Bear with me here.
Over my (several) years, there are some people I consider close - very close - friends who aren't, put simply, on the same plane as you and I. Whether they are simply weird, obtusely brilliant, or just different, they have each ultimately lived lives of their own choosing, wanton disregard for societal norms or expectations to be damned. And I don't mean lives in prison, quite the opposite.
One of my very best friends, Andrew, worked in his last "real" job as a computer programmer on contract to the (US) Department of Defense working on Homeland Security projects in the mid-2000s. How did he get there? After graduating from college with an English degree from a small liberal arts college in suburban Minneapolis, he went straight to Nepal with the Peace Corps and after putting in his couple years' service, came back to Chicago in 1995/1996 to confront the sudden explosion of "computers in every home". Not knowing a thing whatsoever about Windows 95, computers or programming, he applied for a gig with a large megacorporate computer consulting firm and got hired straight-on as a programmer, due to basic intelligence and test-taking skills alone. Of course they trained him, etc etc. Worked as a contract programmer for banks, megacorps, the US Government. Then it began to dawn on him that this wasn't really him. Our guy, growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, or high school in suburban Chicago having fled apartheid South Africa, or back in college in Minnesota or in the Nepalese hinterlands 2 days (walking) from the closest bus stop which itself was days away from "civilization", wasn't quite right working on contract programming to help the war in Iraq. He was a punk rocker, listened to the Damned, he could have written the book. So he said "fuck this", quit his job, gave up all his worldly possessions, and moved post-haste to Thailand. Eventually he became a dive instructor, then boat captain, and from what I gather he is in complete and utter peace with himself, life, everything. Still, he remains probably one of the smartest people I've EVER known and is the sort who could, quite literally, do anything asked of him.
Punk rock was all about reacting to the norms of society, and finding a way out with a mark of individualism. My friend Andrew certainly fits this mold. We could all hope to have a bit of Andrew in our lives, in our outlooks.
Alex Feeman is another very close friend of mine who is very much in this mold. Except Mr. Feeman's quest is finding solace and individuality in golf.
Alex worked with me - until a month ago - at Mega American Auto Insurance Corporation, settling claims and spending your premiums. It was - and remains - a soul-sucking job, dealing (sometimes in the same conversation) with the best and the worst of folks, at their best and worst of times. How do you tell someone that their back injury just simply couldn't have happened in the accident with our insured, yet you know that maybe they're being completely honest, or that they are playing the game too and trying to score a big payout from Big Massive Insurance Company? Soul-sucking, day by day, week by week. I'm still there.
Alex is also a punk rocker. He too could write the book on it.
Alex also golfs. Having duffed a fair amount in my time, I think it's cool, but nothing more than a hobby that I'm lucky to do once every three years. Not to mention I suck at it. Alex, though, he's quite good. He too is one of the smartest folks I've ever known. Two bachelors (I think) degrees, progress to a masters' degree, etc. Listens to good records (and some shit, though he knows I think that), etc.
Alex decided that working at this soul-sucking corporation, dealing with soulless and/or confused, or just simply sad, cases wasn't what he was meant to do. Fuck, we all think that. Who ever has said "Daddy, I want to be a claims adjuster when I grow up!"? Certainly not me. But, the difference between me and Alex is that he grabbed this disconnect by the proverbial balls and did something about it.
Alex is going to play 49 rounds of golf, in 49 states (lower 48 and D.C.), in 49 days, driving solo. And he's doing it for charity.
His passion is golf. It may not pay his bills, but when do we get to do our passion? Not many of us do, I'd wager. My passion is music, engineering, mastering. I've been paid twice to do my passion, and even then cumulatively it isn't enough to pay the rent. Certainly I'm not able to quit my day job to work my passion.
I think what Alex is doing is punk rock. Society expects him to act his role as the cog in the machine, inputs create outputs, tick tock tick tock tick tock. Society doesn't expect us to break out from the roles laid on us and find our own way, at least not openly.
Alex is partnering with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, raising funds for an organization that gets to the root of issues he, I, and I'm certain many of you have dealt with or lived with for a very long time. Not only is this punk rock (what is Fugazi's Dischord? A collective to unite Washington DC punk rockers and individuals, and promote social awareness in DC by way of music, activism and individuality), it's honest. It's who he is, the world's expectations be damned. Punk rock.
Alex leaves Sunday morning, hitting a round with three of his golf buddies (alas, not I, but I wouldn't dare taint the "kickoff" with my haggard golfing ass dragging him down) in western New York en route to Vermont. He plans to end the trip golfing a round with his father in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he learned his passion. Not unlike a punk band, after plying their music across the lands to reach out to the tiniest of shitty bars to hundreds/thousands of ecstatic fans, returning to play a homecoming set to seal the victory of individuality.
Please visit his blog, support the trip, and be your own punk rocker. I can't tell you how much his little gig has made me think about going full-bore for my passion.