(Make sure you read the Trading Spouses Epilogue before diving into this.)
Dear Rocket Scientists, [the company was called "Rocket Science Labs"]
In every episode of this program, each family’s story tends to center around one central issue. It seems clear to me that, for the Santa Cruz half of the story, the theme will be based on the (apparently) opposing views regarding going out and “seeing the ‘real’ world.” This is an issue which seems very simple on the surface: Vickie thinks Kyle and I should be given the opportunity (and encouraged) to go out on our own, and we (my dad especially) wants to protect us from the outside world and keep Kyle and I here at home. Well, in reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that. It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just start somewhere in the middle”¦
First of all, Vickie thinks that Kyle and I should do what we want to do without being inhibited by our parents. However, our parents are NOT stopping Kyle and I from going our and doing whatever we wanted to do. I hope that has been made clear enough: if I wanted to go off to college and accomplish my lifelong dream of being a neurosurgeon – if that is what I really wanted – I could do that today, and my parents would support me in my decision 100%, because they would know that that is what I truly want to do. My dad has said that he has imposed no borders on us, and I sincerely believe that. He has allowed us to see and do ‘it’ our own way. This has been his greatest experiment, and I think it has turned out rather well, so far. But my parents have never hindered my ambitions. I think and hope that, at this point, Vickie would see that that is the case.
Now we’ve come to a point where we have to question the true motive behind the question. Yes, Vickie wants Kyle and I to be free to do our own thing, but it’s more than that. Vickie, like pretty much everyone I’ve met (including the story people) has a certain set of beliefs that are shared among almost all people, Americans in particular. One of these has to do with the best way to raise a child. In most people’s opinion, the best approach is to raise the child to be independent, to go out on his own, so that as soon as he’s “ready” (assumed to be at the age of 18) he can set out on his own life adventure by himself. This is not only assumed to be the best way – the right way – but the only way. In America, this kind of journey is a given. It is almost impossible to imagine a family (like ourselves) approaching things another way, and even harder to accept that as a viable option. I think that was why Vickie was not happy with the way we were not following the “traditional” (modern) American way of doing things. It did not match what she believed. The reason that most people have a problem with our family’s approach is that it does not match their subjective understanding of how things ‘should’ be.
This is a crucial point, so let me repeat it. The reason that most people have a problem with our family’s approach is that it does not match their subjective understanding of how things should be. This is exactly what my dad was talking about in his letter. For someone who has always assumed that the ‘standard’ way was the ‘right’ way, it is impossible to understand how and why another way could be valid. That is why Vickie wanted us to ‘join the masses’ (sheep and lemmings come to mind) and have a more ‘typical’ life. The paradigm rules! We learn it in youth and it becomes engrained in our psyche; the filter of our perception. People are impressed with how peaceful, balanced, open and responsible our family is . . . and YET, they think we should change our way; do it the “normal” way. How very, very strange.
In American culture, your occupation has become your identity. All the emphasis of our culture has been placed on your job, at the expense of your family, your health, your spiritual well-being. This is why kids are expected to move out early and go to college . . . so they can get a good job, or at least a job. A tourist in America, upon meeting a stranger, gets asked three questions: what’s your name, where you from, and what’s your job? When my dad was traveling through third-world countries, the first three questions he was asked were: what’s your name, where you from, and, upon hearing he was from America, why are you here? Why aren’t you with your family? That shows how different our value system is here. Such emphasis has been placed on professional success that some people can’t appreciate why someone would want to forgo that for something more meaningful. For example, some people look down on stay-at-home moms, because instead of staying at home with their children, sharing a wonderful, life-changing experience, they could be working. That has become the American paradigm, and it’s poignant.
Few people really take our long-term goals seriously. Our quest doesn’t register as being really important. Only success will command people’s attention. Until then, they will project their idea of success onto our life.
Let me make it clear that I am not faulting anyone for this behavior. It is an innate part of our biology. If I were in Vickie’s shoes, I would have done the exact same thing. It is rather an unfortunate limitation of our brains that it is so hard for us to consider alternate points of view if we do not know, from a first-person perspective, what it means to share that point of view.
Thus, when Vickie (or [story editors] Jon, Scott, or anyone else) speaks about the importance of being open to new experiences and embracing change and so on, I can only nod my head in agreement. Although my actions may not always reflect it, at a cognitive level I realize this is absolutely the right approach. This whole experience only serves to reaffirm that notion. As you may know, I was originally opposed to going on the show – quite strongly, in fact. I suppose the ultimate reason I went on was to launch myself into a new experience, one which I had no idea what it would be like, but one which I finally realized would not be a horrible one, at least. And I am SO glad I finally decided to do it! So I do agree that not all change is bad, new experiences can always be learned from, and it’s good to be open to adventure.
However, somehow people tend to assume that since I’ve been raised in this admittedly atypical environment, I should expand my horizons by following the American paradigm – by being like everyone else! Apparently, the only way to grow and form my own experiences is to go to college and/or live on my own. Well, I don’t agree with that, for many reasons which I won’t get in to. I also don’t believe that I should or need to go on a globe-trotting adventure like my father did. That’s not the only way to gain life experience, in my humble opinion. I cannot rule out either possibility, especially the former, but you can’t expect me to want to go off and be like everyone else, ‘just because.’ The only way that I will leave my family is if I have a reason to. Let me generalize that statement: People do things because they have a reason to. Can you name one time in your life when you did something without an underlying reason? If you think though things fully, the answer is probably no. Sure, you may have done stupid things, or seemingly pointless things, but there was always a reason why you chose to do what you did. Think about it. Every action you have taken stemmed from a desire, or a need, or your circumstance . . . a reason was at the root. People do things because they have a reason.
If you look at things this way, suddenly it is all so simple. The reason I haven’t left home is because as of yet, I have not had a reason compelling enough for me to do so. There. End of story. Right? I mean, why would I leave home if I didn’t have a reason? It’s almost ludicrous to think otherwise. Hopefully that can explain why I have not ventured out on my own as of yet.
This notion of all action stemming from inner needs is so simple – and yet, it is perhaps the most profound realization I have come to. It eats at the core of human belief: the belief in our free will. If everything is a result of an inner need, how do we freely decide . . . anything? This results in a profound change in my perception, which makes it hard (or even impossible?) to explain some of my positions to people who don’t know where I’m coming from, on the deepest level. So, there is some futility in all this writing, and yet . . . I write on.
Finally, this argument was put forth to me in an interview: how do I know whether my world view is accurate if that is all I have ever known? Like I said earlier, it is terribly difficult for someone to understand what a different world view is like if they have not experienced it first-hand. Here’s the rub: I did not start out thinking like my father. He thinks in a way that tends to go against our instincts. I started out thinking like everyone else! It has taken me the full of eighteen years, and I still don’t think like my dad! In fact, this notion of people doing things because they have a reason is something that I did not realize until less than a year ago. Furthermore, it is not something that my dad could just implant in my head . . . I had to come to that realization on my own. Sure, I did a lot of talking with him, but all we were doing was investigating the behavior of human beings from an objective standpoint. But I know what it’s like to believe that you could do something without an underlying need; I’ve been there.
This has been a very curious experience for me. I offer my sincerest gratitude to everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing experience. I wish I could do it again . . . I’d probably handle myself a bit better at those darn interviews!