May 17, 2017

Intention Over Easy

Cultivating persistence is key when faced with doubt.

Minimalism seeped into my life long before I knew it had a name when, after several years spent shuffling from one residence to another during the turbulence of my teens and early 20s, it became apparent that having more stuff meant having more stuff to carry—on all levels.

This stayed with me as circumstances solidified into a long-desired period of stability. I was lucky enough to score steady and decent employment (with an art degree even!) shortly after graduation. It was nowhere near a 6-figure salary, that’s for sure, but it pushed me a few years ahead of my peers for a good while. However, the increased comfort bred a complacency that began to slowly sicken me. I entered into my job on the notion that I’d stick around about 5 years and then bounce on to bigger and better things. 13 years, a few vehicle payments, and a modest mortgage later saw the circumstances providing all this comfort turn sour and I had to sacrifice my hard-earned security. After more than a decade it was time to let go.

This turned out to be considerably difficult. With every step of the process I approached a setback testing my resolve. Surprisingly, my parents were supportive as were most of my friends. While I did have a few relatives scoff and while my mom still can’t resist buying me the occasional cheesy off-kilter tee shirt (that I almost never, ever actually wear), I met pretty mild resistance. Looking back, I should have been more heartened and more appreciative of this good will, because I have come to heavily rely on it through some questionable times. I have at least developed gratitude now, even if it’s being grateful that my fear of letting them all down keeps me from giving up too readily.

My home sold for less than needed and I had to keep the job I desperately wanted to leave which was the reason for selling in the first place. I liked my house, though it wound up being bigger than I needed and took a lot of care. I always had a spare room open for a revolving door of roommates on transition to the next part of their lives. It was my turn for a new chapter but it felt like I hit a brick wall right out the starting gate. My anxiety levels went through the roof as my frustration levels mounted, and I’m 99% sure that is the exact opposite of the result I was trying to cultivate.

Then, at last, I was free from the grind!
I was maybe a little too attached to my expectations.

Self-employment is riddled with fits and starts, and the feast-or-famine dry spells are demoralizing. It’s easy to obsess over whether the work will ever come, and spend too much time looking for it. It’s an awkward rhythm to sink into like stepping into some coldish water on an early summer day when it’s maybe not quite warm enough to swim yet. Eventually the body gets used to it but everything screams to get out for the first few minutes, except this is going on about 18 months. I’ve only considered seriously packing it in and becoming a bartender once, very recently. I don’t know if it’s good luck or genuinely the fruits of my own labor, however, projects are picking up slowly. For the time being, momentum is my friend again, and I stay my own boss for a little longer.

I’m financially vulnerable in a way that I haven’t experienced in years. I can no longer comfortably afford a doctor, or feel confident I can cover needed car repairs. I currently reside in a tiny vintage RV with my partner while exchanging space on a friend’s property for handyman work, lawn maintenance, and dog watching. I’m learning a lot, though, which I’m aware reads as cliché, but I’m being honest here. My “house” is a 7.5x13’ aluminum-and-wood box on tires in Texas, so I physically do not have space for unnecessary things. In the past 3 years I’ve given up 90% of what I owned, but right now I can look around and long to get rid of 90% of what’s right in front of me.

The absurdity of this situation isn’t lost on me; I question if I’m doing this right. All of this seems so ridiculous, so scary, and so… hard. Is this right for me?

“Am I true to myself?” is more relevant. If so and this discomfort is still unbearable, do I give up? Or do I change my perspective and focus?

I go with the second question, reexamine my challenges, and reframe my approach with new emphasis. I rebalance my time and spend more creating work than desperately searching the skies for it. If I make something with sincere intent and attention to detail then the rewards will come. I appreciate the hours and days I spend how I decide, immersed in what I want to do, not dwelling on the struggles and sacrifices.

It’s easy to promote an ethos when the results have already played out. When faced with uncertainty in the meantime, though, I turn to the details in the daily to take me where I need to go.

Published by Melissa Erwin in Lifestyle

Photography by Nils Holger Moormann

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