Of Trappings and Traps

So, I was watching Oprah for the first time in a long while, which is nice, and the Big O had Dave Chappelle on. I suspect it’s a re-run, so I’m probably behind the times, but ask me if I care.

For those who’ve been on a desert island, Chappelle baffled the world at large when, just after signing a contract for $50 million and two years more of his show, he up and disappeared, just fucked off to Africa for a sojourn, and didn’t tell anyone but a family member where he’d gone.

To hear him talk of it, there were dozens of reasons, but most of all, it was simply that even $50 million wasn’t worth the hassle he was facing or the pressure he was under. Some people out there probably think it’s clear he’s a fucking nutbag for walking from a steaming pile of cash like that, but I applaud it.

In order to protect my rep and all, I won’t tell you about the situation that occurred when I was 15 that left me thinking often about the phrase “Money isn’t at the end of the rainbow.”

Every time my life gets out of control, every time I start working too much or forgetting about myself, I step back and remind myself that it’s not about money. It’s never, ever about money.

Recently I was in the situation where I went from possibly losing my apartment because I was about two weeks away from running out of money as I needed to get a job ASAP (one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever been through, and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone) to suddenly being so in demand it hurt. I had the opportunity to work full-time at my new job, part-time at my old job, plus do some private work on the side, WHILE trying to keep this blog and my other blog afloat, WHILE trying to learn podcasting, WHILE trying to come up with a new website, WHILE trying to stay present with friends and family.

Is it any fucking wonder then I went off my nut?

It was early last week when I just snapped. I lost it. Totally without question mentally AWOL, or the closest I’ve ever come. Then and there, I cancelled all extra work. Forty hours a week is all the soul I can offer to the gods of social productivity.

Money’s nice. God I wish I had more of it. I’d be an exemplary rich person. My taste in the aesthetic dance of life is hard to beat, and I understand what’s worth a mighty dollar and what is not. Funny thing is, I’m not sure I ever want to be rich. I’d be happy with a hundred grand a year. That’s all I ever need. I kind of want to be famous, but only if it’s the “Yo, Steff, you rock!” kind of fame and not the stalker “Oh-My-GOD-it’s-STEFF!” kind of fame. That’d be fucking whack. Thank god I’m just a chick with a blog, man.

If you were ever in my apartment and I wasn’t around and you wanted to play Det. Snoop, you’d sooner or later find this small pewter book charm on my bookshelves, hidden away, on which a Virginia Woolf quote can be read that says, “If you are losing your leisure, look out, for it may be that you are losing your soul.”

In the battle between my self, my soul, and my leisure, money will always, always come last. A couple years back, I read this book called “In Praise of Slow” by Carl Honore, all about the Slow food, Slow sex, Slow life movement in which people deliberately choose to take a different path in order to slow down the speed of life and enjoy the moment. Then and there, I chopped just 3.5 hours off my work week, worked one hour extra a day, and managed to have three-day weekends every week. Smartest thing I ever did. Too bad that job started to slowly kill me, ‘cos now I’m stuck in the 9-5 M-F hell that most of the rest of the world lives in.

We live by the clock and we live in the age of irony.

For a century or more now we’ve been fed the lie that technology would make our lives easier. Maybe it did, once. It doesn’t now. Now we have no time. We have no silence. We’re constantly in a race against time because we’ve bought the myth of the sands slipping through the hourglass and we stupidly believe that the more we work, the more we live. I don’t subscribe to that, but sometimes I forget just how much I disagree with it. With palm devices, laptops, cellphones, DVD players in cars, and more, we’re so wrapped up in the digital age that we forget there’s organic life around us.

Life’s crazier than ever before. Makes me remember the line from that brilliant philosopher Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Ever ridden on one of those bullet trains? I haven’t. I probably will, for the novelty of it one day, but then I’ll never do it again. What’s the point of going anywhere if you can’t see where the fuck you’re leaving?

You know something? I don’t own a microwave. Every year someone offers me a free one. Every time, I say no. You know why? Because I figure that if my life ever gets so fucking maddening that I don’t have ten minutes to make a meal or reheat leftovers, that I’m gonna use my third-floor balcony as a springboard to the afterlife, all right? Fuck, man. Life’s short and I wanna be present for every goddamned minute of it, come grief or come glee.

I want nothing more than to be able to make a living off my writing and my spoken word. A living. Not a killing. What comes with the killing is a loss of self, most times. You see it all the time, celebs who reach the pinnacle in their professions and then come toppling down from the heights. They have breakdowns, they collapse into drug abuse.

It’s strange how high the price can be for success.

I have nothing but admiration for a man like Chappelle who decides that he can’t play by the rules of those in power, and doesn’t want himself to become just another commodity traded by those with little or no respect for the price he’s paying.

Yeah, I like money. I like the trappings of success, but I’m wary of the trap. I’m staying the fuck away from the trap, man.