You can read Eric’s near-daily musings on his Web site. His latest book about vampires, chickens, germs, and death–entitled The Dead Travel Fast–has recently come out in paperback. You can get more info on picking it up here.
If Everything Fell Apart…What Would You Do With Your Life?
by Eric Nuzum
So let’s say that the current economic crisis gets bad…really bad. So bad in fact that your job is gone, you can’t live in your house/apartment/commune/whatever, and you have to declare bankruptcy. Let’s imagine it gets so bad that you pretty much lose everything and have to start over again with nothing…what would you do with your life?
I posed this question to my friends Matt and Katy at dinner Monday night.
Just like so many other people out together for dinner…or around coffee tables in homes because they don’t want to go out and spend any money…we were talking about the economy. We were talking about how scary it is. And we were all saying that the worst part is not knowing how bad it will eventually get before it gets better again.
(I’m sure you’re making a note to yourself right now to never go out for dinner with me, lest you come home totally bummed out.)
While listening to my friends talk, I wondered out loud if the “worst case scenario” is really all that bad. “To be frank, the ‘worst case’ doesn’t scare me at all,” I said. “It’s all the cases between best and worst that keep me awake at night.”
As is the norm when I philosophize, my friends looked at me with a degree of puzzlement. “I mean, the ‘worst case scenario’ is scary, but it could also be looked at as total freedom. No expectations. No responsibility. Just a clean slate.”
“So if you had that–even if you got it via a terrible, frightening situation,” I continued. “What would you do with your life?”
Katy and Matt fumbled around a bit. Both work in media, and both their initial answers were a desire to “tell stories” without worrying about ratings, sales, or income. These answers felt too easy to me (basically because mine wasn’t terribly different).
After a bit more probing (there is another reason to avoid dinner with me–any dinner that involves “probing” of any sort isn’t going to be very pleasant)–anyway, after some probing, the real answers started to emerge.
“I think I’d become a park ranger,” Matt announced. Story continues after the jump.
Now we were getting somewhere.
Matt wasn’t sure where he’d want to be a park ranger–but he was pretty sure that he’d want to be a park ranger at some big expanse of nature, like Yellowstone, rather than being a park ranger at the “Dolly Madison House National Park”–or some other type of landmark-ish locale. This was especially odd considering that being around nature and animals and dirty stuff isn’t the type of thing you’d expect from a semi-compulsive germ-o-phobe like Matt. I mean, Matt won’t even touch the handrail on the Metro escalator, but tracking an injured antelope is his definition of total freedom.
Katy held on to the “being a great writer/authoring the Great American Novel” for awhile, then said she’d probably just move home to her parents’ house and get a job as a waitress or bartender. She was so caught up on this post-apocalyptic life of service-industry servitude that I thought she’d never emerge. Then she piped in, “Well, maybe I’d just find an old, unused space and start a coffee house. Nothing fancy, just something I could run on my own.”
This idea was so interesting to me because, as she admitted, when she was a young girl, this was her dream. She said that as a child the only thing she ever wanted to be was…a coffee shop owner.
When I heard the two of them talking about what they’d do if the world fell apart–they answered by telling me their dreams. Not just dreams that they’d thought up that moment, but dreams they’d held onto for years.
Then I wondered aloud again, “Well if these are our dream lives, what’s stopping us from living them now?”
Katy and Matt shook their heads. They didn’t know.
“I mean, here we are worried to death about the disruption of life as we know it…but the disrupted lives aren’t the ones we really want to live, right?”
Again, we all got bummed out by these questions. So much so that we decided to leave the restaurant and walk two miles to a different restaurant, just to eat pie.
So I ask you, dear readers, three questions:
- If everything were to fall apart, what would you do with your life?
- If this is your dream, then why aren’t you trying to do it?
- Considering all this–is the idea of everything falling apart really all that terrible?