A thousand ways to live your life

Stay away from trouble and you'll life a nice life.

It makes sense, really. What fun do you get, after all, if you find yourself with bad grades, a tainted reputation and a suspended jail sentence? People start thinking that you're so bad. And yes, you can still make ends meet with these things bogging you down - thus, the market for rags-to-riches stories - but still. People start thinking that you're so bad. People will assume that you're always up to no good, and if you seriously want to get ahead, then you will have a hard time.

It did not sound that way when we were kids, of course. There was no need to sound very sinister about it, except perhaps when you factor in our fear of going to hell. (Or pink slips. But that isn't as universal.) So, we all played by the rules, mostly, and genuinely felt anguished when we did something wrong. Unless you're a sociopath.

And then we grow up, and we learn more about how things work, and turns out there are so many ways to do the same thing.

I'm still in the middle of reading The Rum Diary. You know, the lost Hunter S. Thompson novel that became a Johnny Depp movie? It wasn't exactly a life-changer for me, but it did remind me that there are people who believe that, to succeed in life, you have to get yourself into things society would usually frown upon. Take your chances, to put it lightly. One school of thought says that you should keep yourself stable and work hard. The other says that you should treat everything as an adventure: get out of that stuffy cubicle and have more fun.

Yeah, that sounds fun. Paul Kemp went to Puerto Rico, found himself mobbed by angry locals, pretending to be someone he's (more or less) not, going to places without much of a plan... it does sound fun. But I don't know. I haven't finished the book. Don't spoil me.

Maybe it's because I'm so highly strung, but I can't imagine how being out and about, with no plan, makes you successful, for lack of a better term. So you've gone on a trip to some far-flung town out on a whim, with no end date and not much money. You've met a beautiful lass (how antiquated does that sound?) who's supposedly exotic-looking, and has dropped out of school a bunch of times because she couldn't decide on what to actually pursue. Then there are the crazy locals, who get you into trouble most of the time, but you don't really have much of a choice but to rely on them. (The girl? I don't know what she's up to.) Somehow you rub elbows with a drug cartel, make it out alive, and now, you're awesome. Because you have a story.

Hmmm. I get that some people think that being stable is boring, that doing what you've been doing since you were little - pretty much, following the rules - is actually holding you back. Stop bitching and start living, you'd probably say. If you don't like what you're doing, then, you know, quit! And figure it out along the way. Talk to me and I'll tell you that it wouldn't work - you need a plan, you need to know where you're headed - and yet I'll also admit that what you're proposing sounds alluring. Scary, but alluring. Mostly scary.

Then again, it depends on how you define success. If it means earning enough money to afford a laptop, a pad and a wedding, then go ahead. If it means whatever "living your life, without limits" means, then sure. If you're out for an interesting story, surely you can get that from either.

The problem is when you're situated between the two.

And your responses...

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