Jack Hoffman

TBS Boomers: Musings on my life since becoming voluntarily homeless

Since the string of circumstances pushed me to the brink of homelessness and beyond, the respectable life I’ve been able to build will do. It has to.

 

 

 

My dad lived in Paris after WWII. He often told me about the clochards, a collection of people who lived in the doorways and nooks of the Parisian cobblestone streets. According to him, theirs was a voluntary lifestyle choice, and was seen as a respectable one at that.

In essence, voluntary homelessness has its roots in some kind of philosophical thinking. For whatever reason, perfectly normally sane men would voluntarily give up their worldly possessions and assume the life of a homeless person. A similar phenomenon of the Sadhu exists in Nepal, which also has the male giving abandoning comfort and everything they accumulated in favour of living some kind of spiritual “homeless” existence.

I brought up the two because homelessness can occur under various circumstances. So it might be fair to say that homelessness is both desirable and undesirable, depending on the reasons for it. Whatever it may be, it is most certainly character building, simply because the more that we step out of our comfort zone the better people we become. An easy life is never an interesting life or as once (in)famously quoted by an elder statesman on the conservative side of politics: “…Life wasn’t meant to be easy.”

I’ve brought this subject up because I’m trying put something together about my transition in life from a mild mannered CSIRO “dude” (to borrow one of your vernaculars) to evolve into an enlightened latte sipping wanker living the high life outside the social norms in Surry Hills. In fact, I could end up in a lunatic asylum trying to make sense of my life. Things just don’t seem to add up. The irony seems to be that I am better off living on a disability pension than I was earning an honest living working. The disability pension was never my idea, but observers who clearly saw my predicament and had my interests at heart pushed me in that direction. Regardless of my misfortunes at the CSIRO, I was always considered “highly competent” and a “high achiever” in all official correspondence. My problems within the CSIRO had no relation to the quality of my work.


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The fact is that I have been physically disabled for a long time, and I simply never came to terms with it. The nature of my employment has predominately been mental work as opposed to physical work so my disability has not affected my work, but after 600 failed job applications it became evident that my “physical disability” was the reason I was not able to re-enter the workforce.

So it was simply a matter of the “domino effect” catching up with events that occurred earlier manifesting themselves in 2017. So, here I stand. Clutching at the fleeting fragments of a philosophy that will hold me, see me through for whatever time I’m afforded. The nobility of homelessness as a historical curio is romantic indeed, but per the reality of it, I’m unsure. I kind of exist in a vacuum, a sort of life purgatory. What I have now, is what I’ll have forever. The myth of upward mobility forever shattered, leaving me to make do with less, and make that do. But in many instances, it has afforded me freedom. The time and space to think, and indeed to jot down my thoughts while I’m still able.

That being said, you could argue that I sleep in a bed of my own making. Maybe. However what I’ve learned is that we’re all just a series of everyday disappointments away from tumbling down the trap-door of society, and emerging on the other side. The floor is not as sturdy as you believe it is. And while the life I live builds character, it razes the old you to start anew. Depending on where you stand with yourself, it can be a freeing, or crippling experience.

 

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