This is an introduction (or preface) to a book I'm writing about the year I spent traveling the United States--walking, hitchhiking, trainhopping--with a large, heavy backpack and no income. I posted it here because I would like feedback from people who don't know me. I want to know if this short introduction makes you want to continue reading the rest of my story. If it doesn't, I'd like to know why not. I want you to rip me apart with criticism so I can make it better.
I was sick of everything. Sick of waking up; sick of thinking; sick of watching TV; sick of being overlooked by everyone who stood to profit from my skills and talents. I felt like the entire world had turned its back on me, and I couldn’t take any more of it. No longer comfortable within my own skin, my life seemed to have lost all direction. I didn’t necessarily want to die, but I most certainly did not want to continue living this way.
A lot of people would say I was depressed. They’d be wrong.
The latest incarnation of “conventional wisdom” has brainwashed us all into believing we’re supposed to be happy all the time. You shouldn’t need a reason to be happy; you should just be happy because we told you to be happy. If you’re not, it’s because there is something medically or fundamentally wrong with you. Thankfully, though, your good friends in the pharmaceutical industry have engineered a smorgasbord of mind-numbing pills that can trick almost any depressed chump into forgetting why he or she ever became unhappy.
Unfortunately, anti-depressant medications do not eliminate the causes of emotional pain; they merely mask the symptoms of what we now term clinical depression.
I knew why I was unhappy, and it wasn’t because I had low serotonin levels or a genetic predisposition for depression. I was unhappy because I’d never held a remotely decent job in which I earned a fair wage for my hard work. My discontent stemmed from the fact that there seemed to be no avenues available for me to get what I wanted from life. I’d spent the previous two years searching for a way to create my own job as an independent pizzeria owner, but that required money I didn’t have.
For me to stand any chance of enjoying life again someday, I needed to make some major changes. But I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t know where to start. I was stuck in a rut, and I couldn’t get out of it. I did know what I was not going to do, though: I was not going to zap my brain with anti-depressants, and I was not going to go out and get a dead-end job, where I’d be overworked and underpaid, solely for the sake of having a job.
As my condition declined further, I began thinking seriously about disappearing; just leaving everything behind and dropping out of society. I know it doesn’t sound like an attractive lifestyle, but anything is better than rock bottom.
Maybe the human mind needs to hit rock bottom once in a while. Sometimes we need to experience the lowest of lows to fully appreciate life’s highs and middle ground. Perhaps that’s how we learn to face adversity and become stronger individuals. If I had never hit rock bottom—if I had instead allowed some know-it-all psychiatrist to zonk me out with happy pills—I probably never would have found the inspiration to embark on the incredible journey that ultimately led to the stories within this book.