by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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If you have never seen one of my favorite movies, you need to. Fight Club is a cult classic and I think you need to see it, like real soon. In the world we live in today, it is chock full of contrarian thoughts and philosophies that I believe will set you free to do whatever you wish in life to a large degree. I am going to give a couple of examples of how these ideals apply to life as we go through this blog.
The world we live in tends to reinforce group think and standardization of our way of life. There are those who break out of this at an early age, and many find this path a hard way of life Others fall in line and become part of the herd to blend in with the masses. Each of us has to determine the path we choose to walk, but there is more than one way to live a life. This part seems to get glossed over all the time. You have full latitude, within the law of course, to live however you wish. I had a family member that lived by himself in the middle of nowhere until the day he died. He hated being around people and wanted to be on his property with his animals and no one else within site. Others wish to be in a big city, surrounded by constant noise and activity. Everyone is different, so why do we all get sucked into the same rat race? I, for one, have tried to fight this trend my whole life to a degree, and have gotten to do and experience some amazing things because of it.
You may have seen some TikTok or YouTube videos of people living the “van life” as this has become a cool thing to do recently. Don’t get me wrong, there have been people living a nomadic lifestyle for a long time, but with the advent of the aforementioned technologies it is much easier to “see” people doing it. This is a far cry from the way many people live their lives, or think they should be living their lives. So much emphasis is put on being rich, having a huge house in a nice neighborhood and fancy cars to drive around in. Our culture has gravitated towards this for a long time, using rich and famous people as a measure of success in life. If only you could drive a Ferrari, then you would be happy too. Not. Even. CLOSE to the truth. I know plenty of people who are financially well-off that are not happy people. This is what is appealing about the van life movement to some, it is based on total freedom, not possessions or the zip code you live in. it is a better lifestyle versus financial statement.
In the Fight Club movie, the main character played by Edward Norton is the embodiment of this thought process; everything he owns is a brand name item, from his clothes to his coffee table. His condo was an IKEA catalog come to life, and he thought he loved it. He thought it made him who he was. In a crazy twist of plot, the condo blows up and sets him down a path of self discovery that is in the complete opposite direction. He lives like a squatter in an abandoned house in an industrial area, he shows up at work to do his job, but his sole focus in life becomes Fight Club and nothing else matters. His appearance, his possessions, nothing matters any longer. He reaches a point of not caring what everyone else things of him, and therefore becomes truly free. Living the van life is similar; sell your home and live in a sprinter van as you travel around the country experiencing things and seeing places most will only see online. You commit to living a lifestyle outside the norms that the world has set up for us to supposedly comply to, working on the road and shunning most material possessions in order to preserve your most precious commodity: TIME.
How many people (yourself included) drive a car that they do not own outright? This is an easy example, as cars are such a common representative of your thought processes on life and money. If you are leasing a new BMW and barely making the payments on it, you are doing it wrong. You are driving that car as a symbol of “making it”, without having actually achieved financial freedom. If you drive a JEEP or anything else that is “cool” and expensive and you do it partly (or mainly) because of the compliments you get or the way it makes you feel to be seen in it, you are missing the point that van-lifers have figured out…happiness is not defined by money in the bank or being seen in the right place with the right people. The older you get the more you understand this, but the sooner you can grasp this concept the faster you will streamline your life for happiness.
I was guilty of this in my own life and in a couple of different formats. I leased several cars that I couldn’t afford to own, but by leasing them I was able to temporarily be seen in them. I lived in a better zip code than I could really afford by renting instead of owning. I made someone else money by paying their mortgage through monthly rent payments. I didn’t save money, I didn’t invest. I spent. I lived paycheck to paycheck and didn’t plan or prepare for the future. I also fell into similar traps in my racquetball career, I equated being the best player with everyone loving me. This couldn’t have been farther from the truth in two ways:
  • When you achieve, people with be haters, jealous of your status.
  • Being a racquetball better than almost anyone on the planet has NOTHING to do with how good of a person you are. In fact, I abused the social position I had and made things worse, not better.
While I learned some of my best life lessons out of that journey, I wish I would have done things differently. I could have gotten a lot more out of it, and been happier doing it too. But hindsight is 20/20 and I cannot change the past. Now I focus on making today and tomorrow as good as they can possibly be, and giving back in the process. Back then I was hung up on what everyone thought of me, and if I won a tournament of course they would love and appreciate me, right? Lol. When I didn’t win, I was depressed and couldn’t wait for the next tournament to try again to win the love and admiration of others. I even rushed through the lower divisions and moved up a level of play before I was ready to do so. It was a bad pattern, and I repeated it a bunch of times, dying to get to the top level. This set me up for a lot of losses and a bunch of my own self-loathing. I hid it behind anger and humor, but there is no doubt I was not enjoying that journey the way I should have. Once I did reach the top of the pile, I was constantly “defending” my position both socially as well as on the court. Not the ideal approach…
Now that I am older and married, my priorities have changed drastically. Everything is based on “we” and not just me. And I am a better man for it, as I have learned a lot from my wife about money and what is really important in life. There are things far more important than what car you drive and how big your house is. We live in a decent neighborhood and in a 1200 square foot home. It is just the two of us, it is near several things we love like a coffee shop and several grocery stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. We have hosted parties for things like a UFC fight, and no one complained about how small our home was. Some were inside crowded in to the living room, others were outside around the TV we had temporarily set up out there. It was a lot of fun and everyone seemed to have a great time despite our small home. Our mortgage is under a thousand dollars a month, making our financial situation easily handled with both our income. This is the kind of thing I am talking about; get over the idea that you don’t have enough, or don’t own the “right things”. Its your life, and ONLY YOU get to determine the “right things” for your life. If that is living in a van and traveling the country, so be it. If that is having a nearly paid off 1200 square foot home, so be it. Do you.
If you have seen the movie you know that things end in a strange fashion, but the core message in my mind anyway, are the real things that attract me to this flick. I am hard pressed to find another example of a movie that I have used so many quotes from as somewhat of a guiding principal in my life. Not everyone will be as big a fan as I, but even if you just looked up on Google Images quotes from Fight Club, you’d get a good idea of what I am talking about. We live in a world that is candy-coated and easy in too many ways. We have lost touch with some of the things that make us who we really are. We end up working jobs we hate, buying shit we don’t need, trying to fund a lifestyle bent on impressing others while leaving ourselves hollow. Most of us will come to these conclusions later on in life, but if you could do that sooner rather than later, think about how much better things could be. Start looking inward for guidance instead of on TV and social media. That ain’t real life, trust me. And even if it was, do you really want to be part of that? Think about it, and start planning your escape.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.
 

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