NOTE: I originally wrote this post on January 30, 2020. The first month of this new year brought its fair share of challenges – ones that forced me to reevaluate my intentions for the year and what I truly needed to sustain my own humanity. In light of the worldwide change being brought on by the Coronavirus, I could have edited this post a million more times. But in an effort to retain some normalcy and stay true to the root of my own desire for simplicity, I’ve chosen to keep this post as-is. To remind both myself and all of us that we are still who we were before all of this began, and the things that make us who we are – that tell us what we want from this life – have not gone away. In fact, they are still very real. And remembering those things might bring us back to the purpose and intention that we so need during these wild times. I think you’ll all find it quite ironic to see that the things I was seeking have become the life we’re all living whether we like it or not. So, here goes:
Simple. Just keep it simple, stupid.
These are the words I’ve been muttering to myself day-in and day-out over the course of the last 3 months, willing myself to find simplicity, feeling disorganized and overwhelmed in the process – yet somehow pushing forward, because for once I truly believe that the end result could be life-changing.
And why? Well, maybe because I already know I have more than I could ever need and I don’t know any other way to stop myself from constantly pursuing even more.
Simplicity. A simpler life. A grateful life. All of this in reach, but currently being held up by the need to define what exactly this simplicity looks and feels like in my current life.
I’ll be real – I’ve talked about simplicity before. But “way back then,” I don’t think I truly understood it. I wasn’t ready to admit what it would take to get there, and so I gave up easily. Or worse, I completely forgot about it when I moved onto yet another rebrand.
But I think, deep down, I’ve always been seeking this. The life I live is the perfect potential poster child for the minimal and simplistic lifestyle: I have goats (which I don’t milk or use to fulfill the soap-making dreams of those much more motivated than me); I live in a pretty small house with a 2-story open floorplan in the country; I work a job that is rooted in passion, not profit; and I always grew up feeling like I was the one who had my optimistic shit together, who could calm a nervous friend or talk sense into a wild moment. (Ha, if y’all only knew the mess in my head.)
But I haven’t lived up to this prophecy well. When my life “slowed down” and I moved out to the country, things only got more complex. All around me, I began to witness lives that are so content with so little; people who work hard, day and night; mobile homes with childrens’ toys strewn about the front yard, not a care in the world aside from how they might pay their electric bill this month. I see cows, happily grazing in their fields. I see people with money who drive beat-up trucks because they haven’t broke down just yet and they don’t care about the latest model. I see couples who don’t need the thrill of a night on the town, because staying at home is just perfect for now. I see, well, happiness.
And the truth is, I want that.
I want to know how it feels to want for nothing. I want to break down the steps it might take to be happy just staying at home. I want to shed the materialistic habits of my youth for something a little more sustainable and fulfilling. And the root of it – the road map to get there – lies in simplicity. It lies in gratitude for that simplicity. And most of all, it lies in acknowledging that gratitude for that simplicity.
Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to go out to the movies once a week. Movies were cheaper in Westerville, Ohio, and there was always a Starbucks nearby for a little afternoon indulgence. But if you gave a girl a Starbucks frappuccino, you could bet she was going to take a stroll around the mall. And once she was in that mall, she’d be remiss to not buy something shiny and new, wouldn’t she?
I’m not pointing fingers and I’m not casting blame, but I was brought up in a world that always had more to offer. And while I could craft an excellent essay for school, and a few pretty bad poems for myself, taking the time to sit and be silent and create was not a part of my daily life – at least once I got old enough to wish I was Britney Spears or someone else whose life seemed that much more glamorous than my own.
So I built a life, and a series of habits, rooted in treating myself to something – anything – that involved getting out and spending money. Because that’s what treating yourself means, right?
It wasn’t until I realized I was inadvertently hiding shopping bags from my fiancé that I discovered I might have a problem.
But this isn’t a story about debt or hoarding. It’s a story about having too much, having more than I need – and looking for more as the answer to finding myself when I’m too bored or inexperienced with the idea of simply being alone with myself.
I wouldn’t say it’s all been rooted in escapism. There are beautiful summer days when I am perfectly content reading a novel on the porch, taking pause to walk about the goat pasture surrounding our house and feeling so freakin’ grateful that I’m the kind of person who has a goat pasture surrounding her house. I know what those moments feel like; I just want to find them more often.
More than that, I think my “problem” lies in not fully being able to understand my place in this rebrand I’ve found myself in. Like I said, I grew up a certain way. And then I moved to Nashville and I found my own way to continue that lifestyle. But when I joined my life with someone else, in a world that was completely unfamiliar to me, it felt all the more necessary to cling to that girl I used to be. I deserved it, I’d tell myself. I deserved to get away and treat myself to something pretty, because I was tired of always having to worry if I was wearing the right clothes to get dirty in today.
My escape has always begun with a simple walk in a park, where I fill my head with podcasts and other peoples’ opinions. But then my impressionable mind and body will journey to the parts of Nashville I no longer visit anymore – the chic and busy neighborhood of Green Hills, where everyone drives a Range Rover and carries a Louis Vuitton – and I’ll do my best to fit in. I’ll treat myself to the life I’ll never have, because some part of me still wants it. And some vain, unfulfilled, confidence-lacking, unsure, 20-something part of me still wants to be special – the kind of special that doesn’t have horse manure on the bottom of her black flats.
Yet it’s in those moments, surrounded by those people, that I’ve actually been able to realize how special I am, and how often I miss out on the opportunity to share it properly. How far away I’ve ventured from the story I intended to tell through my writing.
You see, I hide behind the things I buy. I obsess over my image, over the things I wish I could change, over the perfect way to tell my strange little story in a way that might actually make me a “real writer.” And I think I’m scared. I’m scared of saying it wrong. I’m scared that it won’t resonate with anyone. I’m scared that I’ll discover I don’t really have a story to tell. But it’s when I’m hiding behind the designer bag or the expensive perfume that I’m most forgetting to live out my story – to create it, to craft it, to nurture it and actually make it something worthwhile.
So I’m simplifying. I’m removing all of the layers, working with what I have, and figuring out how, exactly, to move forward and live MY life. Not the life of the people in the mobile homes, not the life of the Green Hills moms, not the life of my incredible impending in-laws, not the life of my loving parents or my awesome friends – but MY life. My crazy, chaotic, mismatched life. A life that leaves space for reading and writing and learning and creating and appreciating and getting to the core of understanding who I am and what I actually want.
And I think it will be okay if I still love a good luxury handbag, if I still enjoy getting my nails done on occasion or going out to a nice dinner. But I can’t run to these things to secure all my happiness, because the bag will get scratched, my nails will break, and that dinner will be over in a hour or two.
The things I want to share with y’all here on Simple + Good have nothing to do with what I’m wearing or how I look behind this screen, so why am I investing so much time, money, and energy in cultivating that, when what I should be worried about is cultivating the kind of person you can trust, who has good things to share with purpose and intention. I should be living the life I tell y’all to believe in.
And coming to terms with that is the very first step.