Nonfiction | Poisons & Cures

Recovering Hippy – The Psychology of Settling Down

It’s never easy to transition from one stage of life to another — until the mind feels ready to embrace it.

The end of the year is always high time for celebration, and then subsequently for reflection. What is the meaning of this? Am I heading in the right direction? Do I feel happy? For the first year in many, my helpless reflections on these questions have made me feel quite good.

I am a recovering hippy. I spent my youth roaming around aimlessly experiencing life ‘to its fullest’ by forever skimming the surface of the oceans of possibility. I could never commit. Commitment looked like failure. To reduce options seemed akin to locking myself up in a cage of my own making and throwing away the key. The only way to live was to keep it open — go with the flow. And I loved every minute of it.

It wasn’t just my actions that reflected this ‘care-free’ attitude. My thoughts were running rampant, too. Nothing was as it seemed. There was “us” and “them”, and, of course, it was all an “inside job”. I was one of those people who believed that aliens had infiltrated the earth and live among us. There are more of us than you think!

I played online poker for a living, waiting for a big hit and then taking that money on the run. In an instant, I would snap up any chance to escape the responsibilities of a ‘normal life’. More trips, more life experience; more coming back home and having to start the whole process again.

Wayward youth becomes wayward adulthood quicker than you know it.

There are lessons from my hippy days that I will always hold dear — spiritual lessons. Less television and more life, that sort of thing. Like a person who comes off a strong substance after much effort, the experiences remain (and are mostly positive), but the path back is fraught with dangers and is unwise to tread without care.

The hippy lifestyle comes with a price. After a while my friends around me got jobs, houses, and partners and seemed to get their s**t together. ‘Keeping it open’ isn’t going to make you happy forever. At some point, you are going to want to build something and make something your own. You will become attached to people and places and to dreams and ideas that take longer than a few short months to turn into reality.

I can’t help but feel like I was missing something in my younger days — living in the moment and for myself, with no sense of responsibility or consequence. Perhaps that is what being young is about: a necessary stage of trying and testing until you realise what it is that you can settle down for.

This year I think I did it. I settled my mind enough to keep my body in one place. I worked on goals and embraced some structure. I made compromises. I gave back to my local community. I never thought I would say this — not for another decade — but I feel better for settling down.

The only way to make this essay anything but self-indulgent drivel is to end with a bit of advice. You can take it or leave it (for who am I to give it), but here goes… If you are a recovering hippy like me, wondering what to do with life after not giving much of a f**k for most of it, then take a step back, stay in one place for a while, and really think about what makes you happy and what you can do to give back to the world in a real and physical way. Take it from an old man like me.