The Real World

Why don’t you get a real job?

I hear this question far more than often than I’d like. Regardless of how valiantly I try to explain what I do, who I am, and why I’m here, I routinely encounter people of mindsets who seem to be inexplicably yet vigilantly opposed to the professional pursuit of relaxation and happiness.

When are you going to accept responsibility?

The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

Despite the US economy being in freefall, people still somehow adhere to the notion that being responsible entails laboriously saving up for 401Ks that implode upon recession, paying for overpriced insurance plans that guarantee you’ll be miserable in times of good health, and gradually acquiescing to inevitable serfdom as part of a system that never has, nor never will, care about the middle class (aside from being a steady source of consumerism and an easily manipulable voter base).

Yes, responsibility is fearing for your one-sixteenth of a stock point. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if you fail at your job? A company’s order arrives late? You lose a couple bucks? Your boss gets cranky?

I know exactly what happens if I fail at my job: people die. No other way of looking at it.

People can’t seem to get it through their head you don’t have to climb some corporate ladder, jerk off the right people, have a soccer mom with two-point-five soccer brats and a little yapping dog just like Paris Hilton’s so that hopefully, one day, you can live in paradise with your colostomy bag. That’s a bullshit hyperreality.

American politicians call it the third world. Rich Yankees call it paradise. But for me, it’s my home—it’s my reality.

I wrote the lines above nearly two years ago in one of my many aborted attempts to write a novel about my life on this island. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: if I ever finish a fact-based novel about this place, it will have to be labeled as fiction.

My life runs in a state of permanent surreality. Let’s just take a look at today’s events: somehow between stopping by the dive shop for a cup of coffee and picking up groceries for tomorrow’s Superbowl party, I found myself hoisting the freshly slaughtered carcass of a 100lb pig onto the icy floor of a walk-in freezer. Just another day on the island.

I am at home with the surreal. In my last four-plus years on the island of Roatan, I’ve seen some whacked-out stuff. I’ve watched people’s lives completely transform, for better and worse.

I’ve seen adults both young and old embrace diving and pursue a lifelong career— all instigated by that first session in confined water where I looked them in the eye and signaled for them to flood their mask. I’ve seen other folks wither away, bodies emaciated by drug abuse and lack of nutrition, rapidly deteriorating into skeletons of their former selves. I’ve seen good friends turn fiends. I’ve known fiends to become upstanding people. I’ve watched the blood congeal on the ground before me as a freshly killed man entered rigamortis. I’ve seen the smiles of the faces of repeat customers as they bound off the plane, eager to touch down and splash in at their home away from home.

When are you coming back to the real world?

Could there be a greater misnomer?

What makes this so-called “real world” so real? Is there some unwritten mandate that for one’s world to be truly real that one must relinquish life’s vibrant surreality? Do countless miserable years of chasing the elusive golden carrot named “retirement” constitute a real career? Does the reality lie in the quaint disassociation from real world events?

Furthermore, if such a world is “real,” what incentive have I to return to it? What cubical offers a better view than the crystal-clear waters of Half Moon Bay? What other job professionally obligates me to show people a good time and look at cool stuff? What could entice me to leave the paid opportunity to explore, on a daily basis, the astounding coral reef walls off my home island of Roatan?

Answer: Half a million dollars annual salary plus stock options and performance bonuses.

Seriously, make an offer along these lines and I’ll give it consideration. Otherwise, you’re always gonna have a hard time convincing me to rejoin your “real world.”

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