“These days I’m a little more settled and stable, but I’m still shaking ideas out of my head that ‘shouldn’t’ be there. The voice of logic and reason is as clear as ever, the way forward so visible like a well-marked path through the forest. Meanwhile, faint voices whisper through the trees, calling my name, daring me to veer off-track and take a tumble in the wilderness. I look into that foliage and see the crooked branches, the thorns, the nettles, the slippery terrain, the red eyes peering at me from the shadows. It is the path of one who wants to be devoured and consumed by the unknown. Most would never even consider venturing into such an area, but it seems I can’t shake those voices tempting me in. They are there whispering to me as I go about the daily grind, as I put on my socks and shoes, as I attend to the tasks I am required to do. I can’t shake them out of my head as I look up to the ceiling at night in bed, as I brush my teeth in the morning, as I pick up things from supermarket shelves and place them in my basket. I look around at the others following the set path of sensibility with apparent ease. Do they hear the same voices too, I wonder? It doesn’t seem like it as I watch and listen to them. They are seemingly content people of stability and sanity. I know that their path can make my hair neat and my sleep undisturbed, but a vacant space in my soul tells me something is missing from such a life too. After all, what is this human experience without mystery and madness? Without adventure and exploration? Without risking it all to find gold in the darkness? What is this human experience without being totally alive to each and every moment?”
~ I Don’t Care Anymore~
Like many young people growing up, I was once full of inner conflict and at odds with the world. Resentful of my surroundings and feeling misunderstood, I sought to set things straight and take back some ground for myself. My blood was full of fury and a war raged constantly inside of me. The pain in my heart meant I was willing to go to extreme lengths to slay down everything I felt was wrong with the world. Maybe it’s me getting softer in older age, but the truth is I don’t care anymore. I’ve set down my sword. And thrown away my shield. I’m no longer charging into any battle, or craving some sort of victory. Things I once fought were worth killing myself for now seem meaningless. Something has changed inside of me. A stillness comes over me. Points of tension begin to relax. And feelings of anger begin to finally fade. After all these years, it seems this soul has found some salvation from the storm. I now find myself in a state of calmness, where I find that I have obtained the victory I always wanted – a victory where I can now rest and relax, because really it was just me stopping myself from living in the lands of peace anyway. And as the smoke of the battle begins to clear, I begin to see the sun shine, and the birds sing, and my soul smile.
I don’t care anymore.
~ Thoughts of a Bum ~
The days of waking up and doing as I pleased continued on. As an unemployed person, you were supposed to feel down about your lack of contribution and participation in society, but there were often moments when you thought otherwise. I lived nearby a river and on a sunny day, I’d walk there to go sunbathe and watch the rowers go by. On the way there – just on the street off beside the river – there was a big office building for some sort of German bank. Often I’d stare into it and see them all through the windows: rows and rows of people sat at computers, boxed into cubicles, working under artificial lighting. I’d look in at them and suddenly feel better about my situation. Sure, I was without much money or security, but in that moment I was at least able to live my life how I saw fit without any controls or confines. I didn’t have to watch any clock or chase any deadline. And there was no boss or supervisor to answer to.
It’s common for unemployed people to feel down or pitied by other people, but at times I looked in those windows and saw some of them sat there looking out at myself without any pity at all. I walked by so often that I was sure that a few of them recognised me and probably wondered how I was always out there strolling freely in the middle of the day. Maybe I was deluding myself, but it was not pity that I saw in their eyes, but envy – envy mixed with a wistful look of boredom. I’d then carry on walking, find a nice spot on the grass beside the river and park myself down. I watched the ducks also living freely, the seagulls flying above. I’d then watch the rowers go by and the sunlight glint off the water’s surface. I’d pour back a drink and appreciate my temporary wealth, just allowing myself to simply exist in peace like the birds around me, living in a way that felt way more natural than the once prescribed to me by my country and culture. Living in a way that had been lost post-agricultural and industrial revolution. Living in a way that at least felt like living.
Truly, time was more valuable than anything; the problem with the 9-5 work system is that you exchanged the vast majority of your days for being at work, going to work, getting ready for work, and everything that came with it. To me, it didn’t matter how much money you had when you couldn’t buy the time to use it. And often that money went on things you couldn’t even enjoy. I’m talking about the house that remains empty cause you’re at work all day, or the furniture you fill that house, or the car and fuel you need to get you to work. Sure, a person had retirement, but the retirement age was now approaching seventy – and we all knew that our best days to be free were far before that time when the energy goes and the health problems come. No, I had a couple thousand pounds in the bank still, and I was gonna make it last the rest of the summer at least. This was my time for freedom; to be alive and enjoy what was left of my youth. Sure, I knew I’d be back at work at some point, trying to spin together some money once again. I knew I’d start other jobs and spend a lot of time at other jobs. But I also knew I’d quit other jobs and never stop trying to get the most out of life without it all passing me by. I just didn’t want to stop dreaming of freedom, or becoming the person who looks out at windows all their life, dreaming, waiting, wondering, and finally fading into a job position. I wanted to smash the glass whenever I could, to come out onto the sunny street, to sit by the rivers and watch the birds and the bees and the sun shining in the sky. I don’t propose there’s any great philosophy or strength to this thought, or to propose I am some sort of countercultural hero. I’m here only to announce that I am aware that this life is about freedom, and I intend to grab as much of it as I can.
~ Wandering the Darkness ~
At times I knew I was falling too far into the pits of depravity and insanity. My drinking became heavier and my behaviour more outrageous. I wanted to come back to some sort of peace and tranquillity. I always thought it was there, like a bridge I could cross whenever I got tired, but one day I considered that maybe that bridge had collapsed and I wouldn’t be able to easily return to that steady state I was once in. I was stuck in the lands of madness, where the crooked tree branches surrounded me, where wild-eyed vultures picked at carcasses, and dark spaces held hidden terrors. There was no clear way of going back so onward I kept walking into the dense foliage toward whatever fate awaited me.
On that path I thought of all the others who had gone crazy and lost themselves completely on similar journeys. I didn’t want to be like them and I knew I still had the light inside of me – the light that could lead me to the lands of peace once more. But at that moment a great doubt settled in my head and I couldn’t help but wonder whether destruction and disaster was my inevitable destination. My drinking continued to become heavier as I felt more and more distant from the people who stood in front of me. I was losing touch with reality at times, drifting away in a room of crowded people, fading out from my surroundings, losing my mind while wandering in the darkness.
I wouldn’t be the first in my family to have wandered down such a path. I thought of my uncle who died alone in a room of sadness and alcoholism. They found him amid the empty bottles, unresponsive and not even fifty years old. He had been living in that apartment for some years, separated from his ex, rarely seeing his son and drinking heavily. I remember my father first telling me about his problem. “You have to understand that he can’t stop himself when drinking. Most people can have a few and then stop themselves, but he can’t. When he drinks just one, he carries on drinking until he passes out. That’s why he can’t drink any alcohol at all.”
At his funeral I looked around at the forlorn faces of my relatives. Funerals were always sad occasions, but when they were for someone who had passed before their time, then there was an extra bleakness in the air. My other uncle got up and told stories of his life before breaking down in tears. Listening to his words, I reflected on the last times I had seen him, usually in passing in the city centre while he was on his way to his job serving meat on a deli counter in the market. As a teenager, I had failed to spot the pain in his eyes, but now I was older and the sadness of the world had made itself home in my heart too, I looked back at those occasions and understood things a bit more clearly. I think about the situation he was in, barely surviving off a cash-in-hand job at the local market, living alone in a small flat, failed relationships and rarely seeing his only child. Like many hurting people, he turned to the bottle to numb the pain of his reality. And now I see his face in my memory; the bloated face, the red cheeks, the lost look in those eyes. The reality was always there in front of me if only I had the awareness to see it.
As a child, I didn’t understand how someone couldn’t stop themselves from drinking. But now I have reached a time in my life where I start to see the darkness in which my uncle lost himself within. The demons lure you in, and it becomes so easy to spiral off into a storm of self-destruction. There had been too many times that I had gone on reckless benders, drinking myself into oblivion, sedating and medicating through the bottle. When your world feels a bit empty, it’s a quick fix to migrate to a different land – a hazy land that may feel like heaven in moments, but is really hell. You make a trade to distort and suppress your senses, but life loses its shine until the darkness is all you know. Slowly you become comfortable in it as it surrounds and engulfs you. You don’t even struggle against it; you like the feeling of seeing yourself slip away in the distortion. That blur of new faces, the hedonistic excess, the reckless and wild behaviour – the brutal hangovers only cured by picking up the bottle again. It’s madness. Pure madness. And you get sucked into the vortex ever more rapidly until that chaos is all you know and understand.
Despite currently drinking heavily and being out of control, a part of me believed that I was able to put the bottle down if I absolutely had to. I had a period every year where I stopped drinking for two or three months in the autumn. I also knew the happiest I’ve ever been were those stages at the age of 26 and 28 when I went sober for a few months. I exercised often, ate reasonably okay, slept well, meditated and didn’t go near the bottle. Even just staring at a drink made me feel nothing at that point. There was zero attraction. I knew it was poison to the state of consciousness I’d acheived – that all the gains of happiness I’d made would be dragged back and taken away from me. But despite those periods, I still find myself here I am a few years on drinking more heavily than ever before. There are reasons for this I suppose. The loss of time and frustration that came from the covid lockdowns; the fact I’ve just turned 30 and want to make the most of this very last bit of my youth. I’d had fun in some ways, I suppose, but these latest benders fill me with almost a fear that perhaps I really have lost my mind; that I have lost control; that I will never return from these woods of madness and find my way back to the lands of peaceful light. It fills me with a fear that I will not be able to stop and they’ll find me one day in that room of isolation, unresponsive on some beer-stained sofa, amid the bottles and beer caps – another soul taken by the need to try and find some shelter and escape from life’s unrelenting storm.
‘One morning I awoke in a strange room with a foul taste in my mouth. My date from the previous night was still fast asleep and I figured it was easier for both of us if I just left before she stirred. I had no battery on my phone and wasn’t sure exactly where I was. I walked out of the house which was on the top of a hill. From the doorstep, I saw the city centre in the distance and realised I was on the opposite side of the city. I then started making my long way home through unknown streets and neighbourhoods. I could have gotten a bus, but I had always resented paying for public transport, so I kept on walking – tired, hungover and even more of a daze than usual. I looked at the people walking past me, wondering which of them was also doing a walk of shame. My stumbling continued until I had made it back into the city centre when I caught my reflection in a shop window. For a minute I stood there staring at it. It seemed that on every street a window reflection was there to show you to yourself and suddenly make you question what the hell it was you were doing on that street, in that city, in that life. Did your path have purpose? Were you a good person anymore? Were you even a sane person anymore? Looking into my tired eyes, I could see I was just another messed-up young man, entertaining myself and keeping life interesting in whatever way I could. I was no different than the drunks and druggies; than the addicts and adrenaline junkies. I found my solace in the thrill of casual sex; my shelter in the tangled limbs of a stranger. It was a depressing reality and my reflection continued to stare back at me almost in disgust. There was only so much of it I could take before I had to look away and carry on along the avenue. This is what life could do to a man. He enters it with wide eyes ready to discover and explore, and then thirty years later he stands staring at his reflection in confusion and consternation. The only thing to do was carry on walking and try to avoid that reflection for a little while longer.’
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
‘It was no secret that there was a great sickness in modern society. Sadness filled the streets and I saw the souls suffering around me every day. I saw the sunken eyes, the feet dragging along the pavements, the bitter words coming out of mouths. I saw the behaviour of frustrated and jaded individuals. The people staying in jobs they hated; the people neglecting their inner voice; the people dragging others down with them. It was all around me but I kept on striding and doing my thing. I made no apologies about my way of being. I was here to live my short life on this earth to the absolute fullest. If I disliked a job, I’d quit it; if I disliked a place, I’d move from it. I refused to compromise on any of this. Hell, there wasn’t time for compromising. Very soon I would be another dead person in the ground, my one precious life all spent and gone. And with that knowledge I set out to make every year of my life a great adventure. I set out to do things that would fill my soul with joy; that would leave my mind full of memories and my heart full of fire. And as the years went by and time aged me, I would refuse to let life grind me down like it seemed to do to so many walking down those streets. No, I would continue to stand proud, a straight posture, my head high and my eyes wide and open. Still looking toward the next horizon. Still chasing that inner bliss. Still discovering the beauty of life on this earth until the very end.’
~ The Great Beyond ~
“I sat on the beach facing the almighty pacific ocean. The waves crashed on the shoreline and the sun reflected off the water onto my face. I closed one eye as I downed my bottle of beer, thinking of memories of the past and my path to here. It was true: thirty years old and still living in the dirt, dreaming in the darkness, wandering the outside spaces. Maybe some thought I would give up this freedom fight, maybe I did, but there I was once again: travelling alone in Mexico, wandering through old towns, drinking in random bars and speaking to whatever stranger drifts into my course. I am a boat out on the ocean of the unknown, and by now I don’t think I’ll ever dock. These sails still catch the wind firmer than ever and the journey shows no sign of slowing. Stormy seas I have known, and my crew of weary sailors – whose blackened faces work the coal engine rooms of my heart – their eyes know the toil of that turbulent journey. Their eyes know this ship wasn’t made for safe harbours of stability and security; those anchors of mortgages and marriages, but instead to drift in the great beyond in search of some divine light of freedom and adventure and life and beauty.”
“Hey! How’s it going? You’re from here then?”
“I live in Birmingham. What do you do?”
“Oh, I live in Nottingham. I just got back yesterday from backpacking in Mexico.”
“Don’t need work? Or still on vacation?”
“Yeah I’ll look for work soon but I have savings for now. And you? Where are you from originally?”
“Do you have any major? I’m from Kansas City, USA.”
“My degree is in communications. How’d you end up in England?
“I work here in human resources…. What position or job do you want to apply for?”
“Okay cool, and I’m not sure. Why so many questions about jobs?
“It’s kinda important.”
“Okay, well if you’re looking for a career-obsessed guy then I’m not that sorry. I live my life to travel.”
(conversation ends as I’m blocked)
Speaking to girls on dating websites, it’s usually in the first few messages that they steer the conversation onto careers. Not always, but the majority of the time they drop the ‘what do you do’ question within the first few sentences. It both amuses and saddens me. No discourse about your life views, your interests, or what fills your soul with joy. They have to know straight away what your profession is, and then work out if you’re someone they want to invest their time in. This robotic process, cold and calculated, as if human relationships were a mere business plan. As if people were mere products and items. As if the union of two souls depended on their financial capital. And of course, I say this as someone who has never had a ‘proper job’, but who has spent his time working on his art and travelling the world for experience. When I tell them the truth about my life, the replies stop coming and I’m weeded out. I guess I can’t blame them. They have a mission in life which is different to mine. Especially if they are over thirty, they are scrambling around looking for a partner to settle down with. They need a person with a reliable income so that they can get the mortgage, the wedding, the kids, the nice kitchen, the fancy holidays, and all the things we are supposed to have to be accepted members of society. That march relentlessly to the middle-class mecca of suburbia where they will finally be happy and complete, where they will have the car on the forecourt, the flowers in the garden, the kids at the dinner table, the dog in the kennel, the plump cushions on the sofa.
I admit there are times when it can get lonely living the life I live, especially as a single man. I see the world from the outside spaces, and from there I get to look back in from a different perspective. To them I am a loner on the outside, and to me they are trapped in a herd – held in place by those around them and unable to move freely to spaces that I know contain so much treasure. I guess I should really know better by now, and not to even bother with these dating sites. Maybe it’s the masochistic side of me, or the need to constantly investigate the human condition, but again and again I return to them to face the same barrier. I know my women are not on those sites. There are some yes, but they are hard to find. They are much easier to find when I am out on the road – when I am staying in dingy hostels; when I am wandering the hiking paths of a mountain wilderness; when I am getting drunk in the local bars of a far-off land. That’s where they are, and yes I do meet many of them, but as is the nature of travelling, we both move on to different places, and there I find myself once again: back home facing the frowning frontline of women who are mostly frightened, disinterested, or even disgusted by the lives of someone like me.
I guess this is just the way life is. You choose your herd, you choose your way, and you accept your freedoms and limitations from whatever type of life you choose. I have chosen mine and I know I’ll never be going back to those women and the way of life they expect of me. But to hell with it! There is a joy bubbling in my soul right now as I type out my truth once again. The joy of the lone wolf, roaming free in untamed lands, living a life of personal truth. Living a life where I feel a greater connection to the whole than any partner or gold ring could give me.
“There’s nothing else to do but write. No job to work, no woman to marry, no reason to settle down. I see no meaning to it all anymore. There is nothing else to do but write. So here I am typing on these keys, and walking down those streets, and staring at the things that pass me by: the faces that tell a story, the dogs staring into space, the sadness and the madness of the suburban universe. I stare at it all and try to make sense of what it is to be human, to be here on this earth, and to try to get by in whatever way you can. I try to understand this all before dying so I can put it into words that might mean something to someone somewhere. This is what I have chosen. This sickness. This insanity. I was not gifted with many things. Hell, I’m not even too good of a writer. But at least it’s something that feels inherently right. And I believe that feeling is the beginning of doing something that makes your life one worth living. To find what comes naturally and throw yourself into doing it completely. To find what makes you feel as if the whole universe is working in harmony the moment you’re doing it. Surfboards and keyboards. Dancing and singing. Sex and love. These are the things. This is the secret. Like others before me, I am a devotee to the rivers of passion running through me, letting them carry me along, moving ever forward to the lands of some divine light.”
Like others before me, there came a time in my life where I knew I needed to find something. Whatever that something was, it seemed to be not available in my immediate surroundings. Unsatisfied with my external world, I realised my journey was to become an internal one. One day my quest began. Digging into the depths of myself, I struck that spade into the solid ground. With force and might I pulled away the dirt with a driven and determined energy. I knew in my bones that something in those depths, buried away in the darkness, waiting to be uncovered. I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I could feel its presence within, and soon everything else in my life centered around finding it. Naturally I knew there were those out there who would dismiss such an undertaking as foolish or crazy, but I knew that that something within me was something that would make me richer in most ways that people had experienced. So I kept digging away, breaking apart that earth, with blistered hands searching deeper and deeper within my own soul. And in that act of soul-searching, I felt assured that one day the time would come where I would stand with that great diamond in my hands; a man who broke through his walls, who stripped away his surface, who unearthed his treasure and let it finally glint in the morning light. A man no longer blind to what he possesses.