Don’t Go Gentle Into That Night

do not go gentle into that good nightI recently was listening to a podcast where a quote was given that struck me.  I have been thinking a lot recently about how predetermined and designed life can be for us unless we wake up and take charge.  The quote was:

It’s called the American dream because you

have to be asleep to believe it.

Wake from your slumber!

The scary thing is if we don’t wake up from this slumber of complacency, our lives are influenced to a point that defies common sense.  It may be extreme sounding, but to be a cog in the machine, to work long hours only to “buy, buy, buy!” it’s like we are merely an engine which we fuel consumerism.  That isn’t to say that to consume, buy or trade is inherently wrong, but to do it with such abandon that the average American has over $15,000 in credit card debt is insane. (source)

dulyposted-live-your-life_quote-610x610Being “awake” is an odd experience when people some call tiny housers crazy for living in a tiny house.  If I were to have no debt of any kind and $10 in my pocket, I’d have more wealth than 25% of Americans combined!  If I have no debt and $15,000, I’d have a higher net worth than about the bottom third of Americans… combined! (source)

We are told debt is normal, that credit cards are normal, that a home loan and a student loans are a “good investment” and people believe it.  I believed it for a time!  I have a Master’s degree and after crunching the numbers, it panned out financially, but that is quickly changing for many people. (source)  A home loan… no thank you.  I have friends who talk about buying a home, with no money down and all I can think of is “I want you to be happy, but I can’t but help question the wisdom of not being able to afford a down payment, but thinking you can afford a house”.

I don’t think it’s my place to say people can’t shop till they drop, have no debt of any kind or they should live in a tiny house.  But I struggle when I see people – particularly friends – taking this predetermined path without giving it serious consideration.  If someone were to be fully aware of things and still decided to proceed, I’d be okay with that, but blindly following the pattern is scary.

tumblr_mzzdbvaN5A1sk4myeo1_1280As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen more and more of my friends get into the grind of adulthood and be miserable in their jobs; luckily I think this is the minority of my friends/acquaintances.  I’ve had friends comment that they now drink more than they used to because it makes the work week a bit more bearable.

I see consumerism as a troublesome band-aid for many folks who are unhappy with some aspect of their life.  Again, I’m not saying no consuming, there are things we need in life, but it shouldn’t be a coping mechanism like it is used today for so many.  I was shocked to find out that I know several people who go to the mall and shop 2-3 times a week!  I think the city where I live, Charlotte, is on the extreme end of this, because I have 6 large malls within a 30 minute drive of my home; there is even tour bus companies here that bring people to our city just to shop!

To not just complain about it all, below are some things that might help determine your own path.

  1. Consider what your goals are in life, then look at why they are your goals, dig deep.
  2. Write a personal mission statement.
  3. Do the math on what debt really means for you.
  4. Ask yourself “if I could do anything right now, what would it be?”
  5. Identify the reason you cannot do number 4 right now… How can you eliminate that?
  6. Consider how resilient your currently are in your situation.  How can you be more resilient?
  7. Identify stressors and potential disrupts, guard against or change to eliminate.


To close I thought I’d share this poem, which I used part of in the title.  It’s by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Finally, I’d like to hear your thoughts about this topic. 

Your Turn!

  • How did you “wake up”?
  • How do you help people consider their path?
  • How can we awaken loved ones we care about?
  1. I’m one of those who woke up – luckily. I’m paying off my debt ASAP so to plan to jump off the hypothetical “hamster wheel.” If you stand back and really “look”…we work and become financially enslaved to meet society’s expectations of us. “Success” is measured by society by the big house, the luxury cars, and how much “stuff” we have. Does it bring happiness – no apparently – more Americans are in psychiatric treatment for stress and depression then ever in history. We barely take vacation to top it off. We work ourselves literally to death….I want no part of it!

  2. Great post! I’ve been a fan of your blog for quite some time. This kind of a post is definitely the cause! I love the Tiny House movement and hope to one day build my own. Being debt-free and keeping consumerism to a minimum is so important to achieve this lifestyle though. Paying off all of my student debt and saving to build are my two goals right now. Here’s to hoping 🙂

  3. Once again, eloquently stated and right to the point. #1 and #3 especially as good starting points. Once all my debts were cleared life became a lot better and it was easier to see what my real possibilities were. Sometimes it’s a struggle to stay out of debt, especially since it’s delaying some projects that I have to save up for, but in the long run it’s well worth it. You get used to translating the price of some unnecessary purchase into the time it will delay the tiny house build and that’s a great incentive to behave.

  4. Great post! I am fairly new to the Tiny House / Self-Sufficiency movement and excited (hungry) about the opportunity and freedom the change in lifestyle can bring. I try not to look too hard at the mountain of debt brought on by my student loans and am focused on obtaining freedom. I love that you pose the question of how one defines insanity… The more that I think about it, the use of debt is insane… and often times the reason we take on the debt, the purchases we make, the people we try to please… that too is insanity. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Working full time until I was near 30, I never gave much thought as to ‘why?’ That’s what everybody did, right? I was suicidally depressed, and hated my job, but, hey, it was an office job — the top of the heap! At least I wasn’t doing brutal construction work anymore. And, if I stayed on track, someday I might get to be suicidally depressed in a bih house filled with shiny objects — THE AMERICAN DREAM!

    Approaching this milestone birthday, I was already tremulous about the occasion, in a self-reflective mood.

    That’s when I got the call.

    “Sean, this is your boss. We’re going bankrupt and shutting down. Come clean out your desk.”

    I hung up and stood there, the blood draining from my face.

    The thing was, I wasn’t thinking, “where did my job go? How will I find a new job?”

    Instead, I was thinking, “Where did my YEARS go? Why have I been doing this, so that we could go bankrupt? What was the point? WHAT THE HELL DID THESE YEARS, SO SPENT, ACCOMPLISH???”

    I haven’t worked full-time since.

    I instead focus on my writing career, activist projects, and other meaningful things. I’m much poorer, and a thousand times happier. 🙂

  6. There a few strong reasons:

    1. I found myself in the old American grind, working… to pay bills. I was a supervisor at an independent adjusting firm making a decent enough salary, but miserable. Unhealthy environment, super stressful. Wasn’t struggling to pay the bills but also not saving a great deal. I just kept thinking to myself how do I get out of this.

    2. I have worked in the trades since I was 17. And skateborded, rode bmx, motocross, etc. Beat myself up. Jennys dad had the same type of working history, beat himself up, and now he can barely move.
    And is missing out on life, well I suppose I should say he continues to miss out on life since he worked like a dog.

    3. Since high school there have been many people we went to school with pass away at a young age. (I’m 30 Jenny is 29). About 3 years ago a friend of ours passed. Kind of in your face.

    Like man what the hell am I doing not living life!?! Enjoying it while I have it along with my mobility. You only live once.

    At first when we told people about us building a tiny house they were like, huh? your crazy. Now people are like thats the smartest thing I have ever heard of.

    P.s. You are the man Ryan!

  7. I woke up when I ended up in the hospital psych ward for depression. For the past 12 years, I’d been commuting 3 hours round trip to NYC for a high stress, six figure salary job in a cubicle. The past 6 years I really struggled and tried my best to “accept” that this was my lot in life, that my family needed this money and I used every coping mechanism in my arsenal to try and change my attitude to be happy. Turns out I was polishing a turd. No amount of “acceptance” or meditation could make this job tolerable. Checking myself into the hospital is probably the best thing that could’ve happened. I am now working in a lower stress job in a pleasant environment with caring people. I can even bring my dog to work with me. No more long commute. I make less but there is more time to do the things I love (knit, sew, play roller derby). I’ve never been more content. By American standards, we already live in small house (1,100 squ. ft) but once our son graduates high school, we’d like to move into a truly tiny house.

  8. The American dream, i’ve never understood it as it is. What it should be is to raise ur kids in peace and security, get them a fighting chance in this world. That means doing without things so u can spend time with them, not working ur ass off to buy them and ursel stuff and end up not seeing each other.

  9. This is a global mind change.
    We realize our life can be more simple and rich however.
    With a human scale environment.
    Thank you

  10. In 2009, my husband was out of work and I had a horrible job, trying to teach severe emotionally disturbed students in an inner-city middle school. I felt trapped and desperate. I questioned why we even had health insurance because we were paying $1500 a month premiums and nothing covered un till we met the $8000 deductible..
    At the end of the school year, I was very relieved that my contract was not renewed. Emotionally drained, I said I would rather be homeless than to teach again. I didn’t realize I would actually face this possibility. I began to understand the tyranny and enslavement of health care, the fruitlessness of paying a mortgage on an old house we could not afford to fix up, and the stress it created in the marriage. Unfortunately, my husband did not see what I was seeing.
    Charles did find work but I did not, and for four years we struggled. In 2013 my husband developed pancreatic cancer. Five weeks before he died, he threw me out of the house. . After consulting several lawyers, I decided to pursue peace and walk away. I realized all my belongings were just “stuff.” I let it all go and, with time, forgave my husband. That decision brought me a sense of freedom I had never known before.
    I had to go into hiding so my husband couldn’t try to force me into a divorce me so he could marry his long time mistress. I found a wonderful shelter in the boonies where I could restore my soul. I liked it so well, I have stayed on to help others who came to the shelter. I now live in a studio apartment on the property and do what I can to support the mission of the shelter.
    Because I had not worked, I did qualify for my husband’s widow’s benefit, and later received an award in a medical class action suit. The settlement allowed me to have a tiny house built, which will be delivered in a few weeks. I am finally free to pursue my passions, and I can relate to and help others facing financial devastation and homelessness. I am regaining my health and perspective, I am exploring my passions of organic gardening/permaculture and alternative medicine.
    My new outlook has given me a sense of great purpose and peace. I could never have found it if I had not been forced, through life’s circumstances, to scrutinize my priorities, to let go of my past, and to forgive those who had destroyed that life. That life was a constant battle and can not compare to the life I have now. I can honestly say I am truly grateful for the grief and turmoil that brought me to my new life.

  11. When our two kids graduated from high school, we sold the 4BRM/4BA w/swimming pool to move aboard our modest sailboat. We LOVED our time living aboard, even as we were smacked by Hurricane Ike! We’re a little older now (mid-50’s) with manageable health issues. We have yet to buy another home because the liability is to great with mortgage, taxes, insurances, maintenance. And, we haven’t seen ANYTHING worth the asking price in our area (Colorado). We miss our larger home, our quiet/private Jaccuzzi, our lap pool, our antiques that we sold to move aboard our boat. As we age, it’s less likely we’ll qualify for conventional financing for a home of our liking. I enjoy seeing the tiny houses people have built, but I would caution that once you opt out of the conventional American lifestyle, it’s a little bit difficult to re-enter. Choose wisely…..

  12. I couldn’t agree more with your post. A few years ago, I too began questioning the wisdom of living in a large house (although our house is really just medium-sized by American standards). While our mortgage payment isn’t that high, the constant maintenance and upkeep on the house is what really gets you in trouble. Roof, furnace, water heater, appliances… eventually all these things need to be repaired and at some point replaced. The cost is astronomical. I know that when we retire I want to downsize to something much smaller so we can use our money for travel and other fun things, rather than for a house that is way larger than we need. Most people spend every penny they have on the house and there is nothing left for anything else. What is the point of that?

  13. See Harry Browne’s book, “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World”.

  14. Turn off the TV. ignore ads on your phone and computer. they feed the US consumer machine. until you find peace within, you will always try to fill the void with stuff: shopping, drinking, drugs, TV. find peace within, and you can release the cravings for empty crap.

  15. Great post Ryan. I am awake! Luckily, after years of long, hard work, I had enough money to buy myself a small space to live in. I love working on this to make it comfortable and safe (love your tips). And in between times I go travelling – house/pet sitting to be precise. I am now in Goa for two months (missing the cold weather of the UK) and all the consumerism there too for the other Big C word. I feel so much healthier, happier and free-er to do as I wish each day and on low impact for the earth. And it is so easy to see now all the little people running around, doing their (consumer) stuff, when it really is not necessary. We can still live happy, productive lives without all that. Rock on Freedom!

Leave a Reply