I am writing to you, but also to myself. I am writing to the me of years passed, and to the me of today. I write to and for every young person embarking on their life’s journey. This post, dear young friends, is for you.
I have been in cold and rainy weather with beautiful and warm breaks in between. The change of seasons from Summer to Fall, or more like winter at this elevation, makes me contemplative and reflective. Take this letter literally for yourself, as it is meant to be, or rhetorical for the world, which it is, in a way, as well meant to be.
This all struck me one day as I thought back to the high school graduation of my nephew. It was on that day when he ceased to be a senior that I became one. How ironic is that! It is my honor and privilege to have been part of that graduation. I felt like I was having one, too. As he was letting go, I was just beginning. Talk about Yin and Yang. He crossed over and I crossed into. This gives me pause.
It has been a couple months since then. I have continued my pilgrimage, and had awesome and amazing and unfathomable experiences. I continue to live on the road, with all the pleasures and challenges it brings. Summer is ending for me and so are my commitments. I worked in the full summer sun, hurricane winds, temperatures peaking at 102. I slept near a freeway off ramp, in rodeo backlot and near carnival grounds. I slept in a windstorm and in the comfort of a motel room. I dog sat, house sat, hiked, biked, and turned a wonderful shade of brown. I am now in Yellowstone where the temperatures will be in the 30’s. I am at just over 7700 feet with the lake in view. I went on a boat ride, four-wheeled through the mud, listened to the elk bugle and fought the crowds for a place to park. I have seen the beauty and the wonder of God’s most precious creation. I am sated.
I am also defying convention in my “senior” years. I am not gainfully employed, I do not own any sort of home or dwelling. I spend my days however the fuck I want. I travel and explore and talk to strangers. I am usually dirty and I may smell. I am dressed neat, but I do not always match. I keep to myself and I make new friends. I am not what people expect for someone my age. I do not feel my age. But, I feel more like myself than I ever have in all of my 55 years.
What amazes me is that, for the most part, people do not expect anything of me. Truth be told, they also do not know what to think of me! I do not tell everyone my story or what I am doing or why. I asses each situation and decide in that moment. Most of the time when I choose to divulge, I get an extremely positive response. In fact, most people quickly relay their envy and comment that they “wish they could do that”. I assure them that they can. It is alarmingly easy to walk out of your life. I suggest a plan or at least a back-up plan, or at least some sense of consequence if there is no plan. But, more often than not, nobody really cares what I am doing or how much success I may have had, or not, in what I now call my “previous life”. I have actually lived a few lives in my years. The difference is that this time, and for the first time, I feel like I am totally and 100% calling the shots. This time I hold the reigns.
I am telling you all of this because you are on the complete and total opposite end. Your life is just beginning and the expectations are rolling in. I am sure they started well before your graduation night. What’s next? Will you go to school? Live at home? Get married? What about a job? What are your plans??? There is an unending stream of questions, nay, expectations that have been thrust your way. I am convinced that they come from the people who love you the most. There are many folks in our lives who live with expectations. Those folks who hold the play book we should all follow. The “should” and “should not’s” lined out, scripted for us. What you are supposed to do and when and how. It is like your life is laid out for you and your job is to check the boxes, meet those goals and make it happen.
I really, really want you to know that is all bullshit. All of it. You do not have to do one fucking thing you do not want to. The dirty secret of this life is that there is no script. There is no one way to do anything! There is no “right” or “wrong”. Wait, let me back up here. There is the moral view of right and wrong. Murder is wrong and helping others is right. Can we just say that is understood? Let’s both agree that we know right from wrong in the more biblical sense. Murder wrong, helping someone, good. Cool.
My point is that you are standing at the precipice of the most amazing opportunity. Well, one of the most amazing. Think about it – you will never be this age in this place at this time again. NEVER! I beg you, I implore you, I beseech you to look deep inside yourself and find your voice. Find your inner compass and let that guide you. Sure, take suggestions from others. I mean, sometimes we cannot think of everything. If it sounds good, by all means try it. If it sucks, then stop doing it. Please, please do not spend your life fulfilling the expectations of others. Do not do or be or perform or live in a way that is not of your choosing. Let others judge you, if that is what they must do. If you are confident in your choice and firm in your resolve, they will sense that and leave you alone. It really is none of their business anyhow. Suckers!
Find and use our voice. Make your priorities, your preferences, and the way you live your life known and stay the course. If someone gets pissed off about it, remind them that this is your choice and their job is to support you on your journey of self-discovery. Their job is not to mold you into someone you are not, or a mini version of them.
I began 55 with a light in my eyes and a spring in my step like I have never had. I have a freedom I always dreamed of. I have the confidence to live my life in a way that feels so good and so right I cannot even put it into words. It makes me sad to think of the years I wasted living a life that was told to me by everyone else. I forgive them, and myself, for neither of us knew any better. I thought I was doing the right things and living a good life. I kind of was. Sort of. But, now I know better. Boy, do I know better!
Here is another thing… nobody can dictate or prescribe or orchestrate just what it means to be any age. I mean, you are 18 or 19 or something and I am 55. People automatically assume things about us because of those numbers. I do not feel that number. I don’t really know what that number is supposed to tell the world except that I now and legitimately get a discount on stuff. Go me! You? What does your number mean to you? Hopefully nothing. Feel how and what you feel, regardless of the math. Fuck the numbers. They are just the passage of time anyway.
Despite all of this, and from time to time, I do have my doubts. I am still human. I fear that my life on the road will hurt me later on when I want to actually earn money or make a living. I fear that I will not have enough money to buy a house or pay my bills when my health starts to fade. There are moments I have lots of fears. But, those fears quickly fade away when I stop and see where I am today. When I look around and see the trees and the animals, when I smell the pine and the rain and the sun. When I spend my day hiking and reading and writing. When I know that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, then the future worries dissolve in front of my very eyes.
I have faith, however. I mean I have faith in God and all that. A very strong and firm faith. But, living this life has taught me that when I am on the right path, when I am living the life I am meant to live, it is like the road is paved with gold. The path becomes clear and all the obstacles are removed. It is like being outside in the dark and someone shines a light on the way. It is like I do not even have to try and I am taken care of and I am well and all things align in the Universe. I have faith that once you find your inner voice, and once you start to listen to it and follow it, your path will be revealed. This all may sound a little hokey to you right now. But, trust me on this one, when you do what you are supposed to do, it all works out.
How do you know if you are on the right track, you ask? First, you have to really be in tune with that inner voice, your deepest feeling and intuition. You have to know who you are and what you are about. Living on the right track means that you are calm and at peace, your life just works out and things line up. You are taken care of. You are happy and have a sense of purpose, a sense of peace, and your heart is full. If you are not or do not feel these things, then it is time to get back in touch with yourself. You may have lost your way and must reset the compass; it’s never too late to change course. Never too lake to make a change. Never.
Oh, you will also make mistakes. You will think you found that great thing and it will not be that great thing. You will think you know who you are and then, later, find out you did not know shit. That just means you are growing and learning. Be a student of your own life. Be a learner in this world. Be a listener when everyone else is speaking. Be open to everyone and everything. Be a pilgrim.
I am on a pilgrimage and I am living like a pilgrim in the second half, or so I hope, of my life. I wish for you that to live like a pilgrim in this, the first half of your life. June 7, 2019 was the day I became a senior. I walked into the same door you walked out of when you graduated. I am living the last part of my life and I want you to live the first part of yours with all of the greatness I have now found. Life is awesome and amazing and truly a gift. I wish for you many, many years of unwrapping. I will just be over here, admiring my own gifts as they have already been opened.
Cheers, Young Person! Many, many, and oh so many Cheers!