I’ve always been a huge Survivor fan. Though my fanfare has waned in recent years, the grandfatherly reality show remains compelling to me.
This current season has pitted a tribe of “white collar” people against a tribe of “blue collars” against a tribe of so-called “no collars.” We can all envision the suited white collar person indoors and the grimy blue collar person sweating outside.
But what of the no collars? In Survivor terms, these people are the crazies. The ones with rogue tattoos and piercings, airy dispositions, and eclectic occupations like “coconut vendor.” The no collars do life differently from most, and they’re totally cool with that.
Amid the aftermath of a nine-month road trip, I’ve thought a lot about which tribe I’d classify myself under. While I don’t anticipate donning a literal feather in my cap anytime soon, I’ve realized which collar — or lack thereof — I wear in this world beyond Survivor.
Graduating as my high school valedictorian and exiting college with cum laude honors, you’d probably have thought me more the white collar type. Someone with a predictably scholarly course charted with advanced degrees and a six-figure salary.
But I never went to grad school. Have never once been tempted by the notion. Rather than acquire my teaching certificate, I started tutoring part-time in dozens of locations.
I suppose a more stable, “real” job could have been nice, but I liked the flexibility tutoring gave me with regard to my writing. It was an unconventional, “no collar” way of supporting myself while also fueling my passion. It worked for four years in southern California.
But then a little road trip happened and took unconventional and no collar to another level. I’ve had a few weeks to settle into my new home of Charlotte, and yet I’m finding it ironic how unsettling settling can be.
After nine long months on the road, you’d think I’d be relieved for a bedroom with four walls and a walk-in closet and even a sliding glass door that leads to a backyard with a fire pit and a treehouse. A place and a space to finally call my own.
At times, yes, I’m relieved to park my car, get out, and plop somewhere beyond the doors of my dear sweet Mitsy. But many more times, I’m shaken by this new normalcy.
Everyday now feels like a betrayal of my former self, my true self, that free no collar life that breathed without restraint on the open road.
I’ve been trying to get more accustomed with Charlotte these last three weeks. I’m recognizing street names and coffee shops and Bojangles Coliseums. I’ve started tutoring again. I’m gradually meeting people at my church and making my face a more familiar one.
Progress is being made in Charlotte. It is slow progress, but jagged pieces are sliding into place.
I see the pieces. I affirm the pieces.
I just wonder about all these interlocking and disconnected pieces. It sounds weird, but this newfound progress feels awfully like the old way of doing things.
And the old way of doing things is kinda what prompted my cross-continent road trip in the first place.
You find a place to live, you land some work, you pay the bills, you attend a church, you invest in a small group, you build up some savings and relationships, you lose some savings and relationships, and you grow tired by a lifestyle ruled by collars and normalcy while staring out your window wondering what else is out there.
Or at least that’s what my no collar self does.
I’m not saying I’m necessarily doomed in Charlotte. I don’t want to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to give Charlotte a fair shot.
But I think I’m struggling because I’ve yet to figure out how to reconcile this new no collar man I became on the road with my old no collar way of doing things: the job-working, the relationship-building, the purpose-finding.
I’d like to think I’m in as good a place as any to work through this complicating transition. I’ve often second-guessed my decision of Charlotte, but I always return to the realization that I’d be wrestling with these same restless feelings anywhere else I might have moved and called home.
“The journey is my home,” said a writer named Muriel Rukeyser.
I think she might have been a no collar person, too. My heart echoes with her quote; it’s such a four-dimensional lens for looking at life and home. Home that goes beyond four walls, a sliding glass door, and one mere city when a whole continent has called your name.
I have no idea what my new no collar life will look like in an old no collar setup. But I’m doing what I must do right now. I’m writing and tutoring and exploring this expansive, quaint Queen City.
It all feels like a quick fix right now. But I’m still trying to bask in the no collar life. And I’m taking lots and lots of notes.
What type of collar are you? Why do you think so?