“Tired of lying to myself, trying to buy what can’t be bought.
It’s not living that you’re doing if it feels like dying.”
Old Before Your Time — Ray Lamontagne
I’ve been listening to that song a lot lately. Probably more than is considered healthy. But self-control has never been the strongest of my suits, so I do what the voices tell me. I am merely a conduit for the spirits within.
At its heart, Old Before Your Time is about wanting more.
Over the years, I’ve found myself wanting a lot. And on the surface, I had plenty. Life looked downright swell. I spent years in a job that allowed me to travel for extended periods. I could work at home 3 days a week when I wasn’t away. I was slowing chipping away at a mammoth mortgage. And I paid cash for my car.
But I wasn’t happy.
So I left that job.
I went to another one that held the promise of even more travel, allowed me to take even bigger chips out of my mortgage, and I would have probably had a much nicer car in a year or two. It was the Canadian dream, fuelled by American television.
And I was miserable.
I found myself in front of a screen filled with windows of documents I did not understand, and did not care about. Staring out a 26th floor window, scanning the river below for bodies just so I could say something interesting happened today. Is that how I wanted to round out my days?
The answer was a resounding “NO”.
At either of those jobs I could have a perfectly satisfactory life – padding my retirement fund, taking 2-week vacations here and there, and praying to God that I made it to 65. But, my friend, there are no guarantees. And is “satisfactory” something anyone should aspire to? Tipping a hat to Mr. Lamontagne, I was growing old before my time.
I wanted more, and I got it in spades. Thing is, I was wanting more of the wrong stuff. I found myself sitting in front of a progressively bigger TV, on progressively nicer furniture, in progressively nicer clothes. With progressively dwindling ambition, growing progressively more numb.
You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.
Life for me was beginning to resemble the humble smoke detector. You know it has the potential to make your heart race and get you on your toes, but mostly, it just rests quietly on the periphery until the batteries slowly, and inevitably, run out of juice.
You’ve got to start a fire to see it in action.
So last week, I started a fire. I quit my job. On Tuesday, I bought a camera. Wednesday, a ticket to Bangkok. On Thursday, I started to tell my friends. And I have been surprised by their reactions.
Every one of them has been supportive, excited, and filled with kind words. I clearly did not give them enough credit. I was convinced they would think I was being rash, foolhardy, or even worse, unstable. Crazy as a loon. Foolish as a bag of hammers. I’m sure there are some out there who will think that, and you know, I’m okay with that. This is my life. There are no retakes. If I want to piss into the wind, then so be it. At least I’m feeling a breeze.
I’m at an age where most people are settling down. I’ve always been uneasy with that term. I’m certain it’s because of the words themselves. No one likes “settling”, and no one likes to be “down”. Perhaps if there were a more upbeat description, like “staking a claim” or “cashing in my chips”, or maybe “pitching my tent” I’d be more apt to fall in line. Then again, maybe not.
I’m not quite ready to drop anchor when I’ve got so much set sail still left in me.
Yes, that is me in my younger days. Kidding of course. I’ve been blogging about travel (in anonymity) for the past six months as a distraction. Now it’s about to become the main event.
It’s time to put my money where my mind is.
I’ve been chiseling down my possessions, and squirreling into storage whatever makes the cut. A couple of close friends are moving back to Canada after 8 years in the United Arab Emirates, and they are going to rent my condo. The timing is perfect.
I’m not sure what tomorrow brings, or where I will land, but none of us can know those things for certain. I do know that there is a great big fat world out there, and I want to see it.
I started a fire, now it’s time to fan the flames.
Kenny Rogers (yes, of ‘The Gambler’ fame) once said “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” To be sure, I had it good. But that’s not great now is it.
I’ll leave you with this little poem. It’s been pinned on my cubicle wall for the past 7 years, and in my home office for the last 5 — it’s time to heed the message. And I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.
On an ancient wall in China
Where a brooding Buddha blinks
Deeply graven is the message
It is later than you think.
The clock of time is wound but once and no
man has the power,
To tell just when the hand will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is all the time you own
The past a golden link,
Go cruising now my brother
It is later than you think.