That Tells What Kind Of Life You Have Lived.
This was the last thought in a list of life values I found the other day. It was just after I watched a short video of a young 12-year-old boy at a Diamond Backs baseball game. One of the players came over to the stands and tossed a ball up to some kids - the 12 year old snagged it. He was elated in having scored this trophy from his favorite team. But, sitting in the front row and trying to snag that ball was a much younger and smaller little boy with a parent. And he was terribly distressed that he didn't get the ball. In fact, this youngster really didn't have a chance with the three older and larger boys jostling to get the ball. Meanwhile the TV cameras were trained on the short event while the sportscasters were commenting on what had transpired, making note of the smaller boy. All of a sudden the 12-year-old boy with the ball got back out of his seat with his trophy baseball, walked down about three rows to where the younger boy was and presented him with the ball. He became a hero to that small boy and the announcers did a play by play on the entire story as it unfolded. At the end of the game, the 12-year-old boy was presented with a baseball bat autographed by his favorite Diamond Back player.
Of course, I watched the video on the Web, as I'm sure thousands of others have, too. This young man set a true example of what is meant by the title of this post. He became a hero to that younger boy. His parents have taught him well and that young man made them very proud. Somehow, I think this young man is going to be very successful in life, not necessarily financially, though I wouldn't doubt that either, but in just about any endeavor he undertakes.
So, what does this have to do with living free? In my book, pretty much everything. I'm finally having the opportunity to start meeting some of the nomadic, living free, van dwelling folks I've been in on-line conversations with over the past year or so either on Yahoo Groups or through one to one, direct emails. This past Saturday I met up with a woman who calls herself Gypsy Jane and also Buffalo Woman. I've had some great one to one emails with Jane, but last Saturday she was participating in a Rendezvous of 18th Century re-enactors at Belle Grove Plantation near the tiny, historic, Shenandoah Valley town of Middletown, Virginia. I was back in my old stomping ground of Winchester, Virginia, about 15 miles north of Belle Grove, where I was clearing out the remnants of "stuff" (mostly audio and video gear) remaining from my major downsizing in 2008. After moving the left over items from the cavernous 10'x30' storage unit into a much more compact 10'x10' storage unit (with room to spare, I might, thankfully, add), it was still early enough in the afternoon to run down to meet up with Gypsy Jane.
It's always a huge treat for me to finally meet people I've been corresponding with (and I hope I'll meet many of the readers of my blog as I'm exploring the U.S. and possibly when I get overseas from time to time). Jane was a delight. We had already discovered that we had many things and places in common. So, in a way, it was like meeting an old friend. She was, of course, garbed in the typical attire of the 18th Century, as were all the others at the encampment. I knew Jane loved books, so I brought her some of my favorite books that I maintain a small inventory of to give away as gifts. She shared a song she wrote about books, called "So Many Books" and shared her CD with me. The setting was delightful with the encampment in a stand of woods on one side of the plantation. Gypsy Jane has both a van and a motorhome. She uses the van to attend and participate in the kind of Rendezvous I met her at. She travels and lives in her 32-foot motorhome the rest of the time. If everything works out well, I'll have another opportunity to meet up with Gypsy Jane sometime after June 6th when she'll be participating in another 18th Century Rendezvous in Antioch, West Virginia, which just happens to be only about 20 minutes from my eastern base camp in Keyser, West Virginia. And, as an interesting coincidence, she lived in Keyser for a few years about 20 or 25 years ago.
Meanwhile, I will be meeting up with another van dweller (actually a husband and wife duo) traveling up from Florida in a couple weeks. And, I still need to get over to Winchester and the Berryville, Virginia area to meet up with another van dweller who'll be heading out to explore the country around the end of June. A week and a half ago, I had lunch with one of my full-time RVer friends, before he headed north to the cooler climate of Maine for the summer.
All of these friends are, by their own definition of freedom, living free. Every one of them has an interesting and unique back-story leading to their decision to make the major lifestyle changes and embracing a lifestyle of freedom. Perhaps, the most interesting thing this unique breed of people has in common is that they don't seem to expend a lot of energy on worrying about money. Yet, they are enormously generous with their time, information and, when apropos, their skills and talents in assisting others. It doesn't seem to matter whether they choose to live off the grid in unique styles of fixed housing or they choose to live in a variety of different forms of RV's or small vans or utility trailers and travel at will on their own schedules. It's not about what they gather, although they all, for the most part, need to do some gathering. It's about what they scatter in inspiration, information, ideas and assistance of all kinds that truly defines the kinds of lives they live.
People Watching - "You can observe a lot by just watching!" Yogi Berra
I love to observe people. I find humans a most interesting study. The range of human living experiences is very broad. On one end of the spectrum are those who conform to everything and are consumed by security and knowing all of their basic needs are met. On the other end of the spectrum are those who will accept all kinds of challenges including the individual who recently jumped from the platform of a balloon at the edge of out space. He did a free fall sky dive from 128,000 feet, reaching a speed of mach 1.24 or 834 mph and breaking the sound barrier in only a high-tech space suit. What's even more amazing is that he landed near where he took off. The logistics of falling some 24 miles at supersonic speed had to be incredible. I'm surprised he even landed in the same state.
What differentiates these people at two extremes of the human living experience? Why will some people work at the same job, live in the same home and pretty much do the same things for 30, 40 or more years of their adult life while others will get rid of all or most of the "stuff" they have and move to a mountain top or a small island or some kind of a dwelling on wheels? Why will most choose the safe route through life while a relatively few will push their adrenalin to a degree most people can't imagine in their wildest dreams? Sure, at both ends of the spectrum there are those who do for what they will "gather" from their living experience. But, dare I say that the vast majority of the human race is more intently concerned with gathering all they can and allowing so many life changing and altering opportunities to pass in exchange for something they describe as security? Of course, the perpetuation of the human race needs this vast population of security conscious people to be the doers, or the "worker bees" in the hive of Earth.
However, it is the people who step outside the box, who stretch the walls of the envelope, who forego the proven safe path to expand the human experience. These are the crazy scientists and inventors. They are the entrepreneurs who take calculated (usually) risks to create new businesses and ideas. There are the individuals I call the "hometown heroes." Hometown heroes are individuals who may never venture far from home, but they do whatever they do as their security job then voluntarily dedicate their lives to all kinds of causes in their community, often living frugal lives so they can use their resources to help individuals and their communities in some way. They are the explorers, the sky divers from outer space, the globe trekkers who choose to explore their country or the world on little money while learning about the people they meet, helping and teaching as they go and spreading goodwill in one manner or another.
Growing Up In A World Of Security Seekers
I grew up in a large city that was a suburb of the largest city in the U.S. Most of the people I met during my formative years were those who fell into the end of the spectrum where one worked at a steady job for the security. They were conditioned to look forward to achieving their freedom when they retired. During my youth, most of the people who made it to 65 years old and retirement typically lived for about two years after retirement. Most of them were so tired by the time they retired they never did get to do much of what they thought they would get to do. I was lucky, I guess. My father, in my opinion, was one of those "hometown heroes" I mentioned. He was definitely one of the security-seeking individuals, but in his heart he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He spent all his adult life, beginning at 18, taking excellent care of his middle class family and helping as many others as he could in a variety of ways. He also, subtly and not so subtly was my encourager. He guided me to seek a life of freedom, going after my dreams and entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, his life ended at age 42 when I was 21 and I was just coming of age and beginning to grasp the concept of the life he was trying to guide me toward.
While I would opine that my life has been pretty successful, in comparison to people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell and in my own industry, recording, the late Phil Ramone, Ed Greene and others of legendary status, I might be considered something of a failure. But, after a short period where I was enamored with making huge amounts of money, I finally realized that my focus was all wrong. If money was part of my destiny, it would come my way. Instead, I focused on people and passion for what I had the opportunity to do. I never fully conformed to the mainstream 40-year plan. The dream was always about personal freedom. I found my wealth in doing things that helped others and brought some joy and happiness into other people's lives. I have watched many of my contemporaries, friends and colleagues pass away very prematurely with their "music still inside them." In most cases, again, from my perspective, perhaps their focus was off.
So, this gets back to gathering and scattering. I firmly believe that most of the people who consider themselves as personally free are those who are not married or enslaved by money, debt and jobs they MUST maintain to keep what they have. Realizing that no one truly owns anything in this life, it's all temporary and we just get to use it and, sometimes, enjoy it for the fleeting period of time we call our lives. Placing the focus on scattering or giving back or sharing your fortunes and lives and limiting the amount of focus on gathering seems to bring the greatest degree of personal freedom, happiness and fulfillment. I know too many who have spent their lives gathering and now they are securely retired and many don't do much of anything with this supposedly free part of their lives. Yet, I know many who have little, but they also have no debt, have lots of time, many interests, live frugally and find great joy in the simple pleasures life offers in abundance.