by Adam Gnade
Sometimes I want to scream because life is so shitty and sometimes I want to scream because life is so great. The problem with living like that is there’s no middleground. One of my favorite Youthmovies songs goes, “It’s not going well and it’s not going badly/it’s just going along.” I love that line but I haven’t lived like that in years. There’s that whole “comfort in being sad” (from another song) but sometimes I miss the comfort in being bored.
When people tell me they’re bored the first thing I do is get jealous and then I remember how stupid that is. Here’s the thing: once you start looking for a better life things will immediately get tough. What I’ve found is that by changing your life for the better and shooting for your dreams you give up on a lot of shit that makes life easier. Some days when I’m poor as hell and the whole storm of life is howling, the idea of going to a nice, warm, safe job in the morning sounds amazing. Something I wouldn’t have to “take home,” something where I could just go get my work done and be home by 5:30 and have someone else worry about “the money.”
As Americans we’re told diligence on the job is a noble thing. We’re told that you do your part and you don’t hesitate to self-sacrifice. What they don’t tell us is that working a job you don’t believe in will tax your soul somethin’ fierce. What’s the measure of someone who knows they’re a slave but doesn’t look for a way out of the cage? I’m not telling you to quit your shitty job tomorrow or anything like that. Times are hard. What I’m saying is: if you feel like you’re in the wrong place, start looking for a way out. A full cut ‘n’ run from steady employment might be romantic but it’s a very privileged and (mostly) impractical thing to do. I know this because that’s what I’ve done and it’s fucking hard and half the time I feel like an asshole for doing it.
Of course there are always great jobs out there, dream jobs; the kind where your boss isn’t a monster and you feel like you’re doing work that matters. Of all my friends I know maybe five or six whose jobs I truly envy. Phil at the BBC. My pal Bart Schaneman’s gig as an editor for his small town newspaper. Natalie at Matador. My buddy Al who works for Mute Records. The rest I forget. I’m sure there are more but they’re a vast minority.
On the farm we live our work for all waking hours. If the books we publish don’t sell we have nothing to fall back on. We go without food or we go without propane and everyone makes do. Life without a safety net (or a big company with a secure bank account) is fucking scary some days. Jessie and Thad, who live out here on the farm, have two toddlers. Raising kids when you live like we do is Real Life with a capital R and L and a few choice expletives thrown down on either side. Dylan said, “to live outside the law you must be honest” but I’d counter that and say “you must be relentless.” Hustling that hard can wear you down. It can break your spirit and spook you and it can make you doubt yourself until you’ve lost perspective.
It can also be the freest kind of life you’d ever want to live. Our goal out here is to rely on no one but the people we love, and for those people we will give up anything. On good days all the surreal bullshittyness of life goes away and when that happens it feels like I’m truly in charge of my destiny. Do I believe in destiny? Fate? I don’t, but I do believe in the rare moments of lightness where not a thing weighs heavy on your soul, where you walk the land not proud of your accomplishments but grounded and centered by the SEARCH for them, strong in the knowledge that today (if ONLY today) you fought hard and that you are where you should be.
Of course that’s not all the time and the hard days make it feel like the good ones will never come again but when they do come it makes the struggle worthwhile. The trick is to remember this when the shit gets mean: You’ve got to have the perspective to know that the good will come again even when the bad hits hardest.