There is no question in my mind that this year will be a very big year, it seems to be rushing by ever so quickly and is already almost one quarter gone. In looking forward to my busy future I’ve also been reflecting on my past and thinking that the cycles of life are rather curious things.
‘Don’t look at me, I’m the same as everyone else‘ … Our early years can be spent aiming for sameness; we want to look the same, act the same, and talk the same to ‘fit in’. However once we’ve blended in, we eventually discover the downside to being just like everyone else is that we can lose our own sense of self. It becomes frustrating rather than satisfying to be counted as one amongst many.
‘I’m so different you probably shouldn’t look at me‘ … From there we often set out to dramatically re-define ourselves and show the world we are clearly different from everyone else. These actions are often something obviously transformative like changing hairstyles or drastically changing our clothing style. However we demonstrate it, we clearly seek to demarcate ourselves as ‘our own persons’.
‘Look at me and all that I have‘ … Sometime later the radicalness of this self-expression generally tones itself down and we start to expand our material domain – perhaps by accumulating clothes, moving into a house, buying furniture, CDs, DVDs, books etc. Life can feel more secure, but it can also feel heavy, sometimes too heavy. Once more we can feel a little lost amongst all the ‘stuff’ of our lives.
‘Look or don’t look, either way is fine with me‘ … Pretty soon we come to realise that these efforts to define ourselves through such external means are rather pointless. What becomes important is less to do with the image we reflect to the world through our possessions, but instead has everything to do with the richness of our experiences and who we are as people.
I’ve been wanting to streamline and simplify my life for a long while now, but for the first time I feel like I’m actually making true progress in that direction. The wardrobe is shrinking, the bookshelves are emptying, and many hours have been spent listing items on ebay and waiting in line at the post office. While sometimes it can be sad to wave goodbye to some of the things I’ve owned for many years, all in all this has proved to be a re-energising process. I’m enjoying the feeling of setting things free into the world again and figure if I really do need to have them, they will find a way to come back into my life again at a later date.
Rather than seeing the space created by down-sizing my possessions as an opportunity to fill with more things, I now take great pleasure in the nothingness – the chatter and noise created by all those extraneous material possessions is gradually being quietened. Of course the desire for ‘things’ is ever present, but I now find it easier to separate a need from a want. I am better able to convince myself that many of my previously identified ‘needs’ are not life necessities at all.
This time of material purging fortuitously coincided with an article I read about Sam Worthington. In the article he spoke about his early film success and subsequent struggles with the ‘falseness’ of Hollywood. Eventually he reached a point where he needed to make a change. The solution? He decided to sell everything he owned – well, everything save for two bags: one for clothes and one for books. In his own words:
‘I sold everything I owned before Avatar. I had a house, a car, a microwave, but I had a bit of a brain-turn on reaching 30. I sold everything at an auction, so when I met Jim I just had a bag of books and a bag of clothes. Four years later I’ve still got a bag of books and a bag of clothes. I haven’t had time to settle down and buy a house, and I don’t think those things make up who you are. What makes me who I am is the person I’m discovering doing these films…’
While such a drastic distillation of my material life is currently unattainable for a whole host of practical reasons, I will use the sentiment as an aspirational goal to work towards. Little by little the background material noise will fall away, until nothing but a whisper remains.
Life will be lighter, quieter and so much richer.