A couple of years ago I took the “red pill” . Media led propaganda and the tales of success from my elder peers led me down the path of blindness. No problem there, it was, and still is, the norm. All of us are led until the day we decide to take flight on our own.
Sometimes its one incident that starts us down that new path of enlightenment; Haiti, Chile, Southern Louisiana, 9-11-01. Sometimes it is a series of unfortunate events; loss of the head of household, halving of investments or retirement funds, cut in pay or hours or loss of job, mountain of debt, higher prices for the things you want, higher prices for life sustaining needs, inability to sell your house, and on and on… However your understanding begins, it will not end until a new layer of comfort and security is built up. That will take education and preparing. Education is easy, your already doing it. Preparing is doing, and thus more difficult. Preparing is the act of buying a product, attending a class, physically practicing the skills on your list of things that you feel you will need to know. The actions of preparing will ultimately lead to a better life for you if you are willing to take the journey. TEOTWAWKI  may not happen in ours or even our grandchildren’s lifetimes, I pray that it does not, but we will all be better prepared for the multiple times that TSHTF in and around our lives.
I was told before that the best way to learn is from your own mistakes. I have found that to be true, and false, in my lifetime. More often than not, it is far better to learn from other peoples’ mistakes and triumphs. That is why we seek out education and training, so that we can learn from others who have the knowledge and are where we want to be. It is far worse, however, to fail to learn from those mistakes and triumphs. The mistakes and corrections that I have made in the start of my journey is the foundation of this essay. My own failure to learn from mine and others errors and experience, or more precisely, my failure to act on that knowledge.
I am sure that all of the veteran preppers with decades under their belt can still recall the bliss of ignorance felt prior to “getting it”. I know that I already do and I am quite sure that my lovely wife does, too. It is a scary proposition that all of the blessings and amenities we live with now can be gone in the amount of time between snooze button presses. And that is my first point. Try very hard to keep your life in perspective. The more education you take on, the wider your eyes get, the more that you see that is otherwise unseen, the darker your future will look without preparation. The world is still spinning, the seasons still change, there are only and always 24 hours in a day, and most importantly, your family is always growing. Your new found knowledge will create a since of urgency that needs to be kept under wraps. The time for panic will be left for those caught with their pants down, yours are not. Don’t quit your day job, yet. Don’t skip out on your children’s [social] functions or worse yet, discourage them with the thought that it won’t matter in the future. Don’t inundate your spouse with facts, details, and rants as to why they need to get on board right now. They will follow you, they won’t be pushed, no one will. Your spouse is the most important member of your team. They will be with you no matter how big or small your group gets. None of us ever want to have to go through our worst case scenarios but we still think about them. We prepare for them so that they won’t become the worst case. That is stressful enough as it is so if the burden lays solely on your shoulders for the time being, let it lay.
We all do want to go through our best case scenarios, so remember to also spend time preparing for them, and doing them. Don’t forget to play and have fun and enjoy the things we have while we still have them. Take your planning and prepping in stride, Tappan and Rawles did not do it in a day, or a year I assume, so how can you. Whatever preparing that you did prior to the balloon going up is what you did. Ten years is better than two, and one year is better than a month. I assure you though, even one week is far better than the majority of the continent’s inhabitants. Live your life.
I am a list guy. My to do list has grown exponentially recently. With that said, I found it very easy to pick the tasks that I would enjoy first, I am human and that’s our nature. When I first heard “Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids” it seemed so easy and clear to me. Beans, I like to cook, I like to eat, I have a basement. I went to the store and bought canned stuff with a touch of pride realizing how far ahead of the mob I was. Bullets, well that was easy too, I am former Army, I have duck hunting experience and shotguns, and I like guns. Band-aids, I am a EMT-Fireman so that’s covered too…or so I thought.
I gravitated pretty quickly to pumping up my guns and ammo collection. Its a fun hobby and great training. Its what I know and enjoy so what better excuse can you have to buy more, than in the name of defending your family in the coming “end times” (not to be-little that justification, just don’t put all of your attention on it). I spent a couple of bucks on a jump bag for my truck to stock up on some EMS  supplies if needed while mobile. I stocked up the first-aid kit’s at home too. I did start to look at all of the other things on my ever growing list and decided to start prioritizing them. I saw an opportunity that I could not afford to miss, the ability to gather knowledge at my house. What I mean is that the list grew to cover so many topics, so many studies, that it would take a decade to learn the basics of each, let alone get any hands on experience. Rather than wait to learn I decided to buy the “best” books on the topics, no need to list them here as it is pretty much Survivalblog’s bookshelf .
My word of caution here is that as they started to arrive it became overwhelming very quick. For all of the books that came in that I will one day read, my wife was listing child-rearing books that I should have already read and need to read first. I have assured her that I will, and that these are simply a hard copy reference section of our library for the future. That said, it was also a relief to me to keep in mind that while I hope to never need to be leafing through Carla Emery’s book  under candle light, the safety net is there. If the grid goes down and all I have is a list of books and skills to read and learn, I would have been quite disappointed in myself for only making a list. That may have been the last time for generations to come that all the knowledge of the world was at our fingertips.
I was still lacking in the beans department. I had not set a high enough priority on food yet so I ordered the “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course  course to try to get me into gear. It was then that I learned about the disparities in shelf lives and FIFO  rotation, about where and how to shop, how to determine quantities of needed supply, about what items on my food list were top priority. My wife and I joined an Adult-Ed course where we were both exposed to canning for the first time, highly recommended. If there are no courses formally taught near you, or no one in your family has any experience with canning then visit a senior center near you and adopt a lonely senior citizen for a few weeks to have them show you the ropes. You may just improve the lives of more than one person with a move like that. But I digress…
Starting with the Beans portion of preparation is so vital in this equation it can not be over stated. Any veteran prepper will tell you that a well laid plan is always evenly spread across all fields. I will tell you as a rookie prepper that your food is first and more food comes after that and then comes the rest. This leads nicely into the most important advice that I can give to people. When I started to focus on food, I did. It may have been my last focus where it should have been my first, but that is not the mistake I made that I hope at least one reader may learn from my experience.
Water is food! It is the most important food as a matter of fact. I know that my wife is rolling her eyes as she reads this, God bless her, as she has told me time and time again how I need to stop drinking the tap water and to drink only filtered water. My only attempt at water storage thus far had been to recycle all the bottles of water that I bought for her to drink. I refill them with tap water and collect them in the basement next to the new cases of bottled water. I know enough now that tap water stored in 16oz bottles will be no good to drink but those were to serve as our hygiene water if needed, or to boil and drink even though that is not (as I understand it) best. While doing this I still had a feeling that I was missing something huge in my planning. I did buy some iodine tabs, big kettles for boiling, a couple hand pump filters that are designed to last a few hundred gallons or so but I still felt that huge gap. None of those options had any long term viability. Where to go from here but to ask the expert! As it turns out, the solution was quite simple. So simple in fact, dear reader, that I simply did not pay attention at the time, nor did I put the top priority in its proper place. In everything that I have read, water seemed to be the first thing mentioned, the authors point was always that you will die in 72 hours without water. Why I missed the obvious need to prioritize that as number one, I can only speculate. Seeing as it was so recently though I think I know, and I think too, that it is a common fear of other rookie preppers. You have to learn about something you don’t want to, which is always difficult.
Understand this much, no matter how much of whatever you have today, if your not drinking pure H2O every day, your time is limited. All of those things you had become just that, things that you had. Does it not make since to understand without a moment of doubt, the only thing that you really need to sustain life is the only thing that you can not have enough of? You need to determine first and foremost where and how you will have a long term potable water supply. I regret waiting as long as I did to act on this which leads me to believe that other new members to the survival fraternity may try to set the need for water aside for to long, too.
How much time do people spend on fantasy baseball teams, channel surfing, x-box (yes adults included), and the like. How much time do we spend self educating ourselves on things of interest (and yes I know the crowd I am speaking to). The true test comes in asking ourselves what percentage of that time we could be spending studying the things that we have little interest in, no knowledge of, are difficult, yet are so vital to our current and future lives.
I will not get into the details of why I feel that a Berkey water filtration system  is the absolute best solution to water purification. I will not explain why and how simple it is to collect rain water for gardening, open source collection, and storage. My challenge to you is to educate yourself and come to your own conclusion on what will work best in your given situation for what should now be, if it was not before, your number one priority.
I spent a year in the Big Sandbox living with the knowledge that water was the most important need, yet I still missed the call to action in my home life to immediately supply my own family with a sustainable source of drinking water. Please do not make the same mistake that I did and put water first on your list.
In conclusion, for those of us who can still taste the red pill and have doubts or regrets about not choosing the blue pill, its too late (to put it nicely). Having simply entered SurvivalBlog’s web site then you have proven already that you at least have an inkling of knowledge that at some point in the future all that we know and love may be gone in a flash.
You have the ability right this moment to start preparing for the worst, and by doing so, the worst will not be as bad as it could be. Learn to educate yourself by following the examples of those who are willingly guiding you, sharing their mistakes so that you do not have to make them, and sharing their achievements so that you can follow them. Build yourself a reference library that has all of the information laid out in it now while you still have the opportunity. God forbid the ship sets sail tomorrow but a copy of “Making the Best of Basics” with dust on it will be far more valuable to you than a worn out copy of “Call Of Duty” (the video game, guys) when the lights go out for the last time.
While you are on this path of preparing for the worst, never forget to prepare for the best. Your family needs you now, more than they need you in the future.
Most importantly, put a lot of thought into prioritizing what you do first, second, and so on. 72 hours is not a long time in the grand scheme of things but it will be your purgatory if you chose not to act on the advice of those ahead of you. It could have been the peril of my family and neighbors had I not broke through whatever it was holding me back from putting the effort into educating myself just because it felt difficult. I sleep well now, and you will too, once you prioritize your life and start to feel prepared for the future.