29 January 2014

fly the coop

If you google "fly the coop" this is one of the definitions that comes up:

fly the coop "to escape; to get out or get away."  I couldn't stand the party, so I flew the coop. The prisoner flew the coop at the first opportunity.

I suppose I could just as easily have called this "leaving the rat race" but I had this perfectly good www just wasting away since my beloved photography co-op was abandoned by the new owner of the original studio and decided what the heck - if the shoe fits

Those who know me know that I have, for years, talked about going off the grid.  It was always kind of a pie-in-the-sky dream, more of a retirement fantasy than something that would happen right away, but the discussion has always existed as "when" not "if."  And those of you in my innermost circle have also heard me talking about taking time off to live in South America or fantasizing about possibly living on a sailboat for a while.  And even people who don't know me well know that I hate being a slave to social conventions and norms - the measuring sticks, if you will - that define my status in society.

We are all kind of brainwashed from birth, indoctrinated by a society that places value on material possessions out of necessity in maintaing the current paradigm wherein corporations exist without moral limitations on how they fulfill their single core mandate of making money.  I remember thinking, as a child and teen, that being an adult meant "freedom" from having to do what the authorities in my life told me and freedom to fulfill my own dreams; I'm not sure exactly when I realized that this "freedom" is a myth and that the "dreams" I had of owning a house and car and having 2.4 kids and a dog never really fit all that well, but growing up has been anything but "freedom."

As you can see, I am not the only one who believes we are groomed for becoming indentured servants to our possessions.  Those of us who have not strive to have, while those who have live in fear of having not.  It's an incredible burden not just accumulating stuff but maintaining it.  Advertisers spend millions of dollars annually convincing us to feel a hole in our life if we have not.  It becomes an attack on our self-worth if we don't measure up - we don't have the right job title, we don't drive the right car, we don't live in the right neighbourhood, we don't take the right vacations, we don't have enough stuff, we don't have the right stuff… and each of us has to define whether we intend to be counted as a have and how far we are willing to go to maintain or create the illusion of carefree having.

It's often impossible to not feel the pressure.  I mean, you want your parents to be proud, you want your friends from high school to be envious, you want your kids to not get picked on at school…  Every now and then you might have glimpses of how silly it all is - absurd, really - that you feel that pang of jealousy when so-and-so posts that they are on a plane to Vegas or just bought a new quad, or how that little stab of envy comes, completely uninvited, when someone posts pics of their ginormous new house being built or their fancy new car.  You don't want to be unhappy about their accumulation or enjoyment of superior stuff (you dot even really want to have the same stuff!) but there you are suddenly googling expensive cars and wishing you could move to a bigger house and take a luxurious vacation.  And if you're like millions of regular hard-working honest folks just trying to get by, you whip out your credit and consume, feeding the corporate machine and ensuring that you will forever be committed to paying, paying, paying for the stuff you must must must have if you are going to register on the measuring stick society hands you, upon which you can never ever really measure up.

Then, if you're like me, you feel an odd combination of satisfaction and self-loathing about your stuff.  It's nice owning stuff but man does it ever suck looking after it, finding places to put it, paying to maintain it, cleaning it, upgrading and updating it...  I buck most of this, but I'm not entirely innocent of getting caught up in the game either.  From time to time it bites me in the ass and suddenly I'm standing there after a frenzy of online shopping wondering WTF possessed me to buy yet another couch off Kijiji when I barely have room for the 6 (six) I already own.  (Yes, I do actually own 6 (six) unique couches.  And 2 chaises.  And 6 armchairs.)  If you're like me, you are likely equal parts proud and disgusted with all the things you own but have to clean and maintain.  Maybe you wonder, how come I have this big house to clean and why do my kids each have an iPad, an iPod, a cell phone, a TV, and a laptop, and how did I end up working sofa king many hours a week and still not getting any further ahead or feeling like I finally have ENOUGH?!  Or maybe, instead of getting rid of stuff so I don't look like a hoarder, I decide the solution is a bigger house...

And maybe you're now of those hipster types who is blas√© about everything, on purpose, playing yourself off as a modern who-gives-a-damn earth child in your Lulu Lemons sweats (yes, yoga pants are really just fancy sweatpants) and skinny hemp jeans and ethically mined eco-friendly vegan anti-aging cream and shopping at the local organic health market instead of the chain grocery store and investing in real salvaged antiques at the over-priced salvage store instead of buying new to prove how anti-establishment you.  And yet you have a university degree your parents paid for and work at some sell-out job.  Or you're a barista.  You want to believe that you are anti-establishment, but you are really just the untapped market Urban Outfitters needed to revamp their product line and when you stop to think about it, you know in your heart that you spend just as much (if not more money) to maintain this image but at the end of the day are just as much a victim (and perpetrator) of the rat race as the quad-riding, WalMart shopping, RV-owning crowd.

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.” ― Nigel Marsh

If you're like me, while you think sure, I can make this all work - I CAN make this all work and I WILL find balance somehow, but really you just fantasize about saying fuck it, selling everything you don't use every day, and flying the proverbial coop in a converted school bus...

Which is exactly what my family plans to do by 2015.


  1. Wow!! I just read all of your blog, and all I can say is Wow!!! You hit the nail on the head on so many things, I wish I had the guts to do this too. I look forward to 'watching' how this all unfolds, and I will be praying for a successful and oh so wonderfully 'free' transition and new beginning. Very, very exciting Hope!

    1. Thanks. We are half stoked half terrified. That must mean it's a good decision ;)


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