Three days ago, at 33.5 years of age, I finally had my very first “What is the meaning of life?” moment.
(You’ll have to excuse me, even the most outgoing and positive people fall into funks. I’ve got to write this one out…)
It happened as I was waiting for my turn in line at the register in a gas station. To my left was a series of shelving and wall units nearly as tall as I am just FULL of, well, shit. Sorry to be so crass, but I honestly can’t think of a more fitting term. Rows and rows of items that are completely and utterly unnecessary for our existence. Tiny bottles of liquids promising 5, 6, even 7 hours of extra strength energy. Neon colored phone chargers. Candy of all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Cigarette lighters covered in leopard print, sports team logos, and classy saying such as “Bitch” or “Up in Smoke” with the obligatory marijuana leaf picture. USB storage devices that doubled as a cartoon character shaped key chain. Pills to both help keep you awake and extend your sex drive (what an interesting impulse buy at the gas station…). Air fresheners. Novelty pens. iPod chargers. Hundreds, if not thousands of plastic, cheaply made items for both use and consumption, crammed in as tightly as possible and priced low enough to both justify their purchase and their certain near future disposal.
A sight that I have seen countless times before in my life suddenly caught me like a slap in the face. I looked at all of these “things”, and couldn’t help but think it all seemed so incredibly unnecessary. But more so, I couldn’t get past this sudden, horribly sad feeling, wondering why we require so much shit in the first place. Why are we so needy, so materialistic, so greedy, so wasteful? Why do we need all of this artificial stuff to distract us, to “energize” us, to help numb us to the reality of yet another day? Why isn’t the simple act of LIVING enough? Why can’t we not appreciate all of the wonderful things naturally surrounding us every single day, but instead choose to not only be distracted, but destroy this simplicity?
What the hell are we all doing?
It was a hypocritical thought, however, as I too was in line to purchase gasoline for my car that emits toxins into the atmosphere that are slowly suffocating our planet. And that car was about to take me to the gym, a place where people pay good money to go run or ride for hours on stationary equipment, watching reality television all while never actually going anywhere. And once I got there I’d likely check in on Facebook on my phone a few times, because I, like most of my generation, seem to have developed an attention span that lasts a maximum of two minutes before I need some sort of distraction…even if it’s simply the knowledge that an acquaintance I’ve never actually met was currently angry at their malfunctioning Keurig single cup coffee maker, 3,000 miles away.
I am part of the problem.
I don’t know where this introspective feeling came from, but it lingered for days and I couldn’t quite seem to shake it. But yesterday, while stuck in standstill traffic on my way to work for the third time in 24 hours, it hit me. Geoff and I have reached 3 solid months now of being back to the urban dwelling grind. 45 minute one way bumper to bumper commutes, made two to four times a day. Parking lots and apartment complexes. Massive grocery stores, tourism, commercialism, construction, and industry as far as the eye can see. The concrete jungle, if you will. These things are not always bad in and of themselves, but suddenly I realized how suffocated I feel.
I certainly don’t mean to complain. Myrtle Beach has been very good to us so far, on all accounts. But I guess I didn’t realize how much I grew and changed when I retreated back into the secluded woods of Vermont four years ago. How my outlook on the world, on life, and on my priorities were changed and shaped on those trails and in those mountains.
And when we finally left, I never guessed I would miss the things I took for granted in Vermont.
Like the fact that I could go out for an hour long trail run and never see the footprints or trace of a human being, never mind actually encounter a person.
Or the fact that we did have to drive 15 miles to get to the grocery store, because that meant those 15 miles of land were untouched by the hand of industry and commercialism.
And the pretentiousness of the local Co-Op that we used to make fun of, turns out was not unfounded; people paid $9 for a loaf of local organic bread not because they were label shopping, it’s because they DID give a shit. I’ll add in the people who refused to shop at Walmart, or wear conventional deodorant, or dare show up at a grocery store without a reusable bag. They did it because they DO care about what goes in their body, they do care about natural resources, people, farmers, and our environment.
Side note: I have not seen a single recycling bin since we moved here.
I yearn for the simplicity I once very recently took for granted.
While I spent the last year of my life bouncing back and forth between working from my front porch listening to the birds sing, to a tiny health club that quite literally has barely been touched since 1990…and people preferred it that way… I guess I had lost touch with reality. The reality that so many of us aren’t living, we are merely existing day to day, struggling to achieve the things society has fooled us into believing equal success. A nice car. A mortgage on a home that is in OUR name. A big TV. Designer shoes and handbags with labels that will make our friends envious. An even bigger TV. Every day, spending hours slaving away, many people at jobs they truly do not enjoy, simply to earn money to buy more stuff. I suppose if the “keeping up with the proverbial Jones’s” rat race is the kind of life that someone wants to lead, then who am I to judge.
But I do know, without a doubt, that it’s not the life that I want to lead.
I’m not sure there is a point to this post; if anything, it belongs on the pages of a diary or journal. I mean, I’m even resorting to introspective captioned pinterest pics. But what the hell, I share everything else with you guys, might as well publish this one too. It is most certainly a rambling mess between a few topics: the stark difference between lifestyles in Vermont versus South Carolina. The fact that I miss the mountains so much it hurts. And me, learning to juggle a much more chaotic schedule than I’ve had in years.
In the end, it seems I’ve inadvertently gotten caught up in the rat race mindset and the hustle and bustle of this town. I’ve forgotten to take time to stop and smell the roses. And I mean that literally: you’ve got to stop and actually smell the damn roses. Three years ago I got this quote tattooed onto my ribcage:
and today, I find it rings true more than ever. There is plenty of adventure to be found down here as well…I just need to seek it out a little harder than I had to in VT.
Falling into a “funk” that causes you to feel unsettled, to question the big things, is really never fun. In fact, it can actually be quite scary. But a reminder or affirmations of your beliefs, your desires, and your dreams? Absolutely worth the discomfort.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog posts…