Friday, July 20, 2012

A different kind of independence (Lauren Bjorkman)




I had an unusual childhood. My mom died young. My dad raised my sister and me aboard an old wooden sailboat. For five years we traveled the world.

My dad wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a trust fund. Both he and my mom worked, lived frugally, and invested their savings. During the years we lived on the boat, we survived on almost no income. We didn’t eat out. We bought our clothes in thrift stores. Birthday gifts were mostly home-made and modest.

Through all this, my dad would say, “Money is freedom.”  He denied himself things most people take for granted—a car, plenty of clothes, anything new.

Though I often felt deprived, his message wormed his way deep into my consciousness. Oh, I wanted stuff. Lots of stuff. He didn’t teach me not to want things, but (by example) gave me the idea that living with less could mean leading a more interesting a fulfilled life.

I’ve wanted to incorporate his philosophy into a book for a long time—how experiences might be worthwhile than cool belongings. That money doesn’t buy happiness. Nor does it buy love. (I think there’s a song about that) ;-)

Still, I write for teens and remember my own burning desire to buy things and the pain of doing without. I would have to create a pretty unrealistic teen character for her to ascribe to my dad’s philosophy. Moralizing or heavy handedness never works in storytelling, anyway.

So, in my WIP  (tentatively titled PLUGGED IN GIRL), I put my protagonist Jak in circumstances where she can experience two lifestyles—one plugged into the dominant culture where everyone goes to school, most plan to go to college, and everyone expects to own certain things, and the other where a different choice is made. I hope that it will make at least one reader thing, "Hmmm. Could I try that?"

I've chosen a life in between the two, one with less money, less stuff, more time, and the freedom to write books. The shopping impulse has never left me, though. Luckily, most of what I want now is small or intangible. Check out STUFF I WANT on Pinterest.

10 comments:

  1. What an incredible dad you had! I love the idea of growing up on a boat...

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    1. He'll be a character in one of my books someday!

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  2. Your WIP sounds fascinating. Can't wait to read it!

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  3. What an interesting post and outlook into your background. Thank you for sharing. Your book sounds like something I would love to share with my students.

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    1. Cool! What grade do you teach?

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    2. Tenth grade Pre AP, ESL, and Regular English. It's a bit hectic, but I've managed.

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    3. You do it all. You're like Wonder Woman!

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  4. Wow, living on a boat sounds interesting, especially because you would have experienced a lot of things that most kids don't get to experience.
    You're right that most teens want things. (I know I did.) If they didn't, there'd be a lot fewer teenagers with fancy cell phones and laptops.

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    1. Exactly! I heard a story on the radio recently. Teens were interviewed about this particular phone they wanted. Most of them didn't know what it did, but wanted it because their friend had one :-)

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  5. I crave the simplicity you describe in this post - our possessions really do pin us down, don't they? That's why it's nice to have extremely tiny things...THANK YOU for pinning my Dad's violin to your pinterest page!! It is so wonderful to see other people appreciating his work. :)

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