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My Neighbor Called Me a Hippie - And I Love It

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Life

My neighbor’s name is Happy — and he’s not that happy.

We’ve been neighbors for four months (but who’s counting). We talk every few days. He does residential property investing for a living, so I became curious what it was like. Each time we chat we share parts of our life. It’s the neighborly way.

The other day he said “you’re such a hippie.”

No one’s ever called me that before.

Our tiny house is jammed between McMansions.

We’re the ugly duckling of the neighborhood. We don’t really belong. We could only just afford to get into the suburb because of some negotiation on my part with a lazy real estate agent.

We got the house $100K less than market value because the booming property market in Australia means it’s all about commissions for real estate agents, not getting the best price.

I told Happy one reason we love the house is because it has a veggie patch. We plan to grow all our own vegetables. The house also has a 5.2 kW solar system.

Since we moved in we have paid almost zero dollars in electricity.

Happy thinks I’m exaggerating so I showed him our power bill. It’s not a mistake either. Another family member has the same sized solar system and hasn’t had much of a bill for 5 years. I thought everyone knew this.

Part of me likes the free electricity. The other part of me sees solar as the obvious solution. We have all that sun … why don’t we use it?

Does that make me a hippie?

Happy loves a good fight.

He watches the news. He thrives on political debates. He wants to see a war for entertainment. I used to feel like that.

When the Afghanistan war broke out my family sat by the tv with popcorn. We watched the bombs drop and thought it was a Hollywood movie. Pretty soon the war became a never-ending nightmare.

We didn’t think it was funny anymore. Then Part 2 — Iraq — came out and we definitely weren’t laughing or entertained. From that point in my life I began to appreciate peace more than war.

My grandpa lived through World War 2. He got forced to go which interrupted his chance to raise his family. He came back with nightmares and mental problems that could never be healed.

On the day before he died he told us that he received experimental electro-shock treatment. It dulled his senses. It’s why he always seemed so quiet when I was growing up.

It wasn’t introvertedness … it was because his brain was literally fried.

These events made me love peace. When the 2020 political war in America reached an all-time high, I wanted the “grandpa” to get into power. Not because of his policies but because the alternative was likely chaos.

I told Happy this. He didn’t get it. He thought the Trumpet era was hilarious — like it was a reality tv show.

There’s something about peace you take for granted until it’s taken away from you.

Happy has $600,000 of cars in his driveway.

I drive an 8 year old (almost 9) Honda Civic. I tell him my goal is to sell the car and just catch public transport. We’d like to keep my wife’s modest baby mover mobile to transport our daughter to school. But that’s about it.

If we ever replace the family car, I’d like to go electric and charge the car with our solar system. Again, logical, isn’t it?

Recently, there were three car thefts in our area. Happy sleeps well at night because his cars can’t be stolen. They have fancy tracking. He said our cars are at risk. I politely told him we didn’t care.

Our cars are worth peanuts so if someone steals them they’d probably be doing us a favor. I sleep at night knowing we don’t owe any debt on our cars, and if they get scratched it doesn’t matter because they’re basic.

No one will even notice a dent.

When we moved in there was an out of control neighbor.

They are a well-known organization in many countries and are known for, as one member said to me, “doing whatever they want.”

They played loud music for 8–9 hours a day. 8 AM Sunday mornings. Public holidays. And even in an outdoor, open-air marquee.

The neighbors, including Happy, were pissed. But they did nothing. They just put up with it. I said in my Aussie accent “F*ck that I’m not putting up with it.”

Happy thought I was joking.

Within a week I had formal complaints made. A few weeks later it led to enforcement action by the local authorities. And now two parliamentary members and the mayor are involved.

111 people signed a petition I created to fight back against these vigilantes.

Apparently hippies used to do this sort of thing in the 70s with Vietnam, says Happy. I wasn’t born then so I don’t know.

What I do know is what’s right and what’s wrong. And living next to a 24/7 21st birthday full of immature old men in oversized t-shirts isn’t my definition of freedom.

Happy has dreams of being a somebody.

He asked me about mine. I told him I didn’t care about being rich. Money has never made me happy. The most miserable I’ve ever been was also when I was the most successful and rich.

“But don’t you want fame of some kind?”

“No,” I told him. I like privacy. I don’t want to be recognized. I’m not sure who thought fame was a good idea. Hollywood has been peddling that idea to children for decades. It’s wrong.

What you want is fulfillment not fame.

As weird as it sounds, I told Happy that I like to spend as much time with family as possible. Wasting my time chasing some ladder to nowhere or being some ridiculous influencer taking selfies every 5 seconds feels off.

The quiet life is the good life.

When we joined the neighborhood Happy wanted to take us out for dinner to welcome us. Every restaurant he suggested we said no to.

He didn’t get it.

My wife and I are vegan. We don’t eat meat because our body feels better without it. We have more energy.

We also don’t like to see animals get killed if they don’t need to be. This is the #1 reason Happy thinks we’re hippies. He assumes all good humans are red-blooded and eat red meat.

We eat for energy. He eats for masculinity.

Happy and I sometimes talk about marriage.

I told him my wife and I do a gratitude practice every night. We mention one thing about each other that we’re grateful for each day. It’s a tiny practice that takes 30 seconds but it’s made us better.

Instead of taking each other for granted we now notice the little things that ultimately lead to the big things.

Another improvement we’ve made to our marriage is Couples Yoga. My body is starting to endure more injuries. My stress levels can sometimes get out of control.

We thought it might be a nice activity we could do together while our baby daughter sleeps in the other room, instead of watching mindless TV to relax.

Happy prefers football. He doesn’t understand non-competitive sports.

Over the weekend we went to a farmers’ market.

When we came home I told Happy about it. My wife wanted to buy a jumper that said “be kind.” Happy thought it was cheesy. “Why would you do that to yourself?”

“It’s what we believe,” I said.

Happy prefers to shop at the big-box retailers. He wants all the modern conveniences and a car park to dump his car. I can’t blame him. I used to like that too.

But now we try to buy from small businesses when we can.

We go to farmers’ markets to help support the local community. It costs slightly more but it makes us feel a sense of meaning. And the quality of what we buy is often much higher than the Walmarts of the world.

Happy always seems stressed.

There’s always another deal to close or another big loan he has to take for a new housing investment project. I get stressed too. I’ve learned to deal with it better than I used to.

Mindfulness has been a big help.

I told Happy but he thought it sounded woo-woo. He thought I meant meditation, where you become a Yogi and hang around spiritual people in the woods with dreamcatchers.

I told him mindfulness isn’t a “thing” but a way of life. It’s a commitment to live more in the present than you do in the past or future. He thinks I’m way too spiritual and weird.

He sees me going for walks in the middle of the day. I often go down to the park or sit under a tree.

“Don’t you have work to do?” he says. I tell him I do but nature helps to elevate my work, not detract from it. He thinks that is hippie as hell.

What’s weird about my friendship with Happy is our differences have oddly brought us together. We bond over them.

I don’t think I’m a hippie.

I just think the average person is realizing that the old way of life is actually more humane than the new way. Just looking at a phone screen all day feels somewhat like an empty way to live.

A simpler life is a better life. If that makes me a hippie then great.

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