A friend recently asked me if I ever felt an overwhelming social pressure to get married and have kids.
My answer, “Not really.”
Sure, there’s pressure from a social norm standpoint, but I seldom let it get to me. However, recently I have felt a great deal of social pressure with my current life decision; to not go back to my corporate career and instead sell 90% of what I own to go make slightly over $15000 a year. I am truly going back to square one, the square I was in when I graduated from college.
Today there are an increasing number of women not getting married or having a family. But I don’t know many other people who have decided willingly to go from the making of an extremely comfortable lifestyle with a 6 figure salary to practically nothing. No home, and few possessions. Sure, when I used to have really terrible days at work I’d fantasize about giving it all up and living a simpler life – but deep down I didn’t think it would actually happen.
When I refer to social pressure, I’m not saying that people are specifically putting pressure on me telling me not to do it. In fact my friends and family have been very supportive through my struggles, indecision, and tears. The pressure is coming from myself and what I see around me. Ever since I graduated from college I have been on a quest; a quest to be ‘grown up’ and successful. A quest to own furniture that doesn’t come with assembly instructions.
I still remember the first piece of furniture I ever purchased; a couch from Sears.Then came a bed, some side tables, kitchen appliances, works of art, pottery, clothes, more clothes, handbags, and a shitload of shoes. Some how I moved from my apartment in Omaha, NE, which was furnished with furniture from garage sales and posters that I put in a plastic frames to a beautiful loft in Manhattan with real wood furniture and actual art on my walls. I had a real ‘grown-up’ life I purchased for myself.
Now I look around at all the stuff I have acquired through the years and realize that it’s really my enemy. It’s holding me hostage. But who at 38 yrs old in their right mind gives it all up?
I had to make this weighty decision while I was away from my stuff – it’s too hard to do while you are sitting on your perfectly good couch that you are deciding whether to give up or not. I’d like to say that my time back in NY since January has been fun and carefree – but it hasn’t. I’ve been weighted down with big decisions – what do I do next, how will I live, how do I avoid corporate America, where will I live, how will I make money to live? This constant bombardment of difficult questions that I submit myself to has been a slow torture. Coupled that with being in NY where you tend to bleed money – it has really sucked.
In order to not lose my mind I’ve had to make some decisions and my first step is to cut free of the shackles of my stuff and rent payments.
Selling my ‘stuff’ off to my family, friends, neighbors, and strangers creates a weird feeling. It’s certainly not a comfortable situation. As I hand over the items that I worked so hard to acquire I try to think of it as if I’m getting rid of a disease and now it’s someone else weighty shackles. They will have to house it for years and be tied down to it. By looking at it as buying my freedom, it doesn’t feel as pathetic.
As I look around my comfortable apartment, I wonder for a moment just how much my stuff defines me. It’s a fact that stuff doesn’t make you happy, so why not cut free? As I watch my things march out of my life I have to change my mindset. My stuff and my apartment doesn’t define me. Instead, it’s my writing and this blog that defines me. I don’t need stuff…I feel lighter already.