This is why that piece of wood around my neck and the ones I gave you at your High School graduation are important to me.
We all went camping at the turn of the millenium at the Kalaloch campground on December 31, 1999 to die together. We were listening to the high tide throw the giant driftwood trees around sitting around the campfire. Your mom was slapping together some PB&J in our old Toyota RV. It was cold, but not frozen. Raining, but not soaking.
You guys were poking sticks in the fire and burning your marshmallows and I was saying things like ‘marshmallows don’t grow on plants!’ and ‘you’re gonna burn your sister’s eye out‘.
I would’ve been hitting the pipe when I really started poking this question:
If I won the lottery, how would I spend my life?
I was spending it hard like buying a schooner and having you all hire a pirate crew of kids; finding that Winnebago helicopter from the ’70s; decking out a two story tour bus with a fire pole from our master penthouse suite; installing a stadium style light show in our basement with fog and lasers and unlimited glow sticks; buying a Bandit Trans Am and cutting the roof off of a Smokey Dodge to chase each other around southern roads; a Mitsubishi 3000GT for Jenn… and lots of jewelry and clothes… and male strippers for her birthday, every month; and lots of shelter and food for the homeless.
We’d likely be broke within a few years or less but we’d have some epic stories or get murdered.
The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost) – Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, – And sorry I could not travel both – And be one traveler, long I stood – And looked down one as far as I could – To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, – And having perhaps the better claim – Because it was grassy and wanted wear, – Though as for that the passing there – Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay – In leaves no step had trodden black. – Oh, I kept the first for another day! – Yet knowing how way leads on to way – I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh – Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
My road diverged with you that night at Kalaloch campground on the coast of Washington state on New Years Eve, 1999.
I reached the top of that career ladder thing out of pure luck and hard work and found a tar covered rooftop oozing egos. We were smack middle between the giants of Dell and Microsoft in the ’90s and they wanted to know what I wanted to do!?!
They were giving us so much money and we were spending it so fast – that they gave us fake money we couldn’t spend and called it stock options and retirement and bullshit like that and we all smoked cigars, threw our heads back and cuh-cawed.
We were setup to get America style rich with Dell. We had the stock options and they had the history.
Instead, I wondered on this day at Kalaloch while your sister was screaming and holding her eye – what would I do with my free time once we bought more shit than we could deal with – Where would I spend my time living? Who did I want to spend my time with? What did I want to spend my time doing?
Answering this question is when I won.
My answers were clear – My free time would be spent with you, my family – Working, learning, and playing together full time. I wouldn’t drop you off for another day at school. I wouldn’t disappear for another moment for a job. I would buy a giant bus and wander around the country indefinitely hanging out every moment of every day with my favorite people looking for our favorite place.
Then we would find that home we could be happy in. A business or hobby we could work and build together. My time with you and your mom was my greatest treasure and I would roll in it every moment I possibly could.
I now knew I could do this with everything around me right now. An old RV. A campfire. A wife making PB&J. Kids sticky with burnt marshmallows (they originally did come from plants). And a daughter that has possibly lost her eye to tracers from a red-hot stick incident. We’d have to figure out health insurance.
Simplifying is far from simple
All that was in our way was Austin’s 2nd grade class, Kesley’s kindergarten, three mortgages, two renters, a house full of furniture, two cars, two cats, two dogs, stock options, 401k, savings, health insurance, dental, two bosses, four projects at work, daycare, family doctors, counselors, babysitters, friends, Jesus!. No I mean literally, Jesus. We got involved in a church again somehow – Youth group, sound system, that –what are we going to do about Halloween!- committee thing and this and that community. Soccer, T-ball, gymnastics… shit.
We never finished that list. Another piece of bullshit advice – finish what you start – Don’t. If it sucks, quit.
Me and your mom ran through it all – keep the houses, cars, connections and crap and hit the road for a year. They called it a sabbatical – Sounded like some sort of grim reaper word to us.
So we just bailed out. Big time. We started with ditching the little Toyota RV and got an old 37′ Winnebago (not the helicopter model). If it didn’t fit there or a 5’x7′ storage space we got rid of it. Mostly just kept things that could not be bought. Memory stuff with no monetary value.
We realized that our ’92 Winnebago pulling a ’74 VW is enough to win our mental lottery. Our ‘liquidation’ bought us about a year to find a house and family business but it turned into the lifestyle barenakedfamily.
It worked in so many ways. It failed in so many others. We’ve learned to go broke and recover gracefully. We’ve learned to ditch all our stuff and move into backpacks several times over. We’ve learned that learning and working happens no matter what.
The richest, poorest, happiest and crappiest people we’ve met do all the same exact things with their free time – work, learn, and play at some level.
There’s not much that makes my eyes roll more than some rich celebrity or hippie new age freak advising people to live your dreams, follow your bliss, live your passion and the money will follow.
Money comes from a combination of working hard and getting lucky. Sometimes it doesn’t show up at all no matter what you do.
What I do know is that we have mostly lived a life in the places we want, with who we want, and mostly did work that could include all of us together as family because that’s what we asked for, time and time again. And when that didn’t work, we lied and got one of us a job and worked together anyway.
Kids, me and your mom will reach the end of our path in this world and we will be able to look back, wave and give a very grateful and happy fuck you to that fork where our two roads diverged in that wood. We did take the road less traveled and that has made all the difference for us and for you.
Know this, because they will lie to you – Time is NOT money. Money is printed, lost, spent, and replaced every hour of every day. Time is NOT money. Money is manufactured, made, and lost. Time is NOT money.
Time can only be lost. Time cannot be bought, sold, or traded. Time is not a commodity you can store. Time is running every single fucking day for millions or thousands or billions of years and doesn’t give a shit what you believe or where your faith is or whether you’re getting paid for it or not. Time is NOT money. Nobody can buy more. NOBODY. Whether you are the richest or poorest or anything between – time ticks exactly the same for everybody on this planet.
Time. Is. NOT. Money.
How are you going to spend yours?
This piece of Kalaloch Driftwood I wear around my neck reminds me to spend my time wisely.
Your pieces at graduation are meant to remind you.
If you are a bnf reader and would like to get your own piece of barenakedfamily handcrafted and loved Kalaloch Driftwood necklace to help remind you how you’re spending your life, go to this page – If the page link works – we’re making and shipping out Kalaloch Driftwood Necklaces. If the link doesn’t work, we’re either not making them and/or we’re out of materials.