Today I discovered a remarkable project that's going on. A group of people traveled around the country, interviewing people who had become dissatisfied with the 'American Dream' and embarked on their own path. They're making it into a documentary, and it's about the tragic complacency that infects those who go through their lives on autopilot and forget to actually live.
They're looking for funding through kickstarter to edit and produce the thing. I'll be tossing something into the kitty for such an inspiring project. I want this documentary to exist, because I believe it's an important issue, and it's more than a little bit personal to boot. For a $5 donation you get a digital download of it once it's finished, too. Perks are nice.
The kickstarter page and remarkably inspiring preview are here, this is a beautiful article about the project, and here we find an interview with one of the founders of the initiative.
To be clear, they (and I) are well aware that prerequisites to this complacency are living in a developed nation, having a job, and generally having decent lodging and plenty of food. Most of the world is not that lucky, and that's a critical issue of any time. Dealing with world poverty and hunger is incredibly important. Fundamentally, we're unbelievably fortunate to be in the position of disliking our 9-to-5 wage-slave job and not living up to our potential.
But that's no reason to accept it as inevitable.
I've struggled with this myself, over the past few years. When I was in school, my direction was clear. Take more classes, learn more things, eventually graduate. Now what? Now I've got a full-time job in my field with a good salary, a gorgeous (rental) house, a husband, dog, cat, and practically an iconic white picket fence. I'm paying off debt, and we have an emergency fund. Eventually we'll probably be able to afford a house. That's great! It's the American Dream, right?
...really? Being chained to one place, ear-deep in a mortgage, and owning stuff is the point of everything? When did we start buying this story? Surely there's more to life than consumerism and mowing the lawn on Sundays. Why are we so willing, as a culture, to sacrifice so very much time, energy, health, relationship quality, sense of purpose, and potential usefulness at the alter of... what? Money? Having a bigger house than your neighbor? 2.5 kids and a car payment?
Surely there must be something better.
I'm battling the exact sense of complacency that's examined in this movie. I resent it, and I'm fighting it. Perhaps the ennui hasn't thoroughly set in yet due to my being relatively new to the workforce, or perhaps it's my tendency toward spontaneity and whimsey that's keeping me fighting. But I can feel the pull, and know that if I stay on my current path I will lose eventually. But I've felt guilty for whining about it, for the reasons stated above. Who am I to complain? There are lots of people in worse situations; those without enough to eat, a roof over their heads, or the ability to find work.
Very true. But I don't think that justifies a slow death of the soul, just because no one wants to hear about it.
So what's the solution? To stop whining and to do something about it. I don't know what that will look like, exactly, but thinking about the possibility of escaping this pre-set script fills me with anticipation and joy. And anything that does that deserves a second look.