1. Getting together “sometime”.
A simple rule: If we can’t put a date, time, and location on when we’re meeting, we’re not meeting. It’s that simple.
That idea can go straight to hell. Even in my teens, I knew people who died too young. Some took their own life. One guy accidentally flew a plane into the side of a mountain. One too many family members dropped dead of a heart attack before their golden years.
So waiting — for me, at least — is off the table. Maybe spending money to travel now means that I don’t have as much of a retirement savings (or social security, if you really believe that will be around in any meaningful capacity within 40 years), but I’d rather have concrete experience under my belt before I’m too old to truly enjoy it.
3. The American Dream.
Two kids, a house with a white-picket fence in the ‘burbs of Anywhere, USA, with a good-paying job and weekends off and thirty years at the same company with a full retirement? No, thanks. I’ve read fairytales that seem more realistic.
My grandmother worked at the same company for 35 years. One day, she walked in and didn’t have a job anymore. The company was moving those jobs overseas for cheaper labor. But hey, at least she got that cheap gold watch for a lifetime of service.
Yeah, fuck that. I’m not holding my breath.
4. Waiting for that one big moment.
In my early twenties, I kept waiting for that one Big Moment that would define who I am. I figured that it would come along, that I’d rise to the occasion, and naturally receive all the glory. So far, I haven’t seen it.
I’ve noticed looking back that all the little tweaks and innocuous decisions that seemed minor at the time had a lasting impact on who I am and where I’ve ended up. I’ve taken jobs that have let me travel the country. I’ve had relationships that ended with scars on both sides. None of those decisions were life-changing at the time they were made, but the sum total of those choices equate to who I am today.
5. Your religious preference.
As a Bible-thumping Southerner who went to a Christian college before converting to atheism in an extreme crisis of faith: Trust me, I don’t give a shit about what you believe as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to manipulate or hurt other people.
Unfortunately, everyone from world leaders to religious extremists seem to have a problem keeping their peace-loving gods out of mortal affairs. I don’t shy away from religion or religious conversations, but I won’t respect sacred cows that obfuscate the real goals that society should be working on.
6. My number of social media “friends”.
My first introduction to social media was during my college orientation. What followed was three years of drama as who friended whom, and “Facebook official” romances, became stand-ins for social interaction.
The worry was simple: Not on Facebook? You’ll never know what’s going on. You’ll miss out on hanging out, party invites, and social gatherings.
That’s hellishly presumptuous, don’t you think? Put your thoughts in a status update and consider the world informed? Ditching Facebook was one of the best moves I made. And, funny enough, the friends who mattered most kept up with me regardless.
7. Turning my hobbies into jobs.
Right out of college, I turned my passion as a hobbyist portrait photographer into a job. They say to follow your dreams, but damn. When I got out of it four years later — with ears ringing from screaming children — I was so burned out that I wouldn’t touch a camera for two years.
Now, I shoot landscapes and travel photos for fun. Trees don’t scream at me because it’s nap time.
8. Keeping up with pop culture.
That new television show that everyone is talking about? Yeah, I didn’t see it. Why? Because I have other things on the table right now. That hot, new pop star with the controversial views? No idea who you’re talking about.
Keeping up with pop culture feels like trying to keep up with the Joneses. So, no, I can’t tell you what was on television last night or who plays regularly on the Radio Top Ten. Pretty sure I’m not actually missing out.
9. Being a foodie.
It doesn’t matter how many pictures you take of your food, what Instagram filters you put on it, or how it was listed on the menu: a bowl of rice is a bowl of rice. And much like a bowl of rice, I’m as simple as they come where food is involved. No amount of cooking shows or specialty recipes will change that.
Now can everyone stop taking pictures of food and just eat already?
10. Keeping in touch.
When I left my college town, I tried to keep in touch with friends I left behind. Turns out, people aren’t really great staying at connected if someone isn’t staring them right in the face. It’s not anyone’s fault. Life happens. But when our relationship becomes a one way street where I’m the only one trying to communicate, it’s time to part ways.
11. A traditional career.
Doctor, teacher, lawyer, soldier. There’s nothing wrong with any of these careers — I just don’t fit into any of those boxes. It took me a long time to realize that there’s nothing wrong with that either, and I beat myself up for a long time over it.
12. The “facts”.
I used to be a fact guy. Scientific studies say this. The polls say that. Based on our current data, this should happen.
Between media spin, the pressure to publish scientific studies for tenure, or a lazy analysis of statistical data interpreted incorrectly, I no longer trust the “facts” as provided to me by mainstream media. I’ll listen to them, and I’ll consider them, but I have a hard time applying them to any relevant point of view.
If I don’t like those facts, I can just change the channel and try again — and that’s the problem. Facts shouldn’t change when I switch stations. That’s not how a fact works. That’s how bullshit works.
13. Earning the big bucks.
I’m never gonna be rich. That’s okay. The only thing that being rich would do is allow me to travel faster than I already do — and faster isn’t always better. Frankly, I’m not willing to put in the time to earn those megabucks. I’ve had those opportunities, and I’ve let them go.
I have friends who have $450,000 USD in student loans and are pulling in $100k/year working 14 hour shifts. Their life plan will net them a pretty penny by the time they pay off those thirty-year loans.
With a little luck, I’ll have seen most of the world by then.
14. Making a mark.
I believe most people want to leave a legacy. It’s engrained in us somehow. But even if you try, the chances of that actually happening are miniscule. Without looking it up, name the 23rd president. Most people can’t, much less what he did. And these are presidents we’re talking about here.
So, no, I don’t give a shit about a legacy. I care about leaving a place better than I found it. I care about transforming the lives of people that I meet and being transformed in return. Those experiences are mine, for me, and I don’t expect songs about them when I’m gone.
That seems fair enough.