Friday, January 14, 2011

The Good Life

It struck me today, that I am living a great life. I've made the right choices. I'm in a good position, I'm doing good things. Often I regret not finishing college, often I lament my unemployment and lack of direction. But just now, it finally became real to me, that this is not a problem. If I hadn't dropped out and spun my wheels for a couple years, I never would have hiked the Appalachian Trail. I never would have met all the awesome people out there, and in jobs and adventures since. I never would have seen the amazing places that I have.

Spring in Idaho
A great deal of the personal growth and positivity in my life, I'd say, sprung from my AT experience. I put myself out there, into the world alone, with no familiar supports, not even a familiar city lifestyle somewhere, just going with a sort of faith in the universe. And it worked out. In fact, it worked so well that I sometimes say to myself, half jokingly, that the AT ruined my life. It lifted me out of a life of settling for less, of just getting by, of being okay with being unhappy; it showed me for the first time what happiness is. I cannot walk away from this revelation.

Here's an exerpt from the end of this great book I'm reading, Deep Survival.

Not long ago, when I was flying the aerobatics constest circuit, a friend of mine, Jan Jones, was going about her ordinary business. She had started with the International Aerobatics Club at about the same time I did. Jan was an otherwise fairly ordinary person: she went the the grocery store, took a shower every morning, watched TV, did laundry. ... Then one day she took off, crashed her Pitts, and died. People talked gravely about the unnecessary risks she'd taken. But another friend of mine was doing the same everyday errands and activities but not flying, not taking the risks. In fact, she lived an extremely quiet life. Then one day she felt ill and went to the doctor and a few weeks later was dead from glioblastoma. Survivors know, whether they are conscious of it or not, that to live at all is to fly upside down (640 people died in 1999 while choking on food; 320 drowned in the bath tub). You're already flying upside down. You might as well turn on the smoke and have some fun.

Lovely Tennessee "snow"
I've always thought this way. Death has always been in my mind, teaching its lesson. I don't know anything about an afterlife and am content to let the issue lie. "One life at a time," as Thoreau said on his deathbed, refusing to convert. I could have 40 years left... or 40 seconds. Knowledge of death is a gift, for if one really embraces it, one relaxes and can laugh. Life isn't serious, it's a passing thing. The problems I have now won't mean a thing next year, let alone in 100 years. And it sure won't matter that I didn't have a stable career to exist in, unhappy but safe.

So dammit, I'm going to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I'm going to go work for room and board on some organic farms, I'm going to write and write and write and never cease in my unorthodoxy. So far so good.

1 comment:

  1. You should come to Hawaii some time, we have some fine hiking opportunities. You would like Kauai.

    You're doing fine.

    A close friend of mine cracked up his stunt plane, at 40, doing a barrel roll 100 feet above the ocean...pulling out of it, he went down when he should have gone up. It was horrible for all his friends, (including his several simultaneous girlfriends who met each other at his funeral) but secretly, we all know he was doing what he loved. He was not meant for ordinary living. He was a cowboy and he died in the saddle.