WAKING UP FROM THE AMERICAN DREAM

My wife and I just sold our house and were ecstatic that we almost broke even. It has been a serious a struggle to get to that point.

We are what most people would consider to be conservative and responsible. We don’t live beyond our means, for almost ten years I saved 12% of my income in my 401k.

But like millions of other Americans my wife and I were fooled and swindled. We paid way too much for our modest craftsman style bungalow just before the housing bubble exploded in 2008. Although I don’t place the full blame on the financial or real estate industries the American public was undoubtedly misled and conditioned to put our fiscal sense aside and trust the lies we were being fed. Many of us did just that.

“Real estate is the safest investment” they promised.

“Your home will never lose value” they assured.

In hindsight we all know now that this was total bull$h!t. It was so alluring of a con that the con men started to believe it. Everybody was getting rich, on paper, even us little guys. Everyone was happy, until the whole scheme sank. The largest tragedy of it all was the con men got to keep their Italian loafers dry and board the life raft while the little guys were left to tread water and figure out how to save themselves.

In retrospect, we should’ve mailed back the keys to the mortgage company and walked away in 2008. If we did our credit would now have been almost fully repaired. Instead we put our lives on hold and spent the following seven years being as resourceful as possible to bail ourselves out of a $60,000 deficit between the market value of the house and what we owed the bank.

The housing crisis of 2008 set us back so far financially that it forced us to strive more than we normally would have. I started writing like a madman and finished the first in a trilogy of novels in late 2012. Shortly after self-publishing my first novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, I discovered James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself and started listening to his podcasts, which have helped me immensely. His work taught me about multiple revenue streams and how to market myself and my writing in different ways. The knowledge lit a fire underneath me to finally take my twenty year dream of becoming a writer and turn it into reality. For that, I’m very thankful.

Like the generation who survived the Great Depression (which was far worse in every conceivable way) we came out on the other side of the housing crisis viewing the world very differently:

We value experiences more than things;

We’re less trusting of government and authority;

We are more trusting in the Universe and are willing to accept and surrender to the experiences it presents us with;

Being in debt of any kind makes us nervous;

We are content with less; and

We’re more empathetic to other people’s struggles.

We’re closing on the house in about a month and are looking for a small one bedroom apartment to rent for a year as we figure out where we go from here.

As the leaves are starting to blush in their vibrant fall colors we’re taking our final walks with our beagle in the neighborhood we’ve called home for the last eight years. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t feel a tinge of melancholy and defeat but, to me, this seems more like a new beginning than the closing of a chapter. On some deep level I know that the slate of our previous life had to be wiped completely clean for us to build a life of true freedom.

There are two ways to look at it: 1. our future is uncertain; or 2. our options are wide open. I prefer the latter. Thankfully we have our health; we are rich in love, good friends, and everything that matters.

We have discussed becoming expats eventually or building a self-sustaining tiny home. I will definitely continue to pursue my writing with everything I’ve got.

I know we’re not alone. There are probably hundreds of thousands of families who have gone through the same struggles. I can’t help but wonder how the experience has changed them.

It’s important to succeed…at the right things.

Could it be that we fail at the things that don’t really fit into our life’s plan so we can keep perfecting the parts of our lives that truly matter? I like to think so.

Having nothing left to lose makes it easier for a person to be ballsy. Like Babe Ruth pointing his bat towards the center field bleachers in Wrigley stadium, I predict my version of a home run..a best-seller. I have no college degree, no plan B, and meager savings but my head is overflowing with ideas and countless books yet to be written. I choose to write my own story. I choose myself.

There’s no time like this very moment for us all to handcraft a dream uniquely our own.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric’s books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Vance-Walton/e/B00B2OS082

© 2015 Eric Vance Walton

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The Decade of Distraction

There’s no denying that the combination of social media and mobile devices are transforming us. The next time you’re in a public place, take notice of how many people are staring zombie-like at their mobile devices, totally oblivious to the world that is unfolding around them. Technology is advancing at such a fast pace that we haven’t had the time necessary to adapt to it from an evolutionary perspective.

Science is showing that our brains are being rewired by this technology. We’re becoming less able to focus, self-absorbed, and more @ssholish than ever before. It seems like there’s a massive emptiness in people’s hearts and they try to fill this void with material things. It seems we’re more connected to the world but less connected to those people in our lives who really matter. So many people are becoming more interested in recording our lives on social media than living it.

People, used to the relative anonymity of the internet are becoming increasingly brash in both their online as well as face-to-face interactions. This behavior is epidemic and stretches across all age and socioeconomic boundaries. There’s nothing more sad to me that watching a table of people in a restaurant staring at their smart phones instead of enjoying one another’s conversation and company. Life moves swiftly and there’s nothing worse than the sting of regret.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this time in history is eventually coined, “the decade of distraction.” I get it, there’s a lot to be fed up with these days and it’s mighty tempting to search for a mindless escape. The problem lies in how bad things will get if people become completely distracted and no longer are willing to actively participate in the real world.

I like the convenience of my iPhone as much as the next person and social media has completely transformed my writing career. Technology can be an amazing gift if used to our advantage and in moderation. We clearly haven’t found this happy medium, we’re drunk with it. It seems each day this world is becoming more like the dystopian society in my novel Alarm Clock Dawn and it scares the hell out of me.

Some days it takes immense strength and patience to be decent to people and engaged in this world but let me tell you why it’s worth it to make every effort. We’d never know it from watching the nightly news but this world is still a beautiful place and it’s full of interesting and incredible people. History shows us repeatedly how disastrous things happen when society becomes distracted. There’s still much this world has to teach us if we only look up from our phones long enough to pay attention.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Ditching Satellite Television – Eight Months Later…The Conclusion

As many of you might remember my wife and I got fed up with the insane cost of satellite TV earlier this year and decided to seek out other alternatives. We opted to try a digital antenna (Amazon.com, $30 one time cost) which brings in 24 free stations from the air and AppleTV (refurbished from the Apple Store, $79 one time cost). We subscribed to HuluPlus and Netflix through AppleTV for a total monthly charge of under $17.00 versus the $130 per month we paid for satellite television.

We’re eight months into our experiment and have discovered a few things, some of them we expected and some we very much did not. Obviously, we love the cost savings. The total return on the investment of $109 for the antenna and AppleTV was made back the very first month after we cancelled our satellite tv subscription. We have $100+ more in the bank now at the end of every month. What’s not to love about that?

Now it’s going to get real. First, there was the honeymoon period. For the first few months our excitement over the cost savings carried us through with smiles on our faces. For me, doubt began to set in around the third month. We found ourselves starting to grumble about the lack of good things to watch on tv. Although Netflix does have really good independent and foreign films (which I love), the bulk of their mainstream movies are horribly outdated for the most part. HuluPlus? Forget about it unless you missed all of the bad movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s. AppleTV has a vast variety of current movies but our internet connection isn’t fast enough to stream them. For more current movies Redbox is a great option.

Over the air TV programming during our peak viewing time of 6 to 8PM consists of nightly network news, Wheel of Fortune, and a few sitcoms. The former of which bombards you with a steady stream of depressing/negative stories, fear mongering, and mostly nonsense. Our savior has been a combination of PBS and a weak local over-the-air channel that plays reruns of 1970’s sitcoms like MASH and Sanford and Son.

Now for some of the things that we weren’t anticipating. We are watching far less television. As a result we have more of our time to do other things, like read, listen to good music, exercise, and write (for me). This has enhanced our lives in ways that are both measurable and in many ways that aren’t. We find that we aren’t zoned out in front of the tube so we talk more. About six months into the experiment I noticed that my brain isn’t as fuzzy, my mental recall is faster, and even my perception of reality had become vastly different than it was before.

Even before this experiment began we watched far less television than the average American. Still, this transformation took a full six months to start to occur. Once I reduced my television viewing I began to realize on a deeper level that the importance our society places on celebrity gossip, consumerism, and trends seem utterly ridiculous given the more serious things going on in the world. Some programming seems like an absolute insult to your intelligence.

Eight months into life without satellite TV life is different but I can assure you that it’s better. I feel more intuned with my body and soul, I feel healthier physically and mentally, I have more free time, and there’s more money in my wallet. I realize that more than our television was deprogrammed as the result of canceling that satellite television subscription! In conclusion, although I miss American Pickers and a few other shows, the positives far outweigh the negatives. A veil has been lifted and our lives are so much better for it.

~Eric Vance Walton~

The Cure For The Common Road Rage

 

I consider myself a peaceful and easy going individual most of the time, I’ve meditated and practiced yoga for almost twenty years. There are few things anymore that rile me up but one of them left is the annoyance of bad drivers. When I’m driving something transformative happens that reduces the level of my patience nearly to zero. It seems that drivers, more than ever, have their minds on anything and everything but driving. Rules of the road to them are mere, “suggestions” and this would include lane markers, signs and traffic lights.

Yes, I admit was one of those horn-beeping, finger-flipping barbarians who would not hesitate to call you out for cutting me off, running a red light or drifting into my lane while simultaneously steering with your knees, sipping your latte, and checking your Facebook news feed.

My cure came in a most unassuming way. Just recently I bought a used 2010 Honda Fit. This car is perfect for me in every way and inadvertently has ended my decade long, love/hate relationship with driving. I believe what this car has taught me could possibly cure road rage on a global scale.

I’ll never forget the first day I discovered it. It was just a regular day and I was on the way to work. From the other direction someone turned left in front of me, nearly shearing off the first few inches of the front of my, “new” car. I was furious and instinctively slammed my palm into the center of the steering wheel and that is when it happened… “meeeeeeeeep”. Just as a succession of blistering expletives were about to be launched from my lips I laughed instead.

This was no normal horn, in fact it reminded me of the horn on my old 1983 Tomos moped…if the battery were almost dead. The sound was embarrassingly dreadful and actually the antithesis of what a horn should be. I felt shame, I felt embarrassment, it humbled me.

As my father so graciously taught me through his example, the offensive gestures and fiery expletives can come in any order but the horn beeping must always proceed them both. That’s the way it is, there’s no other way.

Instantly, I became a change man, years of anger were wiped clean. All it took was a wimpy horn.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Half Way Home

Awake, at half past twilight
staring hard into the night
heart heavy with nothing
but the weight of wishes
my soul has yet to shed
so much to be done,
many words left to be said

Time,
teach me
more than I think
I can learn

Cycles,
please slow
your turn

for Regret,
I don’t wish
to feel your burn

Life, tell me a story
but know that I’m too
old for empty words
the deeper I dig
the deeper you get
that much I know
but these bones ache now
when your cold winds blow

Time,
teach me
more than I think
I can learn

Cycles,
please slow
your turn

for Regret,
I don’t wish
to feel your burn.

Universe,
it was you who
conspired cleverly
to put me here
in this world,
ripe with
storied shadows so
eager to speak their truth
even if people aren’t
always as forthright

Time,
teach me
more than I think
I can learn

Cycles,
please slow
your turn

for Regret,
I don’t wish
to feel your burn.

~Eric Vance Walton~

25% Off All of My Books Through Monday, May 26th!

25% Off All of My Books Through Monday, May 26th!

Happy (US) Memorial Day everyone! To celebrate this Holiday weekend, and the unofficial start of Summer, please enjoy a 25% discount on all four of my titles (including my debut novel Alarm Clock Dawn) with the discount code MEMORIAL25. As always, thank you for your support!

Read or Download the First Five Chapters of my novel Alarm Clock Dawn for Free!

Read or Download the First Five Chapters of my novel Alarm Clock Dawn for Free!

ALARM CLOCK DAWN, author Eric Vance Walton’s debut novel, is the chilling story of a world only decades ahead of our own. Adam Harkin is an employee of XenTek, the most powerful corporation the world has ever known. Adam begins to question the purpose of his existence in a world where people are no longer citizens; they are merely consumers. Every aspect of a person’s role in society is to be determined by one number—their credit score. 

The planet is protesting corporate greed and insatiable consumerism through crippling super storms that erupt without warning. 

In a race against time, thousands of people are waking up from this nightmare, burning their Consumer Identification Cards and doing the only thing they can to strike back—dropping out of this toxic society. One by one they join the camps outside the cities. The fate of humanity itself is at stake and the clock is ticking. One question haunts their fragile optimism: Is it already too late?