I’m at that point in my life when people expect you to have a plan, or actually that you had a plan and that you’re pretty much there now, at the goal or at least closing in on it. As in done with your education and a few steps on in your career. And that you’ve started the obligatory family. Well, I’m done with my education but I don’t have a degree, I have just abandoned my second so-called career and I’m divorced. So I pretty much fail on all points. And yet, I don’t feel like a failure. I actually feel fine. Of course there are things I want to change in my life, there always is, but over all I’m confident that I’m indeed on the right track. To some people that statement is pretty much a declaration of my insanity, but I’m fine with that too. I accept that they have a different understanding of life than I do. I actually do have goals, but mine are a bit more vague. They don’t include a well payed job, a house, two cars, two kids and a flat screen TV. None of those things interest me. None. Not even the well payed job. I actually don’t want to be rich. Of course I don’t want to be poor, being poor sucks and I’ve had plenty of experience in that area, but all I really want is to have enough money to not have to worry about having a roof over my head and food on the table. That’s it. A place to stay and food for the day. No cars, no TV and no kids. I have been informed that this is not a socially acceptable approach to society. More than once. People often look at me with a twinge of pity in their eyes when I say this. Kind of like the way you look at the village idiot. “That poor fool.”
Like I said, I do have goals in life, but I prefer to refer to them as dreams. Somehow it feels like a healthier approach. That and the fact that all my dreams are so vague that they don’t really allow themselves to be shaped into concrete goals. A career advisor would probably be appalled by this and proclaim “how to set real and obtainable goals in your life” as my first lesson, but again, I’m actually fine with the vagueness. It brings an element of excitement into the picture. That flavor of the unknown. Or to put it differently: it prevents me from being bored. Because I think that has a lot to do with it. The whole job, house, car and kids deal is pretty much my perfect vision of hell because it would bore me insane. Regularity and predictability does that to me. And I’m sure there’s a creative acronym diagnosis for people like me, there usually is, but I’m fine with that too.
But I do think the reactions I get for taking this seemingly disoriented approach to this thing called life are somewhat strange at times. Apart from the “poor fool” stare there is of course a fair share of head shaking and condescending remarks, but some people will actually get seriously upset. Not in the “you are an irresponsible slacker and a cancer on the body of society” kind of way, but in very personal way. As if I was attacking their life-style choices by making different ones for me. And that I find a little bit puzzling. The moral outrage I could almost understand. Almost. But to take my lack of buy-in to the modern-day dream life as personal attack I find a tad erratic. Because it’s not like I’m being all arrogant about it either. Since I’m quite familiar with this type of reactions these days I usually try to avoid questions about careers, houses and babies and if I can’t I try to be very diplomatic about it. For instance, when people ask me about my abandoned careers I’ll try something like: “No, I decided that I didn’t want to purse that particular path.” Whereas I could have said: “I thought it was utter bullshit and I couldn’t be bothered wasting any more of my time on it because I will die at some point.” And I can usually get away with a couple of answers like that, but after a while people start catching on. They start seeing a pattern. That’s when it gets difficult. Because sooner or later they somehow manage to piece together an image of what they perceive to be an assault of their life-style. My simply not sharing their desires gets transformed to an outright attack on their whole value system. And that does puzzle me. But then again, maybe it’s not that strange after all. By not sharing their dream I also highlight the fact that the dream isn’t universal. That we’re not talking about a shared goal here. That there are actually people out there who don’t think that their idea of the perfect life is all that perfect. And I suppose this makes them question their own choices. Some people don’t like doing that. I suppose it must be because the answers scare them.
It should be noted here that my lifestyle isn’t that extreme. It’s not like I have moved out in the forest and decided to live only of what nature provides or joined a sect that’s dedicated to nothing but chanting. No, all I have done is left circumstances where I wasn’t happy. Only that. For instance I moved to a new country simply because I wasn’t happy where I was. Without the European union that wouldn’t have been that easy, but since I’m European and I moved within Europe it wasn’t that big a deal from a bureaucracy perspective. Of course moving per se won’t make you happy, but it was what I wanted to do so I did it. And for some reason this approach to life seems very provocative to people. As if I was somehow breaking the rules by doing this. When I was preparing for this move a lot of people where saying that they would love to do the same thing, but that “it wasn’t that easy” for them. Like I said, from a bureaucratic perspective it was very easy to move, pretty much just a question of actually just going there, but I don’t think changing countries is that easy for anyone. Of course it takes some adjusting and the first few months were anything but easy, but again, it was what I wanted. And that’s the point I was having difficulty figuring out. If you want to do something, just do it, the only thing stopping you is actually yourself. Your own fear of the unknown. Better the devil you know kind of thing. But if you’re not really happy with what you have, then why wouldn’t you try to change it? If I already know I don’t really want what I have then it actually doesn’t matter that much what I replace it with. At least it will be different.
The point of all this is obviously not to go on a “oh I’m so special” rant, because I really don’t think I am, there are plenty of people out there who are not happy with the goals society sets up for them, what I’m trying to get at is the observation of how you can be perceived as a threat just by simply not following the patterns. How you just by making different choices turn into something that’s so much in people’s faces that they actually get upset with you and feel that they have to set you straight. Have to tell you to get with the program. But I’m not so sure it’s possible to have one program that fits us all. And I do understand that’s part of the dynamics of society, that we are all supposed to strive for more or less the same goals, but is that really sustainable? Especially if those goals are largely materialistic? The one who has the most stuff when he dies wins? There are no laws that forbid me to not share these ideals, but there are plenty of social conventions and structures that will make it a tad difficult. And maybe I’m naive, but I actually believe it would be possible to construct a society that would allow for more diversity. After all we are all individuals and somehow we should be able to account for that in the way we form our society. A bit less conformity and a bit more diversity would do us all good. Make us a bit more humble, a bit more nuanced. And part of me also thinks that the aggression I encounter from some people when talking about my approach to life stems from bitterness and a feeling of having been fooled. Because deep down we all actually know that we can’t take shit with us to the grave. And the only thing we can be really sure about in life is that we will die. And that’s why I think we should make a point of making sure we have as much fun as possible before we do. The meaning of life is to enjoy it and the task we all have to solve is what that means to us. To really figure it out on a personal plan and not just listen to what we are told. To figure out what our dreams are. Our very own dreams. In essence all we need is a roof over our heads and food on our table, everything else is just decorations, as it were. And those decorations are what make the picture interesting. Those decorations are our dreams. And they are actually supposed to be different, individual, not the same as everyone else. Then again, if you really want the money, the house, the kids and the TV, that’s fine with me, I won’t judge you, just as long as you’re fine with me not wanting any of it.