I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had the opportunities to do some amazing things, and be exposed to very diverse cultures and ideas. And like so many others I’ve spent my lifetime pursuing ‘The American Dream”. The big houses, the fancy cars, the second home at the beach; I’ve been there and more.
When I was a young man I dreamed of success. The area I lived in had experienced explosive growth, both in population and economy, and there was affluence and privilege everywhere. Neighborhoods of ‘Starter Castles’ and McMansions were everywhere you looked. Their kids went to the best private schools. They had the latest model of luxury cars. They took amazing trips and owned vacation homes in exotic places. The jobs paid incredible salaries, and they lived with the best that money could buy. How could you not be happy in such a world?
I wanted that.
Of course to have that kind of lifestyle required a tremendous amount of work. I had opted out of a college education and didn’t have the advantage of an Ivy League Degree that opened the easy path to such spectacular success. But I did have one advantage. I am bipolar. In my case I had years of hypomania and grandiosity that pushed me beyond normal capabilities and limitations. Sure, I had my time of depression, and it did interrupt my dreams from time to time. But for the most part I just pushed harder and harder, and steadily rose to every increasing heights.
I finally achieved my goal in my mid forties. All my hard work had paid off and I had fulfilled my Dream! My job involved travel, and I was seeing the world and going to places all over the US in a role of expertise and influence. I developed a chic worldly sophistication and style. Along with that came the trophy wife, who also enjoyed a well paid job that just enabled our success even more. We bought that starter castle… It was a 5,000 square foot monstrosity that gave us five bedrooms for just the two of us. Then came the luxury autos. She had a late model Volvo, and I finally had my BMW convertible. I joined a country club, and spent as much time as possible on the golf course and drinking with buddies in the clubhouse. We bought a second home at the beach, where we could hang with friends where the women would spend the day shopping while I was on the golf course with my buddies.
I had finally arrived.
But I wasn’t happy.
While being bipolar did of course contribute a significant part of my unhappiness, there was a deeper dissatisfaction that I couldn’t overcome, no matter how much money I made or how many toys I had. It was never enough. Then certain events and circumstance along with my illness took away much of what I had achieved, but I still held on to the dream.
That changed this weekend. I went fishing on a little farm pond far away from the hustle and bustle of my city. You see, before all the explosive growth and influx of wealth, my home town was small and simple. My grandparents were tobacco farmers, and I spent a significant amount of my youth walking through the fields, hunting the uncleared woods, fishing on the irrigation ponds. There was a peace and simplicity that fulfilled the soul. It wasn’t until I found myself walking down that dirt road with my fishing rod and spending the afternoon wetting a line and watching the sun set that I was able to realize who I really am and what is really important. Regardless of the successes and the achievements and the material acquisitions I had so desired, when it’s all said and done, I’m just a simple southern man. Being bipolar is complicated enough without adding the stress and pressures that came with the way I chose to live my life. But that’s changed. My American dream has been realigned and simplified. As much as I was determined to reach the top of power influence and possessions, I am now driven to return to the happy and uncomplicated place of my youth. It may be difficult to find a way out of the metropolis that has engulfed our lives, but I’ll find a way. I remember now where my happiness and contentment truly lies.
I’m going home.