And so on. But isn't that what life is all about? Pushing out those voices of narrow-minded condemnation (disguised as rational, responsible logic) and doing what you feel will make you feel like a liberated, enlightened human being? Or am I just glorifying my desire to traipse around the planet?

Which brings me back to the title of this post. I want to seize the day every day (cliché #3), and perhaps I will feel that my limited number of days have not been wasted but were actually lived. I am beginning to suspect that the term, 'growing up,' was invented by someone justifying their so-so job and boring existence.

So, yes, it is a luxury to not be financially responsible for anyone but yourself (I remember being humbly silenced by a student who said he had to help support his family as soon as he graduated, and that was why he was taking the finance job that he didn't want), but if you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, it seems crazy to me not to try.

Last part of the sermon. (Yeah, I know, sorry-- and for all of the clichés, too. No more journey/destination crap, I swear. I wonder how many I have officially offended, insulted and alienated with this post.)

Living the life of your dreams doesn't cost as much as people think (unless, of course, your dream life involves being filthy rich), and not trying is the greatest waste of all. My twenties have flown by, and I'd never want to relive them, but I have no regrets and love all the nutso things I tried. And maybe I just have too many wild oats to sow, but the idea of settling down into a job that you will go to every day for the rest of your life while living in a home that you will stay in for the rest of your life just looks a little too much like death to me. And annual weeklong trips to Hawaii or anywhere else, really, just aren't enough to revive you from the numb monotony.

It is a daunting challenge to say 'I want my life to be full of wonder and exploration and adventure.' All of those people who advised you to be normal and responsible will only be too happy when you fail, but imagine if, every time you failed, you learned something from it, got up and tried again. (And anyway, we are in debt to the normal people (who are too responsible to take risks) who keep civilization running. They allow the small minority of us to experiment with the wacky vagabond life.)

The hope is that eventually, you will have created a life so full and so magical that even if fraught with failure, it will be a beautiful thing to behold. And maybe most people would rather witness it as a spectacle of art than experience it, but for those who want to live it, I say go for it! (And that means me, too.)

(Ducking to avoid incoming hurled stones.)

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