“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road.
Way back in the mid 90’s when I was a college student, I was assigned On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, easily one of the most profound writers of our time. I was on a path toward success. And, as 99% of college students will tell you, success is defined by the amount of money you make, the house you live in, the car you drive and the clothes you wear. I was about 95% in agreement with that assessment. I knew that was the way to respect.
But, the crazy thing is, I also knew I didn’t want to live the life that college prepares you for. I didn’t want the white picket fence and the 9 to 5 job. I wanted something totally and wildly different. So, I surrounded myself with crazy people. People who absolutely didn’t follow the rules. And so, when I read this quote from Kerouac’s novel it resonated so deep inside of me that I’ve never ever forgotten it, to this day.
I think that’s why it was love at first sight when I saw Dan. He was trouble. Dan rolled up on his motorcycle, a Marine and unlike anyone I’d ever known. And man, he had a confidence about him that drew me to him immediately. He was mad to live. Dan has never been and will never be boring. And his mind worked overtime in a constant race to find something of meaning.
So, when we got married and settled into adult life while still kids ourselves, life was monotonous and really a let-down. We kept telling ourselves, if Dan made $30k/year it would be different, or if we rented a bigger nicer place, we’d be content, or if we bought more stuff for our townhouse we’d be comfortable.
Damn, we even thought after buying our first home that we could consider ourselves arrived. But hell if it wasn’t all the same. Whether we lived in an apartment or a townhouse or our own home … we were bored and separated 5 days out of every week. We were the blasted TGIF people. Dan was an honest to goodness cubicle dweller.
It took us 4 years to buy our first home and so, it took about 5 years for us to realize that this life would never fulfill us. This wasn’t us. We were bigger than all of that.
We had a passion inside us that was so explosive, it was impossible to contain. And, so it was impossible for us to fake happiness, when we felt so trapped, so controlled, so imprisoned. What do you do? There was no-one with any vision in our lives, no-one to say “screw all of this, it’s not what life is about.” My gosh, we knew this, but we were so young and already had 4 kids, with a 5th on the way. Responsibility was the name of the game, until it wasn’t.
I’m not gonna lie, living in Northern Virginia was a nightmare for Dan. He wanted out. Dan wanted raw adventure, not pretty designer walking trails and malls. He made no secret of it either. We were leaving … eventually. I was a city girl, I was ok with the mall. I didn’t push to get out, though I did know that I didn’t want city kids. However, it was a “one day” scenario.
One Day Became Today
Then, one day became a reality. I remember collapsing onto the sofa after one of our marathon painting nights and Dan throwing in a Warren Miller film. That film changed the course of our lives forever. In fact, that night we knew what our life was to look like. It was an epiphany. We wanted the life of adventure and fun and each other, even if that meant we’d have nothing else.
Suddenly, providing for our kids looked very different. Ski passes, not designer clothes. Hiking boots, instead of Jordans. Dirt bikes over Schwinns. And eventually, kayaks and snowboards and gear, gear, gear.
It took us awhile to fully embrace the concept. I remember driving to Vermont, in search of the perfect place to raise kids… we saw the tiniest houses, with the biggest garages. It was totally perplexing, however we get it now. Heck, we got it about a year after moving to Colorado. The houses were shelters, a place to gather, but the garages, that’s where life happened. Snowmobiles, skis, snowshoes, Jeeps, dirt bikes, guns, kayaks, boats, fishing poles … everything that makes life fun was in the garage.
It’s the whole concept of the Tiny Home. It’s the whole reason we sold everything and hit the road in an RV with our family. Stuff doesn’t make a life. Stuff doesn’t equate to happiness or joy or success. Love does. Passion does. Listening to that inner voice that is screaming for more is what happiness is made of.
Time here on earth is short. I can’t imagine wasting it, living someone else’s dream. Suddenly we knew freedom. Suddenly we knew joy. Now, we can’t make everything happen all at once, because much of our joy comes from our children. In fact, they are so joyous, we couldn’t stop at one or two. We had 12. And we want to provide the best life for them, we want to teach them what life is really about. We want to show them how to identify true happiness.
Happiness Looks Different To Everyone
Of course, we know their happiness will not look exactly like ours, but more than anything I want them to hold on to their faith and to shun societal burdens and the failed ideology it sells.
And I know our minimalism doesn’t mimic that of other die-hard minimalists because of our numbers. We still had to keep a storage unit because our 300 sq ft RV didn’t have room for all the gear an adventure seeking family of 14 uses.
And, in the end, we kept our house, which is a source of comfort for me because we plan to keep it in the family literally forever. It’s also home base for all our world travelers. They have a place to rest their weary heads and from which to plan their next adventure. They have the best of both lives … roots and wings.
And, most importantly, it is home. As my kids get older and start following their own dreams, I desperately need a place for them to come back to. A place where we all know, our family’s place, a place that says, if you are going to settle down and raise a family, this is the place to do it. Because … family.
Time is the Most Precious Commodity
In the end, living a wild, unpredictable, spontaneous life with Dan and my kids is ultimately what makes me happy. I don’t need stuff. I need change. I’ve embraced the fact that I can’t sit still. I see it in Kady and a bit in Brody too. The undercurrent of desire, of needing movement, of frustration even.
I was walking out of my Dr’s office the other day and a guy was exiting the elevator. I saw him out of the corner of my eye take a skip jump and as he caught up to me, he said, “Shit, I thought I walked fast.” Laughing, I looked back and responded, “Yeah, everyone says that.”
“You aren’t from around here. I can tell you’re from the city. All us city people walk fast. It’s taken me awhile to embrace the slow pace of the folks around here, but I kind of like it.”
This has stuck with me, because I walk ridiculously fast. I also drive fast. And, I shop fast. I also write fast, talk fast, suffer fast, grieve fast and struggle fast. I do chores fast. And, I explode fast.
In fact, I do everything I deem senseless fast. Do it, get it over with and get on with the good stuff. I don’t waste time. That is my most precious commodity. I know what authenticity looks like. It is what makes me tick, what I need to be happy.
But then, I worship slow. I love slow. I make friends slow. I adventure slow. I travel slow. I play with the kids slow. Time … time to me is everything. It’s how you show what is important to you. It’s how you prove someone or something’s worth.
What you do with your time speaks more than any words you could ever say. If you “would love to visit”, but don’t … I know you have higher priorities than me. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, we all have our priorities.
I truly know so few authentic people. It’s kind of a bummer, really. Most people are all about appearance, and authenticity is a foreign concept. I can spot these folks a mile away. Money is their god. It’s all they factor when planning. They have no life outside of working. No passion, no joys, no hobbies. They work for the future, forgetting about today. And even if you don’t know their daily life, you can see it in their eyes. They are devoid of spark, of mischief…the very thing that drew me to Dan is the very thing that most people are lacking.
When we moved to Colorado, that’s when I truly started understanding the concept of authenticity. I stopped caring about the shallow things and started putting much more effort toward the things that truly mattered. Working, instead of being the thing in which our lives revolved, became the thing we did as fast as we could. Get the work done and be done.
But, it’s when we moved into the RV that we actually starting living the concept of authenticity. We wanted to show our kids the world. Now, of course, the world became Canada and the entirety of the continental US, but you get the gist. Grady and Brody have been to France and Spain together. Brody and Kady have been to Puerto Rico and to Argentina along with Kenny and Dally and Dan. Together, we’ve explored all of Eastern Canada from Ontario to New Brunswick. We’ve also seen much of British Columbia. Touched down in every state … this summer we will head to Alaska. From there I believe our dreams will begin to take on a new form. Maybe the Great Loop? Maybe Bali? We don’t know. We aren’t there yet…
What I do know is that finding authenticity means you are in touch with what truly matters to you. That you are immune to the opinions and judgement of others. Living authentically does not have anything to do with money. Money is merely a means of getting what you want. Being authentic to yourself is having the strength and fortitude to live for yourself, for your family, no matter how far off the reservation people think you are going.
My hope and prayer is that we all, myself included, slow down long enough to evaluate the course of our lives. To change direction if needed, to pull the breaks or press the gas if circumstances call for it. And that each and every one of us takes control of our lives and that at the end we can look back and say, “Hell Yeah. What an effin ride that was!”