Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What kind of life do you want?

This is one of those questions I spend hours contemplating. Don't we all?

I know there are people on the fringe who think that they are the only enlightened ones and that the rest of the world is living like muggles or mindless drones enslaved to consumerism/popular culture/other people's opinions/the powers that be/whatever. That's pretty much the premise of all dystopian fiction,

from this
to this

But I don't actually believe that's true of our world. I don't think people are drones or muggles. I think we're all regular people. I think we live in regular-topia, not dys- or u- topia.

And it seems to me that most regular people live intentionally, even if they don't use that term. We all make choices about what to do with our money, our time, and our other finite resources. We choose what to watch, where to live, when to go to bed at night. Some of those choices are good and others are bad, but they're still choices. No one actually lives on autopilot. And if you feel like you are living on autopilot, it's easy to fix that. Just choose something different. Start with one little thing.

Okay, this is turning into a motivational poster, which was not exactly my intent. Ahem. Getting back on track . . .

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm saving up to purchase a tiny house. This isn't one of those little, everyday choices; it's a big a decision, one I've come to slowly and deliberately. I don't want to go into my entire history with tiny houses. That's another story for another post. For today, let's just say that this is something I've spent nearly five years considering, which is basically half of my adult life. I've gone through all the stages of tiny house obsession:

1. the initial awe and aimless daydreaming
2. the realization that this dream will be harder to achieve and will require more sacrifices than I anticipated
3. the conversations with family and friends, explaining that I'm not actually crazy (Well, not as crazy. We're all a little crazy.)
4. the "Oh, yeah, I have to pay for this. How am I going to do that?" part
5. the logistics of it all—parking, financing, building vs. buying, floorplans, utilities, timelines, downsizing my possessions, and on and on and on

Through all of this, I've kept quiet about tiny houses on the blog. This is mostly because for the first part of the process I wasn't blogging and for the second part, in spite of my best efforts, I really wasn't sure I'd be able to make it happen. So I kept quiet, but I also kept thinking about the kind of life I wanted and how to achieve it.

Now that I can say with confidence that it's going to happen, I'm starting to freak out a little bit. One of my biggest fears in life is that I'll work super hard for something and then realize after I get it that I didn't really want that thing I worked so hard for. I'm not going to lie, this could very well happen with my tiny house. That's why I've decided to call my tiny house The Folly.

I picked the name months ago because a folly can be defined as a costly ornamental building or a really egregious error. That double meaning amuses me.

So why am I still determined to do it even if I think it might turn out to be a bad idea?

Because I know what kind of life I want.

Remember my PQLR? (If not, see this post.) It's basically a quick way to see how my choices align with my personal values.

Living in a tiny house currently scores a 19.5 out of 20. In comparison, writing fiction full time scores a 16, and I love writing! Going to girls camp, which I also really love, gets a score of 18. To be perfectly honest, the only thing that ranks higher than moving into a tiny house is marrying my absolute ideal guy. And since that's not entirely under my control, I've decided to pursue this alternative in the meantime.

If I get married someday, great! I'll be even happier. If not, I want to make sure I'm living my life to the fullest right now. And for me, that means living in a tiny house.

Like this one! Look how pretty it is!

But there are always trade-offs. Yesterday was one of those days when I spent a lot of time thinking about the trade-offs.

It started in the morning when I looked at all the funds I've saved up so far to use as a down payment on my tiny house and I thought, "I could go on an awesome trip to Europe with that much money." Even though I like to think of myself as a person who loves to travel, the truth is, I haven't left North America more than three times in my whole life. I've been to a grand total of six countries, and one of those was only for a layover in an airport. Someday, I hope to change that.

Later in the day, I thought about how "going tiny," as it's called, could potentially narrow my career opportunities. I've never been the kind of person who dreamed of taking over the world or becoming a huge professional success. I think it's kind of inherent to writing and editing that you prioritize doing work you love over work that pays you well or earns you glory, laud, and honor. But yesterday something happened that made me feel like I was right on the cusp of a breakthrough in my career. And it made me wonder if now was really the right time for a tiny house.

Then last night I went to a fancy event downtown with my grandparents. It was their birthday present to me, and it was really a wonderful evening. I got to eat yummy, expensive food; meet lots of prominent, influential people from our church; and listen to a speaker I deeply admire and respect. And I thought about how the trade off for living a small, simple life is not knowing what you could've done if you'd really tried to do something big. Standing there in that room, talking to those people, I realized that I've been blessed with some incredible advantages. If I wanted to, I could capitalize on those and make something of myself the way each of those people had. I could become a serious force for good. I could serve so many people.

But . . . even as wonderful as all that sounds, it's not the life I really want.

Yes, traveling is important to me. It's one of the reasons a tiny house is so appealing. I want to be able to move my house around with me as I explore new places. And yes, my career is also important to me. I want to be able to work remotely someday so that I can continue doing the work I love, no matter where my house and I go. And yes, I do want to become a force for good, but I think the best way to do that will be to live in harmony with my personal values and to worry less about how big of an impact I'm making and more about doing the best I can to serve in whatever capacity I'm in. After all, Christ wasn't concerned with becoming influential; He was concerned with helping others individually.

I don't mean for any of this to come across as judgmental. If you want any of those things I mentioned, I am so ready to support you. I'm just trying to point out that for me, the trade-offs aren't worth it. I know exactly the kind of life I personally want. And I'm so thrilled to be so close to reaching it. People, I've got a dream. I hope you do too.

After I finished writing this far, I seriously debated about whether or not to actually post this. Part of me has always been nervous about talking about my future plans in case something goes wrong and the plan doesn't come to fruition. I'm not actually afraid of commitments, but it's one thing to personally commit to something and quite another thing to post that commitment on the internet.

Posting this feels like a promise to you all and to myself that I'm actually going to do this, and as much as I would like to move in tomorrow, truth be told, there are still several hurdles to clear before I can take that step. But then I reminded myself that I've overcome obstacles in pursuit of my dreams before. I can do it again. We all can.

In fact, we have to. Because it's our dreams that keep us from living on autopilot. They change us from muggles to wizards. And even if we find out later that they aren't exactly what we wanted, that's okay because the pursuit of them has already changed us for the better.

My pursuit of a tiny house has already changed so much about the way I live my life, and I can't wait to see how much more good will come from it once I'm actually living in The Folly.

So I guess this post really is a promise. I promise to pursue my dreams, even if they change, and to do my best to support others as they pursue theirs. I promise to keep you all posted on my tiny house progress. And I promise not to give up because I know that, as cheesy and motivational-poster-y as it sounds, our dreams are what make life worth living.

And that's the kind of life I want.

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