If I had known that I was going to California to die, I might have made other plans.
I was raised to be practical and responsible. Growing up, I was always the responsible one, and even though I am the youngest of my siblings, I often had to make sure they stayed out of trouble. I would come home from school, do my homework immediately, and then follow that with chores. After the work was done (and only after the work was done), I allowed myself to read or play.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A good work ethic, and a willingness to take responsibility and get things done will take you far in life. Most doers don’t dream, and most dreamers don’t do. A dreamer who does…now that’s golden, and that’s who I was.
I’m not sure when I lost it. In the middle of writing this, I took a long break, and tried to pinpoint the moment I changed. I suppose when doesn’t matter, because I know why. Somewhere along the way, all of my dreams died.
I stopped caring about my work ethic because I stopped caring about the work I was doing. My dreams died, and they took my work ethic with them. I’ve spent most of my life as a zombie. I haven’t had any passion—any internal fire—for as long as I can remember. There was a brief flame several years ago, when music lit up my life, but that didn’t last long.
My adult life has been a series of halfhearted attempts to please others. I graduated college because it was expected of me. I started a career in non-profits to impress a woman I loved. I went to work for the Federal Government because I knew that it would please my parents. Besides, what better job for a soulless zombie than bureaucrat?
And then, one day, I realized that I hated my life.
I could have let that realization sink me into depression, but I had recently started blogging, and I had met some amazing people and learned some amazing things. One of those things was that if I didn’t like something, I had the power to change it.
I sat down, and I made a list. What kind of life did I want? What did I want my life to look like? I knew I wanted to be living in a small beach town. I wanted to be working part-time on projects I really loved, while still having enough money to cover my living expenses. I wanted to be in love with an amazing woman, and I wanted a good group of friends who were physically present in my life.
When the opportunity arose, I jumped. I took a chance, and moved to California. Like I said, if I had known that I was going there to die, I might have made other plans. And yet, die is exactly what I did.
Not literally. I didn’t physically die, but rather experienced a shedding of my old persona. All of the bits and pieces of my old life burned away, until there was nothing left except myself. It was painful, as these things often are. In fact, I experienced a world of pain and frustration. However, at the end, there was a serenity and peace that I had not felt in a long, long time. I felt like a newborn child: everything was new and exciting again, and I had a world of possibility in front of me.
So having learned the lessons I needed to learn, and clearing away all that needed to be cleared away, I left California behind. And now I find myself in a new land. A small town near the beach. A town where I am able to cover all of my living expenses quite easily, even without working at all. I have already made several friends who are physically present in my life, and even though I am not in love, it’s not as important to me as it once was. But something even better, even more magical has happened:
I’ve rediscovered my passion. My inner fire, cold for so long, has been rekindled. I find myself pursuing a dream, and doing work that sets my heart on fire and my fills my soul with purpose. I wake up eager to start working, and I often work late into the night. I’m excited about my future, and I’m loving my life.
And that makes a death in California worth every minute.