Willem asked for stories. While mine doesn’t have as much to do with conflicts with parents, it does revolve around conflicts with other relationships: Me as Myself, and Me as a Husband. Willem asked for stories. Here’s mine:
I’ve always been a late sleeper.
I was a C±student through high school. My parents also pushed for me to get a Regents diploma, and I complied. I went to college for Environmental Science and Forestry, because I had a passion for the outdoors since I was very young. I finished college, and started my career with a slightly-above-minimum-wage job collecting data on trees. Through all of this I never even knew about Rewilding; the idea would have been as alien to me as it no doubt is for Scout’s parents.
By this time (2005-ish) I was living in Pittsburgh, trying to settle into a nice, cozy Civ life and trying even harder to climb the proverbial ladder. (Mostly because my job wasn’t paying enough.) I married my fiancee. I made lots of great friends, and we all hung out on the town quite a bit. Then I saw one of those free local-scene newspapers. On the cover was this “grungy” dude with facial piercings, tattoos, & dreadlocks, wearing buckskins and showing off his tulip-poplar bark-basket. (I forget the guy’s name, but I’m sure he probably is/was a member here ;D). I stared at the cover with a lot of mixed feelings. At the time, his appearance was pretty disturbing to my sensibilities – I had been raised to think things like: “Well, THAT guy will never get a decent job”, etc. I read the article: something about “rewilding” or some crap like that. The guy lived in a pile of leaves. Just a bunch of dirt-hippies trying to mooch off the system. I brought the paper home with me (something I never, ever did), and the guy on the cover stared at me from my desk every time I sat down to play some video games. Just a bunch of dirt-hippies…
Just a crazy-person trying to glamorize volunteered homelessness…
Mooching off the system…
Just a bunch of… Man… How DID he make that bark basket…?
I kept re-reading the article. Cracks in the dam. Armor starting to rust. Over the next weeks and months I had dreams about meeting that guy on the cover. I wanted to talk to him, figure out why he was so crazy. I wanted to help him get a nice job, and move into a good apartment. Then I wanted to yell at him for being such a pompous ass – who the hell is this guy to look down his nose at how I live my life!? (See the utterly insane Civ double-think in that?) Then I wanted to kick down his little pile of leaves. When winter rolled around, I wanted to see if he was shivering in the snow so I could chuckle to myself about how much more awesome my life was.
But by spring I wanted to go build a pile of leaves to live in, myself. I figured out how he made that bark basket, and I was figuring out how buckskins were done. I had found the Anthropik blog and read everything Jason Godesky had to say on the topic. I was working up the courage to ask him if we could hang out.
And then, just like that, before I could meet anyone, I had to move again. My wife had been offered a huge and very lucrative job offer in Iowa (3x the salary I was making). Once I left Pittsburgh, Jason and his blog, and the grungy-looking guy in his pile of leaves faded from my memory for a time. It didn’t occur to me that this was something that was happening outside of Pittsburgh. And then, one day, somewhere around 2007’ish, it did, and I found Rewild.info.
I didn’t agree with everything Peter had to say about the subject – I still don’t, and that’s just fine. I found Derrek Jensen’s books, and Daniel Quinn, and John Zerzan. All of it rumbled around in my head, and I had to do a lot of wrestling with my worldview before anything made any sense. Most of the time I felt pretty insane, because I was, and I was trying to heal. I said some crazy things, and had some crazy ideas. I never acted on any of them, for good or ill.
Fast-forward a few years. I had to move again, but by then the dam was already beyond repair, and I had taken off that rusty armor. I started the long, slow process of healing myself (something that is still a work in progress). I was 26 already, so I didn’t have the conflicts with my parents that Scout had. I had a different problem: I was married, and my wife was not at all interested in Rewilding. She designs video games. Her life in Civ is, in her words “F****ng awesome!”.
It seems like a straight-forward conflict of interests: I wanted to live lifestyle A), she wanted to live lifestyle B), and we should probably just go get a divorce and be done with it. Then we could both move on to whatever we wanted. Right?
The “problem” was we both still loved each other. We still do. There were a few times where we weren’t sure if it would work out. I felt trapped, and she felt responsible. Things were nearing the brink, and then something wonderful happened: EVERYTHING in our lives fell apart.
She lost her Awesome Civ Job (ACJ). We lost our awesome Civ house, as well as all our money in an effort to try and sell it. We jumped from state to state, from ACJ to ACJ that turned out to just be an abusive capitalist grind-house. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, when we felt like we were stabilizing again, we decided to have a kid. The stability is tenuous, but here we are. I work at an ACJ for an electric company doing forestry (read: creating artificial ecosystems), and she’s working another ACJ that’s lost a lot of its polish and luster.
Here we hit the wall. “I’m tired.” she told me one day. She had figured out the miserable truth that Civ didn’t love her the way she thought it did. She had played by all the rules, hit all the right notes, and it still chewed her up and spat her back out. During all of this, I started to get subsumed by Mother Culture again, and I was snoozing in the corner to her song. I had “bigger things to worry about”, MC told me. For a while, I believed her. My wife is still tired. She no longer dreams of living in a metropolis, making six-figures. But now all of my ranting makes more sense to her; there are cracks in the dam, and the armor is looking a little tarnished in spots. She’s talking about learning new skills, and living a “simpler” life. I don’t think that she’s ready to completely abandon Civ yet; literally everyone else we know lives there, and there is still a duality that we’re both wrestling with.
EPILOGUE: (because somewhere along the line, this became a freakin’ BOOK).
What does all of this mean? What is the point of this story? I’m still working on a lot of that, myself, but so far it’s this: Rewilding is infectious. Virulent. It gets under your skin and changes you from the inside out. It’s like a reverse zombie movie, and it’s awesome and depressing and terrifying and empowering. I’ve come a long way since I saw that newspaper in Pittsburgh, and I’ve got a long way to go. Like Willam said elsewhere, the only way out is through.