The Two Bartlets
Many people lead lives of contradiction, toeing a delicate line between what they want and what they are comfortable with. One of my favorite cultural examples of this comes from The West Wing. The stories of President Bartlet (and his administration) oscillate between doing the right thing (at high cost or risk) and going the politically-safe route. The episodes in which they courageously stand on principle are scored with triumphant music. The episodes in which they cower are more somber.
Probably no two episodes illustrate this duality better than “Manchester, Part II” and “The Two Bartlets”. In the first, Bartlet announces his candidacy for re-election by stating that he would run a strong, principled campaign.
Bruno, Doug, Connie – these guys are good. They want to win. So do we. The only thing we want more is to be right. I wonder if you can’t do both. There’s a new book, and we’re gonna write it. You can win if you run a smart, disciplined campaign. If you studiously say nothing – nothing that causes you trouble, nothing that’s a gaffe, nothing that shows you might think the wrong thing, nothing that shows you think. But it just isn’t worthy of us. It isn’t worthy of America. It isn’t worthy of a great nation.
In the second episode, to Toby’s chagrin, Bartlet refuses to come out publicly in support of affirmative action for fear that doing so will cost him votes.
There’s always been a concern about the two Bartlets. The absent-minded professor with the Aw, Dad sense of humor. Disarming and unthreatening. Good for all time zones. And the Nobel Laureate. Still searching for salvation. Lonely, frustrated. Lethal.
Previously on “The Gothic Nomad”…
About a week or so ago, I mused that I should just quit my job, leave everything behind, and figure things out as I go along.
Right now, I’m working a job I hate for not very much money. And half of my pathetic paycheck goes toward rent.
In theory, I could give up my home. I spent a chunk of time in 2017 without a home and rather enjoyed it. But I can’t give up my home and keep my job. For one thing, what would I do with Remy all day while I’m working long shifts? For another, I can’t survive Wisconsin’s bitter-cold winters living in my truck.
I can’t give up my job yet, either. Even though I’m willing to give up my home and most of my remaining possessions, I still need money to live. I lack hunter/gatherer/farming skills, so I would still need money to buy food. And as my preferred method of nomadism is rubber tramping, I need money for gas and vehicle maintenance.
The answer, obviously, is a location-independent business or job. But it’s a slow, tedious process that I have made virtually no progress on because I spend most of my time either sleeping or at work. How many months or years is it going to take me to become location independent once again? How long do I have to wait before I can return to my home on the road?
Other People Do It. Why Can’t I?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve met and know personally several drifters – rough-and-tough kids who survive on the streets without jobs (or stable ones, at least). Their lives are tough at times, but they are very much alive. If they can do it, why can’t I?
I don’t know. Maybe I can.
The drifters I know are either younger than me or – at least – got started as drifters at a younger age than me. I, on the other hand, am a 37-year-old dog trying to learn new tricks. I don’t know how to dumpster dive, hop trains, or thumb rides. Most of the drifters I know became drifters out of necessity whereas I am trying to make a deliberate lifestyle choice.
Maybe I can become a legit crust punk. Maybe I could quit my job tomorrow and flourish. Or at least survive.
Or maybe I can’t and should stick to the safer route. I’m not sure.
Living for the Road
It has become increasingly apparent to me that my sole motivation for continued survival is to return to the road. The freedom I experienced on the road has overtaken even my passion as a haunter. If ever I became disabled or infirmed such that returning to the road was impossible, I wouldn’t want to go on living.
I know I’ve talked a lot about death lately, as well as my cavalier (sometimes reckless) attitude toward life. You’ll have to forgive a haunter and a psychopath for being a bit macabre. But I do think about these things a lot. There’s a lot of danger with my job, so I sometimes wonder what I would do in the event of a serious accident.
I gave up on health insurance. I almost never receive medical care (none at all, in fact, since spring 2017). I’ve figured out that for anything routine or light, I can pay less for an uninsured office visit than I’d pay in a whole month’s premiums. Should my health deteriorate to the point of needing constant medical care and justifying health insurance… would I really want to remain alive?
I’m not eager to die. But death is inevitable for all of us. And recent events have caused me to be less fearful of death. I’ve been admonished for picking up hitchhikers, embarking on hazardous travels, performing dangerous haunt routines, living out of my truck, and all of the other reckless things I’ve done since my retirement. But I’m not going to start living a safe, white picket fence, American Dream life. Doing so won’t grant me immortality. But even if it did, it wouldn’t be much of a life to live, now would it?
I’m not going to sink thousands of dollars into insurance that I can’t afford and don’t use. It’ll make it even more impossible for me to regain my independence and return to the road. Even if I could afford it – I stay healthy and receive medical care for what? It still doesn’t grant me immortality. And I’d be too broke to live my life.
My point here is that I’m not willing to do things to protect my life at the expense of living my life.
Fortune Favors the Bold
So this is where I stand. Two paths before me. One path is long, tedious, conforming, and supposedly safe. I could wait until I generate revenue with a new business and stabilize myself financially before returning to the road. And I might grow old and die before I earn my freedom again.
The other path is reckless, rushed, and scary. My time could be cut very short if I fail to learn the skills I need to learn. But at least I would be out there.
And so all week, I’ve got Captain Sisko‘s words echoing in my mind over and over and over again…
No, I’m not ready to leave it all behind right this moment. Even if I decide to go down the reckless path, I still need to prepare psychologically and logistically. That won’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, or even next month.
And who knows? In the meantime, I might yet find a safe, responsible way toward location independence. I might suddenly make real progress in setting up a new company.
I’m just not so sure I’m willing to wait that long.
Fortune favors the bold.