Rethinking The Big What If

When I was in middle school I did something kinda weird: I moved down to the basement.  That wasn’t the weird part, though.

I took hardly anything with me.

I hung sheets up from the ceiling around an old couch.  I had one small cabinet, a lamp, and a closet with my clothes.  Even if my parents thought I was weird, they didn’t say anything.  They knew I was strange.  I moved back upstairs to my room a few months later – I think after I had some friends over and they discovered I was living in the basement.  My middle-schooler-survival-instinct-to-be-cool-and-fit-in kicked in.  At the age of twelve, I seemed to have discovered the concept of minimalism.  And I liked it.  De-stuff-ifying myself.  I mean, sheesh, that’s an awesome discovery for a kid.  I was brilliant!  Or weird…

Know what else makes me weird?  I like doing “psychology experiments” on people.  That is, changing something to see how they react.  I’m totally the person who’d get into a crowded elevator and face the occupants instead of the doors just to make everyone uncomfortable for 15 seconds.  I guess I figure that just because something’s always done one way doesn’t mean it can only be done that way.

Like life.

As my Twitter feed has evolved over the past few months to include more free-spirited-traveler-type folks, I’ve been exposed to lots of creative ideas about how to live life (some travel-related and some not).  Like not having a 9-to-5 job.  Like living with less stuff.  Like not owning a car.

I’m not sure if it was the initiator of the bigwhatif or if it grew up alongside, but it may just be an irrelevant chicken-and-egg argument.  Regardless, there’s a second bigwhatif that I was finally able to identify:

What if we’ve been lied to?

I think overall I’m a fairly skeptical person with a few gullible blind spots thrown in.  Like I was very distracted by a guy’s blazer one day because the stitches were visible and not quite even.  So when a person joked later that day that he made his own clothes, I totally fell for it – which was extremely embarrassing later.

But I’d say for most things I’m a skeptic.  For that, I think you can thank one of my high school teachers for drilling into me to always ask, “Where did you get your information?”

So, what’s this lie I’ve become more aware of?  Can’t really quantify, but maybe I’ll call it the “how to live your life” lie.

One of the things that attracts me most about moving to another country is the idea of seeing how others live.  How they work.  How they spend their free time.  What their thoughts are on work, family, possessions, time, etc.

Maybe the secondary what if could be re-phrased, What if there’s another way to ‘do’ life?

Maybe I’m just being grouchy, but I look at the people I pass as I walk to work and we all seem so shallow.  Or like we have our priorities wrong.  Rushing from one place to another with nary a moment unscheduled.  Clad in the latest styles – or at least only a season or two behind.  Missing the world around us by being so focused on their phone.  (Don’t miss that I’m using the word “we”, not “they”.)

Sheesh, what if we weren’t so focused on ourselves?

Like the other day I went to the library.  I could have driven there but I made the conscious decision to walk – and it was hard because driving would have been faster and so much easier.  I picked up the book I had on hold and then decided on a whim to walk a few blocks further to downtown – which is good because otherwise I probably would have gotten stuck watching more LOST on Hulu.  I crossed the bridge over the creek and looked upstream to see this:

In case you can’t quite see it, there are several dozen piles of carefully balanced rocks set up in the flowing water.  Like, four or five feet tall.  I was struck because not only did someone take who knows how long to set up this temporary display, but as I looked around me I saw everyone else walking across the bridge was too distracted or busy to notice this beautiful “art”.

So I guess I’m saying that I’m going to expand a bit what I write about – and wanted to explain myself before everyone gets confused.

I’d like to share a little more about some of my thoughts on some of the alternative thoughts that have been cropping up in my mind these past couple months about other ways to ‘do’ life.  And I’ve been thinking about this more and more ever since I started researching travel and the things that go along with that – like the necessity of getting rid of your stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking at packing up my bags.  But before that happens – and maybe after – I’d like to explore some other things, too.  Question my culture.  Question my priorities.  Question my stuff.

I doubt I’ll say anything you haven’t heard before, but maybe I will.  Maybe I’ll make you mad because maybe some of what I’m questioning you really don’t have a problem with.  That’s fine.

The bigwhatif falls into this, too, because it’s like field research, ya know?

The types of things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Why am I so d*mn busy – and then in my down times I’m bored out of my skull?
  • Why do I have so much crap?
  • Is going to college really a good thing?
  • Do I really need the ulcers and headaches that come from stress at work?
  • What role should work play in my life?
  • How much money do I really need?
  • How much space do I really need?
  • Why am I so focused on HERE and ME all the time?  What if I looked at others more, and what’s the rest of this planet like?
  • Like Kristin and Shannon posed, why can’t I have it all?
  • And where does purpose come from anyway?

All I do know is that I look around the richest nation in the world and see too many people slogging through life day after day, and life’s rushing by and you only get one chance at it.

If you’ve got any thoughts, feel free to chime in.

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8 Responses to Rethinking The Big What If

  1. Kristin says:

    I really like all of your questions. Wish I wasn’t so busy and I could actually think about them! Haha. Life is funny like that. Hope you’re coming a bit closer to making your move, if that’s what’s in store for you : )

  2. Brittany says:

    I wrestle with some of these issues too. But mostly what I wrestle with is the temptation to not consider anything, ever, and just to live the good life. Honestly I think if I were rich and wasn’t forced to ponder these questions, I never would. But then I guess, neither would most extremely comfortable people.

    • Alissa says:

      There’s a great quote in, I think, Blue Like Jazz where the author essentially says the thing that Satan wants most is for us to just be too busy. Too busy to look at the bigger picture of life and God. I have to admit that it’s so easy for me to just rush rush rush through life without taking the time to ponder and wonder and be.

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