I am just returning from an eye appointment with an eye doctor I’ve gone to, well, since I first figured out just how blind I was in 6th grade. I’ve been a loyal contact lens wearer and customer to my local eye doctor ever since, so when I walked in and smiled at the friendly secretaries, we all went through the predictable Midwest pleasantries (Hi, how are you? Good. Good. Weather is nice. Yeah.), and then I explained that since I’ll be off traveling, I needed get my eyes checked one last time. My eye doctor greeted me, we went through the predictable Midwest pleasantries one more time, and once in the examination room, he asked,
“You haven’t been in for a while, Damon. Where have you been?”
— “Oh, well quite literally New York, Paris, soon California – just wanted to stop in the store and get a new eyeglass prescription before buying a pair of glasses online.”
“First off, never buy glasses online! They’ll break in a year or two!”
–“I’m only buying them online because I’m not in New York to walk into the store. And I’ve already bought a pair with this company that I love.”
I’m already questioning why I’m explaining my entire life story to defend myself to a man who doesn’t know anything about me except that I wear -4.25 contacts and have an eye cylinder of -0.50. But okay, whatever, despite his off-putting tone, I’ll give it to him that he’s just trying to look out for me.
“Anyway, California huh? How do you plan on affording that?”
–“Well after four years in Manhattan and a year in Paris…I’m confident I’ll find a way to make it work!”
Ok, now I just feel like I’m being pushed into sounding like I’m bragging and being arrogant.
“What do you do?”
— “I have a travel YouTube channel and travel blog…and of course I do a lot of side gigs to help make ends meet for now.”
“Wow. So have you graduated?”
— “No, I was a language and film major but dropped out after two years ago to go after this.”
“Oh! So have you gotten a real job yet?”
— “…I have a real job.”
“Oh I thought maybe you worked at the World Trade Center as a translator or something.”
What? Would being employed by someone else make my job more legitimate?
“My son for example told me he wants to go out to California also but I told him, ‘you need a lot of money for that.'”
— “Yeah I find that a lot of people here in the Midwest think that way, but really you should tell him that if he wants to go, he can find a way…and that he may have to share his living quarters but that he’ll survive.”
“Yeah, but you need a good job. I think you’re underestimating this; I’m pretty sure California is more expensive than New York.”
My thoughts in one picture.
And then I stopped and played nice; I don’t need to explain myself or try to win him over, although it would be nice to provoke him to question his way of thinking. I don’t typically surround myself with people who act as gatekeepers like this – the people who feel a need to try to talk people out of doing adventurous, life-changing things that could be risky, but could also be very exciting and worthwhile – hence why I feel compelled enough to write a blog on such a topic when I’m forced to do so in a 7×7 white room.
These ten minutes of pretty much 0% encouragement were symbolic of all the years we go hearing people try to talk us out of travel. They say things like, “but one day you’ll want kids” or “you’ll want a house” and “you’ll need a retirement fund.” What I don’t get is why people think they can only have one or the other. There are no limits in life, but the ones you create for yourself – or really, the ones you let society create for you, and this isn’t just in terms of travel, this is religion, sexuality, political affinity, your career. Maybe one day I will want kids and a white picket fence, but that doesn’t mean my 20s, or even my 30s, or 40s have to be spent building up to that. What about everything I want for the “right now?” The present is just as important as the future.
So he doesn’t think it’s the best idea for his son, or me, to go to California. That’s fine; but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go. Any time you move somewhere that could be looked at as “big” or “expensive,” you’ll hear all kinds of nonsense. Like, if I want to go to Los Angeles, then I’ll go to Los Angeles! Surely, out of the 39 million people in California or 17 million in the greater Los Angeles area, not all of them are cruising down Sunset Boulevard with shiny, black Escalades, inhabiting Beverly Hills mansions, and eating at five-star gourmet restaurants. There is always a way to make it work, and I know that, because I have made it work, spending three years in NYC sharing a studio apartment with a roommate.
I know my eye doctor was trying to be kind and wise and lead me down a safe path to a comfortable lifestyle, but this is the kind of safe talk that leads people to thinking they can’t have it all and eventually just settle. Not everyone wants such a predictable life and also, can I mention that not everyone wants to be grilled in the eye examination chair…especially when they’re completely blind without contacts.
On the bright side, my eyes “improved” and were “very healthy.” Maybe my trips abroad really were eye-opening.