The day to leave home had finally come.
It was September 1985. I was twenty-three years old, and I'd just graduated from college. I'd spent that summer living at my parents' home in Jacksonville, Illinois, working at a local factory. I was planning to drive my motorcycle to faraway California, where I didn't know a soul. My goal was to visit a school founded by an Indian philosopher whose teachings had greatly interested me. I hadn't traveled much in my young life, so I was venturing into the unknown.
It was a beautiful morning, crisp, not a cloud in the sky. Only my parents were there to see me off. I wasn't in a talkative mood, and there was little conversation-we mostly spoke of directions to the freeway once I got to St. Louis. A part of me wanted to stay home, safe and secure in the only world I'd ever known. It had been a good childhood, a long and happy childhood. But it was over.
So why didn't I just settle down and start a career? Well, while I was in college and trying to figure out how I could fit into the adult world, all I saw ahead was a soul-crushing, mediocre, premade life. And I was determined to try to keep in touch with the deep meaning I'd first felt when I was a young boy. I was determined to try to live a life of spontaneity, mystery, and adventure, all with a touch of happy madness. I wanted to keep all that alive inside me, whatever the cost.
I didn't want to be who others wanted me to be, nor did I want to be who I wanted to be. I wanted to be what I was compelled to be from the inside. And if that made my life tougher, well, to hell with it. Who says life has to be easy?
And it certainly wasn't going to be easy. I had little money, no close friends, no marketable job skills, no career goals, no mentor to turn to for advice, no rich family to pay my bills, and no blueprint to go by.
I felt totally alone. I didn't identify with any group, generation, or social movement. I'd never identified with my country or its political philosophies-or any other country's political philosophies, as far as that goes. My heroes had always been lone philosophers.
I started my motorcycle and waved good-bye to my parents. As I rode down the driveway of my childhood home, I knew I was doing the right thing-in my heart, anyway. But truth be told, my head was sending me a far different message: making a life for myself would be almost impossible.