“Don't be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don't have to live forever, you just have to live.” ―Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting.
At times, it saddens me that I’m looked down upon by my family, whether it’s with critical misunderstanding or from arbitrary disappointment. Sometimes I feel as though they couldn’t be happier than to see me settle young with a permanent career, house, car, dog, cat, fish, and of course, a family somewhere in there. To be fair, I had lived the ‘normal’ lifestyle for years. I owned a successful photography studio and a nightlife lounge, I had money, a house, a girlfriend, a dog and a plan. After a few years of this lifestyle, I became bored and complacent and unhappy. Money couldn’t cure what I was ailing for, and materialism was the farthest thing of worth to me. I wanted to get out of my everyday, oh-so-familiar shell, with the same awful routine. I wanted to grow and truly experience the world, and not wake up one day and realized I had a life that was unlived. As Mae West famously said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” So, a driving force for me is the experience of seeing my mother and other loved ones die young, and even though they found peace during their dying moments, their lives were less than half over and unfulfilled – I also think about some of my old friends from my grade school era who also died, even more young. The worst thing in life, to me, is to die with regrets of not living life. Believe me, I can live my life with regrets of things I did, because at least I did them!
To my family’s credit, their view on the way I live my life may be biased, but their reasoning may be just, in part. Besides the fact that somewhere, deep down, they care about me – and that means the world to me, even if it’s expressed rarely – I think part of their reasonings are misjudged and wrong, and there are some aspects that I must consider. For example, my mother was a major hippie in the late 1970’s, no doubt following the theme of teenage angst of her generation. She rebelled violently, she explored, she tried every drug possible and she made a lot of dumb decisions – like trying to escape by running away to Mexico; only to be caught, underage, 20 miles from the border. I can appreciate their reasoning for their judgements – even though I believe my mother’s past actions only constitute a small part of them. The point is that I’m not the same and I will always thrive with whatever I put my mind to. I don’t only believe that – I know it’s true – from years of experience.
My major issue with the judgements of family (and this goes for all families that attempt to intervene in the lives of their loved ones) is that they tend to be clouded and misguided views. I’ve personally experienced and also witnessed many friends and past relationships go through such disappointment and turmoil, because their family felt differently. These views and judgements stem from a want to do good usually, but in most cases, these influenced actions do more harm than good. I believe that forcing views upon young people is among the worst things a family can do. This absolutely goes for those who cut off their attention and affections, because someone didn’t follow their plan. On a slight side note, I also despise the treatment families can have on their “loved ones,” when money is more important than offering the support they dearly need. I’ve experienced this countless times and it’s become another driving factor within me, so that I will never fall in love with the wrong things in life, and always focus on what truly means the world to me – not money, materialism or other forms of greed, or perspective altering obsessions.
Perhaps my beliefs are reminiscent of those who were known as ‘hippies,’ but all I know for sure is that I have full appreciation of the world I live in and the life I’ve been given – and I believe that I may be a bit closer to understanding the meaning of life and how to make the best of my time here.
I’m sure my family will inevitably read this. I hope they will read it with open hearts and open minds, and with understanding, as I’ve not written this piece to insult or to imply my distaste. I love and appreciate them, and am thankful for all they’ve done for me. Secretly (or perhaps, not so secretly now) a part of me hopes this will inspire willful understanding and reconciliation.
(Photo by David Sheffield, edited)