“No matter how much you change, you still got to pay the price for the things you’ve done.” ~ Doug MacRay
In this world, there are content people. They got the girl. They signed the dotted line. They are sleeping on 500 count sheets.
Good for them.
Do not read sarcasm in to that, I am quite sincere.
If we look down our noses at the people who have found happiness in life, what is the point? Yes, depressed people tend to have a more realistic outlook on life, and genius and depression have a (dubious) link, which implies that happiness and intelligence are mutually exclusive traits. But, if bliss is truly the realm of the ignorant, if contentment will always evade the thoughtful, why should we spend so much time and money on this masturbatory activity known as education?
In reality, every pursuit (educational, financial, sexual, etc.) is the product of discontentment. Contentment is something to aspire to, but there are many of us in this world who are simply not built for mere satisfaction (I say ‘mere’, yet to be satisfied is undoubtedly a gift).
Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that 50% of the world’s population is content with their lot in life. (I doubt 50% of the people in my apartment building are content, let alone the world, but let’s keep this easy). That still means there are 3,500,000,000 people on this planet (give or take 3 or 4) that want more, or less, or something different.
10 Cities/10 Years is for them.
When I was in college, I had a joke with my friends. While everyone else had general ideas of what they wanted to do with their education (or they had no idea at all), I always said the same thing:
“I’m gonna be homeless for 10 years, then I’m gonna write a book about being homeless and it’s gonna be a bestseller. Then I’ll be fabulously rich, marry a woman who only wants me for my money and I’ll die from alcohol poisoning at 42.”
Bleak, sure. Prophetic, maybe. Funny? Depends who you ask.
You can see how that ‘joke’ morphed into my 10 Cities project. I may not be homeless in the technical sense of the word (as if there was a union I had to pay dues to), but I sure don’t live like your average pasty-skin, college-educated, indie-music loving dweeb (for one, I hate PBR).
There is at least one woman in my life who hates what I do to her very core. She hates seeing me struggle to pay bills, she hates seeing me stress out about finding work every year and she hates how isolated this project can leave me for months at a time.
And she has a point.
In Chicago, I made the kinds of friends that I could spend my life hanging out with, getting drunk with, attending the weddings of, and becoming a real life adult alongside. Then I left.
In Charlotte, I had a friend who just wanted to get away from her family.
In Philly, there was a sex-line operator who just wanted to stay off of the overnight shift.
In Costa Mesa, there was a girl who wanted to see the world.
In San Francisco, there was a girl who wanted to see her home again.
In Chicago, there was a mother who was working full-time and going to school full-time, just to provide a better life for her kids.
In every city, in every town, in every little podunk shit-stain on the map, there is somebody who is unhappy. Maybe their best friend is perfectly content with life, or their boyfriend, or their twin sister, but they… well, they want something more. They want a change.
There is nothing wrong with being happy. If you’re one of the lucky few in this world who can say you’re honestly content, then congratulations, you have achieved a truly singular triumph of the human experience.
But for the rest of us…
Change is good. Change is healthy.
Change is sacrifice.
If you want to move away, you can do it.
If you want to get a new job, you can do it.
If you want to escape a past that haunts you, put it in your rearview mirror.
Maybe you’re a single mother of two with a crap job that pays next to nothing an hour and years worth of debt over your head. No, you can’t very well drop everything and relocate across country, and I’m not trying to imply that you can. America isn’t equally the land of opportunity for all people.
But, if you are not content in your life, the engine for change is yourself.
I understand that I have a very unique situation that allows me to throw away 10 years of my life on this project. I hear it all the time:
“Do it while you can.”
40-, 50-, 60-year-old people all say it. Get out there, live this life while I can. Because one day…
Well, who knows what ‘one day’ will offer.
(At the rate I’ve been torpedoing relationships, probably not marriage, kids and a white picket fence, but alas…)
What I do know is that at this moment in time, I am not yet content.
And that’s okay.
I meet people all the time who are not content, who are working their bodies to the bone in the pursuit of a dream. I’d argue that nobody is truly content, that we are all harboring secret (or not-so-secret) ambitions for something bigger and better in our life. I don’t think I know a single 20-year-old who is actually content (why do you think half of us spend our time bitching about the new Facebook layout; we don’t know what to do with ourselves unless we’re complaining about something).
Whether we’re 20 or 80, we all have dreams bigger than our reality, and that’s what gives meaning to our lives.
Contentment is a fine thing to aspire to. But it is not the end all, be all. Even if 50% of humanity truly has been content throughout time, that means all of the great achievements in this world have been accomplished by the other 50% of the population, discontent to stay the same.
You’re alive for maybe 80 years. You’re dead for eternity. What will you be remembered for?