Friday, July 16, 2010

Dear Paul's daughter

About half a year ago, a father named Paul posted the following comment after one of my entries:

Hi Ken.
I’ve been reading your stories since fall. You remind me of myself at that age. I have a daughter, I’m curious of your thoughts. She’s 21. I asked her what she sees in the next 5 years for herself, what are her goals or dreams. With no hesitation she said “finish school, get married, have a baby.” Just like that. Later she said the married part is just for us, her parents. I’m shocked. I asked her why a family so soon? (my wife and I didn’t start our family until our upper 30s). What about traveling the world? She said she moved a lot growing up and has seen what she wants to see. We did move a few times, but have been where we are now since she was 10 years old. I’m her father and I want to support her and her dreams. But her dreams are a lot smaller than what mine are for her. What would you say to her?
Paul

***

Dear Paul’s daughter,

Soon after I got your father’s message, I wrote out a big, inspirational, sell-all-your-stuff, and take-to-the open-road response. It was terrible. Really awful stuff. The problem was: while writing it, I got my boots stuck in some very swampy philosophical and psychological terrain. The only way to give you a clear message—I thought—was to over-simplify, dumb-down, and abandon nuance. I realized I was giving the sort of advice that a fundamentalist might give—advice that’s full of passion, but without any brains.

Sometimes I get downright zealous about voluntary poverty. In such a frame of mind, it’s easy to separate people into those who’ve been “saved” and those who’ve “sold out.” It’s sort of like believing in a religion. Doubt is cast aside because it’s easier and more convenient just to thoughtlessly believe in something. At my worst, I might think that people who enter the workforce and start families early have been “brainwashed” by the “system”—some ambiguous omnipresent demon carrying a trident—each prong representing the corporations, politicians, and consumer-capitalist elite who supposedly govern our lives. Oh, if only life were so simple! If only we could discern the good guys from the bad by the color of their hats. Things—you don’t need me to tell you—are far more complex. And only an irresponsible, undisciplined mind would preach such nonsense.

I know that living in a van is not for everyone. Hitchhiking is not for everyone. Nor is standing in front of a grizzly and reveling in some primordial high. So before I go on, know that I understand that you might be a vastly different person than me. I do not plan on telling you to live like me. Not one bit.

Just as many long for the freedom of the open road, dwelling in us, too, are fantasies about hearth and home. We have conflicting desires and conflicting interests. Consider “freedom” for example. Surely, no one wants to be ruled as a slave, but few, I’d guess, would want to be completely free either. Take away gravity from a man, and the first thing he’ll want is his feet back on the ground. I suppose what I’m getting at is that it’s utterly, undeniably human to seek safety and security, perhaps in the form of a stable job, a permanent home, or—in the case of our floating man—gravity. These are natural desires that should not be derided. Desires that I should not deride just because they do not intrigue me as much as they intrigue others.

I should also note that I feel somewhat awkward giving advice at the meager age of 27. As your senior by just six years, please forgive me for taking so bold a stance at so young an age when it might be more prudent to hold my tongue. Perhaps you ought to seek advice from someone who time has blessed with wisdom.

I’m writing this letter anyway because I feel compelled to speak to young people. Just a few years ago I was in a similar position as you: uncertain about my future, anxious about my next decision, and drawn toward a life that was not of my own making. I see young people all around me who are living lives of “quiet desperation.” I see young people living non-deliberately and without self-awareness. I see young people who are not cognizant of the many forces pushing us down certain paths and compelling us to make certain life decisions. If it wasn’t for some last second advice that I’d gotten from an unexpected source when I was 21, then maybe I’d be living a life of quiet desperation today, too.

I’m eager to respond to your father’s request because it tortures me to see young people who fail to seize control of their own lives—people whose fullest potentials will never be realized and who, as Theodore Roosevelt says, “neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

I’ve never had the chance (or the guts) to sit down with one of them and tell them something that they may have never heard before. So this letter is not really just for you, but for anyone who has felt how I felt when I was 21.

I remember myself at that age sitting in my car in a University at Buffalo parking lot, waiting for a spot to open up. My life, at the time, was far from ideal. Four days a week, I’d push carts at the Home Depot. Between long commutes from my parents’ home to school, a 30-hour a week job, an onslaught of papers and exams, and an ever-mounting dunghill of debt, I was starting to lose it. Throughout my undergraduate years, I picked up a minor case of Turrets. My hair began falling out. During class, I had to resist the inexplicable urge to jam the point of my pen into the back of my hand. To make things worse, I had no summer job prospects except more cart-pushing at the ’Pot. Summer after summer, I’d make excuses to not do what I really wanted to do. I wanted to drive to Alaska more than anything in the whole goddamned world.

In that parking lot, waiting in my car, listening to my stereo, out of nowhere a voice whispered four little words into my ear. I looked at the backseat to see who had snuck into my car. Much to my horror, no one was back there. I opened the door and looked beneath my car. No one. I got back in, sat back down, and thought about what was happening to me, why I heard this voice, and what those four little words meant.

Two weeks later, I turned in my orange apron and embarked on a journey that I’ve yet to return from.

So, Paul’s daughter…

I beseech you to do one thing for me: Imagine yourself as an 80-year-old woman lying on her deathbed, thinking about how she lived her life. How would you like to feel? Certainly you’d prefer—as we all would—to bask in the memories of a life well-lived. Should it not be our foremost ambition in life to give ourselves such solace in our last moments—not just so our last breaths are exhaled with peace of mind, but so that—with that moment always in our thoughts—we can live our lives deliberately, forever guided by the reminder to cherish this wondrous thing called life, and to carefully blaze a life path that leads from dream to dream and from happy memory to happy memory?

John Taylor Gatto , a public school teacher and historian, said, “Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are; whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important; how to live and how to die.”

I’m guessing that your education didn’t teach you these things, as mine didn’t for me. Schools, parents, and friends can show us certain beliefs and values, but it’s up to us—as unique individuals with our own particular needs, inclinations, propensities, and idiosyncrasies—to decide how to live and how to die in the way the best suits us.

So my advice is not to sell your stuff and buy a plane ticket to an exotic country; it’s to, as Socrates says, know thyself.

Know thyself better than anything. Write, think, read, talk. Question everything. Don’t just moan in your diary; figure out why you are the way you are. Analyze every emotion, every thought. Drop the texts and make you the object of your study. Play the detective and solve the mystery of you. Ask yourself why certain memories have embedded themselves in your mind, while others never stuck? What is it that makes you, you?

You speak English because you’ve grown up around English speakers. Just as you’ve come to speak the language, you’ve adopted certain cultural customs, beliefs and values. But just as there are other languages to which you haven’t been exposed, there are other ways to live—other ways (depending on the sort of person you are)—that might be more agreeable than the standard “husband-baby-job” formula that has come to be considered “normal” by our society, but is not, for many, the surest route to happiness.

We’ve been told what to do since birth. We’ve been told to do well in school, get good jobs, buy a home, and start a family. Perhaps you’ve been told something else, but you’ve been told something. Our advisors seem to sing together as if part of a choir, which suggests to me that a lot of people believe that there’s a formula for happiness and a certain way to live. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why should we take advice from our society in the first place? If I saw a society comprised entirely of enriched, happy, peaceful and healthy citizens then maybe I’d think society was on to something. And while I do not deny that there are many wonderful things about our country and our society, I will never accept its tenets as gospel so long as Wal-Mart workers are being trampled in Black Friday stampedes, so long as children are raised more by TVs and teachers than by their parents, so long as a huge chunk of our population has no access to affordable health care, so long as we thoughtlessly pollute the waters we drink and the air we breathe. I point this all out because—just as we shouldn’t believe the nut on the city street yapping that “The End is Nigh!” (even though he may have some reasonable things to say)—we should also be deeply skeptical about what our sometimes-deranged society expects from us too (even though it may have some reasonable things to say).

There comes a time in a young person’s life when I think she ought to detach herself from the ties that bind; to separate herself—if just temporarily—from family, friends, and society; to give herself time to wander in the woods, sit by a creek, walk in foreign lands, and to turn inward; to give herself a chance to begin to know herself.

While you may feel bound to your family, no human should be bound to think as they do. We are bestowed with different capacities, propensities, talents and faults—characteristics oftentimes far different than those of the people who birthed and reared us. So, to feel compelled to live as everyone else lives—even if such a lifestyle doesn’t agree with us—is a dishonor to the diversity of the human experience.

You must discover for yourself what is right and true. And what is right and true must come from you. Not the “you” that’s been indoctrinated in compulsory schooling, not the “you” that’s been told by TV that thin is beautiful, not the “you” that’s been told that a productive citizen is one that seeks riches.

I’m talking about the “you” that our culture has not been able to get its greasy hands on. I’m talking about some small piece of you that is pure and unalterable. Call it your nature, your soul, your authentic self, your genes. Call it what you will, but I believe there is a part of us that culture cannot reach. And when it speaks, it ought not be ignored.

Sometimes I think people cannot awaken the “sleeping prince” inside them. Or maybe the prince cannot be heard amidst the clamor of civilized life, drowned out by the billboards, iPods, TVs, teachers, parents, friends, politicians, gurus, and self-help books. Give yourself some peace and quiet and take to the woods or desert or mountains. Maybe then you’ll realize that his murmurings have gone unheard all this time.

I’ve received oodles of terrible advice from my seniors. I’ve been told that the things I’ve wanted to do couldn’t be done; that such and such a thing is “impossible.” Over and over again, I’ve proved them wrong. But the one line of advice that’s always stuck—which has always made perfect sense to me—is to, as they say—sometimes with wistful, nostalgic, and envious tones—“enjoy it while you’re young.”

Have you ever wondered why married people (excluding newlyweds) never seem to be dripping with happiness? Ever wonder why so many middle-aged men go through mid-life crises? Ever wonder why post-war-years housewives—who had all their needs satisfied—commonly suffered from depression? Ever wonder why almost ever older person says to “enjoy it while you’re young”?

There are phases or—as Shakespeare says—stages to one’s life. Let yourself be the “lover/ Sighing like furnace” or the “soldier/ Full of strange oaths… seeking the bubble reputation.” Embrace the stages as they come, but do not skip ahead to motherhood just because you’ve been advised to or because it’s expected of you. Scratch your itches. Trust your instincts. Follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell says. Embrace the phase you’re in. Know thyself, and you’ll begin to learn how to live and how to die.

You may very well decide that to “finish school, get married, and have a baby” is what’s right for you—I’m not saying that it isn’t. I’m just saying, don’t commit to anything of that magnitude until every fiber in you aches for it; until you know you want it with as much clarity, certainty, and confidence as the starving man who knows he wants food.

I go to school with so many PhD students who have thoughtlessly surrendered their autonomy and sentenced themselves to a lifelong livelihood that often doesn’t befit their character or interests. They made their decisions hastily, acting before first knowing themselves. And now they're more or less locked into lives from which they cannot escape.

It amazes me how freely people surrender their autonomy. People get nervous when they don’t have a job, obligations, or things to pay for. Debt isn’t just something forced upon us; it’s sought so we have a game to play, a battle to fight, a life to live. But I feel our autonomy should be cherished, regardless of whether it makes us uncomfortable. Your autonomy gives you a chance to develop and mature and grow into who you really are.

If you’re not sure what you want to do, my advice is to not do anything that ties you down. Your revelation will come soon enough. Find odd jobs, take more classes, sit on a tree trunk, do anything but commit to a lifestyle for lack of other ideas. And travel for God’s sake! Your peregrinations with your family do not count as “travel.” Spin your globe and stop it with your finger. Once you point to a place that makes you squirm in your chair, you’ve found a suitable destination. Real traveling is a cold, hard business. It’s not about taking pictures next to iconic cultural relics or collecting National Park stamps. Real travel is about testing yourself; it’s about trudging through uncomfortable territories; expanding your horizons; learning new points of view; and developing your selfhood. When you’re traveling alone, you’re forced to turn inward.


Maslow says we have a hierarchy of needs. We can’t ascend to the top of the pyramid (self-actualization, creativity, purpose, meaning) until we have the necessities on the bottom (food, clothing, and shelter). It’s funny, though, how so few people choose to realize their true potential, electing instead to dwell on the bottom of the pyramid, widening their waistbands, buying flashier clothes, and building bigger and more expensive shelters. While these lower needs are satisfied, other needs are ignored. They will not learn the thrill of enrichment and the world will suffer for want of greatness.

I think it ought to be our sacred duty to cherish this rare opportunity. So few get to live in a place and age when we can easily satisfy our most basic needs. What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to think, invent, create, and overthrow. What a wonderful father you have who is encouraging you to do as you wish, and not as he wishes! We should frown upon the person who spurns this honor to self-actualize the same way we frown upon the person who wastes food or abandons loved ones.

Just as nature has given us legs to walk the earth and lungs to breathe its air, it’s bestowed us with eyes that can make out the faint glimmerings of stars so we can wonder, imagine and dream. Don’t let the foul cloud of civilization come between you and your innermost dreams. Know thyself and have a kid. Know thyself and live in a van. Know thyself and rebel or know thyself and conform. Whatever you do, know thyself.

As a young man, there was no one to give me the advice I really needed. In high school, no one talked about—as an alternative to going to college—traveling, working odd jobs, or walking across the country. No one spoke about voluntary poverty and certainly no one talked about saving money by living in a van.

The life prescribed for me, for reasons unexplainable, would have led to unhappiness, failure, maybe even insanity. But everything changed when I heard those four little words in that campus parking lot—spoken to me, not by “God,” my stereo, or another “personality” but by a voice so crisp and clear I can hear it as I type this letter. Sitting in that car, I found it interesting that the voice sounded like my own.

44 comments:

CT_Bob said...

Ken, are you SURE your are only 27? Not only your wisdom, but your ability to communicate such deep concepts is amazing.

It is always interesting to listen to a 21 year old talk about their current reality as if that is all that there is. I like what you wrote. Excellent.

Of course, there is always the option of have a baby, get married and travel, in that order, as these two do:

http://www.vagabondjourney.com/travelogue/

mOOm said...

Are you sure there are lots of PhD students not wanting to do what they want to do? They can quit any time. The usual problem is people who get PhD is subjects thy are interested in/passionate about and then can't find appropriate careers using them.

Trish said...

I was one of those phd students you described. There are a rare few who know early on what they want to do with their life, some chosen road that reveals itself early. Then there are the rest of us who race towards a career, without careful examination, because, well, we have to have a big successful career. You are spot on in your writings

Ken said...

Bob- thanks. I just think the 21 year olds need to hear from more people with radically different perspectives. The options they perceive they have are far fewer than the options they really have.

Moom- I have no statistical proof to back up my claim. Only anecdotal evidence. That said, I don’t think to say “so many PhD students… have thoughtlessly surrendered their autonomy” is rhetorical flourish. You’re right that some PhD students can leave at any time. (i.e. the history student who has free tuition and a $12K annual stipend.) But many, if not most, PhD (and law and other professional) students don’t have it so easy. Think about med, business, pharmaceutical, law, etc. students. If they learn, after a year of schooling, that it’s not for them, they have a very difficult decision to make. For example… Let’s assume that Joe is an in-state student in the University at Buffalo law program (easily one of the more affordable schools) who just finished his first year of law school. In so doing, he learned that law isn’t for him. Between the average undergraduate debt ($23,000), the average credit card debt for grad students ($8,000), and now his first year of law school ($16,000), he owes $47,000. Joe’s got a tough decision to make. He knows law school isn’t for him, but he also knows coming up with $47,000 isn’t going to be easy with just his B.A. He wonders if he’ll be better off finishing up law school so he could get a more lucrative career and get out of debt quicker. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I was in his shoes. And I think this little drama plays out in the heads of many students more times than we’d like to think. Many students jump into grad school right after undergraduate school (or just a couple years after graduating, in my case). I don’t think this is enough time for many students to have figured out their “calling.” And, as I suggest above, sometimes your area of study can lock you into a certain type of lifestyle. If Joe finishes his schooling he’ll graduate, like most law students, with $50-75K in debt. So he’s already given 3 years of his life to graduate school, and will probably have to dedicate at least the next 10 to paying off his loans. And by that time, many Joes will be unwilling to start a life “doing what they really want to do.”

Trish- Right on. There are some people who really do know their calling, and there’s little debate about it, but, as you said, others are thoughtlessly racing “toward a career.”

Ross said...

Astounding post. Your writing skills are really top notch. I would encourage you to write some sort of philosophical book or something... I don't even know.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing it? What were the four little words?

Ray Janes said...

PHD too often defines:
Piled Higher and Deeper.

Anonymous said...

"But her dreams are a lot smaller than what mine are for her."

Who is he to judge!?!

God this whole post rubbed me the wrong way.

Not everyone wants to travel. Not everyone wants to do what you do, Ken. Some people want to start families and should be allowed to do that in peace. Getting married & having kids is NOT the end of one's life. It's not like you live life THEN have kids. It's all happening at once.

Ken said...

Ross—you’re too kind.

Anon—I’m afraid you’ll have to “wait for the book.”

Ray—Even though they’re going to make tons of money someday and will eventually be financially comfortable, I feel really bad for med/law/etc. students who must arrange their lives around their debts. In many cases, they must take jobs that aren’t in accord with their ideals simply to pay the bills. I really wish they had it easier.

Anon—While I do suggest travel, I suggest it less because it might be fun, and more because I think it’s a way to get to know yourself. This might help one figure out what’s best for themselves; it might help them make the big life decisions later on. And travel, as I point out, is only one of many ways to begin to know yourself.

I cannot fathom how making sure you know what you want before you commit to something as life-altering as starting a family or a career track is bad advice... I didn’t say there’s anything wrong with getting married, getting a job, or having kids. In fact, I took pains, on multiple occasions, to point this out and to point out my own oftentimes-wrongheaded prejudices. I also point out that I do not think the way I live is for everyone. I really don’t know if I could have said things more clearly.

As for her father’s quote: "But her dreams are a lot smaller than what mine are for her."

The father is concerned, and quite legitimately, because his daughter has no dreams of her own. Getting married was not HER dream; it was what she thought her parents wanted for her. Paul’s daughter only wants to get married because of her parents. (“Later she said the married part is just for us, her parents.”) There is a huge difference between doing what you think is right and doing what someone else thinks is right. Paul does not want his daughter to live a certain type of lifestyle from what I gather. He just wants her to be happy. He wants her to take control of her life and follow through with HER dreams and no one else’s, including his own. To live life self-aware, to be really in touch with your desires and dreams, and then to courageously follow through with them, is, I think, a means to a full and happy life.

Again, I think it’s great to have kids, buy a home, and get a job if it’s YOUR dream and no one else’s. You say, “Some people want to start families and should be allowed to do that in peace. Getting married & having kids is NOT the end of one's life. It's not like you live life THEN have kids.” I totally agree. I don’t know why you think I disagree. All I’m saying is to live according to what stage of life you’re in. If you’re feeling a strong itch to be a mother, be a mom. If you feeling a strong itch to travel, then travel. If you don’t have an itch, wait for one. Paul’s daughter needs to know what she wants. My advice to her is to figure that out first.

Mike said...

Ken,

Whenever anyone is looking for advice I always think of Thoreau. This from the first few pages of Walden, "Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about."

It seems to me people eager to give advice and people eager to look for advice rarely seem to give or get anything of value.

Though, your advice to this lady, which basically boils down to grabbing her by the shoulders, shaking her, and yelling "THINK!" at her face, seems likely to at least be harmless, I imagine.

-Mike

KCLowlife said...

One thing that Dr. Drew Pinksi talks about but many don't seem to acknowledge is the biological drive of a woman to have a child. Since I'm a man, I have no concept of it myself. But when you think of a man's drive for sex, substitute that for a drive to have a child. Then go read a bit about how the attraction to cats somewhat meets the same need a little bit due to eye spacing, head to body ratio, etc.

Before women get too pissed at what I'm saying, understand that I am not implying that women can not move beyond this biological desire. Men have sexual desire all day long and yet manage to act normally. Women have the same sort of restraint.

Anyhow, my comment to women who want to get pregnant at a young age is that they are setting up their children for a poor childhood. Parents need life experience, they need to establish a career or a home. Discipline and patience are not things that just miraculously spring out of thin air at 21. You don't need to get a job instead of raising kids as there are a million options out there. But statistically speaking young marriage fail at an amazingly high rate which leads to raising kids as a single parent. If you have no career experience when you become a single parent you are headed into poverty. And children raised in poverty tend to remain in poverty.

These are all generalizations but intelligent people base enormous decisions off of the things that are most likely to happen. Innocently hopeful people base their decisions on romantic dreams and biological urges and most importantly do not make good parents.

Chris said...

Ken, as always I loved the blog. Hope you're enjoying your summer and suggest you come visit for a weekend or something soon, as baby Peyton will be arriving any day now! We can crack some beers and relax at the bar in the back yard!

To everyone else that has read the comments/blog I'm a year older than Ken and have known him for the better part of my life. I have not had the adventures he had but I do know what I want out of life. As he suggested Paul's daughter should do, I figured out myself a long time ago.

Sure there are things I wish I had done, or wish I didn't do but that will always be a part of everyones lives no matter what. We just can't do it all. And yeah there is nothing wrong with having a job/spouse/kids and living out your days as long as you're happy doing it.

My advise to Paul's daughter would be to follow what Ken said. Live your life how you want to. You don't have to have kids just because you're married. Just because you have moved a few times doesn't mean you can't travel or even move a few more times. And sometimes traveling doesn't compare to enjoying a cold drink in your backyard.

To me life is a great adventure and I do not know where it will take me next. But I always laugh/smile/love and enjoy the people around me. I love my wife with all my heart. I love my son and soon to be second son with all my heart. I wouldn't trade them for anything and I can't wait to see them grow and learn how to enjoy life in their own way. And I can't wait to grow old with my wife and see the world some day.

Chris said...

Oh yeah and KCLowlife you can go blow it out your ass.

"Innocently hopeful people base their decisions on romantic dreams and biological urges and most importantly do not make good parents."

Your dreams, romantic or not and urges, biological or non do not define what kind of parent you are or will become. There are couples that resist their "romantic dreams and biological urges" and yet are parents to some of the worlds dictators. There are also couples that give in to love and raise some of the greatest minds of our time.

Some parents base their decisions for their life, their children's lives, and their families lives on what is best for them.

Ken said...

Mike—That Thoreau was quite the curmudgeon, eh? I think some of his writings need to be taken with a grain of salt. Just as I have received plenty of good advice from my seniors, I’m sure he received his fair share too, if only from his pal Emerson.

KC—Ha, I remember listening to Dr. Drew on “Love Line” on my late-night drives from my job at a hockey rink to my home. I agree with everything you say so long as we reemphasize that we’re talking in generalizations. Certainly it’s true that, as Chris, below, says, “There are also couples that give in to love and raise some of the greatest minds of our time,” but of course this is not how it works out for many young lovers, as you point out. I remember I had long-term urges with my high school sweetheart at the age of 17, but it would have been a bad decision for the both of us if we chose to stay together. I’m certain that I’d be a better father today at 27 than the father I would have been at 17. I think if I went down that road, I’d be scheduled for a nasty mid-life crisis for not scratching the itches I felt as a young man that ought to be scratched.

Chris--Let’s keep it civil ;) Good luck with baby Peyton (which is a much better name than the proposed ::gag:: “Utah”). Perhaps we can again try to disrupt the Wal-Mart shopping sprees on Black Friday this fall after Thanksgiving? I’m happy that you’re happy. I think it’s easy to succumb to the “greener pastures” syndrome—in which one constantly wants what one doesn’t have. It goes both ways. Family men want freedom, and the unattached want families. What a sad way to go through life, always wanting what you don’t have. So I’m happy that you’re content with what you have because you do have a lot—maybe that’s the true testament of a wise mind.

Chris said...

Some black Friday action sounds good. Didn't think you'd be back at Duke this year. See ya then.

Anonymous said...

you're not going back to duke this year?

FB said...

Dear Ken,

Thank you for your posts, I really enjoy them, even if I don't agree with everything you think. I've graduated a year ago and was going to go on a writing spree, since thought that was all I wanted to do with my life. It didn't work out. I was terrified, even with enough money in the bank for at least a year. But I don't have much work experience due to a disability, and I kept thinking: "What will I do when this money's gone?" I can't possibly get much more frugal, since I've practicing the art since four years, and I've hit my 'any less than this makes me very unhappy' point. (So no van for me, sorry. And I detest gardening - I'm very bad with my hands. Sewing (badly), cooking and generally not buying stuff are working well, though.)
Have you considered (and maybe you have, I don't know the post by heart) that Paul's daughter might be scared? The need for security is a powerful force, as I experienced in my year 'off'. Moving a lot when you are young can also botch your sense of security. What safer place than your own home with a nice cuddly baby? I've considered it - and I don't want a baby. But maybe in her mind it beats getting out into the workforce and having to stand on your own feet.

Standing on my own two feet, literally, is a challenge for me, and that's why I seek safety where I can, I need it to recuperate and to survive. That's why travel, even when I've done it a lot, sometimes upsets me. There are so many uncertainties in my life (will I be able to get out of the house today, will I be able to meet friends, will I be crippled by pain or not?) that the thought of travel, without your own things, in a strange environment in a foreign language, maybe even a foreign alphabetis just too much. If I'm going to be sick, I at least would like my doctor to speak Dutch.
Now I don't reckon Paul's daughter is disabled. But still she might be a little overwhelmed by life, and trying to crawl into a safe space. Watching the news can do that to you. I know the feeling and I've tried crawling away, but I find that this locks you into a cage, a cage of dependency and even less self-assuredness. So I'm carrying on. But sometimes, life itself is challenge enough, and to advise somebody to challenge themselves more, might be wise but it might not hit the spot. So next to your excellent advice (because I do think a broad mind, and purpose, is man's greatest treasure) I'd advise Paul to ask his daughter why she is painting such a safe little picture. It's not safe, but you only know that when you're inside. Still, the desire is saying something, and it might be more than lack of experience. She doesn't want new experiences. She's seen "all she wants to see." Why? She might be scared. But if she is, I'd also advise her to read "The Feminine Mystique". That tells you what happens after you've used your marriage as an escape route. And it's scary as hell. It also tells you exactly how American women used to be - and sometimes still are - conditioned by society to find happiness in a life of domesticity. It uses many of your examples, but it goes into more detail about the myth of the happy housewife.

Kevin M said...

The internet is so great because essays like this can get out there and be shared.

I'll freely admit I fell into the college-->career, marriage-->buy a house "default path" you discuss. While I do enjoy my life, I can't help but think I missed some adventure in those younger years when I was so focused on earning money to pay the bills.

That being said, does one ever truly know when they are ready for settling down? I thought I was back then, but now I look back and wonder what happened.

Ken said...

Anon—I’m going back. Got two more semesters. In the fall I’m taking “History of Economic Theory” (economics course) and “Stylistic Imitation” (an undergraduate creative writing course). All that’s left for spring semester is writing my thesis. Not sure exactly what it’ll be, but my liberal studies program is great because they’ll consider academic pursuits of any discipline. I’m thinking of writing a travel narrative.

FB—Thanks for your story. Fear may be a plausible explanation. That’s why I think venturing into the unknown is so important. And when I say “unknown” I don’t mean Siberia—though Siberia would be sufficient for some; the unknown, rather, can be anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or anything that makes us scared. When I got a job as an elementary school tutor my first semester—that was an adventure for me. I was terrified about working with little kids. It turns out that I’m great with them and that I love my job. It’s crucial that we look our fears straight in the eyes; it’s more than likely that we discover there was nothing to fear in the first place. Once you realize that so many of your fears are similarly unsubstantiated, the world becomes a whole lot more exciting and accessible.

Kevin M—interesting question, “does one ever truly know when they are ready for settling down?” I guess it’s tough for me to say since I haven’t yet lived out my 30s, 40s, etc. I doubt my itch for adventure will ever be fully scratched, yet I expect some urges to recede (proving self in wild) while others manifest (fatherhood) as I age. I suppose it varies per person, so it’s really tough to say. Men like Muir and Cook and Shackleton and T. Roosevelt seem to have been restless spirits all their lives.

DragonheartD51 said...

27? I though you were 23!

Another fantastic post Ken.
In all honesty, I could never see myself as a family man.

Ken said...

Dragon--thanks man.

PittsburghWebGirl said...

I got married early and had kids early. To me raising my family WAS a grand adventure.

Standing in front of a grizzly and reveling in some primordial high is probably nothing compared to the high of holding your own newborn baby or seeing your child grow up to be an independent free-thinking adult.

If you think there is no challenge and adventure in having a family it is only because you haven't yet!!! Ninety percent is your attitude and openness to the magic of life.

Now the last of my 3 kids is going to college in the fall, and I am ready to start another grand adventure - life without kids, freedom, more travel etc.

I am 47 years old, in great health, planning to bicycle across the country next March. I got divorced 3 years ago and am dating a great man - a freelance comic book artist. I have a small web design / search marketing business which pays the bills and give me great flexibility. I am in the process of selling the family home and moving into a small apartment.

BOTTOM LINE: When I was young I wanted a family. That was my dream. I did not put off my dream for 15 years while I accumulated money or got everything in place. Now that my kids are grown I can think about other dreams.

PittsburghWebGirl said...

Me again - I did want children "with every fiber of my body" - it was not something I did because everyone else was doing it. In fact, most of our friends were waiting until they were in their very late 20's or early 30's.

We spent almost no money on our kids when they were young because we didn't have any. The kids didn't notice they were in second hand clothes and used strollers.

We didn't own a car for years, well after we had 3 kids - most people thought we were crazy. We wanted to live on much less than we made and be financially free.

I think that might be your point - question what the assumptions are and know why you are doing what you are doing.

Ken said...

Pittsburgh—Thanks for your story. I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with me, but I have more thoughts to share so I’m going to go on a wild tangent…

Truthfully, I think starting a family early is a bad idea. In some cases, having kids appears to me to be little different than buying luxury items that are unnecessary, but add “sparkle” to one’s life. I think we have a duty on this earth beyond creating more mouths to feed especially when resources are becoming thin, and that we ought to spend our youth on a quest of sorts before settling down; whether to do public service, to fight for a cause, or to go on a solo journey to embrace the unobligated life, broaden our education, and developing our characters. The world is far from idyllic and there are plenty of dragons left to slay. Frankly, I find something irresponsible and self-indulgent about turning all one’s focus on the rearing of a child while passively allowing the rich and powerful to pull the levers that govern lives. I’m not saying one can’t do this with child, but I think it’s generally true that we put the child atop our list of priorities, while knocking down all other personal and worldly concerns.

It appears raising kids early has worked out for you, but not many people really know who they are or what they want when they’re 18-22 (or in some cases much younger). Many confuse the itch to have sex with the itch to have kids. Many really don’t know what’s best for them. And yes, one could just postpone the journeying phase until after the kids are in college, yet I think there’s a huge difference between going on that journey when you’re 21 and going on it when you’re 51. I believe that one’s character is always in a state of change, but I think we’re more pliable at a young age. The journey can play a transformative role in the fashioning of a young person’s character. At 51, I suspect that one’s character is pretty much fully formed and far less alterable. We have 80 years on earth. I think we ought to—despite whatever urges we feel early on—ignore them to enjoy some free, unfettered autonomy in our early years. Parenthood is surely a joy and a journey of sorts—but it’s one you’re obligated to stay on, while the youthful explorer can start and stop and start again unbound by familial obligations.

Again, let me reemphasize that I believe parenthood is an adventure and a journey in itself. And while parenthood can and will change us, it will not make us into unique individuals. Everything changes us. Compulsory schooling changes us. College changes us. Parenthood changes us. All these things change us, but we really end up being funneled by the system into the same person albeit with slightly different beliefs, values, and personalities from one another. The journey, rather, should be original and unique. It should be un-prescribed and of the journeyer’s creation. The true journey—one that isn’t on a cruise line or that has been scheduled for us by a tour company—is something that has been experienced by no one in the history of mankind. It changes us in ways different than how walking through the standard gauntlet of life changes us.

Let me again attempt to distinguish the journey of parenthood from what I think a “true” journey is. One is like walking through an airport inspection line with our other 299 million countrymen, getting “processed” by various phases of the inspection created and overseen by government/corporate planners. Yes, your feet are moving and yes, you’re on a “journey” of sorts and yes, you’re being “changed” by each step of the inspection, but it’s far different than the journey that gives us vastly different experiences from those who’ve walked in such a line administered by broad social/economic forces whose scope is often beyond our ken. It’s the “true” journey—whether of the mind or body—that transmits from journey to journeyer to society a fresh stock of ideas, questions, and beliefs to sift through and ponder. While parenthood, again, is a journey, it does not make us into unique human beings.

PittsburghWebGirl said...

Ken

Raising a family is part of the "human" experience - it is not something that our particular culture or society forces us to do - all human do it , in every culture.

When and how we choose to have / raise our children is be culturally influenced.

We can do what everyone else is doing, or forge our own unique road.

PS. When she was 13, my daughter honestly could not understand how I could get up every morning - to her, all the adventures of life were over for me and I had no real reason left to live!

What she didn't understand, and I suspect you can't either is that is that life never ceases to be amazing if your eyes and heart are open.

Mel said...

I think you use your voluntary homelessness as a way to try not to seem pretentious when you actually are. Who are you to judge what someone else wants to do with their life? Isn't what you are doing partially influenced by what you see and have been taught or what you have learned over the years? Maybe that is actually what she wants to do with her life and even if it isn't, SHE has plenty of time to figure that out on her own.

Ken said...

Mel--What's so wrong with judging? I used to be a dishwasher. If someone new started working and I noticed that they were washing the dishes in a manner that was far less efficient than how I washed the dishes, is it so wrong for me to "judge" how they're washing the dishes before politely offering advice? Or should I just keep my mouth shut for fear of sounding know-it-all-y or pretentious? Of course I'm going to offer advice. There's nothing wrong with teaching, showing, or advising. I think I know something that Paul's daughter doesn't know. What's so wrong with making a judgment and offering advice?

The truth is, I don't know anything more about Paul's daughter than you do. Everything I know about her comes from that brief message from her father. In that message, I gathered that his daughter was not self-aware. Maybe in real life she is self-aware and that she really does want to start a family. But the person in Paul's message is not self-aware, and she wants things only to please other people or because she thinks she's expected to want them. My letter was addressed that person, fictional or not. I see a lot of people who've become trapped in a life that makes them unhappy, largely because they lacked self-awareness before making life-altering decisions. I think self-awareness is an ingredient to live a happy life. So when I see people living without self-awareness, I desire to share what I know to perhaps help them.

You say that maybe starting a family is "what she wants to do with her life." Maybe. But from Paul's note, it's clear that she only wants to do that to please others. You say she has lots of time to figure it out on her own. Maybe. But what if she does start a family or enrolls in some expensive Master's program? If she figures out what she wants later on--let's face it--it'll be too late since she's morally obligated to raise a child or financially obligated to pay back her loans. My whole point is to know what you want before making a lifelong commitment to something.

Mel said...

I see your point but sometimes people need to figure things out on their own. I'm fairly new to this blog I briefly sifted through some articles. I can't say I don't judge people as I think you just put yourself through voluntary poverty for the sake of it trying to become a new-age Thoreau which I think is completely unnecessary. I'm still a little curious about how you grew up. If you don't mind sharing or if there is an article that talks about it can you tell where to find it?

Mel said...

I'm not trying to be antagonistic and start arguments, just curious so hopefully my comments don't seem that way.

Ken said...

Mel--Why do you think I'm trying to be a "new age Thoreau"? What is it about my experiences or writing that leads you to believe that I'm trying to be someone I'm not? I think you are too quick to cast judgment. If you had read all my entries and knew me personally, then I think it would be okay to come to a determination about my character. I am not doing what I'm doing to win fame or fortune. The worth of one's life cannot be measured by superficialities. If you read my entries about the aftermath of the essay I published in Salon, you'd know that I turned down money and interviews, and agreed to do the interviews I did with great ambivalence and reluctance. I write this blog for the joy of writing. I live in my van for the joys of simple living and for the freedom of the un-indebted life. I love travel literature because I'm fascinated with first-person accounts. I love sharing my own experiences.

I am trying to write a book about living in a van (which might lead one to believe that my experiment has been undertaken to attain fame and fortune), but I didn't move into the van to write a book. In fact, I never seriously considered it until a literary agent contacted me. I should also say that if I didn't know how to write, didn't know how to speak or didn't know how share this experience with anyone in any way, I'd still be in the van. It just so happens that I love writing about myself and that I love living in a van.

CT_Bob said...

Mel said..."I see your point but sometimes people need to figure things out on their own."

No one ever really figures anything out on their own. We never live so completely isolated that we can make any decisions on our own. Each decision is based on our wants, beliefs, feelings, what we think we want, what we think others will think, what advice we are given, what others have experienced, defiance, et cetera.

Opinions of others may not change our decisions of others, but we should listen to the opinions of others, we may learn something.

Bob L

Anonymous said...

Well...I guess you and your fans can carry on in your pseudo-intellectual, hypocritical thoughts.

Ken said...

Bob--Right on, brother.

Anon--Yours will be the last non-sensical comment to grace the comment section of this blog. Internet message boards are a little like road rage. Sometimes we say things or act in ways that we normally wouldn't in face-to-face life. It's easy because we are anonymous and don't have to pay the emotional consequences of showing our anger to someone. We can get away with screaming at someone while driving because we're there one minute and gone the next.

I really enjoy (politely-put) critical commentary because it makes me think about the subject in different ways (or clear up things I didn't put clearly). If I were being pseudo-intellectual or hypocritical then I would like someone to explain to me how I am being these things. Instead, calling me names or making character judgments based on one essay is just juvenile. Notice how you didn't support your claims with evidence whatsoever.

I think the internet functions best when we act like sober human beings, and not drunk usernames. So your comment has inspired me to say that all future comments that lack civility will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I see this is a late response, but this blog was just brought to my attention for this particular post prompted by my very close friend's father. I'd like to comment...

Elizabeth is her name and 21 is her age. She’s been in and out of community colleges never caring much or following through with her studies. She works at Babies R Us part time, and has for the past 3 or so years, which, to be honest, I think feeds her fascination with motherhood. Or more appropriately, some image of motherhood. She still lives in her bedroom at her folks’ and even though she really wants her own place, she never saves money to do so.

I don’t live by her now, but we’re still pretty close. The last time I visited we had to run to her parents’ paid storage unit to empty out her car (to make room for shopping). MUCH to my surprise, concern, and confusion she emptied baby clothes and other baby products that she, I learned, continually purchases when they go on sale. “I’ll need them some day.” After we emptied the car (in apparent secrecy from her parents), we went to a store and bought chairs she saw in a magazine and wanted for her new place (that she does not have) because she’ll “need them some day.”

I cannot relate to her much anymore, but I still love her dearly. I don’t understand her spending habits and her materialistic hoarding is very much concerning to me. But who am I…I’m discussing this here with strangers instead of there with my friend. Sometimes I just don’t know if she could benefit from me doing something, but I don’t know what I could do.

Elizabeth's bestie

Ken said...

Elizabeth's bestie,

I’m tickled that I’m being sought for advice, especially in the comment section of this essay, which was ambivalently received. And before I go on, I should state the obvious: I'm no trained psychologist so whatever advice I may give should be taken skeptically.

For one, I think the parents should kick her out of the house, which will force her to be financially independent and—at best—inspire her to do something “more” than work at the baby store. I should note that I think there’s nothing wrong with living with the parents after high school. I lived with mine during my undergrad years so I could save money by commuting to school. But things get tricky when the twenty-something gets comfortable, especially after graduation. Certain characteristics of “adulthood” become suspended when you’re still relying on mom and dad. And as the years pass, it seems as if it gets more difficult for the son/daughter to finally sever those ties. It can be good to go through a period of struggle, debt, and bankruptcy when you’re young. Those are important lessons—lessons you can’t learn when the parents have slung a giant safety net underneath their offspring. It’ll prevent you from making the same mistakes when you’re older. So I guess I’m saying that I think it’s okay to live at home unless it’s stunting development, which it seems to be doing in the case of your friend.

Odds are, though, she won’t automatically become ambitious the moment she leaves the house. She’ll still buy material items and she’ll still be inconsistent at school. Those habits have likely ossified and are well-entrenched. I’m not sure where ambition comes from. When we’re tired we can drink caffeine to become un-tired. I don’t know of a simple antidote for un-ambitiousness. Then again, she probably has good reason to not get excited about school or having her own place. I don’t think those things are exciting, and maybe those goals just aren’t “big” enough to really push her to make the life changes she needs to make. Maybe she does have some goal/dream that she’s hidden from you (or even herself) all these years. I would see if you could uncover something “big” and then encourage her to follow through with it. Another idea: why not suggest going on a big duo cycling trip across the country, or visit some 3rd-world squalor, or some other wild journey/travel experience?—it’s stuff like that that really makes you think about yourself and where your life is headed.

I think it’s most important for you to just speak your mind. I remember maybe seven or eight years ago I had a gf who made me miserable. The relationship should have lasted a week when I let it last for six months. If, early on, my best friend had shaken me by the collar and pointed out to me everything I already knew, I’m certain I would have spared myself the many months of pain. But he didn’t. Odds are that what you say will change nothing. People, as you know, are hard to change. But at the very least you will avoid feeling the regret that comes with never having tried.

I think I’m liking this advice columnist gig ;)

Anonymous said...

Ken

I wasn't looking for advice, I was adding to the conversation started here.

This whole column is borderline "behind her back." Even though this post was addressed to her, she's never seen it (to my knowledge). Perhaps we're all too interested in philosophy and thinking and discussing instead of acting. Perhaps that's just me. Perhaps I'm really not all that interested in "changing her" because I know I can't.

But I can. Who can tell "who" someone is without someone else's encounter? I'm sure my presence has had some effect on her already - as she has me.

I wonder, why do we give advice at all?

Ken said...

E's bestie--I guess you weren't on second read. Sorry for the unsolicited advice ;). Why do we give advice? That's like asking why do we feel love, care for our young, or run from large predatory animals. The instinct and joy of teaching/advising, like the other examples, is universally human.

Anonymous said...

This is an old thread but I just have to reply. I hope you still read these. KClowlife brings up an excellent point, women have a drive and yes it is very similar and (sort of obviously related to) the sex drive. I like your writing, ideas and blog Ken but on this one occasion your lack of experience and male view comes through. Your perspective looks that one of a person who regards having children as a life style choice rather than a natural unfolding of love. At your age love stumbles into your path and you watch it stumbling out again with the confidence it will surely turn up again, you don't have time for it and who can blame you? It does in fact do this every now and again and sometimes a pregnancy happens and ambitions are plonked onto the scales and we thwart faith to keep on that path we have chosen. Sometimes it avoids disaster and sometimes it is a lost opportunity. It is only possible to review theses things in hindsight... As a man you will have the chance to think and rethink your ambitions many times and for a long time. In women fertility dwindles around about the same time that your choices of partner get a little, lets say bold, divorced and beer belied (let's not be argumentative about ideal worlds in which everybody finds mature women sexy etc. given the choice most people want a fresh one, it's just biology, no blame to anyone). While I am proud of my achievements and the "radical" life I have lived so far I could also have been married several times and have opted out of motherhood at times to understand who I was and fulfill my dreams against all odds (our stories are not dissimilar) but... It is now quite possible that I will never be able to have children and should this happen I will never ever be able to look back at my life and think of myself as having reached my full potential. Being a mother is more important then all of my adventures, struggles and self knowledge combined. One day you might understand this but it is a physical and experiential feeling which in men occurs, as does their dwindling fertility, much later in life. In my experience children ether happen to a man before the question arises or around the time he hits fifty and he feels the limitations of his mortality as a reality. I think for a man on a subconcious level having a child is about legacy and the bloodline, a sort of defiance of his mortality while for women it has a more central role as the "life's work". Don't get me wrong, in no way do I think there cannot or is not equality between men and women and the value of their experience in regards to parenthood and career but there are real differences. Paul's daughter might know herself better than you think, she might know herself so well that she knows she is ready to be a mother. Paul, you nor I have any way of judging where she got that idea from, it can just as well be her soul telling her what to do as an external idea. We are not all destined to have children late in life. I wish I had listened to my body instead of my ambitions and itches and, believe it or not, the externally imposed ideas that as a modern women I had to go find myself first. God, this is long winded! I guess the gist is, your ideas can be every bit as dogmatic imposed on anothers as the ones you have run away from yourself...

Anonymous said...

I had not read the last couple of comments. (I'm the one who went on about being older, motherhood, difference between men and women etc. although I can't see it posted yet)

Borderline behind her back? It goes much further than that, this is an outright invasion on her inner world and actions in public. Both father and best friend are not behaving ethically by doing this. Father might admire Ken and wish his daughter was more like him but that does not warrant doing this, even if it is out of frustration or lack of knowing where to turn. Ken
I think you should consider deleting some of this discussion. Imagine how you would feel when, and it's only a matter of time, you found out a debate like this was going on about your life choices divulging information about yourself you would not share with many people? And it's your dad and best friend leading it! That will help and not be patronising at all will it?

PS: I have had a friend who still lived with her parents at 30, she turned out fine, just did not have the need to explore the same things as me...

Ken said...

Anon—Very nice post. I think it’s totally reasonable to assert that a woman’s desire to reproduce may be just as strong as a male’s to fornicate—and that these aren’t desires that should be thoughtlessly discarded.

On your second point—that this is private information that shouldn’t be discussed in an online public forum—I think the ambiguous nature of the message makes it okay. Never is her last name mentioned or the name of her college; there’s probably millions of American girls just like her. Anyway, it turns out that “Paul” isn’t even real. Since this post came up, a friend confessed that she wrote me to get my thoughts anonymously. A little weird and creepy, I know. I thought I’d keep this post up anyway—even though it’s not about a real person—since there was a vibrant discussion and many good points shared.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken, I think you're right re-the anonymity of the girl in question, my reaction was in hindsight a little strong. I guess it just seemed icky to me (turns out the ickyness is your creepy friend). Now that she is fictional I'm happy for us all to tear her psyche apart like a pack of hungry wolves!

Totally off topic... I read quite a few of your older posts and the thing that strikes me most is your description of feeling isolated. I am currently doing a masters at a very prestigious art school and living in conditions I can't be too specific about but totally fall into the same kind of "radical" bracket complete with lack of hygiene facilities and cooking etc. Since most of the other students are A. 23 and not 33 and B. children of wealthy business men/sheiks who wear Prada to go running I only tell some people what is going on and even then you are quickly branded a freak. When you are subsequently cagey and don't explain why you didn't go to a party (your gym was closed and you could not go to a champagne thing smelling like a mythological creature but that's not exactly an acceptable line for people who have bathrooms you could comfortably build an apartment in) you become, despite the best of intentions socially suspicious. Seeing that a major reason for going to this kind of institution is for the contacts and potential collaboration it can seem a bit flawed sometimes. How do you deal with this aspect of studying amongst the non disadvantaged without becoming the famous poor person? The nature of what I do, unlike writing (would have been so much better suited), requires me to be outgoing and emotionally available (pffff)

London slum cat

Ken said...

London slum cat--In my two years at Duke, I never made one close friendship. I joined the outdoors club, the farming club, the beekeeping club. I was in the liberal studies department—around people who, like me, enjoy learning for the sake of learning. Yet I couldn’t find one person remotely like me. This had a lot to do with my age (I was considerably older than the great majority of students and, oddly, considerably younger than my liberal studies classmates). And the van, of course, didn’t help things since I’d had to keep it a secret for half my time there, and when it wasn’t a secret it wasn’t like I could host parties. Plus I was just cheap/broke most of the time which isn’t conducive to “hanging out”—when hanging out usually entails some sort of consumerist consumption. Ultimately, I decided to go to a school whose students were so radically unlike me. And no matter my style of home, I probably would have always felt alone and isolated there. While I don’t think I’d go back and change things, I may have erred in choosing Duke. I might have had more luck finding a group of like-minded people at a hippie/liberal arts/art school somewhere, where I might actually have been happy. Honestly, I was miserable/mildly-depressed at Duke for those couple years.

It sounds like you’re in the same boat, and that you probably wouldn’t have much more luck if you were housed in a conventional setting. If you’re anything like me, I’d guess that you will continue to experience isolation so long as you’re surrounded by the type of people who might be surprised with your way of living. I decided to embrace my misery—justifying it as part of the strain that comes during periods of growth, though I wonder if I could have found a setting where I could have grown and been happy, too.

Anonymous said...

Rest assured, art schools are nowadays full of sharky ambitious types with loud pretentious laughs and designer drug habits, not very liberal at all... There are some interesting minds but they are oblivious to the realities of poverty, or the possibility that someone who didn't go to boarding school has read books, because they wanted to. You are probably right about not fitting in but it's a kind of depressing thought. I don't like having to accept that. I did go to a lesser known MA at first but it was shitty, I am getting a quality education now... Some days I feel crap cause I can't explain to anyone that they threw my bikini away at the gym and I now have a MAJOR hygiene crisis on my hands or that it's too sad to cut all my hair off but would be so much more realistic. Then other days I just think you suckers, I'm doing this with 2 jobs and freak accomodation and I'm still better than you! Swings in roundabouts but it's nice knowing there are others out there who've done it and lived.

London SC

Landon said...

Man, it seems a lot of people clearly missed the point of this reply letter. You're not looking to call someone out, to say that people don't know themselves, you're not being pretentious or acting as you know every answer. Merely you just hoping people find their passions, and pursue them, before it's too late.