“That’s a load of rubbish!” said Wayne, the Australian boat captain. Since the comment was directed at me, I was somewhat offended, as you might imagine.
I need to back up and explain. It was the early 1990s. We’d met an hour or so before, sitting at neighboring tables outside a tiny, canalside cafe in Venice. And, up to this point, we’d been having a friendly conversation.
Wayne and his crewmate had a couple of days of shore leave and were hanging out in Venice. I was nearing the end of a month kicking around Italy, backpacker style, and feeling like quite the worldly traveler. They’d been regaling me with stories of their adventures and exploits around the world. Then Wayne started talking about scuba diving. How great it was. The magical, exotic locations he’d gone. I was impressed.
“I really want to learn to scuba dive,” I said. “But I just haven’t ever had the time or money.”
And that’s when the outburst happened: “That’s a load of rubbish!”
Ouch. I could tell by his expression that he was genuinely annoyed by my comment, but I wasn’t sure what I had said to cause such a negative reaction. So, I asked him. He ranted at length in return. The gist of the rant was that people always say things like “I’d really like to…” or “I’ve always wanted to…” but they never do. They live their lives out, utterly failing to follow through and simply do those things they talk about. They fetter themselves with the belief that their dreams are not something they can act on. They always have excuses, stupid excuses–like not enough time, not enough money.
There was more, generally condemning fat-arsed Americans for being the worst about this, with fat-arsed Australians and the rest of the fat-arsed world following close behind. His wrath was, at least, fairly evenly distributed.
We managed to get back to a more congenial conversation after that, walked around Venice for hours, and even kept in touch for a couple of years by snail mail. But his rant stuck with me.
When I got back home, I had bills to pay, a job to get back to, a house to maintain. My day-to-day responsibilities engulfed me, immediately stripping away the glow of the trip. Rendering days of freedom distant memories. Each day I got up and my schedule was predetermined. Who was that person in Italy who decided the day’s itinerary based on the morning’s train schedule? Who had dashed back to Florence on a whim at the invitation of a handsome Sicilian chef? Had that been me?
Maybe, but now I was back to being the person who paid her bills on time. Who dutifully showed up for work each morning. Who lived out her days on the 8 to 5 hamster wheel, waiting for another year to pass to earn those precious 5 paid vacation days. (Yes, I’d managed to finagle a month off, but sacrificed 3 weeks of pay to take the Italy trip. Not good when you’re living on the peanut-sized salary of a recent college grad.)
I had come back from Italy with something else: $500 in unused traveler’s cheques. I went to the bank to deposit them into my checking account, mentally ticking off the bills I would pay with those funds. Money was always tight, so I was happy to have managed the trip under my budget. As I left the bank, however, a very loud, annoying Australian accent popped into my head.
“That’s a load of rubbish!”
The jerk had a point. A few days later, I drove over to the local dive shop, used the money to pay for classes and equipment. Screw the bills, I thought. And screw you, too, Wayne, even if you are completely right. I have always wanted to learn to scuba dive.
I’ve been diving around the world, in magical, exotic locations, ever since. I do still have the self-imposed fetters of home and responsibility, but my philosophy has changed. Every time the words “I’ve always wanted to…” start to come out of my mouth, the obnoxious Australian shuts me up and makes me do it.