Giving Up the Script: Intro

A few months ago we sold our house, our belongings, and our loyalty to something I have begun to call The Script. David and I are not particularly radical people. We don’t have ascetic tendencies, we appreciate family and security as much as the next couple, and we come from solid middle class families. How then do I explain our suddenly radical leap?

Father and Son

First, I would have to tell you that the Ellen Degeneres Show was playing at the pho restaurant the other day. There’s something about a proprietress watching daytime television in the middle of her restaurant, in full view of her customers, that makes me feel warm inside. It reminds me of the family owned hole-in-the-wall restaurants we frequented on our too-short vacation in Thailand last year. Five years ago I would have called the Pho proprietress unprofessional, but I guess I’m not as American as I used to be.

It’s the holiday season, so Ellen was giving away boatloads of merchandise and prizes to her viewers. One woman in particular caught my attention, and David and I paused to watch. The woman, I’ll call her Jen, and her husband had just lost their health insurance. They have three kids, and while Jen loved her part-time job at Starbucks, it wasn’t enough to keep them comfortable and healthy. Both Jen and Ellen’s audience were reduced to tears when Shutterstock made a gift of $15,000 to the family. My eyes were wet too, but I was also angry for Jen. Why should a hard-working woman be reduced to a holiday handout? The Script had struck again, betraying yet another middle class family.

The Script

vintagefamily

I learn more about The Script’s duplicitous nature every day and I’m not an expert so please bear with me, but here’s what I know about it so far: It began as a tiny little mental offshoot of capitalism. During post-World-War-II economic expansion, the first hand-written lines of The Script began to take shape in our imaginations. We dreamt of white picket fences, Fourth of July cul-de-sac barbecues, and a plethora of convenient appliances in sparkling kitchens. To make our bountiful dreams a reality, we placed our faith in the gentle corporate giants who would make a gift to educated and uneducated alike of living wage 9-5 jobs. Yes, we thought. This is it. We settled into mortgages, had babies, and got to work on our communal labor of love, which we called The American Dream. When Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, when corporations began to gain more political rights as people, we shrugged, for these things had nothing to do with our dream.

We got a little confused along the way. The American Dream is the freedom to pursue prosperity, success, and upward mobility for families through hard work. I believe in this dream more than I ever have.

The Script we wrote to get us there is taking us down an ironically opposite path. It says: get a job working for someone else when you’re young. Put all of your earning years into this job, buy a house, and a car, and settle in for the long term, because when you’re ready to retire, The Script will reward you with an ample retirement and a houseful of beautiful things, and most importantly, a good education and secure future for your children.

Instead of giving us freedom to pursue success, The Script has us give it up, and then breaks its promise to us. You can live the script and have your job outsourced or automated, because corporations aren’t actually caring people, but surprise, corporations. It would be ludicrous to get mad at a cat for killing a mouse, and I’m not blaming corporations for not being people. I’m just saying that perhaps we should give them a little less agency in our own lives when we can, because left to their own devices, they force people to write desperate letters to Ellen Degeneres. The Script doesn’t give out out living wage jobs anymore. It gives out Mental Health Days.

U.S._Change_in_real_income_versus_selected_goods_and_services_v1

Like Jen, you’re likely still working for a big company, still trying to plan for your family as best you can, dutifully making your mortgage payments and chipping away at that perfect credit score, because what other choice do you have? As it turns out, a lot.

David and I realized that we have a lot of other choices, and that anyone with a skill, anyone who has spent at least a few years of his or her life in an academic institution, or a job, has the same choices. The Script would tell you otherwise, but I learned from Ellen and many other people that The Script is a big. fat. liar. We gave it up.

 

David and Spencer in our nearly empty house

David and Spencer in our nearly empty house

Read our other installments of Giving Up the Script:

i. Intro
ii. The Lead Up
iii. Selling Our House to Become Digital Nomads
iv. Selling Everything to Become Digital Nomads: Intro

5 Comments

  • Patrick J. Keys says:

    David, after the Air Force,I made a choice to not be like others,Coming from ,actualy the same values as you ,in around about way.Being from Michigan I knew so many that gave their lives to the Auto Industry, living for their job,making good money following the Script layed out before them,down to the white picket fence.As they followed their script, they began to turn old and now find themselves looking back and questioning,How could I have lived my life differently,spent more time with my loved ones,actually enjoy the work that I have accomplised in my life? Sad thing is ,they know the answer yet did not act on it when they were young. They believed that this script was the answer to their entire lifes happiness What I can tell you from my experiance is, you have to write your own script to be truly content with your life and all you have achieved. There is only one time around on this ride of life,so enjoy it .Dare to be different,don’t give into this script that others have decided was best for you. Stand by your loved ones and support their indifferences. You Guys are Truly Cutting Edge! Thanks,Sincerely, Uncle Patrick

    • Sarah B says:

      Thanks for sharing, Pat. Not acting on our dreams would be truly regrettable. It’s nice to hear from those who’ve had the courage to do the same and share their wisdom like you have. Cheers!

  • Patrick J. Keys says:

    Always willing to put my 2 cents in.Have
    a great evening

  • Tayo-Maree Carter says:

    I am grateful to the Script for putting me in touch with you but I am more grateful for you and David for inspiring me to change the Script… and hopefully one day also give it up completely.

Leave a Reply to Patrick J. Keys Cancel reply