Circles and Squares

It was well after midnight and I had just come of off two twelve hour shifts slinging beer to Teton Valley's unwashed masses when I found Eustace Conway in my mailbox. Eustace is the main character in Elizabeth Gilbert's The Last American Man, a biographical novel a friend gifted me because he thought I was ripe for it and that Eustace had something to tell me.

Despite the fact that my feet hurt like hell and I could barely keep my eyes from fluttering closed, I cracked open the spine. Because what can I say? I'm a junkie for the written word and couldn't resist a fresh score (especially one from this particular friend).

By page two I was hooked. This is your brain on drugs, egg in the frying pan, hooked. I couldn't put the man down even though I tried. I found him to be all at once charming, and alluring, and down right maddening. Because he's a man so committed, so hard headed, so selfish that at times he cuts his own nose off despite his face. Yet, at others he's the most connected, sensitive, charming pied piper of a guy you can't help be be drawn to him. Can't help but to want to sell all your stuff and walk right out into the woods and live with him in his teepee.

That's right. This girl. This city girl who owns 50+ pairs of shoes found herself wanting to walk right out into the woods and live in a teepee and eat squirrel and never come back again. That's the power of this man. This book.

Then the more I read the more I realized he sounded like every guy I'd ever dated (especially the last one). So maybe selling all my stuff and moving to Turtle Island to sit at his feet wasn't such a good idea. I mean if my dating history is any indication of how well I do with stubborn men who enjoy immense amounts of personal freedom well then I should probably steer well clear of Eustace Conway and his 1,000 acre nature preserve no matter how alluring. And boy is it. Is he. Alluring.

Because who doesn't want to be free of the stress of the modern world? To not have to worry about bills, and health care, and running here and doing this. Thoughts that have been pervasive since I packed up my car, sold most of my belongings, moved West, and got a not real job. Thoughts that have only gotten louder and stronger as I've started working one day a week on a farm, teaching more yoga classes, and picking up odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.

Which is a way of life I knew nothing about until moving here. Because bless their hearts, my family prides themselves on being well educated, upstanding, contributing members of society. Which is fantastic the world needs such people. And I'm very fortunate to have a whole host of incredibly talented doctors, and lawyers, and engineers I can call to bail me out when need be.

But this also means I was never granted permission to have those pointless but fun jobs, as college was a time for studying. Not for waiting tables or tending bar or being a ranch hand. And after college was a time for getting a real job that had benefits, and insurance, and a 401(k). Not for taking off across America or hiking Patagonia. So, now, at almost thirty, I find myself drawn to these things. This way of life. This kind of living. Which is an entirely different verbiage from working and is exactly what Eustace preaches.

That most Americans live and work in a box. Eat from a box. Drive a box. Do box like things. Never once considering breaking out of that box. Which is detrimental to the earth and everyone's health. So he offers a different way. A circular way. A way that is connected and integrated and whole. That honors the rhythm of nature. The cycle of earth, and life, and death. And isn't about filling a box with more boxes. Or in my case a closet with more shoes. But is about being mindful and respectful and breaking out of the box. About doing crazy things like riding across the country on horseback or hiking the AT mostly nude or living completely off the grid because you can. And why not?

And while I realize that I like my iPhone, and painting my nails, and electricity a little too much to go completely native the box metaphor does resonate with me. Especially since I was just offered a job that comes with so many boxes I could build a mansion sized fort with them. A job that by most people's standards is a good job with all the right boxes-health insurance including dental and vision, a 401(k), paid vacation, a hefty salary, a relocation bonus, paid CEUs and supervision and expenses, automatic increases in pay, etc, etc, etc. It also comes with some boxes that should be sent straight to the recycling bin as far as I'm concerned. Boxes like 24 hour call Monday through Friday and one weekend a month, a 40-60 hour work week, mandated clients, Medicaid paperwork, rigid counseling protocols, and a staff I haven't exactly connected with.

Boxes so large that I wouldn't even have time to consider other boxes. Much less buy them or enjoy them. And the only circles I'd get to experience would be the ones I was constantly running around in trying to keep up. Which is not what Mr. Conway had in mind with his metaphor I don't think. 

So, now that I know Eustace. Now that I've experienced a different way. Now that I've taught yoga, slung beer, housesat, catered, done graphic design and PR work, pulled weeds on a farm... Now that I've pieced together boxes of work that allow me to have a more circular lifestyle. That allow me to live instead of work. To do what fills me up instead of what fills a box. I'm not sure I can take a job that is all boxes and no circles.

Because if I've learned nothing else from this book, from my year here, it's that ultimately once you break free of the box it's hard to go back in again.


PS-Don't worry your pretty little heads my darlings no final decisions have been made yet. And even if I don't take this particular box I'm still fairly certain all my boxes will end up back east. So everyone take a deep breath (especially you Dad).

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