“Courageously, we need to articulate new, more human ways to live. We should take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn. We should experiment with bold new alternatives to the present death-giving system.” -Richard J. Foster
I’ve always been a hippie (or yuppie or hipster, or whatever best couches me as slightly crunchier-than-the-mainstream). I would also try to tell you that I’ve always valued simplicity. But in the last few months, lifestyle creep has tripped me up a bit. I have a cluttered apartment, I’m a little behind on my credit card, and I’m quoting Bono – because I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (1). Thankfully, I had a practice of simplicity in my early 20s that I found myself longing for.
Now, let me back up a second. My early 20’s practice of simplicity was hardly a choice. It was a lovely framework for my situation in life: a newly married college grad whose bright future was met with the 2008 financial crisis. All of my academic achievement and hustle promised a meaningful job at graduation, so I quit my retail job to focus on finding my dream job. When there was a run on my bank (2), I snatched up a terrible reception job and held on for dear life and medical benefits.
My new husband was a contractor, building luxury mountain homes for the wealthy Wall Streeters who were betting on this cultural collapse, and his work dried up quickly. We started our life together with modest dreams, to say the least, and even those seemed far-fetched when we looked at the world around us. So, to pull ourselves out of debt, to accentuate the positive, we ‘chose’ simplicity. Let’s be honest, in this case, it chose us.
Fast forward 8 years, we’re living in the city we really only dreamed of visiting together and we have jobs that put our strengths to good use. We have been on dream vacations to Istanbul, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hawaii together. We’ve even clumsily ambled through Soho to actually shop. I’m ever grateful for these experiences, which still feel so luxurious and special to me. But, I also carry into each joyful experience a considerable amount of woe, of looming anxiety.
“…riches and abundance come hypocritically clad in sheep’s clothing pretending to be security against anxieties and they become then the object of anxiety…they secure a man against anxieties just about as well as the wolf which is put to tending the sheep secures them…against the wolf.” – Kierkegaard
The world has been steeped in a certain melancholy the last 18 months or so. Each day delivers a headline that seems to counter hope. I’ve let a lot of the news in lately, and it’s been tremendously draining. I’ve watched the Syrian refugee crisis and felt hopeless, save for donating to relief funds from time to time. I listen to a man who holds immense power and responsibility blather on about how the White House is a dump and lie, lie, lie. It’s clear that his only merits are his wealth and possession, and his deepest failure is his greed and self-protectionism. In response to all this, I need something to change.
To quote the most sympathetic story villain of all time, Aaron Burr “I am the one thing in life I can control.”(3) I know that a simplicity mindset empowered me when I had very little and fewer options, and I’m assuming now that a simplicity mindset can empower me if I choose that perspective now, if I try this out in my life again today. I’m curious about the challenges and anxieties I’ll have to confront in this phase of life, but I am more curious about what will come of less things, more time, and more white space.
1 – I still love him; haters back off.
2 – RIP, WaMu
3 – Dear Leslie Odom, Jr. and Michael Luwoye, your voices make me tear up, even when I’m just thinking about listening to “Wait For It”