If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”
–Donna Tartt/The Goldfinch
I was talking to a friend the other night. We’ve been friends since we were 12. He was my first boyfriend. Well, kind of. Anyway, He was the only one where there wasn’t any sort of break up involved. His family moved across the country. So there never had to be any bad feelings. So we’ve always been friends instead of going through a hating each other phase.
We are an unlikely pair. I don’t think anyone would pick us out of a lineup and say “those two are friends.”
He is a bit of a pirate. No, not a bit. His lifestyle is completely different from mine. I am a Monday – Friday office worker. I have a husband, house and good credit. I have a salary and benefits. A pension. He doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to do. He lives a life that is on his own terms. He doesn’t make a lot of plans, and when he does he often decides to do something else at the last minute. He’s off grid a lot. He pays the price for it. In a lot of different ways, not just financially. He owns it.
The thing is, he has a thing he does that could potentially make him a lot of money. If he lived a straighter lifestyle. If he could be just a little more 9-5. But is that what he wants?
That’s kind of what we were talking about. He thrives on risk, but is in a place in his life where he’d like to settle down a little. I think he is seeing the price you pay for living a life that is totally your own. It’s being on your own. The upside and downside are the same thing.
We are similar in that we have freak tendencies. Rogue souls. Skewed world views. We are both deeply unconventional. I understand why he wants to live the unrooted life he does, in a lot of ways. Even if I would never live that way myself.
He says that a stable life, a life with a specific house and steady job makes him anxious. I’s not the work. He can work hard. It’s the structure. The daily grind, maybe. Maybe the responsibility.
I need it. I need a home. I need a certain level of physical comfort. I need a little bit of structure. I am a freak on the inside, but I need at least a little bit of a box to keep it in.
So what we were getting at, I guess, is that there isn’t one answer to what people’s lives should look like. Each of us values different things. Family. Love. Money. Success. Ambition. Intellectual or physical stimulation. There is not a right or wrong answer.
There are a few absolutes: don’t be a douche, try not to hurt people. But other than that, we all have to figure out what we want.
I haven’t yet.
You wouldn’t think it would be so hard. I haven’t ever felt like I’ve gotten to the real part yet. That’s because if you don’t know what you want, how do you go about living it.
Initially, I typed “leaving it”
Is the answer throwing yourself into the holy rage, whatever that risk is for you, or being what the rest of the world would consider a good person? At whatever cost to who you are inside? Do you have to be a grown up to have a good life?
The fuck if I know.