You may have noticed that I put myself out there –
I tend to be open and candid about everything within my delusions of control. That is why you’ll often encounter experiences, events, failures and personal failings in essays and articles. If I didn’t share these aspects of life and experience I might lose some credibility with you and I would surely lose credibility with myself. By the time folks have raised a kid they definitely have enough life experience to recognize and accept that each and every one of us has succeeded and failed; has done wonderful things and terrible things; has broken hearts and suffered broken hearts; has gotten away with outrageous behavior and held accountable for behavior beyond their control. So when I come across writings that are all Sunshine, Rainbows and Unicorns that shit goodwill for all, my radar alarms go off. If a writer or artist is sharing their experience and there isn’t any Darkness in sight I begin to question the validity of the Sunshine, Rainbows, Unicorns and goodwill shits. If I question the validity of the author or artist they will lose me. I don’t buy the lies. I won’t buy the truth if it doesn’t cast a shadow.
There is a place for Public Relations, but not in my writing or artwork
Do you ever read the About page? Or the brief blurb at the bottom of an article about the author? I do if I’ve been impressed in some way be it positively or negatively. I just checked the Statistics for The Boot-Strap Expat and over 200 folks have taken the time to click on the tab and check out a couple paragraphs about me. Is the information true? Absolutely, but it is also PR, a dash of marketing to place me in some type of positive light for the folks interested. Yes, I’ve started numerous businesses, about a dozen actually and most of them failed.* Yes, I’ve been a consultant for over twenty years. Yes, I’m a published writer, artist and adventurer. Yes, I’ve spent over a year living in the wilderness – five continuous months in 2002 and eight continuous months in 2010. But that doesn’t really tell you much other than the fact that I’ve developed some skills in half a century. So have most people. Ain’t nothin’ special about this Alex feller.
Yet many of you have gotten to know me better than some of my family members. Why? Because I share with you what some in my family don’t want to know about. They aren’t interested or already know so much about my Shadow that they really don’t want to explore how far the rabbit hole goes. You may personally be appalled by some of what I share with you. You have a right to be, but I’ve made peace with my past, my present and whatever the future holds for me.
I’ve learned more by failing than I’ve ever learned from success. Of the dozen businesses I’ve started only eight were outright failures, they were launched and went down in flames. Three I walked away from when it became apparent that they wouldn’t be successful enough to fully support my daughter and I and one of these three had me working 363 days a year. Any business that requires this much direct involvement is not successful.
I’ve also failed with personal relationships, and learned from them as well. Even at my age I sometimes am asked, “Are you married?” My answer for years has been, “often, but not anymore.” I remain close with most of the women I’ve had intimate relationships with. We keep in touch to varying degrees. We’ve moved on with our lives and carried the lessons of our particular relationship with us into our next relationship.
In my essay about The American Redoubt I mentioned that, “I grew up in a semi wealthy family, and have lived in semi-wealthy communities, but I prefer Reg’lar Folks and Nature far more than gated communities, Home Owners Associations, manicured lawns and Cement Ponds (How’s that for a Beverly Hillbillies reference?)” While this is true, it’s also true that I’ve been Dirt Poor for periods of my life, especially in adulthood. My father lost the fortune he made in the 1970s by the time I was twenty-five, so my periods of solvency as an adult have been punctuated with periods of homelessness, insolvency and Dark Nights of the Soul. These are the experiences that make the good times taste so sweet and remind me during every time I feel overwhelmed, in time Life will improve.
Independence, Asking for Help and the Source of Real Assistance.
Like many men, I have a difficult time asking for help. Part of this is cultural as most men I know have been taught all their lives that they are meant to not only take care of and support themselves, but those they love as well. The Measure of a Man in the eyes of many hinges on this very cultural expectation. I’ve failed in this regard many times as well. I prefer to be independent and able to assist others whenever they ask (and have during bountiful times), but I have also been unable to financially support myself and my daughter a time or two.
Before I learned to ask for help, I manipulated some of the people in my life to help me. In this way I didn’t have to feel like a failure in the face of being humbled. The first time I asked for help was when my daughter was ten years old. I’d been out of work for over a year, UnEnjoyment benefits had run out months before (it still amazes me that folks can collect for almost two years now, as I recall six months was tops), I was going through a divorce, but still needed to take care of my kid.
Like most naive folks growing up in the States I turned to government to lend a hand. This was another huge failure/mistake though I never would have learned this had I not asked for the State’s assistance. As I recall my ex-wife owed me several thousand dollars in child support, but I wasn’t receiving any. What I needed was just enough cash to cover gasoline for my truck and feeding my daughter. But once you enter the System, it doesn’t matter what you need, the State will tell you what you need whether you like it or not. Since I was owed back child support the state demanded that I sign a form that would pay the state back for any and all benefits I received from any child support payments that were submitted in the future.
What I needed –
- About $500.00/month
What the Nanny State demanded I have –
- Health Insurance for my daughter, estimated cost $300.00/month
- Assistance with finding a job (although I was cranking out over 100 resumes/month)
- Counseling for myself and daughter, estimated cost $300.00/month
- A state owned computer to access the state Job Bank (I had my own laptop) estimated cost $20.00/month
- $120.00/month in Food Stamps
- $130.00/month in Cash assistance
Bottom Line? The Nanny State demanded that I accept over $700.00/month in services I neither needed or wanted and only 50% of what I actually needed to get by.
It gets worse, but I’m getting pissed off just thinking about all the barriers the government threw in my path as I tried to become productive again. Perhaps another time. Suffice it to say that as soon as I lined up work, without the help of the government, with my very first paycheck I cut all ties to the state. But I wasn’t done paying for their help. It would take years for the child support I was supposed to receive to arrive, because it actually went to the state to pay for all the unnecessary and unwanted services they demanded I accept.
I’ve been in similar financial straits since that time, but I’ll never, ever request assistance from the government again. I’ve learned that the Universe conspires to make sure all our needs are met, no matter how bleak circumstances may appear.
So-called Safety Nets vs. Opportunity
If you’re still reading along you may be wondering what any of this has to do with The Boot-Strap Expat adventure. In my experience so-called Safety Nets strangle those they claim to assist, while the greatest Safety Net life offers is Opportunity.
Over the last couple decades it has become obvious to anyone with critical thinking skills that there is an inverse relationship between Social Safety Nets and Opportunity. As the Nanny State and its Entitlement programs have grown dramatically, there has been a corresponding loss of Opportunity in the USSA. This is not a coincident relationship. If 100% of our tax dollars goes only to the salaries and benefits of government employees (contractors not included), it takes 25 private sector jobs to support each government worker, and that’s before a single dime is spent on any other government budget item.
This distortion of civil life in North America has driven over 7,000,000 citizens overseas in search of opportunity. I expect this trend will grow until the dream of Immigration Reform becomes Emigration Reform – the fences will be completed and no tax cow will be allowed to leave. So the Boot-Strap Expat is getting out while he still can.
This essay was inspired by a man I’ve grown to admire via his writing, James Altucher. You’ll find all kinds of interesting things on his website: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/
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