Column: On childhood, adulthood and Tim, the alternative for society

Tim Behrens initially objected to being the subject of a column. In a jokingly wise and stoic voice he said, “I have no hippie wisdom to bestow on others; I lead by example, not by words.”

Tim graduated from the competitive, suburban Elk Grove High School and ranked 9th in his class with a 32 on the ACT. He took numerous AP classes and was involved with multiple extracurricular activities. He worked diligently – that’s what adults expected of him.

Things changed when he got to the University. He stopped working hard. He grew out his hair and beard to the point that he claimed, with a laugh, to be able to blend in as a Green Street bum. Most began to wonder whether he stopped caring about his life. Some thought that he was refusing to grow up. They said this, of course, because they correlate the value of a life with wealth and status.

The irony is this – that was the time he began to care about his life, the precise opposite of what his critics claimed. Tim, a recent graduate in psychology, consciously chose to slack off and to enjoy his life. He went out on the town frequently, made a millionaire’s wealth in friends and rolled around in his four years of freedom like a gleeful, guilt-free pig.

So what changed his mind?

In making this decision he reasoned, “Most people our age think that all you need is a job that makes a lot of money. If I had a choice between working an office job the rest of my life making $200,000 and doing something more active, like being a fireman, for $50,000, I would definitely choose the $50,000.”

Adulthood is the murderer.

Those who society deems most successful are lawyers, investment bankers, engineers and others who end up slaving for 60-to-90 hours a week. They become trapped by the responsibilities and pace of adulthood.

It is shocking to slow yourself and to realize, even for a few fleeting seconds, that you are alive. We breathe, we think, we feel, we live. But the hurried tasks of modern life sweep those thoughts away, rarely allowing us the chance to think them. An infinite supply of sophisticated chores await the well educated.

Charles Foster Kane spent his life amassing wealth, status and art. His dying word was “Rosebud,” the name of his boyhood sled. An artifact from the only pure and happy time of his life, something that others thought should be burned with the other “junk.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson often discussed the simple, untainted wisdom of the child, “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.”

Sometimes I wish that I knew as much now as when I was a kid. Tim still does. That is his secret. In the last few pristinely conscious moments before death, will we judge our lives based on how prominent and wealthy we became?

Slow and slow your step, recall that you are alive.

Billy Joe Mills