Living My Life or Someone Else’s?
Nothing is more important than being honest with myself. To be appreciative of my good qualities, aware of my faults, and sincere enough about self-improvement to leverage one against the other. To acknowledge my shortcomings without accepting them as permanent handicaps in my life; that is what being honest with myself means to me. Achieving that, being honest with the world is easy.
People wonder why I left civilization to live alone in a mountain wilderness. They are amazed and confused by the seemingly drastic decision to leave everything I had acquired in my life for a barren existence in isolation. I had money, homes, cars, a fine business… my fifteen minutes of fame. From the outside looking in, my life was successful by every modern metric.
After a divorce, however, my perspective changed. I realized that much of what I considered important in my life were things society decided were important for me. Years were committed to striving for a contemporary definition of success. Of course, I was satisfied and proud of my accomplishments, but couldn’t find the motivation to persist. The path I was walking was no longer the path of choice for me. I played well the part of Business Man and Family Man, but there was more to me than those things. Only by being honest with myself was I able to make the changes necessary to find new happiness.
I went to the mountains for a couple of reasons; to remove the noise of outside influence and create the quiet I needed to think. In the city, too many people peppered me with their truths, their values, their opinions. Not just those with whom I worked, but voices on television, in the media, and on the street. It was incessant and influenced my subconscious thinking. In the wild, I go quiet and observe a world more transparent and true. Nature has no hidden agenda. The natural world is without pretence. I wanted to be part of that world. As extreme as the transition appeared (to me as well as my friends), I knew in my heart that I needed to regroup.
Furthermore, I knew it was temporary. However romantic the notion, I would not wander forever in the primal paradise of the Frank Church Wilderness. I could not fulfill a meaningful purpose in life by hiding out in the forest. Sooner or later, a return to society was inevitable. It was tempting to store my old life away until my sabbatical was completed. That is, after all, common sense to most people.
Being honest with myself, however, I realized that I had to let go of my past to move forward. I could not advance if burdened with material reminders of the life I left behind. Memories I could keep; everything else had to go.
Strip Away the Façade
It had took a lot of work on eBay and Craig’s List, but I emptied a house full of stuff and turned it into money for the next chapter of my life. So many things with which I identified – gone, no longer a part of me, no longer mine. At first I felt a sense of loss but realized quickly how little it meant to me. I sold the furniture, gave away my music collection and recording equipment, and hauled carloads of clothes to the local donation bin. I moved my money to a new account with a single debit card and cancelled my phone contract. There would be no texts or voice mails off the grid.
Same thing with email; I left an auto-responder saying that I was gone on sabbatical with no anticipated time of return. I had vocationally, socially, and personally ‘let go’. By ridding myself of all material possessions, I earned the freedom I needed to follow adventure wherever it might take me.
However non-sensical to my family and friends, I knew that my actions were necessary to live the life I imagined. My old life was over; the years spent trying to salvage it were better invested in my future. The potential consequences of the divestment could prove disastrous but never regrettable because I was being honest with myself.
Not Easy Being Honest
It was not easy. For self-respect, I risked my life. Though I detailed a plan for my exit from society, there was no plan for the future. I placed my well-being in God’s hands. A lifetime of adventure prepared me but did not guarantee success. Or survival. But when my old life began to unravel, I had an unequalled opportunity to build a new one. Only by metaphorically emptying my cup could I refresh it. In theory, it sounds simple; in reality, it’s a brutal transition.
For years, I lived alone in the wilderness. It is no exaggeration to say that I spent months in isolation. Without human contact or conversation, my thoughts were mine alone. No one to tell me how I felt, what I needed, or who I was… completely free to live the life I imagined.
The work of survival was demanding. My mind was free but my old body laboured hard living in the wild. The extremes in weather and living conditions were felt in my bones. But I was happy… being honest with myself and acting on it was an experience that changed my life.
Live the Life You Imagine
My years alone with wilderness taught me that all creatures on this planet have a responsibility to contribute to the world’s maintenance. Every plant and animal in creation is here for a reason, including you and me. Everyone has a job, a purpose, and my job is not finished. And I could only know that truth by being honest with myself.
But you can be honest with yourself at home; no need for an extended hermitage. For me, it was a natural extension of a life full of extreme adventure. But I do recommend taking time to be alone when facing critical changes in your life. Seek your own counsel. Listen to your heart. You can never be truly happy living your life for other people. Work with others, but live the life you imagine.