(above photo by Ryan Scarfuro)
This week I was feeling gloomy. My life is going really well here, but it’s not as fiery and passionate as I’m used to and it made me feel like I was selling out for a “decent life.” I hate it. I hate the feeling that living Above Average is enough. I freaking want extraordinary and I’m sick of people suggesting that’s not going to happen. (Also, I am aware of the generalizing I’m doing here- but it’s how I’m feeling about the people more so than who they are that is what’s bumming me.)
I was struggling to realize that a desk job does not mean I’m doomed to the mundane. A retirement account does not mean that I won’t quit someday to go live in a van and hike the world. Phenomenal dreams are not out of my equation just because I’m settling into a place for a little while. But I reached out to a dear friend. An incredible circus artist who’s about to set out for a neuropsych phd program and has an uncanny gift for loving the shit out of other people, especially kids. And I got the (email) pep talk of all pep talks and wanted to share, it’d be was too perfect to leave in my inbox and too selfish to keep it from others that may be feeling like me. Enjoy.
Ahem *taps mic*…
To begin my response, I’d like to open with a song I’ve been loving as of late, entitled, “Photosynthesis” by beloved folk punk legend Frank Turner.
Frank Turner – Photosynthesis
Specifically, I’d like to draw your attention to the following lyrics:
“Oh maturity’s a wrapped up package deal so it seems
And ditching teenage fantasy means ditching all your dreams
All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will
Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled
Oh when no one’s yet explained to me exactly what’s so great
About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate,
about meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
Well if that’s your road then take it but it’s not the road for me”
For the next portion of my response I’d like to remind you of something essential. This is [not permanent]. You can spend a year being a broke ass adventurer in a third world country and you can spend a year being “normal” with a retirement plan and a desk job. Both are valuable, they really are. Starting a retirement account is lame and stupid, yes. But you know what? It is great that you are doing this right now. Seriously. The littlest amount that you save up today will pay you back so much someday when you’re old. And I know that’s lame and stupid. So we’ll get back to that conversation in like, 50 years when it has paid off, kay?
2) You have a quiet little lie here. These people are doing all the “getting established” bullshit because some people do stay in one place for the extent of their existence. But you know what? You aren’t some people. You are a human with massive passion and dreams. Having a real person job doesn’t mean you are sacrificing your wanderlust, your physical activity, or your future adventures.
3) You wanna know what I did when I was 23? I got a full time job as a preschool teacher. I worked 9-6p Mon-Fri with a 1 hr lunch. When people asked me what I did and I answered, they responded with a barely interested and slightly patronizing, “Oh, alright.” It was a job where I didn’t need anything more than a high school diploma, even though I had a bachelor’s. I worked with suuuuuper normal people (I also had one coworker who was a weirdo in the greatest way….she’d draw nerdy things on my locker like the batman symbol and the Legends of Zelda symbol and we’d geek out about child psychology and activism. In her spare time, she leatherworks masks). I made a reasonable amount of money, though not nearly as much as I’d hoped for. I had some benefits. I got a Christmas bonus. And you know what I did the next year? I went to fucking circus school. I used that bonus to buy nice presents for my family, and that made me really happy. I used my 1 hr lunch to take a nap because I was always exhausted from running straight to circus class to train my ass off. I saved up a bit of money and I put it toward doing something that was ridiculous and life-changing. And honestly, I don’t know if I could have done circus school if I hadn’t had that super normal person job. Aaaaaand look at me now!
So hey. Just imagine the weird shit you’re gonna get into next year.
4) Consider your context: you just came from the Bay Area and have moved to a community of beachy retirees. The Bay Area is a melting pot of brokeass freaks who are gonna go do some crazy shit and make some weird art and throw fate to the wind and jump at any adventure and be broke and sad and hide the challenges and fear they perpetually fight through. It’s full of people like us who will tolerate being treated as subhuman because we don’t see any other options and we need to pay rent and we have such big dreams.
Now you are living somewhere where like, everything’s fine, you know? Where people are happy to just settle into the groove of the comfortable path and not do anything that scares them. You are not only dealing with a huge personal change, you’re dealing with a maaaaaaassive culture shock. And that’s okay! Totally okay! In the same way that after spending ages in England, one steps into the street looking the wrong direction and needs to jump back to not get hit. You will adjust, but it’s startling and a little scary right now. And not that you’ll adjust by becoming their version of normal, but that you’ll adjust in that you’ll figure out how to find the niches that work with you, like the friend with the turtle and the passionate 40-something year old who threw everything away to become a circus artist. Stay weird and passionate and fantastic, even if you’re in a normal place.
In conclusion, dude. You’re fine. Everything’s okay. Your life is not ending. It is just beginning. Keep planning ridiculous things. Keep making huge plans. Because you’re gonna have a great plan for next year that way. :)
Hugs hugs hugs,
You got this, kay? Kitty gives you a thumbs up.