Small is the new big

Photo by Smitten Kitchen (via Pinterest, of course)

Pop the champagne!  I landed two new clients this week. One involves contributing daily posts to a home design and decor blog — the second project of its kind for me at the moment — and the other involves writing about green living.  Seriously, I’m a damn lucky girl for being able to sit around in my PJs, writing about things that interest me and getting paid for it.  Okay, sure, there’s plenty more to it than that — there are other clients, topics, pitches, meetings, stress and fear and all that jazz.  I’m not sitting pretty just yet, and there’s not much time for standing still.  But all the same, this symbolism junkie needs to pause for a minute and take a drag.

I think my favorite thing about the moment we’re all living in right now is the fact that a DIY vase made from a Quaker oatmeal canister stands a fighting chance to be as popular on Pinterest as a piece of Waterford crystal might.  And I get to cover that.  There’s this leveling effect taking place.  It’s more about worth than cachet.  I love that.  It makes the hippie inside my heart* smile THIS BIG.

God bless Pinterest.  Even though all I do there is… well,  look at stuff… and maybe click on it and stick it into a category named something like “Yum,” it still has an odd effect on a person.  After I’ve spent 30 minutes falling down rabbit holes of dresses and photography and font porn, I feel all inspired and artsy, like I’ve painted the Sistine Chapel or something, when… really?  I’m pretty sure all I just did for the past 30 minutes was stare at pictures of kale chips.

That’s the thing.  There’s something comforting in little details.  There’s something comforting in small spaces, too.  In fact, I think the smaller our surroundings, the easier it is to focus on the intricacy of everything around us.  There’s something centering about that.  The devil’s in the details, apparently, but so is something divine.

When I first moved to Austin three years ago, I lucked out and found the most amazing space I’d ever lived in.  31 stories up, smack in the middle of the bustling warehouse district, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Texas State Capitol and countless miles of hill country.  Everything glistened and gleamed. For the first three weeks, thanks to a mega-snafu with the movers, I essentially lived in a transparent box in the sky with no furniture, no television… nothing but my laptop, my pirated wireless, my suitcase and my dog.  It was incredible.  I had no idea what Hulu was — in fact, it probably didn’t exist yet — and I spent my time outside of work either reading, staring out the window or wandering.  I didn’t know a soul in my new city, and I’d never lived more than a couple hours away from my hometown, yet there I was in the middle of nowhere, pretty much devoid of earthly possessions.  I should have been paralyzed with fear.  But I wasn’t.  I felt lighter than I’d ever been in my life.  I remember using the term “urban camping” around that time to describe what my nights and weekends felt like.  The air mattress I was sleeping on sprung a leak on the first or second night.  I didn’t even care.  I was free.

My stuff eventually arrived, of course, and I decorated the crap out of that condo like it was my job.  I took joy in hanging every butterfly on the wall and arranging every item on each shelf.  I lived pretty large for a minute there, scampering around all the newest cafes and watering holes, using words like “mixology” and “urban core,” calling myself an “Austinista” and feeling pretty fancy.  It was a far cry from where I’d started out in life, and the view was amazing.  But after two years, it was time to leave.  Even though it was a tiny little space, it was tucked into a gorgeous high rise in one of the trendiest parts of America’s latest boomtown, which meant it was more of a commitment than I needed to be saddled with during the professional (and inadvertently personal) adventure I was about to go on.  It was time, again, to simplify.

Fast forward to today.  I’m in a teensy little smidge of an apartment that, even with all its flaws, I couldn’t adore more.  There’s nothing inherently special about it by any means… but that’s kind of what makes it special.  The creature comforts I’ve filled it with are expressions of who I am and what I value.  It’s cozy. It’s sure as hell not the sprawling suburban house I was expecting to have by now back when I was in elementary school, playing that game where you choose sides of an origami contraption your best friend made to help you predict whether you’re going end up being Mrs. Haim or Mrs. Feldman, drive a Fiero or a conversion van, and have three kids or twelve.

So, why again am I here instead of that awesome glass box in the clouds, or in the middle of all that suburban sprawl like the fold-up fortune said I’d be?  Well, shit.  I just spent two years working for a startup in the middle of a recession after leaving a perfectly stable PR career behind, and now I’ve gone straight-up freelance with no net underneath me.  It’s possible I’m the stupidest** person alive.

But actually, I don’t think I am.

Remember all those studies that came out a year or two ago, talking about the fact that too many choices stress us out way more than a small handful of options do?  Look, I’m no psychologist or statistician, but I wasn’t shocked by that at all.  I don’t mean to sound like a defeatist, and I certainly don’t want to come off as some apathetic lazybones who doesn’t appreciate the concept of  infinite opportunity… but there’s something to be said for simplicity.  My favorite song in the whole world has long been Carmen McRae’s rendition of “Give Me the Simple Life.”   That probably sounds naive… but hey, I like what I like.  A little bit of stress may be all well and good, but I think I prefer the clarity that comes when all the bullshit falls away and you find yourself practically naked, asking yourself what you’re made of and what you really want.

That’s when the good stuff happens.  And oddly, it doesn’t involve much stuff at all.


*the one hiding behind the pearl stud earrings and the Starbucks cup… no, for real, she’s in there, and she’s barefoot all the time like she thinks she’s Joss Stone or something.

**yup, we’re gonna pretend stupidest is a word.  And also yup, gonna, meep, eep, eeee!, squeee!, eleventy, a bajillion, and OHAI.  Hope you’re okay with that.  If you’re not, it’s cool.  There are tons of crazy good writers over at Thought Catalog and I’d like to count myself among them someday… but in the meantime, I won’t be offended if you go play over there instead.


8 thoughts on “Small is the new big

  1. Love this post. I like things simple, too. That’s why I have all but 10 people blocked on my FB.
    About living bare – wish that I could return to that simplicity.

  2. So thrilled … about the new work and how you’re settling into a wonderful life. This is a crazy existence, this silly doing-what-we-love stuff. I rotate between squealing with joy and worrying that I’m disastrously deluded. At the end of the day though, I accept that I could not return to the old life. Too much joy keeps me here. Keep in touch, keep writing and let’s grab coffee soon. (Or even cheaper, come over for coffee! ha!)

    • Wendy – YES PLEASE! I’ve been meaning to ask you to coffee or drinks but didn’t want to get all up in your face and be like “TEEEACH MEEEE.” I’d love to get together sometime soon. And yes, I walked back into Starbucks for the first time in maybe a month this morning and the barista was nearly accusatory until I told him I’ve launched a writing career and have been brewing my own pot each morning since I’m working from home. Now I think he wants me to write him into a book. 😉

  3. Jessie says:

    Oh Amy, Amy, Amy…I love you to pieces and just adore your writing, your pop culture references and clever wit.

    Speaking of the simple life, do you remember way back when we were chosen by Mr. Gunter for “Young Universe”…and how we were bused once a week to Holiday Hill to soak up the knowledge of Ms. Reagan/Ms. Shirkey’s gifted class? I am pretty sure we also members of The Young Astronauts Program (not sure how that happened–science has never really been my thing). Boy, we thought we were hot shots. Hey, it turns out we are, right? { it turns out modesty is not my thing either. I kid, I kid }. Seriously though, I sure do relish those sweet, simple days with my first friend, Amy, who had long brown hair, wore two matching barrettes, manicured fingers even in Elementary School, and was scared to spend the ‘whole’ night with me because you missed your parents too much (awwww 🙂 I gotta say, you’ve come along way, baby…moving to Austin by yourself, sleeping in your urban apartment with no TV, furniture or internet, appreciating the simple things, simply because you’re being true to yourself. You were made to do wonderful things and it makes my heart so happy to see you’re doing what you’re clearly created to do. Since we’re separated by a few states, we should chat or Skype over coffee sometime, ok?

    Oh, and go ahead and put me on the list for your first book, autographed, of course! I’ll be happy to design your book cover and take your headshots 😉 xoxo~ can’t wait till next Friday for your next post! {Really? We have to wait until Friday?}

    BTW, I’m intrigued by this Barista you speak of…

    • Oh my lord, you just made my whole year.

      We absolutely need to set up a little Skype date! Mrs. Shirkey’s class was one of my favorite things ever. I completely forgot about Young Astronauts… but it kind of explains my mild fascination with the space program, even though math and science were never my thing either, at least after age 7 or 8. Ooh, remember 4-H? And wow, I totally did rock the mani way back then, didn’t I? Dang, my parents let me get away with WAY too much.

      Remember when I tried to go by my middle name, Nicole, but your sister had already done the exact same thing and I totally got stonewalled by everyone we knew? I think it was 4th grade. If it weren’t for her, people wouldn’t know me as “Amy” today. (!!!) And as for YOU, I dare say Mr. and Mrs. Busche sure did throw some epic bday parties. I think you might have been the first kid in America to have an actual ice cream cake back in the day when people were like, “What do you mean, ice cream cake?” Oh my god, we’re geriatrics.

      I’m definitely looking to you for a book cover design! Hang in there and give me a year or so…

      And as for the barista (baristo?), I’m sure he’s a nice person, but he’s not nearly as intriguing as the handsome fella who’s been making me smile for the past year. We’ll leave it at that for now. 😉

      Shoot me a message and let’s figure out when to have a virtual cuppa.


      • Jessie says:

        Oh, definitely! It’s a virtual coffee date. I have such a creative crush on you 😉 Keep doing what you’re doing. If I can help, foster or just encourage in any way, you tell me what you need. (I sound a little obsessed, don’t I?)

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