The other day I overheard a conversation between two travelers. “That’s what your twenties are for, man,” one said. “Living in the back of your van and going surfing. All of the corporate drones have so got it wrong.”
The comment both shocked me and didn’t at the same time. We live in a world so full of idealistic hippies telling us to “GO GRAB LIFE BY THE REINS, MAN,” that it’s easy to forget that for some people, security is happiness.
I may be a globe-trotting hippie making minimum payments on my student loans while teaching overseas regularly, but my brother is a high-ranking investment banker who makes more in a year than I will probably make my whole life. It could be argued with fervor that my brother is not grasping life by its reins and that I am. It could also be argued that I am living foolishly, and he is not. If we were to sit down and debate it until the end of time, a simple answer would inevitably occur: both statements are correct.
I am a radical, life-embracing fool, and he is an intelligent, by-the-book success. The only common denominator is that both of us are perfectly happy.
My brother came out of University knowing that he had dues to pay. By the age of 23, his student loans had dissipated. By 25, he was getting bonuses the size of Mercedes Benzes every April. By 40, he will inevitably have a corner office overlooking a stunning city, where he will take long drags of a Cuban cigar, declaring that he got there by “paying his dues.” And that image of himself at age 40 is enough to keep him happy as he drudges through the day-to-day routines at the office. Honestly happy. A fulfilled kind of happy.
I personally hate offices. They make me feel stuffy and isolated, like I am slowly being suffocated by the four walls around me. I like road trips and coastlines and the image of a corner office does about as much for me as a picture of the current John Travolta wearing skinny jeans. Stick me in my brother’s job and I’d be miserable as I could be, but stick him in mine and he’d damn well be miserable too.
Some people do not live for the open road. Some people are not poets, or authors, or musicians or travelers or artists. Crazy as it sounds, some people are happy knowing that they’re doing things the practical way. A practical person bitching about their office job can be equated to a poet bitching about writer’s block. Neither one is pleasant, but neither is enough to abandon the lifestyle as a whole.
Before we go off lecturing the lawyers and bankers that hold our fragile society together, let us first consider whether we are lecturing them about their version of happiness or ours. Crazy as it may seem, grabbing-your-life-by-the-reins may, to a lot of people, look like a plain ’ol 9-to-5.
And more power to them.