Reflections of a Rubber Tramp, One Month Into a New Job (and One Week Into a New Home)

Yesterday, I drove to work along my new route from my new home, and I passed by a Motel 6. I suddenly became nostalgic for the days when a stay at a Motel 6 was a luxury. What, with their flat beds, hot water, and ice machines – they were an oasis during my rubber tramping days. Honestly, it doesn’t take a random drive-by a Motel 6 to make me nostalgic. But this instance gave me pause to reflect upon recent changes and how these changes will impact or otherwise fit into my identity as a nomad and a haunter. In the past month, I have started a new job and moved to a new home. Some things are the same, but other things are different.

This blog post is going to be all over the place. I’ve been jotting down topic notes for over a week, and I just haven’t had the time or focus to sit down and write this post. There is no single coherent theme, other than reflecting on things that have happened during this past month of change.

I Feel At Home

Unlike the apartment complex I just left, this place doesn’t quite feel like a prison. Don’t ask me to explain why. I never fully unpacked at the apartment complex – knowing full well that I wasn’t going to remain there long term. In contrast, I think I may stay at this new place for as long as I remain in Green Bay. I would still like to leave Green Bay someday, but I’m no longer on some arbitrary, self-imposed timeline. I’ll leave when the time feels right. Maybe I’ll go south. Maybe I’ll go west. Going overseas may yet be an option. Or maybe I’ll take to the road full time. Who knows?

For the time being, I’m rewinding the clock back to 2016. I need to work again on the economic circumstances I need to have the freedom to make these choices again. And this time, I hope to do so in a more permanent way. The short game is to find a better job than my current one, because my current job is torturous. I know I can do better. But my long game is to develop a new location independent business so that I have revenue and the ability to go wherever I want. This is what I should have been doing all along.

This new place is smaller (hard as it is to believe) than my last apartment. But I actually don’t mind that. Because I realize now that I took no steps to reduce my personal baggage over the past 12 months. There are a lot of things that I know I can live without, but I’ve been reluctant to part ways with for… sentimental reasons or sunk costs reasons… Now is the time for me to re-evaluate what I own and what I can live without, because if my next move is going to be greater than 10 miles, I surely don’t want to be bogged down by this much shit again. Already, I’m mentally tagging items that are destined for the Goodwill or the trash heap.

Rubber Trampin’

Early during the North American Road Trip, a couple of my friends started referring to me as a crust punk, since I was technically homeless and didn’t get many opportunities to clean the dirt and grit off of me in a shower. I happily adopted that label, but the truth is, I don’t think it’s all that appropriate for me.

Rubber Tramp

… a child of the open roads of the American west…

I am addicted to the road, and I always want to be out there. But I don’t know if being on the road is something I can do permanently. I like having a shop where I can do my haunt craft. And more importantly, I like having access to a hot shower. In fact, it was the lack of showering that ultimately caused me to have a little breakdown in the middle of August 2017. I was going out to dinner with some friends while I was living in the parking lot of Green Bay Fear. I knew I was in no condition to walk into a restaurant. It killed me that I had to impose upon one of my friends for use of a shower.

As much as I love the road, I don’t see myself living without a home base.

There are a ton of synonyms and variations of nomad. Drifter. Vagabond. Transient. Hobo. Vagrant. Crust Punk. Gutter Punk. Hitchhiker. Train-hopper. Backpacker. Adventurer. Explorer. Rubber Tramp. Leather Tramp. Tramp. Traveler. Pioneer. Voyager. Wanderer.

I think the one that best describes me is “part-time rubber tramp”. “Drifter” and “crust punk” suited me for a time, but they don’t anymore, and they likely won’t again in the future. And I can’t wait until I get to go backpacking in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But I believe I will always be – at heart – a child of the roads of the American west. Sure would be nice to get rid of the “part-time” bit, though.

Final Camping Trip of the Year

Now that I am mostly moved in (just 2-3 truckloads of workshop tools, benches, and supplies left, which can will until next week), my attention is now refocused on finding a new job and starting a new business. I am off this weekend, and to unwind from this past month of chaos, I’m taking Remy up north to Nicolet National Forest for one final camping trip for the season. (I say “final” because by the time my next weekend off comes along, I’ve got a lengthy list of local events and venues to check out as the fall season begins. I’ve already been to the Farmer’s Market, which – to my pleasant surprise – was almost exactly what I hoped it would be like.)

Yes, I could use this weekend to start working on my resume, looking for new jobs, or starting that new business. And yes, you could argue that by going camping, I’m procrastinating again. But I think once I’m settled in, I’ll be able to do these things on not-my-days-off, too. I am tired, I am in a great deal of pain, it has been a chaotic month, and I’ve been suffering allergies for the past week from the former tenants’ cats. I am in desperate need of an unwind.

But whenever I travel, I always try to use my time to solve a problem. And this weekend’s philosophical challenge will both help me in my job hunt and address an issue I raised last month. How do I balance living-in-the-moment with plans-for-the-future?

As I explained in last month’s entry, I believe that obsessing over the future impedes living in the present, especially when the very existence of the future is not certain. On the other hand, my current job is definitely impeding my ability to live in the present, and the only way to get out of this job is to plan for the future. If I overthink this, I’ll wind up spending too much time in my current job and missing opportunities to live my life. So the question really boils down to: What is the simplest, easiest, and fastest to get out of my current job and into a long-term lifestyle that I can be satisfied with? I hope after this weekend I will have new insights that I can apply not only to my own life, but perhaps also share with you.

Ex-Attorney

A lot of my new co-workers have been curious about what I used to do before I came to work at my new job. My enigmatic responses have done little to quell that curiosity. Only the two people who interviewed me know that I used to be an attorney. Beyond that, I’m trying to keep my past a secret. It’s not because I’m embarrassed about what I’m doing now relative to what I used to do. It’s because I don’t want people to treat me weird once they find out that I used to be a lawyer. And I really don’t want to have to explain why I left the legal profession to 300 people.

More importantly, I can’t out myself as a lawyer because I’ll be inundated by people asking for advice that I am not allowed to give. I no longer actively practice that trade. Nor do I receive continuing legal education. I’m not privy to the latest developments in case law or statutes. I don’t pay bar dues, and I’m no longer subject to discipline by the Office of Lawyer Regulation. All of these things help regulate the bar such that people can rely upon practicing attorneys for sound advice. In spite of my education, knowledge, and experience, my expertise is compromised by not being a practicing attorney.

And that’s why it’s against the law for people who are not subject to these things to give legal advice. We call it the “unauthorized practice of law”. Basically, when I resigned my bar membership, I gave up my privilege to provide legal advice. But that doesn’t stop people from wanting to ask a former lawyer for free advice. And since I can’t give it, life is much easier for me if people just don’t know that I used to be a lawyer.

Also… I retired for a fucking reason. I worked really hard for the privilege of not having to practice law anymore.

Suits and Ties

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but not just because you might misjudge someone negatively based on their appearance. You equally likely to misjudge someone positively, too.

What do I mean by this?

For a long time, I have said that the kindest, friendliest, most intelligent people I know are the ones that most of society looks down upon. The punks. The long-haired, tattered-clothed freaks, no more than a high school diploma and a pocket change to their name, covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings.

I’m going to take that a step forward today, and assert that some of the greediest, heartless, and dumbest people I know are the ones wearing three piece suits, shined shoes, and cuff links.

I laugh when I hear employers or others suggest or impose a dress code for the sake of “appearing professional”. Yeah, I get it – we as a society are conditioned to trust the well-groomed, sharply-dressed man. But all too often, those fine threads are used as a costume to conceal a vile person underneath. No, not every single person who wears a suit is a bad person, and not every punk kid is a good person.

And that’s precisely why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But we really ought to do away with dress codes or other expectations. Let people be who they are and express themselves how they wish. How a person dresses is no measure of their integrity, humanity, or competence. Let their works and their deeds speak for themselves. Not only do we unfairly penalize people who resist conformity to a professional dress code, but we – to our own risk and detriment – unjustly elevate the trustworthiness of those who do conform.

Our Education System & Discovering Passions

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. I got into a lengthy discussion with a woman at the dog park who was visiting from out of state to care for her daughter’s dog. She and I shared a lot of similar philosophies about travel and passion. When we got into the realm of our education system, two others at the park overheard us and joined in on the conversation. There was very little disagreement between us.

So many people acknowledge that our education system sucks. And yet there is such tremendous resistance to reforming it.

I’m going to say some things. Statistically, there’s a good chance that you’re going to agree with some (if not all) of what I say. If it’s important enough to you, then we all need to stand up and start calling for reforms.

  1. Passions are not the same things as interests, ambitions, or hobbies. Passions cannot be found via research or thought. You stumble into them by accident, and by experiencing and experimenting with new things.
  2. Money does not buy happiness. No amount of money in the world can make up for a job you truly despise and have no love for.
  3. Not everyone should become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. The world also needs trash collectors, hospitality workers, and food service workers. We need artists and historians and philosophers. There is no shame in fulfilling one of these other “less prestigious” roles.
  4. The education system is designed to funnel kids into higher education (and crushing student loan debt) and higher paying jobs without giving kids ample opportunity to discover their passions and talents, in case – god forbid – their passions don’t align with a career that provides a 6 figure salary.
  5. No one should have to explain a “gap year” (or gap years, plural) as if taking time to explore one’s self is a sign of laziness or something to be ashamed of.

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