Thursday, April 9, 2015

Invisible Walls And The Story Of The Treasure Hunter

A long time ago, I had a friend, Heather. Still do, as a matter of fact. We just haven't stayed in touch that well over the last few years.

She was a complicated sort of person. Imagine me saying "complicated" with a pause and pursing my lips a little.

Very cool, but complained all the time. Made a career out of being artfully unhappy, so we used to refer to her as "The Goth," even though her wardrobe didn't have a whole lot of black in it. If she was the sort of person who got noticed in high school, she'd probably have won the "Most Likely To Kill Herself Tragically By The Age Of Thirty To Make A Point" nomination.

She believed odd things and would get angry with you if you respectfully disagreed. She stopped talking to me for six months because I disagreed with her notion that the Statue of Liberty was black. She may have been right on that point. I was probably messing with her. Who knows?


Anybody who's known The Goth for more than a few years has a million awesome stories about her--she's one of those people who's collected her own personal mythology, much like Batman if Batman was a pretty girl and messed with your head when she was drunk.

My favorite one was the time she hooked up with a treasure hunter and moved to the other side of the country.

The Goth had gone to college. Picked up some advanced degrees in social work. She had the job she went to school for: awesome benefits, job stability like whoa. Worked with troubled youth. This was a salaried career path government job with decades of advancement and possibilities ahead of her. It paid really well, too.

She complained about it all the time. In much the same language she complained about boyfriends, weather, bad music, her fingernails, that guy who did that one thing with that stuff she bought while shopping the other day.

You get the idea. Several years of this.

Suddenly she goes to Florida with a coworker. Comes back, announces she'd met a guy. The guy was a treasure hunter. Seriously, an actual honest to God treasure hunter who dives for pirate gold. He eventually got on a short-lived reality show about people who dive for sunken treasure. It flopped after two episodes.

Heather left her dream job, announced she was moving to the Florida Keys to hook up with this guy.

We laughed. Good lord, we laughed. Ultimate flakiness. More Heather than anything Heather had done previously. We knew it was useless talking her out of it, so we mostly just mocked her mercifully behind her back.

I come in to work the following week, as the carnage was shaking out, and I told the story to one of my friends. My friend cocked her head and said "Aw, that's romantic. More power to her."

I was immediately like, "Nooooo, it's a bad idea. It's terrible because...uh...because..."

And then I thought about it, objectively, from her framework.

A career doing things she hates, in an endless state of being comfortably miserable. The winters in Michigan are dreadful, particularly in those parts--cold, gray, slushy and miserable much of the year. She'd been through a string of dead-end relationships. Her coworkers were everything you're afraid government job coworkers might be (for the most part). Her job was depressing, dealing with horribly broken families. It was grinding her down.

Rebooting her life wasn't the worst idea.

I dropped my finger, told my friend I'd think it over.

Seven years or so later, she's still with the pirate hunter, except they're now in a rather pretty part of California. Sure, she spent some time in the Florida Keys, working terrible low-paying jobs, but she's back on her career track and spends much of her free time (of which she seems to have a lot) hiking around in achingly-beautiful scenery.

It was an absolutely daft idea which made no sense at all to anybody who didn't know her.

Thing is, sometimes those are exactly the sorts of things you have to do. We build up these barriers in our heads, get used to the arbitrary barriers in our lives.

We make up stories about what would happen if we change the most minor things, expect everybody to be mortified if we do something different. Maybe they'll judge us. I get that new haircut, or whatever, and they'll point and laugh at me all day long.

Thing is, it doesn't matter. Sometimes you just have to do the thing your gut is telling you to do, for bizarre and hard-to-express reasons which feel right.

Last year, I found myself suddenly between jobs. So I just picked up and went to Asia for two weeks, to visit a friend I hadn't seen in twenty years. No warning. Most people who knew me found out because my Facebook updates just got really weird all of a sudden.

It was random, looked like it was horribly expensive (it actually wasn't) and made no damn sense. I wasn't even employed then.

Thing is, I save like a mofo during the best of times and I had several months of severance owed me from my previous job. I needed the trip, emotionally, to clear the waters of being laid off. I wanted to remember that year decades from now as "the year I got a better job and traveled a lot" instead of "the year I lost my job and played a lot of Skyrim." So, I just did it.

It was fucking terrifying. First time out of the country, particularly in parts of the world where English isn't necessarily a thing? Good lord. Even when I was there, I was on my own a lot. I had to figure out what to do, where to go, how to do it. Explore new places. Holy shit. I still get stressed out thinking about it.

But it was worth it. Pushed me out my comfort zone in many ways. When I went back to work on my current job, I think my experiences travelling overseas prepared me for many challenges.

I've been thinking about investing in real estate lately, which is what made me think of this post. It's unprecedented. I've told many people, many times, that I think home ownership is a lousy idea (for me, it still is), but rental property? The math is compelling.

It's a new thing. I'm going to have to learn a lot--I'm still in the "reading a hell of a lot about it" phase, but I think that's the next step. Maybe I should go find myself a treasure hunter to fall for while I'm at it.

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