One of my great joys in life is reading. I have always been an avid reader, even as a very young child. The school librarian was my best friend by the age of 7 and I was introduced to many a dusty little volume of the adventures of Dick and Jane, Laura Ingalls Wilder or Curious George. Biographies, field study books, poems or prose…it really didn’t matter. I read them all and could often be found with my nose in a book while the other children did cartwheels on the playground at recess or hurried to the local bike trail for races after school. I loved books because they were filled with windows of opportunity. I could be anyone and do anything, and happiness and contentment were found simply in the whispering turn of a page.
My favorite book as a child, and actually still to this day, is Harold and The Purple Crayon. I remember seeing this book for the first time on Captain Kangaroo. The story held instant fascination for me. Here was a boy, even younger than I, who drew his world exactly as he wished it to be. The book began with Harold as it’s sole character. Harold wanted to go for a walk in the moonlight, but there was no moon, so he draws one. He has nowhere to walk, so he draws a path. The book is full of many adventures and twists and turns. At some point in the story, Harold is looking for his room, and ultimately he draws his own house and bed and goes off to blissful sleep.
Most recently, I stumbled across another “purple crayon” book by Tim Ferriss, an American author, entrepreneur, angel investor and public speaker. He is most notably recognized for his book titled ” The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”. It is a book that focuses on “lifestyle design” rather than the traditional “deferred” life plan we all know and blindly engage in, which has you work grueling hours and taking few vacations for decades and save money in order to relax after retirement. Frustrated by overwork and lack of free time, Ferriss took a 3-week sabbatical to Europe. While continuing travels throughout Europe, Asia and South America, he developed a streamlined system of checking email once per day and outsourced pretty much his whole life to virtual assistants. The genesis of the book came when he made his personal escape from a workaholic lifestyle and started living the life most of us only dream about….and doing it all within the confines of 4 hours per week. When I finished that book, I realized he was a modern day Harold….drawing his life the way HE wanted it, not the way everyone else thought it should be. And I started taking stock of my own box of crayons and found it to have become pretty bare. Lots of broken pieces, some colors even missing, no purple to be found. It gave me a moment of great pause in the knowing. How could I draw my own life the way I needed, with whom, for what if I didn’t even have a purple crayon in my box? So I have set about on the journey to find my own purple crayons…lots of them.
Ferriss had the goal of upsizing his life by downsizing his work. Admirable, but certainly not the goal I gravitated toward, at least initially. My purple crayon pursuit was more a social adjustment than socioeconomic, and personal more than paycheck driven. For most of my life, I have been pretty much allowed myself and my pursuits to be dictated by the rules of society and the basic mores of our culture. You get up early, you work till exhausted, you eat a little and sleep even less, you fit in family and familial activities while you can and if there is enough time left over at the end of the day then you can have 30 minutes or so of personal development, but certainly do not count on it. Vacations only come once a year, if that. Meals are meat, taters, one green veggie and an occasional dessert. You work until retirement, if you are a lucky one and have the wherewithal to retire some day, and then you sit on the porch and rock the rest of life away. You do it this way because THEY say so….whoever THEY is. But I one day realized THEY do not have a purple crayon in their box. It was high time I went on my own purple crayon search.
Today I choose to draw into my life only what I want drawn, not what society thinks needs to be there. I spend time with those who enhance my current and established life, not seek to rule or change it. If I want to hop in the car and speed down to the coast to take in the Shrimp Festival and enjoy a Jimmy Buffett Concert, I simply throw a few things in the car and go and decide on the way down when I will return and I don’t ask someone’s permission first, I just do it. I meander into Baskin Robbins, when I indulge in the creamy treat on occasion, and I pick one of the 31 I haven’t ever tasted rather than go to my “favorites”. You can’t know about something unless you try it at some point, right? If I want to wear esoteric Ed Hardy tennis shoes with distinctly tailored clothing to a meeting, I do and I don’t stop to worry if I look alright or will be accepted by those I come into contact with. When I go out to eat with a friend, I take his suggestions on what to order, even if it is out of my norm or even a bit past my palate’s comfort zone. If and when I have the financial ability, I plan to travel to every spot on the planet, given the opportunity, and experience everything possible in the way of new cultures, foods, friends and customs. I want to learn to paint, really paint, to play the guitar even perhaps badly, and write books that people will fall in love with while reading and weep when they are over. And I have made it my mission to befriend and spend my time only with those who have those same purple crayon ideals.
Life is short…we have heard that phrase so many times it has become a bit cliche’, but the truth of it remains. This is it, here on this planet anyway, and I don’t want to look back at my own life and regret not having gathered the fascinating people, unparalleled experiences, and deeply passionate love I want for my own just because I was too afraid or too timid to buck the system a little and live my moments outside the normal little box that becomes the road map for most folks. It is not my dying wish that my last words be “Welcome to Walmart” because I haven’t allowed myself early retirement from the presets on this life machine and gone off to new journeys and adventures even if it takes a bit of drawing it all in as I go. A truly awesome life is not for the weak-hearted or frail….it is for those bold enough to not only read about it, but step into it, with a fistful of purple crayons in hand. I see the sun is coming up and my breakfast awaits…time to draw in a Waffle House…maybe this time in Madrid…