Feb. 15, 2016
Liquidating all of one’s earthly possessions, severing all seminal ties, letting go of the trappings of domesticity and civilized living, it all makes for a mighty formidable undertaking. If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I would say that the cards were stacked against us, that the Man was trying to keep us down. I would say that the bankers, cable companies and bureaucrats, with their bloodthirsty fangs set deep into our freedom-loving flesh, had no intention of releasing us from the perpetual cycles of debt-accruing bondage.
But, alas, paranoia is not among my many ailments. I may be an idealist, but I’m not one to point fingers. And no amount of corporate avarice, good old boy networking or contractual shenanigans could explain the sleep disruption, the hives, or the heart palpitations that now plague my person. Man is a social animal, one who craves stability and routine. Selling the house, quitting the job, pulling the kids out of school and parting with every personal artifact does not a routine make. Nor a malicious conspiracy. No, we seem to have brought this all upon ourselves.
How easily we could remain content with our predictable regimen of work and leisure, commuting through the rolling hills, soaking up the endless sunshine, and periodically picnicking by the beach, where the Central Coast sunsets are always oh so pretty. That state of permanent complacency lay so close within our reach. Yet something haunted us, like a gentle rapping at our chamber door, like an alluring whisper from behind door number two. A beckoning, a warning, an incessant knocking.
Somehow we just couldn’t stop asking ourselves, “What else?” and “What if?” Sure, life in the SLO lane is but a short hop from paradise. But there’s an enormous world out there, filled with strange and titillating possibilities, stimulating people and unexpected opportunities. And our time here to see it is so limited. What if 30 more years pass by and we end up spending our whole lives in the comfort and safety of San Luis Obispo County, where the streets are always clean, the weather is always agreeable and the people are always smiling? It sounds a lot like what Goethe called the interminable succession of pleasant days. But I’m paraphrasing of course.
I suppose we’d have no right to complain, four or five or six decades of consistent contentment and smug satisfaction in smile-inducing San Luis, America’s happiest city. But what if this is it? What if life is short and we only have one chance to take it in and do it right? Would we want to play it safe and try our best to never make a mistake? Or would we rather try and do something outrageous?
By now you must know which choice we’ve opted for: the mystery prize behind the unmarked door, the path of the outrageously uncertain. Maybe we’re out of minds and maybe we’re dreamers, but when I’m old and slow and anchored to an oxygen tank, I won’t be the one looking back and wondering “what if?” Maybe I’ll look back and shake my head and wonder what he hell I was thinking, but I won’t be the one regretting not taking enough chances. I might regret having gone too far, but I won’t regret not having gone far enough.
When I think about it, it’s not a lot different from the rationale that goes into a midlife crisis. You only live once, it’s now or never, and if all else fails I’d rather look back and regret what I did than what I didn’t. But I suppose the difference in a midlife crisis is the state of total certainty, the complete absence of doubt and abject terror than now afflict us as we take this leap of faith.
As of this writing, I have already stepped down as the owner of my business, and a new pair of proprietors will take the helm tomorrow. Meanwhile, we have less than two weeks to vacate our home and begin living out of our suitcases. Everyone in the family now treads dangerously close to a nervous breakdown at the drop of a Bavarian hat. I checked in with my daughter earlier today, to make sure she’s OK with the fact that we won’t have a house much longer. She says it fine, but we’ll just have to go in the lake when we need to pee. Well, I’m not sure where she came up with that, but she’s nothing if not resourceful, and at the age of six, she seems to have marvelous sense of adventure, which is just what she needs right now.