I have traditionally spent a fair bit of time pondering what life is all about and what I want out of it. As I get older, though, my reflections on these weighty issues are becoming less and less complex. In fact, I was just thinking about this the other day, and I have come to the realization that all I really want from life is to be left alone.
I don’t mean this in any sort of metaphysical, philosophical, or any other symbolic sense. I mean literally, I don’t want other people bothering me. That’s it. My life would be completely satisfying if I could just be left alone.
A few recent situations have come together to weave this tapestry of revelation for me. First, my neighbors: they’re renting the house and moved in sometime last year. I don’t even remember exactly when it was because it seems like they’ve been there, irritating me, forever. Like a wart that won’t go away. I’m not even sure exactly how many people actually live there. They seem pretty young–mid twenties, probably–and apparently don’t have a lot of experience being around people. They moved in at 10 PM on a Sunday night, with a big rental truck that they parked right in front of my house, so our first encounter went something like, “Hi, you must be the new neighbors. Welcome to the neighborhood, and get your truck out of my yard. Thanks.” This was the first seed of my epiphany.
Within a few weeks I found myself going to the fence between our houses, saying things like, “Hey fellas, it’s about 11:30 on weeknight…do you think the basketball game could be put on hold until a more…normal time,” “Hey kids, I’d really love to continue listening to your frat buddy learn to play the guitar, but maybe Tuesday night at 1 AM isn’t best time for that,” and “Mondaypalooza? What the hell is Mondaypalooza?” The leave-me-alone seed was being watered by all of this.
It’s winter, now, and a little too cold to be outside bothering me with noise at all hours, so lately they’ve taken to inviting all of their friends over to see how many cars will fit in front of my house. After they’ve used every foot of my curb, they all pile into one Nissan Sentra and head out for the day. Yesterday, after I noticed the cars accumulating, I went outside and found one of them wandering around the yard. “Are these cars all here for you?” I asked. “Yeah, why?” came the muttered response. Could you ask their owners to move them from in front of my house, please?” “Why?” he asked. “Why?” I repeated incredulously, “because I don’t want your friends’ cars parked in front of my house.” He pointed to the one closest to their driveway, “That one’s sort of in front of both of our houses.” All I could do was turn around and walk back inside.
The second situation that has fostered my new outlook on life is the parade of school children knocking on my door asking for money. Most of them want it for the school, which, honestly makes it worse. Let me explain: my wife and I home school our two elementary aged kids, yet we still have to contribute to the public schools through our property taxes. And it turns out we pay significantly more tax than most of our neighbors. Now look, I know this was and still is our choice…we don’t like having to pay for services that we don’t use, but we choose to do it in order to best serve our kids. But when the schools then send other people’s kids to my house to ask me to buy wrapping paper or popcorn or coupon books or whatever it is they’re selling, that’s just too much. The way I figure, as much as I pay for services that I get absolutely no benefit from, I’m entitled to not be bothered by fourth graders selling chocolate bars for the same cost as a tour of great Swiss chocolatiers. If I can educate my own children for a fraction of what the public schools get from me and every other taxpayer, I have a right for the schools to then leave me alone. Don’t I?
Anyway, all of this makes me realize that all I really want, at this point in my life, is to be left alone. I don’t want you to remodel my basement, so don’t knock on my door to ask. I don’t want to look out my window and see your girlfriend’s 1999 Hyundai Sonata rusting in the street in front of my house. I don’t need to be told which light bulbs to buy or what to feed my kids for lunch. Just let me sit on my porch in a chest high pair of pants, shaking my fist at the kids getting off the school bus. Stupid kids…get off my lawn!