Backpacking across somewhere, while reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull was “the thing to do”.
It was ok to feel lost, and to be searching for some meaning. I have no idea why that bird popped into my head this morning, but he was a welcome change from thoughts of work, paying bills and meal planning.
So, this bird, isn’t just ANY bird. He is a bird. He is a bird, that I think I need to welcome back into my life. My life that had become focused on others. Jonathan believes in acts of pleasure and selfishness, for the sake of that pleasure. It is OK to be selfish, and to see joy for yourself. The catch phrase of the 70’s ” I need to find myself”, in less “hip” language of the time, meant that I needed to find what makes ME happy, and it is OK to do so.
For me, as a child in that chaotic period, full of long gas lines, Vietnam, platforms, Woodstock remnants and lots of denim, I thought that this book represented something a bit more shallow. I can ignore my parents, and I can listen to the music I want to hear, and I can be an artist. Don’t tell me I can’t be one… I don’t care that I won’t make any money. I can be like Georgia O’Keefe, and find love. We can live on love and I paint, and draw, and HE, whoever he is, writes about deep things, and honors my presence as an Artist. I thought those thoughts at the age of ten or so. I remember them very clearly, being angry at my mother for trying to hold me back. You go to school and you go to college, then you can decide if you want to be a teacher or maybe a lawyer.
My sister, trying to “suck up” to my mom said things that made me roll my eyes. “I don’t have to find myself; I just need to look in the mirror and there I am.”
It was never that easy for me, and it still isn’t today.
Years pass, and I still don’t know who I am. I know some things that I stand for, and some big principles that are deeply important to me. I know who I want to be; I just don’t know how to get there. Even more sad, is that I don’t know if there is still time to get there.
My next birthday brings a new decade; the one with the 5 in it. I am pretty sure that I don’t look that age, or at least, I don’t look like that image of 50 that I have in my mind. Someone who is part of that decade, is well aged. They are either secure in their financial place, or they are headed towards financial ruin of living off social security or heaven forbid, with their children. People of 50 take vacations, and plan for the future. They think carefully about whether they have planned carefully for retirement, and call their brokers in the morning. I don’t have a broker.
Just about every dollar I have, other than my small reserves, are tied up in this house that is dependent on the condition of the real estate market to sell. That was not the deal that I made when I got divorced. I traded his half of the house, for my half of his business. Seemed fair at the time. The real estate market was booming. I would sell and live out my retirement in luxury.
Instead, the reality is that my greatest asset has tanked in value due to various weather and economic factors that dictate that value of property on the East Coast.
Sadly, as that scary birthday number approaches, I feel far less settled than I did in the 70’s as a child. I am still searching, and seeking and wondering when I find the answers that I have been looking for. Who am I? Where do I belong? What worked at that time of seeking and searching, no longer works today. People are dependent on me. I AM DEPENDENT ON ME. The roadmap isn’t here. Has the seagull failed me, or have I failed myself?
Miraculously, I think that I am still that person deep inside. I still have that desire to backpack across Europe. Today, that idea of simple living without complication is cool again. Called one bag living, it frees the owner of that life to not be encumbered by the physical. It isn’t a new idea. It is Jonathan all over again. Over 30 years later, I am still working on getting to that place of barrier free, unencumbered peace and self satisfaction.
Six months until my birthday…. there is still time, yet I am left with the question of whether these ideas are only associated with youthful opportunity and hope.