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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Walking A Line Between Two Worlds

As 2016 wraps up, I reflect upon an intense year of new experiences, new friendships as well as difficult relationships. With each adventure completed I feel like I'm graduating another test and advancing in the school of life. It's a bit unexpected then that, as the year concludes, I've been feeling inexorably stuck, or floating.
Me trying on the waiter hat in Lake Louise
I'm floating between two worlds. The world which I emerged from - populated by 9-to-5-ers - and the world outside of the matrix. I'm talking about a world filled with people that chose a different path - the hippies and nomads, the musicians and artists, spiritual warriors and nature protectors. We'll call this group the free spirits. These two societies co mingle in the same cities and streets, but navigate their daily lives hardly aware of eachother's existence, as if they were in separate worlds.
Me living in the forest for a month

Me trying the cherry picker life
On the heels of the US election, most of us have learned a harsh realization about being caught in two worlds - that we live in a comfortable "bubble" of familiar people and places, but the reality is we are surrounded by people who think differently than us - a lot differently. Think about it - nearly half of all people you encounter on a street in America voted Trump. It really makes you question people. But do we have the right to judge Trump voters?

Studies have proven that, in our individual quests to minimize the chaos around us, our brains label and reduce everyone down to simple categories and characteristics. This is the mechanism behind stereotyping and extremist labelling. Unfortunately, this mechanism fails because there is a remarkable amount of diversity in every group of people. While stereotypes can represent partial truth, we forgo the work of filtering beyond that partial truth when we judge people. And you cannot judge anyone when you have only the partial truth.

In the Trump dilemma we come face to face with the universal truth that noone really has the right to judge anyone unless having walked in their shoes.

The free spirits are as misunderstood as the Trump voter group; they're just more easily ignored. I find myself in the rare situation of having traded in 6 years of the 9-to-5 lifestyle to bum around with the free spirits in the past few years. I feel like I've immersed myself enough in both worlds, and have walked enough in the shoes of both societies, to offer some objective insights and comparisons.
Me in full free spirit mode
Free spirits get the extremism label outcast or weird. People judge them for living life differently than everybody else, and are thus deemed irresponsible, unrealistic, and sometimes selfish. This is, of course, only a partial truth.

What is true is that most free spirits lose themselves before they find themselves, but are only labeled as lost. Sure, many stay lost, but this is universally true of any society. Many of the free spirits I've met are stable and empowered, surviving in and changing the system from within, not just chaining themselves to trees and doing psychedelics in the forest. They count among the most wise and inspiring people I've ever met. They may not have the fancy degrees, well paid jobs or RRSPs to prove it. But they also don't have regrets.

Meanwhile the free spirits judge the 9-to-5-ers for being materialistic and conformists in a corrupt and unsustainable system. This is again a partial truth. Like any other society there are those who fit in, there are pretenders, and there are those lost and stuck in the system and don't know how to get out of it.

So where do I belong?

Once you go down the rabbit hole, it's hard to get out of it. I was lost in that world for awhile but I'm slowly finding myself. In the free spirit world, I have embarked on unforgettable adventures, encountered healing forces, expanded my consciousness, and found love and support from amazingly inspiring people.
The rabbit hole is filled with wonders, such as this beautiful cedar, in the backwoods of Vancouver Island.
Because of my past 9-to-5 life, it can be hard to identify with some hardcore free spirits, but it is certainly harder now to identify with 9-to-5-ers because, while free spirits share the struggle to navigate within the larger society, the opposite is not true. Consequently, I am still floating between the two worlds - but I'm proud to be paddling my way to solid middle ground.

Moving forward I hope I can change the system from within, and find grounding and stability again. But, in order to accomplish this, I need patience, not just from myself but from those around me, especially in the 9-to-5 world who still see me as lost.

PS. I apologize if anyone was offended by labels such as 9-to-5ers and hippies. I am aware of my hipocrisy in using these terms in the very same article where I condemn use of such terms
PPS. Hippie comes with negative connotations in today's society, but I think it's time for a redifinition. I'm a hippie and proud of it!

1 comment:

  1. Great post; trying to figure out where one fits in (if anywhere) is an important exercise. Let's remember a lot of people don't know what 9-5 is either...the private sector is quite different perhaps.

    p.s. if you look at voter turnout, the more appalling fact might be that half the people you look at on the street didn't even bother.