|This view did not cost a penny.|
What does it really mean to be free?
According to dictionary.com, liberty is defined as "freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction or hampering conditions". It's the "power or right of doing, thinking, and speaking according to choice". Yeah, that sounds about right.
I define freedom as the ability to do what I want whenever I want without having to consult with another. I find comfort in the space of having freedom to succeed, but also the freedom to make mistakes. My mistakes are my greatest teachers. When I screw up, I let go of the anxiety and rest into the newly acquired lessons that I (hopefully) take away from the situation.
I've experienced independence from my family, my significant other, my friends, and my employers. I've made choices that were right for me, even though they might have seemed crazy to everyone else.
Lately, I've discovered a new kind of freedom. As I was preparing to move 2,000 miles from my home last October, I was faced with the reality that "you can't take it with you". I could only take with me what would fit in my car, so that meant I needed to shed over half of my possessions. My clothing, household items, books, etc., all had to be pared down to the bare necessities. At first, this was a daunting task. How could I part with all of my things?
My friend, Marga, sent me an article about a man who owns just fifteen items. That seemed a bit ambitious for my taste, though I admire him for it. He is truly free.
The hardest items for me to part with are my books. My worldly possessions are now dominated by my book collection. More than 50% of the items I currently own are books. I just can't seem to part with them as easily as the other things. That old shirt, sure, it can go. That hard back copy of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, you must be joking.
Going through my items was difficult. Memories of good times and not so great times flooded my brain along with thoughts of "but I might need that one day". During the last few weeks that I lived in Virginia, I sorted through every item that I owned. As the time to leave grew closer, I became tired of going through all that stuff, and I found it a little easier to let go with each passing day. I began to ask myself, "do I really need this?" More often than not, the answer was no.
I sold, gifted, and donated nearly everything I owned. I managed to whittle my wardrobe down to just what would fit in one suitcase. That's winter and summer clothing. Everything. And I didn't even have to sit on it to zip it shut.
In this age that is driven by consumerism, I find it interesting that I really don't need very much. It felt good to lighten the load. It's been liberating to rid myself of all that stuff. I find that I have more free time because I don't have to concern myself with mountains of laundry, loads of dishes, or tidying up things that might be scattered about. Those things just don't exist.
When I arrived in Tucson, I relied on Goodwill and Craigslist to furnish my apartment. I'm using the term "furnish" loosely. I have a couch and a chair. My friend, Shaena, loaned me two tables and a coffee pot. The only thing in my bedroom is my bed, which I brought with me.
|Life is full of simple pleasures.|
Last December, I traveled for 24 days with only what would fit in my carry-on tote bag and my backpack. I went from Tucson to Honolulu to Charlottesville and back to Tucson with only three outfits, two pairs of shoes, my computer, my phone, four books, and some toothpaste. Oh, and granola bars. I did have a bunch of those in the bag.
I felt completely free. I wasn't tied down by possessions. I was able to explore wherever I happened to be at the time. I trusted that everything else I might need would be provided. And it was.
In Hawaii, I stayed in a hostel during my Nia Brown Belt training. My friend, Kristin, lived close to Honolulu, so I asked her to loan me a towel, a blanket, and a tea cup. She brought me the softest blanket and the most beautiful tea cup I've ever seen. More importantly, I got to spend time with my friend in the magical land of Hawaii.
After my time in Hawaii was up, I flew all the way back to Virginia. I did not have enough warm clothes to survive the winter there when I arrived, so I headed to the local thrift shop to acquire some winter gear. When I walked into ReThreads, the owner and my dear friend, Melissa, informed me that I had quite a bit of credit due to the sale of some of my clothing I had consigned when I left for Tucson. I ended up with four winter outfits for free. The best part was that when I left Virginia for Tucson later in December, I just returned the clothes to the thrift shop.
Last week, my friend, Hansel, invited me to a clothing swap. This invitation came at just the right time, because I had a few clothing items I wanted to retire, but I had not had a chance to get to Goodwill yet. I was surprised at how much fun it was.
For someone new in town, this was the perfect opportunity to meet new people. There were about thirty folks there sifting through the mounds of clothing. It was a potluck, so after stuffing my bag with new-to-me clothing items, I was able to enjoy some delicious food and mingle with the local Tucsonians. With events like this, I may never "shop" for clothes again!
“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” ― Elise Boulding
I've become more aware of shopping mindfully. This means when I do shop, I shop locally, and I buy only what I need. In my opinion, there's way too much stuff in the world already. If there's anything I need, I can almost always find a friend who is more than willing to loan it to me. If not, I'll check Craigslist or the thrift shop. Usually, if I can't find it at that point, chances are I probably don't need it anyway. It also helps that I don't watch TV. I don't have ads bombarding me with the new and exciting things I'm missing in my life. My life is full enough, thankyouverymuch.
This new mindset has made me realize that I can be at home anywhere. Home is not about things. It's about people and experiences. I've been in Tucson for about six months now, and I still don't have much more than I brought with me. And I love it that way.