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If there was one upshot to being stranded miles from home at 1:30 AM, with a sick friend in the backseat, it was the perfect temperature for an early fall evening. Warm enough that Martin didn’t feel a chill, but cool enough he could keep his jacket on.
After a time spent solidly staring into the empty grassy fields beyond the road, Caroline spoke to him. “Talk to me a bit?”
“You’re not saying anything, and you have that look on your face. You’re in a funk.”
He paused, thought to himself for a moment, then finally said, “This blows.”
She stifled a chuckle. “What is this, 1997?”
“Shush,” he said, mockingly. “Seriously, though. It’s almost 2 in the morning. I want to go home and sleep. I have work tomorrow. What are we doing out here, literally in the middle of nowhere?”
She narrowed her eyes. “We had to get down to the concert somehow. It was either get in the car or take, like, three different buses. You said yourself a car made the most sense. And, I mean, it’s not like you didn’t want to come. Wasn’t it fun?”
“Oh, yeah, for sure.” He nodded. “It’s just…the logistics of it suck. It’s like three hours from home. Between the gasoline, the tickets, and the time, it was expensive and difficult no matter how you slice it.”
“But worth going,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
“Hm.” He grumbled. “I’m on the fence about that, to be honest.”
She turned to him again, raising another eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Well, yeah. I mean…” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. At that moment, the two of them could vaguely hear Sasha groaning in the back seat.
“Was it really worth all this time?” he finally replied, “and all this effort to come down here and see a band perform on stage? I mean, how much do you think we spent on this trip?”
She stared at him evenly for a moment, then waved her hand dismissively. “You’re no fun.”
He waited for elaboration, but it didn’t come. “That…that’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say?” He snickered. “Who’s living in 1997 now?”
“I’m serious, dude,” she replied. “You were fun before. Now, you’re not. It’s all I have to say.”
“Do you mean I’m no fun right now, or in a broader sense?”
“Honestly, I’m not even sure.”
He crossed his arms, staring off into the field. “So that’s it, is it? I’m the unfun one.”
“Yup. Sorry to say.”
“I’m the unfun one because I’m thinking about being responsible, about what’s a good use of time and money.”
She made an annoyed noise, and Martin turned to look.
“Seriously, man,” she said, “If you didn’t want to come, we weren’t gonna make you.”
“I feel like I had to, though,” he said, faintly.
“Well,” he said, turning his thoughts over in his head, “if you guys had gone, and I hadn’t, I’d have missed out on something.”
She sighed. “You’re losing me.”
He thought about it for a moment before continuing. “If you go, I feel like I have to pony up the dough and go myself. I would have missed a bit of your story. Our story. My story. The collected story.”
Now it was her turn to snicker. “You sure you didn’t have anything to drink?”
He shrugged. “Blame it on the lack of sleep,” he said, pointedly.
She grimaced. Her next words were bitter. “Look, I wasn’t making you come. At this point, it’s all you. I mean, you either go and enjoy yourself, or you don’t go because you don’t think it’s the right thing to do, it’s a bad use of time or money or whatever. But going and then complaining’s just gonna make everyone else as miserable as you are.”
“Hey man,” he said, a bit of sarcasm in his voice, “you’re riding in my car, remember?”
She gave him a thin, resigned smile. “And you’re the perfect gentleman for letting me.”
She peeked over her shoulder, through the window of the car. “And I think she’s asleep. If you’re eager to get going, then let’s go.”
She pointedly nudged him with her elbow, and he grabbed the passenger-side handle instinctively, opening it for her. Wordlessly, she slipped in, and he moved around to the driver’s side of the car.
I’d intended to lighten things up for a time, but something’s come to my attention that I feel the need to discuss. If you recall from my last post, I discussed the life path a lot of people my age chose, and how it unintentionally cause major problems down the road, getting a “higher education” leaving us without job skills, holding the first to be more important than the second, not giving a thought to how things will work out. Bear in mind the following is all opinion. I may be entirely wrong. Maybe in a few years, I’ll recant this position.
The problem is that we didn’t make this post-secondary decision on our own. We were taught that, and now we’re reaping the consequences. Take a look at this comic, an animated form of a lecture by Alan Watts. it’s what triggered this rant:
Sounds pretty good, right? It should also sound familiar to you. It’s the same sort of theme we saw in a lot of media aimed at kids. I’m pretty sure a lot of the Disney canon consists of this same message. We all know the familiar story. You don’t want to follow in the footsteps of your family, or your social class. You have ideals, you have dreams, and those are important. Anyone that says otherwise is a soulless oppressor, or possibly horribly misguided, and is trying to make you give up your dreams, and your special unique talents. Perhaps, if the young dreamer sticks to their guns, they can show their oppressors the error of their ways. Either way, all they have to do is chase that dragon, things will work out, one way or another. The thing is, it’s entirely wrong, possibly damaging, and the opposite viewpoint is one we now reflexively dislike, as we associate it with those misguided antagonists in that fiction we loved.
I think the big problem is that fundamental assumption that we’re supposed to follow these dreams of ours, do these things we enjoy, and forget the money. What are we, soulless? Draw your art, ride your horses, write your articles, make your videos, and damn anyone that says you’re wasting your time. The problem lies in the whole “ignore the money” part. “What if money was no object?” that cartoon asks. Well, it sort of is. It is, and pretending it isn’t, turning a blind eye to it, not worrying about those bills you’re going to have to pay one day, that’s a ruinous mantra.
We’re told time and time again, money doesn’t buy happiness, it’s not about the money, money is the root of all evil, et cetera, et cetera. It’s true money doesn’t buy happiness. What it does buy is security, stability, and life. Knowing what you like, and pursuing your dreams is good and all, but you need to be able to function in society as a grown person at the same time. And that doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning those interests that some would scoff at (I talked about that at length here,) it means being able to live unassisted on your own. It’s hard to follow your dreams if you can’t feed, clothe, and shelter yourself. These things will not magically appear. You need to make them happen, and to make them happen, you need cash. We need to step back and accept the fact that some sort of income is necessary in order to live, and it’s not going to come to us automatically. And if you’re not making it appear, then someone else is, and you’re living off the dimes that they’re earning.
The reason the philosophy preached in that cartoon potentially damaging is because it ignores this basic fact. That, and it leaves out the fact that we like do not always equal things we can do for money, that one won’t automatically lead into the other. Maybe you’ll become the best at what you do through slavish dedication, and get money that way. But to count on it is to ignore the present, and ignore some other, very real, non-optional needs.
Take a look at that dream. Can you realistically expect to make money off it soon, as in in the next few years, instead of some hazy future where you’ve mastered that skill? If not, then that doesn’t mean you have to abandon it. It merely means that you’ll need to do something else to earn income, and work on that dream of yours when you’re not out earning your living. I suppose that’s the other false dichotomy that the media presented us: That the two are mutually exclusive, that deciding earning a living is important means your interests and dreams have to die. They really don’t.
So, here’s my own philosophy, what I’d wish modern media would teach a new generation: Follow your interests, but get paid. If your interest won’t pay you, find something, anything that will, and work on that interest in your spare time. Maybe, if you stick with it, and if you have and/or grow the talent, you can leave that other career and take your interest on full-time. If not, you’ve got a roof under your head, food under the table, and something you like to fill your spare time. If that seems a bit unfair, consider that a realistic perspective won’t turn you into a starving artist, merely a really busy one.
Epilogue: And if you are in one of those situation where you can’t support yourself, that’s hardly uncommon for modern youth, thanks to the world we inherited. The best thing, I think, is to simply recognize this fact, and try to worm your way out of it, and not simply be content to freeload for all eternity.