A little more than 2 years ago, I took a solo trip to the mountains. I hiked and camped a couple of days, and ended up spending the rest of the week at a monastery in Albuquerque. I called it my Vision Quest.
At the time, I was transitioning from a highly communal, experimental, vagabond lifestyle into a settled, individuated, married, working existence. And, that transition had me scared. What would happen to my values and habits as part of this change? Would I be corrupted by the middle-class hamster wheel dream?
On that trip in 2012, I discovered Mustachianism, and it became my armor and arsenal as I journeyed into a more normal-looking, materially-rich existence. So in that sense, the trip was a bullseye. Even if the rest of it didn’t go as planned.
Today I’m writing from Glorieta Camp, at the base of the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico. I’m back for another Vision Quest — 2014 edition.
Yet again, life is changing. When I return to Austin I will step into a new role at work. I’ll have a huge spike in responsibility, but a corresponding jump in autonomy, decision-making power, and potential reward. It’s got me psyched, but also scared. It’s going to require a new level of dedication, which will be costly. I am preparing myself mentally for that jump.
Before I do that though … time to get into the wilderness again.
There are a lot of ways to be a successful human, and to live a life unto God. There are very few wrong ways on that path, and lots of right ones, and zero guarantees for success or failure.
The new path opening up ahead of me will require a kind of excellence that is highly specialized, as compared to the domain of all-humans-ever. What I mean is, I will have to drill further into the depths of entrepreneurship and business acumen, modern web technologies, electronic communication, user experience, and growth hacking.
These are all skills that apply almost exclusively to educated, affluent urbanites, living in the internet age of western civilization. As such, they are a specialized toolkit, and certainly not the kind of thing that would get you through, say, a zombie apocalypse. I once heard a friend say he wanted to try out carpentry because he’d like to know how to build stuff that will last when the lights go out. Yeah, I get that. I can connect with that sentiment. But the path I’m on, it’s not that. I am journeying into the land of specialization.
So if I want to avoid becoming a privileged asshole who can’t relate to anyone that isn’t also an educated affluent urbanite born of the internet age, I need to find a way to unplug and zoom out once in a while.
For me, that is this wilderness. And there are other reasons to be out here too, but that is a big one.
As I said, there are many ways to be a successful human. I am visiting some old friends who live and work out here, and they are veritably successful in their particular niche. And their niche is not mine. And that’s fine. Neither of us should feel sad or proud about that. I am here to remember that there are other ways to live life rightly. There are other ways to exist that don’t involve Pinterest or Engadget or Fast Company.
And it’s good. Because if I ever forgot about those other ways, and became convinced that I was nearing the pinnacle of human achievement (for my age group or my demographic or wtf you want), then I would have lost sight of something important.
To top this off, tomorrow I will get on trail alone for three days, among the peaks and rivers of the Pecos. If anyone has good reason to be prideful in his own element, he can count on an unsympathetic mountain thunderstorm to reduce him back down to where his ego belongs. I get on trail alone so that I can be reduced, and to be put in my rightful place. If I don’t do this every so often, I will probably lose track of what’s true. My only firm footing is with the One who brought me here.