Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Key

When I was 24, I had everything. A live-in boyfriend. A house. Furniture to fill it. Photos and art to line the walls. A car. An education. And a job. On paper, it looked perfect. On the inside, everything was falling apart. 

I was months away from 26 when I ended it. When our lease was up 6 months later, we packed up and left a 7 foot wide, 5 foot tall pile of perfectly good stuff behind the house for trash collectors (or garbage hunters - that George Foreman grill still worked). 

I kept the furniture. I kept some stuff. I moved in with a stranger. A year later, we both looked for new digs and to move again - to the location and price I wanted - I had to get rid of more stuff. I downsized again. I felt freer. The weight of each piece of furniture that used to define the life I thought I was ready for, fell off as the shackles of stuff came undone. 

At 30, I moved again. Another downsize. I was prepping for a move I had wanted for years, to a place I was still uncertain where exactly it was. I gave up more things; felt even freer still. 

At 31 I look around and I realize that my contemporaries are filling their homes with stuff and children and things. And I took a seat, casting away all the stuff that tied me to a place and limited me to where I might live or where I could go. If I wanted, my life could fit in my car. I love that; I am tethered to nothing; free and open and able to everything. 

Growing up we were told how life would be as an adult. That we would get an education, then a job, then a spouse, then kids. To work each day to buy a home to fill with furniture to make comfort for a family. At 24, I began to reject what I had sought so hard to achieve because I had grown up thinking that it was the goal, the purpose, the definition of success and therefore the key to happiness. But what I began to realize was that all of those ties to things and what I was expected to have and be, only imprisoned my desire to a life more simple; more shared; more experienced in everything. To live out all of the mistakes we are suppose to make. To have the awful moments to share with friends and family and understand that - even at 31 - we're all still trying to figure it out. That for some people, the life we are raised to believe is right, isn't what is right for us - at least not on the timeline we were brought up to believe. And we have to fail in order to find out what our own definition of success is; what makes us happy. 

Lately I've helplessly watched as loved ones struggle to make something of what they are told is success; what defines their value as a human being. And I think far too often we as humans fail to recognize that losing absolutely everything you thought you wanted and beginning all over again is perhaps the most liberating, terrifying and successful thing(s) we can do. Often we must fail entirely first in order to succeed (even just a little) in the end. And it is then we are truly able to appreciate the tiny successes as much as huge accomplishments. Happiness isn't defined by what we have or the things we have tethered to ourselves; happiness is the joy you feel in small victories and in knowing that everything you have done has brought you to where you are meant to be - and that the future, while scary, remains hopeful. To learn to trust that everything happens in time. That buying stuff and things does not dull a nagging impatience or feelings of ineptitude. 

At months away from 26, I finally learned that you cannot buy happiness. At 30, I learned the freedom from the things you buy, might actually take you one step closer to finding your place. Too often, it seems, humans are enslaved to objects. I find now, a certain euphoria that lies within exactly what we don't know and the ability to drive away whenever - with nothing - in order to know it. At 31, I have realized failing isn't a bad thing; fail isn't a four letter word. That sometimes giving up everything you have is the key to getting everything you ever wanted. So far, I find this to be true. And the hope for more lies in front me.

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