When You Have Nowhere to Be, You Can Truly Be Where You Are

It’s been too long since our last post so we want to put something up. Eight state lines crossed (we’re granting DC statehood) and we’re bidding farewell to beloved Wilmington, bound for Athens in the morning.

Thus far, our trip has been incredible. We’ve had countless wonderful interactions with innumerable humans- strangers, new friends and olden pals. We’ve dumpstered treasures and driven over a thousand miles, busked and bartered, conversed and camped, learned and loved, played and pondered, hiked half days and slept through them. Living this way has been exhilarating, fulfilling, and inspiring. The generosity, kindness and concern of people here in the USA has exceeded our expectations and humbled our opinions.

Unfortunately, for the blog, all this living has detracted from our focus on writing enough about it yet. So until we have more material ready, I figured I’d post this wee nugget and attach my resignation letter from FedEx. I wanted to post this at some point anyway and it will only become less relevant as time passes. It also explains many of my reasons to shift priorities and lifestyle, away from the corporate world, consumerism and a deep sense of feeling trapped, toward being the change I want to see in the world, being more honest with myself and others, and living out my questions.

Much thanks and love to all our friends and family, to all we’ve encountered so far on this journey, and to all of you reading our blog.

September 17, 2012

To whom it may or may not concern,

I am writing to give you four weeks advance notice of my intended departure from my position at this company, FedEx Ground, with my last day being October 12, 2012. Below is a somewhat brief explanation for my decision, which I invite you to read if you would like to. If you find yourself without the time or inclination to venture beyond this paragraph, then please let me thank you for your consideration.

It’s been a good run, I feel, and I’ve learned a lot from my many experiences at this company and in this town from the many people I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know professionally and personally day after day. No doubt, I will carry a lot of what I’ve seen, heard and absorbed with me as I venture forth into the world. That is, to put it concisely, why I will be leaving my job here.

There’s a big world out there and what I know of it is almost entirely comprised of third-hand experiences from books and maps and the internet and the occasional personal anecdotes of people I speak to who tell of their travels. What little personal experiences I’ve enjoyed throughout my few years in this brief life has been, while very rewarding, also hindered by the very nature of having a daily life full of time constraints and responsibilities such as a job and rent and the like. As I have not, at least yet, chosen to take on the responsibility of children, and as I have been born in a position of great privilege that has afforded me many hours to think about the nature of life and society and my role in it, I feel it is time to take advantage of the vast and wondrous choices in front of me. Indeed, a great many challenges lay ahead and each of those challenges do I anticipate with eagerness.

There is a lot I feel we take for granted in life and, I believe, there are a great many illusions we operate upon as if they were truths. One thing we take for granted is money, and in turn jobs. Money is a means, not an end. And for many, certainly for me in this role, a job is but a means to that means. This sets daily life up as a means and yet to me, life is a process in which the only true end is the moment we find ourselves in now.

I want to live each day, and each moment, doing exactly what I’m doing for the sake of itself. If somehow that in the end falls together in a kind of order that adds up to something greater as a sum of its parts than each of its parts individually, I will surely be happy. However, sacrificing my time and energy for a greater abstract goal, at least for now, is not something I feel I must do. Instead I feel compelled, obligated even, to experiment with new ways of functioning day to day and to explore, listen to, and learn from a world that we are all personally connected to yet mentally and emotionally detached from.

There is also the illusion of stasis. I have found, however, that the universe is in a constant state of change. Given the perpetual flux of existence, I find it borderline insane to act as if I can predict what the future holds and to then sacrifice my time and energy chasing rainbows of financial security, material abundance and the like. If the ends (wealth, materials, security) for these means (money and jobs) are indeed ends I find valid and necessary, to spend such a majority of time and energy on a means to a means for those ends seems- to use a business term- inefficient.

I am excited for the many roads ahead of me and the many possibilities in store. The great unpredictability of a life with indefinite goals and plans is something I anxiously anticipate experiencing. I look forward to all there is to see and learn from the innumerable people and places upon this planet. I hope you understand and can, in some way, share in that excitement. I hope also that whatever paths you choose in the days and years ahead, you find equal enjoyment and satisfaction, for without that, I see no point in maintaining a routine devoid of such enthusiasm. We live but once!

If I could close with one parting thought it is this: to keep people above profit. I have been refreshingly surprised by how often many of the people here in *ZATH- in the building and on the road- seem to genuinely care for each other as people, and embrace one another as individuals. That is quite counter to the attitudes of many in the business world including many I’ve encountered visiting from the upper echelons of this company. I hope this tendency to treat one another first and foremost as valuable humans, and not merely as participants in a work environment, grows as time passes.

With sincere gratitude and excitement,

Jesse Houle

*ZATH is the company’s code designated to the Athens terminal.


The Pull Is Stronger Than the Push

There are many reasons for each of us as independent humans to set out on this indefinite journey to indefinite places, living differently and learning about humanity. This entry fits in the densely filled space where our reasons overlap.

Taking off indefinitely is the kind of thing that prompts questions like, “What are you running away from?” But we’re not running away from ourselves or anything else; we’re running to other places and people, to things we’ve dreamed of and read about, to the things we would’ve rather been doing while toiling at Market Basket or FedEx.

There are some factors pushing us away from the lives we’ve led to this point. There’s a deeply held conviction that we should limit, as much as possible, our participation in actions and systems we feel are more destructive than constructive. There’s a commitment to not let our lives be dictated by momentum and convention when we’re more than capable of creating our own, hopefully more useful, paths. There’s a recognition of the difference between being comfortable and being happy. And there’s the pressure of time, the knowledge that we don’t live forever and that our life situations might not be as conducive to this in the future.

But what’s pulling us is so much stronger. We’ve both slept til 4 in the afternoon on probably too many days after reading Wikipedia articles about Comoros or debating the feasibility of an anarchist society until sunrise. We want, intensely, to experience things on a human level, first-hand. And we hope that we can be more productive facilitators of a better future by spreading our ideas, and our questions, beyond the relatively local and homogeneous gardens we’ve thus far been pollinating.

Unlike the oft-referenced Chris McCandless, we are not turning our backs on, or experimenting with dropping out of, society. We are investing ourselves in society by filling what seems to us a necessary yet largely underplayed role in it. It’s certainly true that many of our opinions diverge from the mainstream or from generally accepted ways of looking at things. But they are the products of years of earnest, fervent reflection on ourselves and the world we live in, and we think that sharing them with the people we encounter is a real contribution to our common endeavor of bettering the human condition. And while we have a responsibility to share the insights that our genes and our experiences have combined to create, we also have a responsibility to take what others have to offer, to incorporate it into our ways of seeing the world, and to share it widely.

In terms of our utility, we’d argue that we do more good via idea pollination than through a more conventional role as a cog in the material economy. Our society has more than enough stuff. What we can work to provide on this journey are the novel experiences and social connections that our isolated and routinized society so dearly lacks. These oft-belittled opportunities in everyday life are what the social sciences have consistently and convincingly shown to be the more important components of happy lives.

As idealists, we strive to live out not only our ideals, but also the questions hovering around them. Doing so requires repeatedly asking ourselves how necessary compromising those ideals may be. There is a constant struggle between idealism and reality, between the perfect and the good, between the good and the merely less bad, and between personal convictions and the status quo. We also can’t forget that the status quo represents, to various degrees, large parts of the human race with which we feel so intimately connected.

We are often told, if not by people we know then indeed by the droning rhythms of our societal machine, that we have our heads in the clouds, that dreams and ideals can only go so far, that we need to come down to Earth and acknowledge the need for jobs, for money, for routines. To this we ask, what makes those things so necessary? It seems those things are at least less necessary for us than for most, as we are, for whatever reasons, more comfortable than most with having less, with giving in to chaos, and with challenging so many of the arbitrary conventions our society disguises as obvious truths. The supposed guarantees of capitalism, routines, and isolation are not on par with gravity.

This exploration is both something we want to do and something we think is right. This may indeed be a rare convergence of those two things, desires and convictions, but for us these things have come together quite well, both as individuals and conjointly. Our friend Zach Peckham has a song that says something to the effect of, “I don’t believe that you can be anything you set your mind to, but I do think you are the only authority on your own life.” That sums it up pretty well for us too.

Ultimately, we know we have the capacity to have an impact on our world. Actually, it’s unavoidable. (All actions have consequences, inaction is action, and all that.) We all have a responsibility to one another. We feel that this responsibility exists to an even greater degree for people like us, given our relatively privileged roles and our personal tendencies toward intellectualism and activism. A world built on exploitation can only succeed at perpetuating an unjust, prejudicial, and damaging status quo for as long as we remain ignorant of others and the many ways in which we are so constantly and significantly tied to those people.

We may indeed find that our future selves will better serve the world in some different way. Until that moment arrives this will be a learning experience, and a shared experience, that hopefully leads us to an even better understanding of the world and how we can best live as part of it.

So yeah, we aim to contribute as wholly as possible to the happiness of humanity. This includes not forgetting that we are a part of humanity, and that our own happiness is as valuable as anyone else’s. This adventure, done in this way, seems to us at this time to be the best means of accomplishing that end. And it’s certainly refreshing to live lives in which, moment by moment, our means and our ends look an awful lot alike.