If Everyone Else Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You?
As a child, I lived my life through stories, and more specifically, what I considered at that time, daring, dangerous, and defiant stories, like those that confronted MacGyver. After our family sat down to watch it together every Monday night, I would excuse myself from the living room, exit through the hallway door, and enter into another world filled with danger and dangerous people, while I was armed with little more than a paperclip, Swiss Army knife, and duct tape. "What in devil's name are you doing," I'd hear as I saw the faint glimpse of light arise out of darkness. "MOM, I'm trying to pick this lock before Murdoc comes after me." Mom would chuckle, give me the five-minute bedtime warning, and then close the hallway door as I continued trying to pick the imaginary luck with a paperclip. Stories, be it cartoons, movies, mystery novels, or television shows, filled me with wonder, leaving me with an insatiable desire to create such adventures in my own life.
As adults, we similarly approach stories, such as movies, like we did as children, living vicariously through them. Except there's a difference; when the credits roll and we turn the television off or walk out of the movie theater, the imagination comes to a halt. We come back to "reality" and the real world, going about our day-to-day lives just as we did before, just like everyone else around us. It somewhat follows the logic of a saying that most, if not all of us, heard one or two or one hundred times as a child, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?" But would it be so crazy to create a life like the movies? That is, to pursue that same wonder in our day-to-day lives that we had as a child. If it's really true, that we shouldn't jump off a bridge if everyone else does, but instead think and build a life for ourselves, why is it that it seems like so many lives that people live, are the ones that expectation and history has bestowed on them? Or is this wishful thinking? That such a life that I question above, is only for children, the wealthy, and retirees.
I'm not advocating for a life of recklessness and irresponsibility. I'm not even advocating for a life of long-term travel. Some of you may never travel more than two weeks out of the year, using up all of the allotted vacation you receive annually from your employer. And that is completely fine. However, what I am advocating for is a life of yearning, which suppresses those things that don't make sense and pursues those things that drive, satisfy, and challenge you, making both yourself, and everyone around you, better. For some, that's being a stay-at-home parent. For others, that's spending your life in a service profession, such as a nurse or teacher. And still for others, it may be starting your own business or non-profit. Only you know what that thing is. But you have to test and risk, because with no risk, is no reward.
The fact is that as much as I chose this life, this life chose me. For years on end, I in effect, jumped off a bridge because everyone else did. I followed the line to the bridge, jumped off, and got back up, only to do it all over again, without ever thinking for myself and what it is that I wanted.. What it left me with was broken relationships, a string of jobs I loathed, a pile of debt, and depression. So finally, at the most broken point of my life, I walked up to the bridge, looked way down, looked left and right at the line of people standing beside me, looked at the line behind me, and then turned around and ran. I've been running ever since. What am I running to? I'm not so sure. I don't have all the answers. Is it life? Is it the dream? It's my life. It's my dream. And I know that with every passing day I run like this, life becomes all the more coherent, satisfying, freeing, and blissful.
The presence of the bridge and the expectations of other people are somewhat unavoidable. Whether you jump or not, however, is entirely up to you. - Chris Guillebeau
People often ask how I do what I do. My response: I don't have a solitary thing that I have responsibility over that breathes (I don't even own a plant). And because this isn't merely a career choice or life choice. This is life. Would I like to settle down and have roots somewhere for more than just a year and a half? Absolutely. Would I like to date someone? Of course. But until I find someplace or someone that I don't want to leave, I'll continue to follow my heart, quitting everything that I don't want to do and that doesn't make sense to me in pursuit of everything that I want to do and that does make sense to me. The greater risk isn't the risk itself, but rather risking nothing at all.
What parts of your childhood do you wish to relive as an adult?
The following post came under the influence of Mumford & Sons' Hopeless Wanderer, Coldplay's Talk, and The Head and The Heart's Rivers and Roads. It was the influence of Chris Guillebeau's The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC), which I've picked up to read from start to finish after reading excerpts the last three years. AONC is his message of applying to adulthood the logic of the childhood message, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?" I don't have it all figured out and I'm learning and growing every day, but in my world, I'd like to think that I'm putting a dent in my dreams.