Thursday, September 24, 2009

GUEST POST: My Date with Jack

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Today Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity is inaugurating a series of guest posts from fellow bloggers, friends and assorted “simple living” cronies. The intent is to encourage ongoing dialogue regarding all aspects of the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement. Each approved guest post will be published as written without any editorial oversight so long as the following guidelines are observed:

*Posts must be at least tangentially related to the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement or must focus on a topic previously covered on the blog.

*Draft posts that are critical of me, the blog, and/or the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement are ABSOLUTELY ENCOURAGED. However, please note that posts that contain unnecessay venom and vitrolic insults will not be published.

If you would like to submit a guest post feel free to email me directly with a brief description of the topic you would like to tackle. Note that certain suggested guest posts may be declined for editorial reasons (topic may have already been covered by a previous poster; draft post is poorly written, etc...).

The following guest post was written by Nancy Vogel, author of the Family on Bikes blog:

My Date with Jack
“What if he really is a pompous ass?” I thought to myself as I sat on the bus for the 4-hour journey into Medellin to meet Jack in person. “What if – for all his talking about making these fundamental changes in this thinking - he’s still that pretentious, arrogant, puffed-up son of a bitch he talks about?”

The internet is a strange place – you meet people and forge friendships without ever knowing what they look like. Jack and I had read each other’s blogs for well over a year, emailed many times, and even talked on the phone. I had told many people about my lawyer friend who was making the transition to a life more simple, yet I didn’t even know his real name. What if, after all that, he really was an asshole I wouldn’t want to be found within shouting distance of?

But then I walked up to the door of the museum we had agreed to meet at and he walked out with his boyish grin, and all that was forgotten. Here was Jack – in his old brown t-shirt, jeans, and three-day-old beard. The Jack I had pictured after all.

Gracious, kind, gentle, giving, and warm as the summer sunshine, Jack was the kind of person I could sit and talk with for hours – which is exactly what we did. We chatted in a cafĂ© while drinking fresh lulo juice, we chatted as we walked the busy streets of Medellin towards the bike store, and we chatted while in the taxi to the mall.

In so many ways, Jack and I are on the same journey. I suppose I started a couple years ahead of him, but we’re on the same path. I remember those days all too well – those days when I struggled with the idea of giving up all I had worked so hard for, of giving up the American Dream I was supposed to want, of walking away from society’s expectations to make my own way on this planet… It was fun to listen to Jack voice the exact same thoughts I went through a couple years earlier.

But there were still a few strings attached – strings pulling him back. Or maybe they are ropes. Or cables. That uppity lawyer mindset doesn’t relinquish its hold easily.

“I’ve got to go buy a pair of shoes,” Jack said. “Want to come to the mall and help me pick them out?”

Shoes? New shoes?

“I’ve been invited to a law conference tomorrow,” he explained. “And I need to be dressed for it. I’ve borrowed a suit and tie, but don’t have any shoes.”

I admit it – if it had been me I would have borrowed the suit and then worn my Birkenstocks rather than go buy new shoes. But I digress…

And so we found ourselves at a posh, swanky mall filled with generic high-priced shops looking at stylish Colombian leather shoes. Is this really the Jack I thought I knew?

“I love my 3-day-old beard!” Jack told me, “but I think I’ll have to shave it off for tomorrow. I don’t want to, but…” Those old law-firm expectations obviously still have their grip on him in some ways – those bony fingers still have the ability to reach in and wrap themselves around his new-fangled way of thinking…

But what I love about Jack is his utter honesty – with himself and others. He’s grappled with the fundamental ideas of what’s important – what’s really important. He’s one of those rare individuals who has the courage to thrust aside all those expectations placed upon him – from his colleagues, his mother, his friends, and yes – from himself. He’s looked at the demands of society and come to the difficult conclusion that the American Dream may not be all it’s cracked up to be after all.

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