People say it’s lonely at the top. Maybe it is. But until I get there, all I can say is this: It’s a lonely climb, too.
I’ve been making some major changes in my life recently. All of these changes will be for the better, for now if not necessarily in hindsight, but the reality is that most of the people in my world don’t fully understand why I’m making them. They understand that I’m not completely satisfied with my life as it is, and that I need to try something different. They respect me. But in a fundamental and unspoken way, they don’t really get what I’m doing or why.
I’m about to flush a lucrative career down the toilet. Eight days and counting.
My friends don’t outright say that this is crazy. The exact opposite, in fact. But their near-unanimous choice to remain gainfully employed, safely ensconced in the womb of nine-to-five, betrays their true thoughts. Everyone likes to talk about how cool it is that I’m quitting. But not many are actually confirming my sanity by doing anything similar. A lot of people in my office say “Good for you!” and “That sounds amazing!” and “I wish I could do something like that!” when I tell them (a partial version) of my plans. But in a month, their memory of me will have faded to nothing beneath the din of minutiae that clamors for their day-to-day attention, in the careers that they’ve chosen to hold on to.
At lunch today, a friend asked,”Are you still eating like a cave-man?”
Indeed I am, and looking and feeling better for it. I’ve explained the Paleolithic diet to all of my friends now, once. Those who’ve asked for more information have received it. To most though, it’s just another weird thing that a weird guy does. So you’re on a diet? But with lots of bacon? Huh. And that’s the end of that conversation.
I’m almost certainly never getting married, and probably not settling down in a monogamous relationship for many years. Fun playboy lifestyle, right? Sometimes. But I also know that I’m going to drift away from some of my closest friends as I continue to live it up into my thirties and perhaps forties. I’m sure that some who end up following traditional life paths will stay close. But I’m equally sure that some won’t. My life will go down one path, and it won’t be the same as theirs. No hard feelings.
I’ll also never get to exchange heartfelt speeches with my best friends, father, brother and sister at my wedding. I think weddings are an important ritual in our society, not just because of what they formally symbolize, but also because they give us an opportunity to say how we really feel, about those we care about most, in front of everyone. I’m sad that I won’t have that chance.
Speaking of which, one of my best friends is getting married. His fiance, also a friend of mine, joked that “There’s no way [Frost, noted filter-free public speaker and anti-monogamist] is speaking at our wedding!” I think she was about 90% joking.
My sister and I used to be best friends. We’re still on good terms. But ever since I broke the heart of one of her best friends so I could continue living a lifestyle that she doesn’t respect or approve of… well, we have a weekly family brunch. When she moved a few months ago, I helped her with some furniture. I miss her.
I’m currently in love with one of the most amazing girls I’ve ever met in my life. But I’m about to run away to the other side of the world without her, because I have a mission, and in the battle between her and it – the mission won.
Most of who I am, I keep to myself, either because honesty would scare the people around me, or because it would bore them. So I’m lonely.
But there are worse things in life than loneliness. Spending your life beneath a mask, for example. Filtering who you are and what you say so that others will accept you. I often struggle to relate to those around me, but there’s an easy solution to this problem.
Simply, I could start living their lives. I’d be pretending at first, but probably not for long. Conversation about jobs, houses, wives, hockey pools and pop culture would suddenly include me. I wouldn’t be subtly challenging my friends’ decisions and assumptions every day, by making different ones on my own. I wouldn’t be alienating myself from the nesting culture of monogamy, marriage and children that is just now beginning its decade-long sweep through my cohort. I could choose to be a part of that world.
But I’m not. And on October 3rd, the one-year anniversary of this blog, I’m going to announce exactly what I’m doing instead.
“The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.”
Hugh Macleod, Ignore Everybody