"I Won’t Grow Up!” is the title and the first line of a song from the classic 1954 Broadway musical “Peter Pan” starring Mary Martin in the title role. Now, why would I bring that up in this blog? Well, it’s because I think I’m finally getting it. Here I am, 67 years old, finally figuring out just a little bit about life. It’s a paradox! As a kid you want to grow up so you can be “free.” Now, as a middle-aged (I’m still considering myself in my middle age) adult, I want to be like a kid . . . to be free, again. Think about it.
If you believe in a God or a larger than we can imagine, super intelligence that created the universe, this third rock from our sun, nature and all its bounty and all the living things, including us, on this planet, then did this same God create work and monotony and drudgery and depression and wealth and poverty and crime and hatred and war and you can add on as many more items to this list as you want to? I think these are all of our own making. The older I get, the more I believe that the fabled Garden of Eden is all around us. We actually live in Heaven. And, if there is a Hell, it is also here on Earth and it is, also, of our own making.
I don’t want to grow up, but unfortunately, I did, just as you did. The freedom I believed I would have as a grown-up or adult ended up, at least in my opinion, far less then I had as a child. I believe everyone has pivotal moments and pivotal people throughout their lives that create significant changes. I still remember the day I grew up and became an adult virtually instantaneously. It was on January 5, 1967. I was a senior in college, student teaching at Morristown (NJ) High School. I bought my father lunch for the first time that day and, tragically, it was the last time I’d have that opportunity. That afternoon he committed suicide at 42. My family, as I knew it, disintegrated that day never again to live together as a family. That was the day I grew up and had to instantly accept adulthood. From that point forward life for me was very different. The freedom of adulthood wasn’t anything like I fantasized it would be.
I remember one day, when my son reached one of those pivotal points. It was January of 2001, 34 years after I reached my pivotal day. He was about 20 years old and had already had a career in the Web design world and was downsized by the dot com crash. He finally decided to go to college. I was driving him and a load of his “stuff” in my mini van to Boston to the apartment he was moving to with some other students. It was around dusk, as I recall, and we were either still in New Jersey or had just crossed over the border into New York. We had been quiet for a while and out of nowhere (I’m guessing he was in a contemplative mood considering his new future as a student again), he said to me, “Dad, life was sure a lot easier when I was living home with you.”
That is when I realized that my little boy had become a grown-up. He had realized that what we fantasize about being a grown-up is much different when you now have to be responsible for all kinds of bills, responsibilities, being accountable for your own actions, finding and maintaining a place to live, reporting to a boss (whether as an employee or as a business owner responsible to the customer or client), shopping, preparing meals, keeping your clothes clean and in good repair, making doctor and dentist appointments, keeping and paying for them, procuring all the necessary kinds of insurance to protect yourself from medical situations and all kinds of potential liabilities. Yep! I don’t want to grow up.
I was just on the phone with my sister who was complaining to me about the phone company, the power bill, the water bill, the satellite (or cable) TV bill and so on. I told her I know all that. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over some 40 years of being a “responsible” adult. But, I don’t have any of those bills anymore. And, I’m meeting more and more people who have reached the same point either by choice or by circumstance. I told her that I, like others, have finally reached a point where we had made an important choice. We could keep paying through the nose or stop and get off the treadmill. Of course I traded something for my freedom (and happiness, I might add) as has everyone who has made similar choices. There is always a price of some kind. We each have to decide which is more important to us, paying through the nose for “perceived” needs (mainly created by very aggressive and effective marketing campaigns) or personal freedom and happiness and the least number of burdens on our backs.
Life is Always About Choices
I do not pass judgment on how anyone chooses to live. We all choose how we live regardless of whether we live in splendor or squalor. I choose to seldom go to a movie theater any longer. It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing a movie on a big screen. I’m simply not willing to pay, what to me, has become an outlandish price. For a mere $8.00 a month I can subscribe on line to a service like Netflix and have my choice of tens of thousands of movies and TV shows at my demand and watch as many as I want to or not. I don’t mind waiting a few months until the movie is out of the theaters. A movie or TV show is purely entertainment. I don’t need it. But, it’s a choice if I decide I want some entertainment.
Long ago I gave up professional sports. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against sports. I am simply not willing to pay the outrageous ticket prices and deal with the inconveniences and additional costs of grossly overpriced parking and crappy snack food involved in attending a live event with 50,000+ other people. I’d, also, rather not waste my time watching sports on TV either since I know that the games are formatted around an untold numbers of commercials constantly pounding me to buy overpriced stuff that’s not even good for me.
Additionally, I guess the constant exciting news that people like Peyton Manning just signed a five year $96 million dollar contract to play a game or David Beckham was brought to the U.S. to play soccer for something like $32 million dollars for five years just offends my sense of value. I can list individuals from other professions, the corporate world, Wall Street, and so on who also gall me. It’s not that I have any problem with anyone acquiring wealth. I consider Sam Walton and Warren Buffet and many other entrepreneurs as role models. But, in my opinion, they “earned” their wealth by taking calculated business risks and providing products and services that have benefited society in various ways. It’s another discussion about values that, for me, differentiates the difference between these various individuals. I’m sure many readers will disagree with me and tell me that these athletes, entertainers, corporate executives and so on do the same. Again, I see it as a question of values. You have the right to define it your way.
I guess I should also mention that I also don’t listen to commercial radio either. One of the industries that motivated me to my ultimate career was broadcast radio. Heck, back in 1975/76 I had the ONLY contract awarded by the U.S. government in Washington DC to write, record, produce, duplicate and distribute public service radio announcements that were broadcast on every radio station in the U.S., its territories and worldwide on the Voice of America and the American Forces Radio Network for the celebration of the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial. I founded the radio station on the college campus I went to undergraduate school at. But, remember, I have a masters degree in Television and Radio from one of the most prestigious university schools of public communication in the country. I understand the media business. I won’t even go into my thoughts on book publishing, another area I spent part of my life involved in.
Life is about choices. I chose not to have cable or satellite TV at the ranch for the six years I was there. I never missed it. I could receive barely useable broadcast signals from Washington and Baltimore and that provided me with news and occasional entertainment when I actually felt I needed it. My Netflix subscription provided me with my choice of entertainment at a far lower cost then cable or satellite. My sister kept giving me a litany of excuses why she had to have these services and pay the outrageous bills she was complaining about and, actually, can’t afford. That is her choice. I have no problem with the people who schedule their lives around football teams, baseball games, March Madness, Tiger Woods and so on It’s their choice. They pay whatever the price is for their choices, just as I pay whatever price it will cost me for my choices. In my case, I choose to explore the “Garden of Eden” of this Earth as I described it earlier in this post. I don’t like where gas prices are going. They are outrageous. But, for about the same price as a current movie ticket, I can travel and see and learn more in the 35 to 45 miles of gas that money will buy then I’ll ever get out of a two-hour movie. But, that’s my choice.
The new people I’m meeting over the Internet in the various RVing and Van Dwelling groups I’ve joined, who have made similar choices to mine, are amazing. They are becoming friends who share their lives and experiences with me as I share mine with them. They provide information and education from their experiences that is helping me make my choices and plans to see and experience some of what they have seen and done. One wandering nomad I’ve not met in person, yet, is currently in NM in a remote location with vistas that are proof that this is Heaven on Earth. As a musician, he said his creativity is just oozing out his pores in this location. He and many others are professionals, some with college degrees, others are trades men and women, artisans, artists, crafters and the list goes on. The common element I’m identifying is that they don’t seem to want to grow up either. They have made their choices.
I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short to grow up. I realize, now, that I’ve spent the majority of my life as a conforming non-conformist. Boy, is that a paradoxical concept or what? When my father died on that day in January 1967 I now realized that I changed, more then I had ever realized until now. Perhaps, I still don’t know the full degree of that change. I began being a grown-up, accepting responsibilities, obligations and taking life seriously . . . TOO seriously.
That God/Creator that I spoke of earlier just couldn’t have created this Heaven and this Garden of Eden so that we’d end up burying ourselves in work, responsibilities, obligations, debt, minutia, etc. and never truly realize and experience the greatness of the gift. The gift is personal freedom. The spin off of personal freedom is happiness. Somewhere, a long time ago, I think we (humans) got off track and replaced freedom (and being) with a desire for success and the accumulation of wealth and material things beyond the basic requirements of needs and some wants, none of which can go with us when we die. Being free and having fun is something that lasts forever. Once again, it’s about the values we place on life and things and the choices we make.
My choice? I’m reverting back to before January 5, 1967. I won’t grow up. How about you?