Remember those “Life” t-shirts that were super-popular in the late 90’s.
The ones that said “<insert activity> is LIFE – the rest is just details”.
All the dumb-ass jocks (like me) had one with their favorite sport emblazoned across it.
It seems a bit silly looking back at the weird trends us “Generation X’ers” used to think was cool back in the day.
For the record, I never had a “Life” t-shirt, as my Dad was way too conservative with his money. The “Life” t-shirts were top of the line apparel costing around $25 each.
Yeah, it was NOT going down like that in my house.
If I wanted anything name brand, I had two options:
- Wait until a birthday or holiday.
- Save my money.
I used to hate this with a passion. When you’re going through your formative years, you want nothing more than the gear that all of the cool kids had.
Shit, I never owned a pair of Jordans, I had to buy my own Sega Genesis, and my Coolwater Cologne (Snoop Dogg?!?) was a “Designer Imposter”.
Life was tough for this private-school kid. First World problems, right?
When I think back on my childhood, I can’t help but think of the Mark Twain quote:
When I was a boy of 14, my Father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years.
While it was frustrating being denied what I wanted at the time I desired it, it helped me shape my outlook on life.
Now, at the age of 34, with two little rug-rats running around, I get no satisfaction in the normal status symbols of our society.
As a friend put it,
I’ve never met someone who works as hard as you do at multiple jobs and drives around in a piece of shit, clown car.
To which I respond,
My 2002 Honda? Nothing but oil changes for 11 years, and it’s been 100% paid for since 2010. Best. Car. Ever.
So, what the hell are we in this rat race for? What am I in this rat race for? Why are we slogging away at our jobs, waking up at ungodly hours, spending our best years working the days away and sleeping far too little?
To pay off the exorbitant student loans we accumulated at our necessary universities?
To diligently chip away at our 30-year mortgage we were approved for before we moved into our suburban castles?
To sock money away now so we can enjoy freedom when we are 62.5 and can cash in all our our chips simultaneously? (Pension, SS, and 401K?)
This year, I’m teaching in a brand new school building.
For the last 6 years, my classroom had a delightful view of a brick wall.
This year, in my new room, I have a view of a beautiful, blue sky and a wide open field.
It’s too damn much to handle. I would prefer the view of the brick wall so I wasn’t constantly reminded of what I was missing out on.
Sometimes, when my students are hard at work, I look out the window and I daydream.
I don’t daydream about a Mercedes Benz, or an extravagant vacation.
I don’t daydream about buying a hot tub for the back porch or a new Rolex.
I daydream about something much simpler than that.
I daydream about being in my car and driving around, listening to music.
Isn’t that funny? Such a simple act – the act of driving. The act of being in control of your own destiny.
I’m not even one of those “gear head” people, either. Shit, I daydream about driving around in my 2002 Honda! As if that car is a symbol of “freedom”…………….
In a strange way, it is a symbol of freedom – to me.
Because nobody controls me when I’m in my car. My car is mine, it’s nobody else’s. My own wife even hates driving it. (She is an engineer and her main client is Ford, she has “American Muscle” in her veins.)
The best things in life don’t cost money. They’re free. You can have them, with zero cost, at certain times of your life.
A few examples:
- The drive home from work on a Friday night.
- The feeling of excitement and anticipation as you get ready for your first date.
- Laying down on your pillow on a Friday night and not setting your alarm.
- The first cries of your newborn child.
- Clicking “submit” on the final, online payment of a loan.
- Making forts on New Year’s Eve and staying up until the wee hours of 10:30 with your little ones.
My resolution this year has nothing to do with the physical.
It has more to do with the mental.
My resolution is to try to enjoy life more.
I have issues with this – enjoying life – I have anxieties and insecurities and I find it tough to chill out and relax.
I’m starting to get the feeling that after 20 years has passed, and I look back, I’ll wonder why I didn’t stop to smell the roses a little bit more.
Tomorrow, when I look out that classroom window, and dream about my freedom, I’m going to do my best to disregard that feeling. Freedom is a state of mind – it’s not a state of being.
I’m pretty sure I’ve just been looking in the wrong places.