I was recently asked what I thought my life would be like in 15 years, and I couldn’t help but laugh. My life has entered a time of such incredibly rapid change that I can barely predict my life 3 months in the future, let alone 15 years. This isn’t really new either. 15 years ago I would have been 8 years old, utterly incapable of imagining the life I lead today.
The year was 1996, and I was in the 3rd grade. Mrs. Wright was my teacher that year. I was studying Tu Kong Musul with my dad under Master Lepp. I believe I got my green belt that year. I learned what the middle finger meant that year, when I was given detention for unwittingly displaying the gesture during lunch one day. Because I was so young, nobody would explain to me what I did, or why the gesture was bad. In my spare time, I read obsessively, and would spend days lost in the world of LEGO and K’NEX toys in my room. I believe I would get the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit for Hannukah that year. My Dad comes from a Jewish family, and my Mom comes from a Catholic family, so we got presents for different holidays from different grandparents. Neither of my parents are particularly religious themselves, so we just did a fairly mellow consumerist Christmas, but with a Menorah on the mantle. Mindstorms is hands down one of the coolest toys I have ever had, and it had me convinced I wanted to do Robotic engineering for a living. My plan at this point in my life was to continue skating by on the easy As I’d been receiving in school until I was accepted at MIT. There I would get my Robotic engineering degree, and spend the rest of my days playing with robots. Ah, childhood.
The easy A’s would eventually turn into easy B’s as I never could pick up the work ethic to do my homework. I still maintain that it’s complete bullshit to require homework. If I can get 100s on tests without doing it, then I shouldn’t have to. I digress. Needless to say, my grades in high school were pretty insufficient to get me accepted to MIT, though I was accepted to the University of Texas thanks to my stellar SATs. It was no matter though, I had long since lost interest in robotic engineering, when my attention turned to Architecture. Too many horrible math teachers later, I gave up on that dream, too, as I decided I couldn’t possibly survive another math class. I had a whole 2 weeks between graduating from high school and starting my “new life” at College. I entered UT as a government major, but after a single summer semester of that, I decided Philosophy was more up my alley. I would just go into Academia. Sure, philosophy professors don’t make much money, but I could be happy with a simple life. 2 years into that, I decided I definitely didn’t want to be in school the rest of my life, which definitely precluded the Professor life, and rendered my upcoming philosophy degree completely worthless to me.
At this time in my life I was working 40 hours a week at Pipes Plus, a local head shop. I would go to class at 9am, get out at 2 pm, start work at 3pm, get home at 2am. Since I didn’t have a car, and I lived pretty far north, it was an hour bus ride down to the university, though I was frequently fortunate enough to get a ride back up to my house late at night, after the buses stop running that far. If you’re keeping track, you’ve figured out that this left me with 6 hours to split between homework and sleep. Ultimately, it came down to a decision of whether I wanted to continue living indoors, or pursuing a degree I no longer saw the point in. I decided not being homeless and starving was more important, and so I withdrew from the university, and took on as many hours at work as I could.
Two months into working for Pipes Plus I decided to get dreadlocks, a decision that would inform the course of my life between then and now. I had been smoking marijuana for about 2 years at that point, though it had just recently become a part of my daily life. I had also recently started my experimentation with psychedelics, having taken MDMA twice, and LSD once. My eyes had been opened to a broader existence, and it seemed to me there was the conventional path and an unconventional path. The conventional path looked to contain cubicals, suits, ties, wage slavery to the corporate master. The unconventional path was a mystery, but it couldn’t be worse than that. By getting dreadlocks, I would close the doors to the conventional path to myself for as long as I kept them. Knowing myself to be tempted by the easy pre-established options in life, I decided then to just remove that temptation from myself, and thus force myself to dive down the rabbit hole of living intentionally, and out of the mainstream.
Additionally, they would force me to learn some patience, a virtue I knew myself to be profoundly lacking in. Dreads take about a year of nearly continuous effort up front before they really look good at all, and I knew this going into it. Overall, I would say this effort has been successful. I am a greatly more patient man than I was nearly 3 years ago when I made this decision.
It was February of that year when the corrupt business practices of the Owner of Pipes Plus began to effect my life. He had begun to dock employee pay in order to finance basic maintenance of the building and business. Since we already made minimum wage to start with, this resulted in me making gradually less and less than the federal mandated minimum. Halfway through the month I realized I would never be able to pay the rent on just the money from the 40+ hours I was working at the shop. Brad, the owner, wasn’t a believer in overtime pay, and used shady accounting practices to obscure the extra labor, skirting federal labor laws. This is when I began a small side business. Within 2 months, the income from my side job had substantially eclipsed the income from my day job. One day at work I began to vomit repeatedly. Brad insisted that I was not to be allowed to leave, and must finish the shift. Nevermind the obvious health and sanitation concerns of such a demand, I was fairly delirious from nausea, and couldn’t interact meaningfully with customers anyways. I decided I was going home regardless. This resulted in my termination from that place of employment, but I didn’t care at all. As business picked up, all the stress of poverty was lifted from my shoulders.
I continued to run and nurture this business venture for another couple years, acquiring a car, a motorcycle, furniture, electronics, and adventure gear along the way. I traveled to Colombia for 3 weeks, took multiple cross country road trips, including the motorcycle trip I am concurrently posting about. This continued until April of this year. My business was providing me with too much stress, so I decided to close it down, and take some more time for personal development through travel. I coasted on savings for a few months while I prepared for the 2 month motorcycle trip I had decided to take, and then took off at the beginning of July. It was the hottest summer on record here, and I was just not going to stick around for it.
Four months exactly after I left on that trip, my life is nigh unrecognizable from what it was even 7-8 short months ago. I went from living by myself in a small 2 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood in central Austin, making an extremely comfortable living doing something that while I enjoyed it immensely, I did not find it personally satisfying. I had a car, and a motorcycle. Food, money, and weed were not scarce resources in my life. Today, I have no car. I have no motorcycle(though I am currently shopping for another one). I live on a School bus I’ve been converting into a motor home in the woods by the river. I pay no rent. I cook outside on a 2 burner propane stove. I haul my water half a mile from the house at the top of the property. I run 2 compact fluorescent bulbs and charge my iphone on the bus with a large deep cycle battery that I run through a 750 watt inverter. It needs to be recharged roughly every 11 days. 8 months ago, I ate the majority of my meals at restaurants, regularly spending in excess of $50/day feeding myself, and my girlfriend Gianna. Now, we cook almost all our meals from local organic ingredients. She works at a farmers market, and volunteers at a community supported organic farm, providing our eggs and produce. I provide the rest of our food.
Perhaps of equal or greater significance to the changes I have experienced in myself, are the changes the outside world has undergone. In the last 15 years, technology has advanced in ways I could never have conceived. I remember going into a computer shop in 1998 or 1999 to get components to build my first computer. On display in the store was a…GASP! 8 GB hard drive. It was the biggest, baddest thing on the market. What would you even put on a drive that big? I knew the biggest game install I had ever encountered was 100 mb, and that was considered freaking massive at the time. Now, my phone can store 32 GB of data, and this piece of shit netbook I’m using has a 250GB drive. I own 2 separate 3 terabyte external drives to contain my archive of human media production. My phone is in every way an immeasurably better computer than the first 3 or 4 computers I had access to as a child. I remember my parents having friends bring VCRs over to copy VHS movies. Now we have bittorrent. The comparisons are endless, but they don’t need to be gone over ad nauseum. You all know them. You’ve been around the last 15 years, too.
Beyond the technological change, the global sociopolitical climate is radically different now than it was 15 years ago as well. In 1996, Bill Clinton was running for his second term as President. Despite an impeachment scandal involving a blowjob from a chubby whitehouse aid, he would leave the united states with a budget surplus, and additional international entanglements.
I remember watching the presidential debates between Bush and Gore in 2000. It was obvious to me that Gore would win. Bush was clearly an idiot, Gore was clearly not. Sure, he might not be the most charismatic person, but what did that have to do with administering a nation of 300 million people? Turns out, a majority of Americans agreed with me, but a majority of Supreme Court Justices felt differently. That election was won by a single vote, 5 to 4. Thus began my serious disillusionment with the world. I was reading George Orwell’s 1984 in the year 2001. I looked up from my reading to find a now disturbingly familiar world taking form. I remember Bush forcing the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
After four years of him completely fucking up our country, between the continually escalating debacle of our military involvement in the middle east, and the systematic elimination of our rights through legislation like the Patriot Act, I figured, surely nobody would vote for this criminal again. This year would see the mass introduction of electronic voting machines with known major security flaws. Flaws like being able to tamper with vote data through an exposed USB port with no password required. Bush won in 2004, and continued his destruction of liberty in America.
Then 2008 came. Finally, we would get rid of bush. Surely, anyone would be better. And hey, this Obama fella sure is a handsome smooth-talking “young” fellow. And he understands the internet. Like millions in my generation, I fell for the act, and excitedly cast my vote for the man that would later come to be known as “The Banker’s Candidate”. After a healthcare bill that basically amounts to a reach-around for the pharmaceutical and insurance industry, trillions of dollars in bail-out money for the banks and investment firms who crashed our economy, and a nationwide crackdown on medical marijuana patients and providers, I have to say I feel like kind of an asshole for believing a politicians promises.
Today, the world is in a state of revolution. Democratic revolutions in Egypt and the middle east now spread to first world countries such as ours, through the Occupy movement. Though it started here with Occupy Wall Street, the Occupation has now expanded to every major city in America, and dozens more worldwide. The 99% have found a voice through the internet after a decades long control grab for global power by the hyper wealthy. Even the terminology 99% is a little disingenuous. The income cutoff for the top 1% of income earners is around $350,000, and this includes a large number of small business owners, who by no means are the law-buying, game-rigging greedy criminal bastards this revolution seeks to displace. In truth, we are the 99.9%, and an even smaller percentage than we like to claim are the true puppet masters of our congressional theater.
In the month of October this year alone, credit unions have taken on 650,000 new accounts. In the whole of 2010, 600,000 accounts were added. The people have finally had enough of the big banks, and are indeed speaking out by moving their money in massive droves to local credit unions and community banks. Today alone saw 70,000 people pledge to move their money away from the big banks.
So when I am asked, what does the world look like in 15 years, I have to laugh. Because seriously, who the fuck knows?