I look back on my North American Road Trip with great fondness. Over the course of five weeks, I gained experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I do not regret taking the trip. Nor do I regret quitting my job or selling my house.
But in the thirty nine days that have passed since the trip ended, and especially in the two weeks that have passed since I moved into this apartment, one conclusion is inescapable. The North American Road Trip ruined my life.
Days Without Beginning or End
This morning, I opened up a document file I had created a couple weeks ago. The file contains notes about my goals for where and how I want to live in the future, the obstacles I faced during my recent road trip, and potential solutions to those obstacles. I worked on it for about a half hour before setting it aside.
Or at least, I think it was this morning. I might have opened the file yesterday morning. I can’t tell anymore. Each day bleeds into the next. My days are without structure or distinction.
I spend most of my days sleeping and watching movies. I certainly strive to work. In the past several days, I’ve tried working on future living plans, job searches, getting my new business up and running, and even writing a book about my experiences over the past two years. I work for a few minutes, get fatigued, and eventually find myself melted into the carpet.
The Futility of a Job Search
Finding a job should be my top priority. A job would make good financial sense and it would provide some structure to my day. But searching for a job has fallen to the bottom of my priority list.
First of all, I can’t imagine anyone hiring me – dressed the way I dress, visible tattoos all over my body, and my hair grown out as long as it is. Probably couldn’t pass a drug test, either.
Then there’s my work history. Why did I quit being a lawyer? Why haven’t I been working for the past three months? How am I not overqualified for any job I could possibly apply for?
Finally, I doubt I could find a job that I would enjoy and that wouldn’t make me want to blow my brains out. I have legitimate concern about whether I’m capable of being employed and answering to a boss. Any job I take would necessarily be temporary because I really can’t imagine staying in Green Bay beyond this 12 month lease (assuming I even stay that long).
The solution seems to be obvious – focus on haunt work. I intended to start a prop production business regardless of whatever other work I do. Why not devote all of my attention and energy to that goal? After all – the last time I lost a job, my solution was to go off into business for myself and – for 8 years after – I was more or less successful in that venture.
But the more I think about this business, the less confident I am that I can make a sustainable living at it. More than any other obstacle – I simply don’t know how to market this type of business. Marketing has never been my strong suit, and this business is so different from my law practice.
Oh, and I keep burning bridges…
I quit Terror on the Fox because I was unwilling to put up with 13th Floor’s corporate bullshit. I quit another project last winter because I was unwilling to deal with drunken bullshit. And I recently quit Green Bay Fear because I was unwilling to put up with the bullshit of a few individuals. Every time I get to work with my core group of haunt friends, I keep abandoning them because I’m unhappy with the work environment. Don’t get me wrong – I am still very passionate about building corpses and props. I’m just not sure that working on-location at a haunted house is a good fit for me.
Too Old for Bullshit
I think my closest haunt friends could make the argument that I’m spoiled and a quitter. In fact, I’d be surprised to learn if they haven’t made that argument among themselves by now. By my count, I’ve walked away from them (in one way or another) at least three times in two years.
They might even be right. Though, I would re-frame the accusation slightly. I would argue that – at my age – I’m too old to tolerate bullshit.
Maybe age has nothing to do with it. I think the truth is – I busted my ass for eleven years in a job that I hate so that I could pay off my student loans, quit my job, and no longer have to put up with bullshit from my clients. Now that I’ve done that, I think I’ve convinced myself that I’ve earned the privilege to live a life completely free from bullshit – unrealistic as that might be.
How the Road Trip Ruined Me
And this is where the road trip comes in. In the five weeks immediately following my retirement, I was able to lead a life almost entirely devoid of responsibility and bullshit. That reinforced this unrealistic expectation I had. The only obligations I had were to keep myself and my dog alive, healthy, and safe. That was it. I was free to go where I wanted to go. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. There were no deadlines to meet. I was almost entirely divorced from society – depending on others only to purchase food and gasoline.
It’s no wonder why I was the happiest when I was in the Forest. That’s when I experienced the most amount of freedom – freedom in its most pure and raw form. Most Americans go through their entire lives without knowing the true meaning of the word “freedom”. We fling it around as a patriotic buzzword, but few of us understand what it truly means to be free.
I’m sorry, but most of you don’t have a fucking clue. You work 40 hours… 60 hours… 80 hours a week to earn money to buy bullshit you don’t need. You are slaves to consumerism. But you think because you have freedom of speech, freedom to worship, and a right to bear arms, that means you’re free. You’re wrong.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to taste real freedom. It was short-lived, and I barely scratched the surface. But I have tasted it, and I count myself fortunate to have had the experience. I’ve joined an exclusive club that only a small percentage of Americans will ever join. What greater freedom can there be than to go where you want and do what you want when you want? To not be bound by economics, politics, and deteriorating foreign relations?
And now, as if freed from the bondage of Plato’s cave and seeing the world that lies beyond it – I cannot fathom myself being content living the rest of my life back in the cave.
The problems of re-entry into society are discussed in the last segment of A Map for Saturday. I knew this was going to be a potential problem. I predicted it.
But I thought the problem was to be about going from a life of travel and excitement to a life of stillness and mendacity. I did not realize that it would be about going from a life of freedom to a life of bondage. I was not prepared for just how severe my re-entry issues would be.
It wasn’t as bad for the first three weeks when I was living and working at Green Bay Fear. I had a job to distract me and – to an extent – I was still living the lifestyle. But now that I’m in an apartment, all traces of that lifestyle have vanished. Now I’m contending with severe depression.
What’s worse is that I believe this condition to be permanent. I don’t think I will ever be capable of fully re-assimilating back to my old life. I believe that I either need to return to the freedom of the Forest or be doomed to live out the rest of my life in misery.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I can be cured of this… thirst. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I would want to be cured. How can anyone taste real freedom, voluntarily choose to go back to anything less, and be happy?
I don’t regret the North American Road Trip. But I’m pretty sure it has caused irreparable harm.