In 2008, I became convinced the world was going to end. I remember standing outside my office, talking to my friend in Boston on my cell phone, asking her what was happening to the stock market. I was afraid.
I started spending all my free time researching methods for surviving an economic collapse, a pandemic, a nuclear event, or a societal breakdown. There are many, many websites and blogs out there which cater to nervous people like me. Some of them promoted reasonable things like saving a little bit of money, keeping some food on hand “just in case,” and keeping one’s car in good repair. Others suggested more extreme measures like stocking up on rice, wheat, light bulbs, and toilet paper. It’s not my intent to challenge the logic of such things. If a person has some extra money and buys 10 cases of toilet paper today and then toilet paper skyrockets in price next week, I call that a good investment. I have a little extra toilet paper and honestly, it spares me the drudgery of going to the grocery store for long stretches of time. I also bought a sub-zero sleeping bag which has been great during those ice storms which knock out power for days here on the Seacoast of New Hampshire.
During this time of apocalyptic research, I created a “car kit” of emergency items I kept in a large box in the back of my Jeep. I kept a change of clothes, a rain slicker, some towels, a blanket, some jumper cables, water, a first aid kit, a pair of boots, and a box of snacks. My mental goal was to make it to Lisbon Falls whenever the “you know what” hit the fan. Maybe I’d have to ditch the Jeep at some point; I knew I could always hoof it home even if the Jeep was knocked off the road by a wandering gang.
This spring, as I started working on my gardens, I had to move the “car kit” out of the car so I would have room for hauling compost, tools, and tomatoes. At first, I was nervous, but then I realized that the only items I had ever used were the first aid kit and the water. On two separate occasions I had run into people who had fallen off their bicycles and I was glad I could offer them some Bactine, a band-aid, and a bottle of water.
This weekend, after bringing the last of my seedlings to the garden, I decided I would put the car kit back in the Jeep. I opened the lid on the snack box and found a can opener, a can of beans and a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli.
I ate the Chef Boyardee ravioli today; it wasn’t very good. It had been a long time since I had eaten canned pasta. I’m going to replace it with some nuts and dried fruits because the Chef sold out to ConAgra.
Going through everything in the box reminded me that I haven’t been spending much time lately worrying about the Apocalypse. That’s not to say that I think everything in the world is great. I’m still cynical. It’s just that I don’t think buying canned food is going to save me from some doomsday scenario that might happen.
What, exactly, did I do with all that time I used to spend reading and listening to “prepping” blogs and podcasts? I’m now using the extra time to write my own blog, which is a dream I have had for a long time. By taking a few baby steps towards making just one dream come true, things don’t seem so scary any more.
I certainly don’t regret any of the things I learned in the last 4 years of studying survival techniques. In fact, there are at least five things I’ve learned, in no particular order:
- A good sleeping bag is a good investment;
- Being able to grow your own food is better than relying on Chef Boyardee;
- Being near to family and good friends when things are uncertain is more important than anything you can buy;
- Debt is a curable cancer; and
- No one can predict the future.
Being prepared for everything in life is important. Doing a job, giving a presentation, or planting a garden all takes practice and preparation and as my mother would say “practice makes perfect.” But life is short and as the writer and poet Dorothy Parker once said “You might as well live.”
How do you prepare for life?