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.