For the bulk of my life, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t able to give a definitive answer. There are just too many possibilities. I found this question particularly stressful when I was between the ages of 15 and 29. I remember feeling as if I were at this great crossroads, and there were so many directions I could turn that I had absolutely no idea which way I should go.
Jeez. No pressure there.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that I shouldn’t be focused on what I wanted to turn myself into. Instead, I should focus on what I wanted out of life. What do I need to be happy? Once I knew that, I could then formulate a plan to achieve these things. My becoming would be a natural outgrowth of my desires.
I’m not talking about material things, here. That’s not high on my list of priorities. Not that there is any right or wrong answer to the big question. If things are what you want out of life, you will take a very different journey than I will, and that’s okay.
What follows are the things I want out of life.
To love and be loved.
At least one decent travel opportunity per year.
Producing something that will last. A legacy, of sorts.
Leaving the planet ever so slightly better than I found it.
The opportunity to learn and grow as well as teach.
I just finished reading a Rolling Stone article about the financial woes of Johnny Depp. Hundreds of millions of dollars gone. Poof. Just like that. Millions taken by hangers on, apparently without Depp even noticing until it was too late. Much signing of signature pages without reading the actual content of the document. 6 million in fees for paying his taxes late for 13 years in a row.
Then there’s the drugs and the alcohol and the stuff. The stuff! An 8,000 square foot estate above Sunset Boulevard. The rock club. The 1940 Harley Davidson. The horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. 14 other fully furnished residences. A yacht. 70 Guitars, 200 pieces of art. 45 cars. An island in the Bahamas.
It is alleged that his lifestyle costs him 2 million dollars a month, including $200,000 a month on air travel and $30,000 a month on wine. He once spent $108,000 on suits in a single trip to Singapore. A 1 million dollar wedding, and an even more pricey divorce. He himself claims he spent 5 million to shoot the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson into the sky with a cannon.
For God’s sake, it really isn’t all that difficult. Look around you. All that stuff you see? It used to be money. Now it’s stuff. And that stuff isn’t going to make you happy or keep you warm at night. It won’t stop your loneliness or boredom. It won’t make people love you more. It’s just crap, and it weighs you down. Every object is an anchor.
Before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. If you’re honest, most of the time the answer to that will be no. I mean, cavemen had very little, and they survived.
Okay, so we’re not cavemen. All we really need is a SMALL place to live, a SINGLE mode of transportation, a knife, a spork, a bowl, a shirt, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, and about 3 pairs of underwear. Everything else is frosting on the cake.
And believe me, I know how comforting it can be to hide behind frosting. You don’t have to be all emotionally naked and vulnerable when you’re surrounded by distracting luxuries. You are not exposed. But you’re also not free.
Johnny Depp is known for taking on controversial roles. I would challenge him, and all of us, to do that with our lives as well. Strip down to only the bare essentials. Divest ourselves of the junk. Take a good, hard look at ourselves.
Every year on this date, my thoughts naturally turn toward independence. But this year, ah, this year! I truly am feeling independent for the first time in ages.
First of all, I am a homeowner again. That means that I am no longer at the mercy of landlords. I don’t have to worry about them hiking my rent up every year.
And I don’t have to deal with arbitrary insanity. I had one landlord who insisted on inspecting the place every few months. She would waltz in wearing (I swear to God) a leather dress (in Florida!) and spiked heels, and would root around in my closets, being careful not to mess up her bleached blonde chignon in the process, and say, in a thick Russian accent, “You need to dust.”
And then there was the landlady whose son was a felon who was growing marijuana in the back yard, and who was unabashed about committing a number of fraudulent acts herself, and yet treated me like I was a criminal even as she blatantly overcharged me for utilities.
No more of that foolishness! I’m in control! I am the queen of my castle! I will never again be put in a position where I fear that I won’t be allowed to keep my own dogs. That’s a weight off my shoulders, indeed.
And another thing that has happened recently is a certain shift in attitude deep within myself. You see, this time last year, I was trying really, really hard to find a man. To complete me? I don’t know. But it seemed important at the time. It was a solid year of being overlooked, discounted, insulted, rejected, passed over, or any combination of those things, that sent me on this house hunting expedition in the first place.
I decided, basically, to hell with men. Who needs them? If they can’t see my value, they are not worth my time and energy. It was high time I started focusing on things that I can control, such as giving myself the best living situation possible. Hence the house hunt. And it is the best choice I’ve made in a long, long time, let me tell you.
And oddly enough, when I think of trying to fit a man into my life now, I feel kind of claustrophobic. I probably won’t feel this way forever, but at the moment men seem kind of icky. So there’s one less thing on the ol’ to-do list! Yay!
As I write this, I’m lying in MY bed, with MY dog, in MY house. And I can genuinely say that I have everything I need. And I’m perfectly content letting the wants take care of themselves for now. And that’s an amazingly independent feeling.
My upbringing was strange to say the least, but in one way it was typical: as a female, I was always taught to put everyone’s wants and needs ahead of my own. This is a mistake that seems to be made the world over. It does not serve any of us well.
Women are expected to be nurturing. From a biological standpoint that makes sense. Like it or not, we generally do the majority of the child rearing. But sadly it seems that we are expected to apply those skills much more broadly than that. Society assumes we will nurture everyone but ourselves.
My whole life I’ve struggled with boundaries. I hate to say no. I worry about disappointing people. I want to be supportive. I stretch myself way too thinly.
As a result, I carry much more stress than I should. I get taken advantage of. I find it impossible to be the best me that I can be.
If you don’t exercise a healthy level of self-care, you won’t be able to be there authentically for the people whom you care about. If you don’t set boundaries, you cannot prevent others from pushing you to your limits. It’s time for a change.
It’s okay to say no. It might take practice. If you don’t feel comfortable, at first, in making that change for yourself, think of the example that you will set for the younger generation. By taking care of yourself, you will teach them the value of doing the same. It’s a lesson that needs to be reinforced early and often.
I was sitting in a crowded little theater, waiting for a friend to do his one man show, and I was chatting with another friend. Someone asked us how we met, and my friend said, “She was advertising for friends, so I applied.”
It’s true. During my first storytelling experience, in front of a crowd of 150 people, I explained what brought me to Seattle, and at the end I mentioned that with my weird work schedule, I had yet to make many friends here, so if anyone had room in their heart for me, there I was.
Afterward she came up to me and said, “I’ll be your friend.” And she has been, ever since. A lot of really fun experiences with her would never have happened if I hadn’t spoken up. How lucky am I?
Sometimes, even if you think it should be blatantly obvious, you just have to put your intentions or desires right out there for all the world to see. “I’m looking for friends.” “I want to be in a relationship.” “I vont to be alone.” “I need help.” Whatever it is that you want, need, or plan to do, spread the word.
People cannot read your mind. I sincerely believe that the majority of misunderstandings stem from the fact that we often forget that simple point. We are so used to hearing the thoughts inside our heads that on some level we overlook that no one else can.