I came to a startling realization during the past few weeks of trekking around the U.S. Well, actually, it's not such a startling realization. I've understood this most of my life. What am I talking about? In a word, “compartmentalizing.”
I write of simplifying and minimizing life. M. Scott Peck, author of the classic bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled,stated it this way in his first paragraph – a three word, single sentence paragraph. “Life is difficult.” Indeed it is. And it has become exponentially more difficult over the past 50+ years of my adult life. I dare say, everyone walking on this planet, especially those living in developed, “western nations” has and continues to experience this.
Humans have learned how to compartmentalize virtually all aspects of life. Compartmentalizing is one way humans have invented to cope with the ever increasing complexity of modern life. Those of us living in advanced developed societies in the West enjoy, both, the benefits and and advantages of high-technology and the challenges, complexities and (often) the mind numbing addiction that can take control of parts of our lives.
Less advanced, more primitive societies still compartmentalize, however, to a significantly lesser degree. The less complexity we have to cope with in our lives allows us to live freer, simpler, happier and with less compartments.
What are the compartments I'm talking about? There are a number of basic compartments. These are the distinct basic areas of the average individual's life. Life would be pretty simple if all we have to deal with on a daily basis are these few compartments:
- Occupational – Professional
- Recreation – Avocational Pursuits
- Physical Health & Fitness
You may want to add one or two more to this list of compartments. But, these ten compartments are the ones I identify as the most significant areas I personally identify with in my life. The list is in no particular order of significance since each potentially plays a key role in life, some more than others. And, the significance may be lesser at one time and greater at another. Of course, subsistence (eating), shelter and clothing will always be at or near the top of the list.
In some less advanced, less privileged, more basic or primitive societies this basic list may reasonably describe the compartments of their lives. It's not likely any of those people will be reading this blog article. Thus, I'm writing it for you, my contemporaries living in our complex Western societies and more specifically, for my fellow U.S. citizens.
One of the best parts of my “living free,” nomadic lifestyle is visiting and revisiting friends and acquaintances, past and present, and meeting all kinds of interesting new people, many who become friends. I learn about their lives, their motivations, their aspirations and, of course, depending on their ages, the changes they have made or are making in their lives.
On this trip I stayed with my former book editor, Bob, and his delightful wife, Tere (pronounced Terry) at their home in Bristol, Virginia. Bob is a native of Staten Island (New York City), New York and Tere is a southern gal from Georgia, as I recall. Both sons have left the nest and are pursuing very different career aspirations.
Then I stopped in Jackson, Tennessee where I met Henry Harrison, founder of the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame, an interesting man somewhat my senior. I also met Debe White and her spouse, David. They are massage therapists. What a great connection. A two hour stop turned into a two day event for me during my travels including some great time in Memphis with Debe and David. I attended a Unity Church service with them, my first, and met some more interesting folks. They connected me with another fascinating fellow, Gary Hardy, who acquired the lease to the original Sam Phillips, Memphis Recording Service studio, (aka Sun Records). Sam Phillips was the man who launched Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and a slew of others. Gary reopened the studio in the later 1980's and ran it until the later 90's and hosted such recording artists as Ringo Star, Bono and a slew of others.
Then I moved on to New Mexico where I spent a couple weeks hanging with with my full-time RVing friend, John. For a short time, his delightful wife, Sharon, was there before she left on an adventure of her own. Once again, John's and Sharon's lifestyle was different than any of the previous folks, so far, mentioned.
From there I headed to the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona where I met up with my friend, Carl, another full-time vandweller originally from Pennsylvania. Then I met up with Bob Wells, a full-time vandweller for the past 12 or more years and an advocate of this lifestyle. Bob has a very popular Web site and blog at cheaprvliving.com. We then moved on to a get together of about 50 or 60 mostly full-time van, trailer, small motorhome, car and tent dwellers/campers. Once again, the people and lifestyles and back stories were as varied as the number of people at the gathering.
From there I headed to California with a brief stop to visit my former wife, Cynthia, in Cathedral City (next to Palm Springs). Cynthia and I shared a lifestyle for nearly 20 years. Now she has her own unique lifestyle. Then I moved on to Los Angeles and a visit with my adult son, Pete. His life is a result of being brought up by Cynthia and me, yet, he has a unique lifestyle that shares some of what Cynthia and I imparted to him, yet, with his own personal spin on things.
Then it was out to Clovis, California where I took part in a large family reunion of my “outlaw” (former in-laws) family where five of the six brothers both sisters, Cynthia and her sister, Chris, were in attendance. There was also a contingent of spouses, girl & boy friends, nieces, nephews and other relatives including my son, Pete. And, of course, the “Queen Bee,” aka, BJ, the matriarch of the family was center stage. Her brother, Fred was among the revelers. BJ is and has been one of my long-time best of friends. She worked with me in our businesses for a couple decades. It was BJ's 90th birthday. She's seen and experienced a lot over those nine decades. And again, there were as many different lifestyles represented as there were people in attendance. I spent about three weeks hanging out in Clovis, a very nice middle class city in the San Joaquin Valley.
I left Clovis four days ago and headed back over the coastal mountain range to an upscale Orange County city, Irvine. There I met up with a delightful woman I met about 13 or 14 years ago when I was exhibiting for my book publishing company at a national convention. We had lost contact, but reconnected through Facebook (social media, another part of our compartmentalized lives). I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Jacqueline and learned more about her back story and her lifestyle in Irvine.
Then, I moved up the coast, north of Los Angeles, where I'm currently located in a box canyon in the Los Padres National Forest, camped under a beautiful canopy of green with a pleasant breeze and temperatures in the low 80's. I've had some interesting conversations with the three camp hosts who are also full-time RVers. I also enjoyed meeting the two younger families who were tent camping with some cute little kids in the campsite next to me. Again, I had the opportunity to learn something about their lives and lifestyles.
Yesterday I traveled south to Thousand Oaks, California and visited my long time friend, Jim, (about 36 years) from my quarter century affiliation with the National Speakers Association. Jim and his delightful wife, Paula, live in this upscale community. Paula was off taking care of one of the compartments in her life. But, I learned more about Jim's back story. It was interesting to find that Jim and I both share common interests in personal freedom and loving the open road and nomadic adventures. Jim sang one of the songs he wrote in 1968 (the year I completed my graduate school classes. The song described my current lifestyle (and my aspirations in the 60's) almost perfectly. How cool is that? Jim took me to a very unique place for lunch, introduced me to the billionaire developer/owner, then took me on a tour of the area where we passed the homes of people like Brittany Spears, Tom Selleck, Wayne Gretsky and numerous other celebrities. Once again, I learned more about Jim's lifestyle and those of the celebrities whose houses we passed. Jim, an internationally acclaimed sales, management, leadership speaker, has recently recorded his first music CD and gifted me with a copy. I enjoyed listening to the CD last night. This is another compartment of Jim's life.
Finally, I left Jim and drove north to Santa Barbara, California on the Pacific coast. There I met up with another long-time friend, Ellen. Ellen and I shared involvement in the book publishing industry. She is what is known as a “book shepherd.” That means she assists authors in creating their books from the basic manuscript to the final, published book. She is not a book publisher, as I was. I'd have to say she was the smarter of the two of us when it came to our involvement in the publishing world. Ellen is single. She's been through the marriage lifestyle a few times. We caught up on our lives and then she took me to a nice restaurant on the beach where we enjoyed an ocean side dinner and chatted some more. Again, Ellen's lifestyle is uniquely her own.
What Was I Learning?
What I learned from all these interactions was simply this. Every one of the people I mentioned above had, each in their own way, all of the compartments I enumerated earlier in the article. Some have chosen to simplify, compress, eliminate some of the many sub-compartments of those listed above. Others have continued to live with all their sub-compartments. And still others expressed the desire to compact or compress many aspects of their lifestyles.
Most all of them, it appears, have, in unspoken ways, a desire to experience and enjoy more personal freedom and happiness by finding ways to eliminate some of the complications implied by M. Scott Peck's opening statement, “Life is difficult.” I believe most everyone realizes that having so many compartments and sub-compartments in their lives results in varying degrees of complication. Complication almost always results in added expense to sustain the lifestyle. Expense and complication typically result in some loss of personal freedom and happiness.
Of course, one could say if a person is financially independent, defined as having more than adequate financial resources to cover all the expenses of all the compartments, that life should be uncomplicated. Thus, personal freedom shouldn't be a question and life should be a perpetually happy experience.
Unfortunately, while it would seem the last paragraph should be a no-brainer and the rule, it doesn't seem to be. I continually meet people whose lives should be idyllic and perfect due to their unlimited financial resources. This is seldom the case. Great responsibility comes with those unlimited resources. Life is usually more complicated and difficult for many, if not most, people with unlimited resources. I won't enumerate the many issues that accompany resources and responsibilities. But, to restate an old saying, “the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.”
In upcoming articles I'm going to expand the ten basic compartments I listed earlier. I'm know you'll relate to many, if not most, of these compartments. People whose lives are full of compartments and complications, often say to me, they envy my life because they see the simplicity, freedom and happiness I live just about everyday. The reality is as simple and free as my current lifestyle is, it's still nowhere near where I would like it to be. I still have too many compartments and I still deal with a variety of complications. However, compared to what it was just eight or ten years ago, it's exponentially better. Stay tuned for more.
Live free and be happy. EH