Bored Sheep and Lonely Wolves

by Frost on September 22, 2011

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

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Oriental Thunder October 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Find needs that you are uniquely able to fulfill at a profit and keep your overhead low and the loss of a lucrative career becomes irrelevant. To live the life of a wage slave traveling between two building for the rest of one’s life is frightening for some of those that read this blog. In the end it won’t matter who outlasted all the waves of layoffs or who spent the most time making a corporation richer. Have many crazy experiences and live a happy life.

Random Angeleno September 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

It’s call f*** you money. When you have it, lifestyle changes are easy.

Since I was laid off from my last job in 2009, I have been very unmotivated to get another cubicle-based job. Yes I have to be cheap. Yes trading for income is very difficult. Yes I get bored. A lot. Yes I am having trouble finding my purpose. But at least I am free to consider all these questions.

Things Are Bad September 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I got out of the corporate rat race but I am struggling to find the motivation to do anything fun.

This society is so jacked up in so many ways, yet I have a compunction to wish to fix it.

I won’t ever be able to. But I’d rather complain about it and sulk than just let go of it and move on.

I’ve grown up sheltered in both body and mind, and the journey to becoming self-sufficient and *real* is a long one, is it not? For some reason I’m looking for the easy way out, but it seems like dwindling my life away is the easiest path left. Nihilism dominates my mind because I now know that the world is full of idiots who cannot see what’s in front of them. Why perpetuate such a species? Why do anything?

Who in the “real” world can I talk to face to face about the issues of the world or how to find some satisfaction in it? I don’t want to read about it in a book and go do it all by myself. I am alone, so what joy would there be for me in falling out of an airplane or climbing a mountain? It would be beautiful, but at the end I would still feel alone.

It’s not like I’m truly alone in the world. I have a woman who I do love but don’t want to hurt. She will never understand how screwed up the world really is. But the only people I know how are in touch with what’s going on in the world are on the internet. I don’t want to go to Europe and have casual flings with ignorant women, or to climb a mountain with a guy who doesn’t know shit about the world. I want to be with people who are sane for once, and to feel like this species isn’t doomed.

Maybe I just need to get off my ass and try, but I can’t help thinking that it won’t accomplish squat. Why revert to an animal and enjoy the base things of life, living basically a hedonistic lifestyle, when it won’t change anything? It won’t fix things.

1ncubus April 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

You’ve echoed my thoughts on the whole subject of change, but I have to add a caveat to the above logic train that runs in my head almost all the time.

Given how we’re able to access other’s minds through the internet (and mass media) [since that’s what it boils down to; minds meeting other minds through a medium], our senses have been assaulted on ascale never before witnessed. Watching the news triggers anxiety reflex, as if the body senses that something is wrong in the surrounding environment.

But that’s a false sense of insecurity triggered by technology. We evolved biologically to handle immediate threats- physical and (recently) mental.

I think of it this way- if I’m aware of my evolutionary adaptation being fooled by every morsel of ‘news’, then I can comfortably ignore it. The simple rationale being- “Even though intellectually and emphatically I can identify with poverty, famine and disasters, my body doesn’t distinguish the difference. It’s duty is survival and replication within it’s immediate environment.

Society tells me to ‘take care of my own first’ but then takes me on guilt-trips on events/things that I don’t have control or influence over (on hindsight, it’s usually for monetary gain). It seems like a hypocrisy, but now I see as the conflict between self-preservation/advancement vs. moving the herd along.

Do I move with the herd, despite knowing that they’re going in the wrong direction? I know of greener pastures, but that would mean going out of the way, probably alone. IF in the chance that I get the herd moving with me, chances are some might not even make it. But then again, if most of them aren’t going, I get to gorge on more grass.

Wolf in sheep’s clothing- that makes sense in new light for me now.

kyb3lion September 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

From this post alone, you still seem to me to feel sad about your decision, my only suggestion related to that is that going your way doesn’t necessarily need to be lonely. As you said, there may still be people accepting you who you are, how you are, in the medium and distant future – you shouldn’t let those go, or those you care about.

As for those that you say “do not sustain your sanity by doing the same as you”, I think you shouldn’t hold a grudge over them or think that if they say they agree with you and they don’t do like you, they’re automatically lying. To be honest, everyone would want to do what you do – even in the vague terms of following their own path – but aren’t brave enough to go Batman Begins from comfortable life to running with the flow and doing what one must for survival – me included, for now.

Lastly, I hope I remember to check around October to find out what exactly you want to do, you’ve raised my interest.

Worea September 24, 2011 at 1:11 am

Fight on Frost, it’s not as lonely as it seems to those who look on from the outside.

Alex September 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

They say its lonely at the top, but god damn if it isn’t crowded at the bottom.

J.W. Black September 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm

My experience has been that as you enter your late twenties, you lose most of your running buddies to marriage no matter how you are living your life. The wives may allow you to go to lame events (dinner with the kids, etc) if you act like a good little sheep, but you won’t know your buddy anymore, he’s tied down to children and appeasing the wife. You’ll have few things in common.

You’re just choosing to burn your ships on the beach early, you’re picking when the natural separation happens. As other readers commented, a whole new stratosphere of connections, acquaintances, and friends will be found with your new lifestyle – and you’ll still keep up with a few from the ‘old school’. Just a natural part of things to be embraced, like the seasons.

Bold Regards!

J.W. Black

raliv September 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm

My best friend and oldest friend from college is getting married in November. I am the best man (even though he knows I am anti marriage and pro game/bachelor lifestyle, like you). I guess I am going to have to think of an appropriate speech to give.

Most of my college buddies are still single and having fun like me. However, I don’t think they understand how committed I am to avoiding the trap that is called marriage. I, like you, fully intend to maximize my lifestyle well into my 30s and possibly 40s as well. It means saying goodbye to my friends one day.

It is funny, though. The more I look to myself for happiness and contentment, the less I feel the need for close friends.

Good luck, Frost. I have enjoyed your blog so far and I am interested to see where you are going.

Frost September 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Thanks man. I know you’ve been around from the beginning.

I’ve been to a few weddings in the past year, and they’ve been awesome. Very touching, and thankfully the guys I know who’ve taken the plunge have done so with great girls. I’ve given some speeches, and it doesn’t have to require any lies or filtering – just go tell your buddy how much you love him, and if you think the girl is awesome, tell her that too.

I find that I’m less prone to seek out people to socialize with for the sake of itself as I age and mature, but I’ve also found that I’ve come to value my small number of extremely close friends more. Not sure if this matches your experience as well.

Good luck on the speech.

CHeers,

Frost

Chad Daring September 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

This is something I’m starting to realize myself. Since introduced to game its no longer a way to get women its turned into a full-scale lifestyle overhaul and almost all the people who knew me before araent okay with it in one way or another. They don’t understand, or want to understand, why I’m changing but he more I do change the less I care.

Frost September 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Yeah, and that’s one of the hidden benefits of changing and improving yourself. It becomes a great filter for which of your friends you make an effort to hold onto as you age.

Thankfully, a good number of people who became my closest friends in high school and college are down with the kind of life want to live, ie one of constant growth and improvement. Not all, though…

Carmo September 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Great filter indeed. I lost my “best friend” of ten years once I started down this path because he couldn’t understand or respect my new long term goals. I cant really respect his obcession for wasting money at Best Buy and his love of spending 60 hours a week trapped in a cube but thats the way it goes sometimes.

Isa M September 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I do not think we have to think in black-or-white, sheep-or-wolf terms. I think you can be just human: neither wolf, nor sheep. We descend from monkeys, after all.

Mind you, I love your honesty. You know your path and you are doing the necessary sacrifices to follow it. I just don’t think you’re a wolf or that your colleagues and friends are sheep (not all of them, at least). Some people can’t stay monogamous, so it’s only logical that they don’t marry. Some others adore their spouses (granted, only a few of the ones who marry). Some people don’t like children. Others adore kids. I just think that a person who chooses the “tranquil” path out of free will, and not because of social conditioning, is not a sheep. Only the ones who marry because “it’s the age to marry”, and the ones who have kids because “it’s the time in which everyone has kids” or the ones who keep a steady girlfriend because “if I leave her I might not get another one”, deserve to be called “sheep”. But then again, I’ve met people who wouldn’t settle, not because they had a mission or because they were polygamous, but because their upbringing had made them think that “settling down” was bad, retarded, medieval, religious, and in short, wrong. When they actually were happier when settled down than when jumping from one place to another. It’s a rarer case, but it happens too.

I just think that whatever the path you choose, the quiet or the bumpy one, the safe one or the dangerous, you’re a sheep if you choose it out of fear or social conditioning. Whatever it is.

I also think that not even the less-tread path forces anyone to be alone. It’s just a question of finding someone who shares the path (or at least a part of it) with you. The less-tread path may seem lonelier because, of course, there’s less people on it. But that doesn’t mean you have to go alone. You can find someone. I’ve found that it’s easier to find people who actually connect with you on a deep level in the seldom-tread path.

And certainly, that doesn’t make every lone traveller a wolf, or every tranquil traveller a sheep. You can be thoughtful, courageous, and go with the current most of the time because you happen to go in the same direction. Not swept by the current, just along with if it suits you, when it suits you, for just as long as it suits you.

I agree with the core of your post: every decision you make in life opens many doors… and closes many others. I admire your clear-sightedness in the sense that you know what you’re doing, you know why you’re doing it, and you know the price you’re paying for it… Still, just because you make certain sacrifices and close some doors, that doesn’t mean you ought to be alone. There will be other people treading the seldom-tread path. We all close doors behind us when we choose our life paths. We are sheep only when we let fear, conformism or others decide our paths for us.

Frost September 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Thank you for really getting what I’m trying to say here.

One of the things about writing is that you have to fight the urge to tie up every loose end in a post, chapter or whatever. So you’ve raised a bunch of caveats and exceptions to what I’m saying, and I agree with all of them. Especially that a person who marries, as kids etc isn’t necessarily a sheep, at least not in any pejorative sense. Actually I think that’s what most of us eventually want to do with our lives…

Lobo Feroz September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am

You might be lonely but you are not alone. I bet that there are many of us, separated by many miles, cultural differences and even whole oceans, that think the same.

Any way to get in touch with you apart from the blog comments?

boris the spider September 22, 2011 at 8:04 am

flushing a lucrative career? don’t flush it son, hand it over to me? why not? since you’re flushing it anyway?

just so you know, in case you are thinking in this direction, lots of folks leave their lucrative-but-nightmarish careers to do something “cool” that they love. be advised, if you are looking to do that you may be in for a serious lifestyle change/curtailment. as living it up requires wasting money, your new “cool” lifestyle may not be able to afford it (if in fact that is what you are looking to do). your status may also be affected (i know you “don’t give a fuck bro”…but you do, so be advised). i do something “cool” for a living and being frugal and off-and-on broke is a reality. “cool” stuff doesn’t pay, only shitty stuff and crime do.

now this:
“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”

ah the classic “reluctant player” push=pull. rappers do this (da streets be bringin’ me down yo). it is entirely possible that you listen to rap. you don;t need to pretend for us here Frosty baby, we know you don’t give a fuck, lol!

GOOD LUCK!

NomadicNeill September 22, 2011 at 7:12 am

Why so melodramatic?

;)

Once you’ve done a bit of travelling you’ll find there are many people out there living interesting lives that will become your new peers.

Frost September 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Sure. And I’m pretty sure many, perhaps even most of my best friends will still be along for the ride in a few decades. In any case, exchanging old friends who don’t get you and your mission for new ones who do is part of life.

And I’m melodramatic because bitches luhhh that shit

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