So what’s the point of this journey I’m on? I’ve been asked that question by a number of people and I always give the same answer…
“Why do I need a goal?”
My goal, if I must define one, is to live a different life than the one I’ve lived the last 44 years. I did the “normal” North American life. And while yes, I was not miserable living this life most of the time, I can’t honestly say I was living my life consciously or purposefully.
Like most, I just barrelled forward through life without giving it much thought. After high school I went to University because that’s just what you did in my circle. After that I got married, got a job, got a better job, bought a house, had kids, etc. Again, pretty much a “normal” life and very similar to almost every other person I know.
With the exception of my children, I can’t say had any of the rest of that stuff not turned out the way it did I would have been any more or less happy with life. My children are the ONE reason why I am not regretful of the life I’ve lived to date. They are everything to me and I couldn’t be prouder of the people they have become.
I did what I was expected to do by my parents, relatives, friends and society in general. The problem is, deep down, it didn’t feel right. I have known for some time That I don’t think like the majority of Western society. My views on politics and social justice are far left. I consider myself a libertarian socialist. If anyone wants to know what that means, read Noam Chomsky because that’s what he is. Also Murray Bookchin is another good source.
I believe the means of production (without trying to sound Marxist) should belong to everyone. While I’m not a Marxist, I believe firmly in the adage “From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.” In other words, I despise what has become of our society because of the rampant expansion of a perverted form of capitalism. And yes, I say perverted form because if you read Adam Smith, the current state of our free market economy is not what he was espousing.
Add to this self doubt about the purpose of living in this heavily consumerised society a nasty divorce, and you have a recipe for what some might call a mid-life crisis.
I hate that word because for most it conjures thoughts of balding overweight men in shiny Corvettes or Jaguars with young attractive trophy girlfriends. Well, that just ain’t my mid-life crisis.
Mine was more a re-examining of my purpose in this world and less a last ditch grasp for imagined youthful glory days.
My marriage had ended and this totally shocked me out of that “normal” stupor. You see, divorce was never even imagined by me. Call me naive in today’s world but that is true. It was not my normal to consider divorce. I am basically the first member of my extended family (right out to cousins) to be divorced. So to say it came as a surprise is an understatement. I realize others saw it coming but I’m here to tell you, I did not. I was always the “work-through-the-shit” guy. Not the “cut-and-run” guy.
With that shock, the corporate job had to go next. I had not been happy working the typical wage slave, suit-and-tie life for some time, but I did it because again, it was expected and it paid me an above average salary with which to support my family.
I dumped it and after a bit ended up working retail after almost 25 years in mid to upper management. It was a job. It paid the bills. I did not have to think about anything once I clocked out. I did not have to do anything above and beyond the job I was paid to do for the hours I was paid to work. And I didn’t have to deal with the bullshit of corporate politics or the inflated egos of spoiled rich kid CEOs and Presidents for whom I had no respect whatsoever.
And here is the problem. That working poor lifestyle, while according me the ethical and mental freedom from corporate life, didn’t provide enough remuneration to have any kind of real life in Canada. It was paycheque to paycheque and I came to realize that this is, in fact, how the majority of people live. Every dollar went to food, lodging, heat and lights. That’s it. Actually without child support payments from my ex-wife, I wouldn’t have even been able to afford basic cable or internet for the kids. And I didn’t even have a car. That was way beyond my new financial means.
That’s not what I want for my kids.
If they want to become lawyers or marketing managers or whatever so be it but I didn’t want them to walk down that path simply because it was the only path presented to them. I want them to know there are other “normals” and they are free to chose whatever path they want regardless of what society tells them they should be doing.
And then something occurred to me. My kids were actually an example for me. You see, my ex and I are not Christian. I haven’t considered myself Xtian since before high school while my ex, I believe, abandoned any pretence shortly after her first university degree.
I explored various faiths over the years and for a long time considered myself pagan. I am now completely comfortable with being an atheist. I no longer feel the need for “faith” to find meaning in my life or the world in general.
The reason I bring this up is because my kids were both raised without religion. They were exposed to many: Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. I tried to ensure they understood the basic tenets of all faiths and always told they they were free to believe or not believe whatever felt right to them.
This upbringing brought about some interesting side effects and made me reflect more on my own upbringing. Like why, as an atheist, can I recite the Lord’s Prayer without thinking? I still remember the time my daughter Isabelle asked me what the last supper was. Or the time my daughter Mhairi asked me “who’s Noah?”.
What was normal to me, indoctrinated since early childhood, was foreign to them.
That was my answer.
By consciously choosing not to raise them with mindless adherence to a faith, I had found the method by which I could help them realize that they didn’t have to be trapped in a life that was not their own. If I wanted them to grow and be whatever they wanted to be, I had to live that life myself. I had to be an example and the example I’d set thus far was the exact opposite of what I wanted for them.
And that is the point. I want to live a life that is an example to my children. I want them not to stumble blindly through life doing what is expected of them rather than what makes them fulfilled and better people.
And so that all led to this. To me quitting my subsistence job, to cancelling the lease on my apartment; to selling 98% of my worldly possessions and to leaving the security and comfort of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Being apart from my kids (and now my girlfriend) is hard. Very hard. But I can’t just succumb to the strong urge to abandon this plan. I need to stay true to the reason for this in the first place. I cannot allow fear to be my guide any longer.
To explore just what it is to live life. To experience other cultures; other ways of seeing the world; other beliefs. To find my own normal and in so doing showing my children that they too can undertake their own quests for bliss.
I am tethered to Moncton and will return as often as I’m able for extended visits and my ex has graciously agreed to a custody arrangement that will allow both my kids to spend extended periods of time with me in another country or on the road. The love life… haven’t figured out how that will manifest itself yet but she and I are both very happy and very willing to explore how this will evolve (see visits home and on the road above).
So while being apart from my children and girlfriend is painful, my purpose keeps me going for now.
How long “for now” is is anyone’s guess. Like I said at the beginning. Why do I need to have a goal? I’m on a quest for something. Don’t know what that is yet but I’ll know it when I see it. That could be 6 months or 6 years from now.
Maybe its an apartment in Iquitos, Peru. Maybe its an ashram in Kerala, India. Maybe its a 2 bedroom bungalow back in ‘ol NB.
I’ll know it when I see it.