If I’d taken my father’s advice whenever I had an opportunity (or created one for myself!), I’d be a childless, single, secretary, never fully living this great adventure, I call my life…perfect or not.
During a conversation yesterday he discouraged me from seizing an opportunity to take a lucrative job that I would absolutely love, because it requires a move back to San Francisco (and off my quaint little island where I admittedly have built a sweet life and cultivated a few very meaningful friendships).
He suggested I examine my life-long patterns of switching-up my life every 4 or 5 years, and asked if I was just “pulling a geographic out of boredom”. I told him I have done a little soul searching (thank you very much), and I’ve decided to embrace the fact that I’m all about adventure, learning, growing, self-discovery, building community – a free spirit, who thrives from taking risks. I have unique skills (I love setting up new programs and businesses, and I’m willing to take risks), skills that it turns out, people will pay for! I’ve also maintained very close ties to my friends in the Bay Area over the last 5 years, which honestly surprised me…so on my last visit there, it felt like home.
It then occurred to me that my father has discouraged me from taking any opportunity I’ve encountered, including having a child (too expensive and burdensome), getting my master’s degree (you have a perfectly good job as a secretary, with great benefits, and a child to support). Or leaving a really unhealthy relationship (what about your financial security?) All of this is somewhat ironic giving his love of living on sailboats, and his dislike of traditional American culture. But I’m his daughter, and he worries.
I realize that dad is motivated by fear, and the need for security, while I’m motivated by the need for adventure and freedom. No judgment. It just is.
What’s your primary motivator? Love, safety, family, adventure, continuity, peace, new challenges?
All this said, this tempting opportunity begs the question….could I continue to embrace this minimalist life I have now cultivated, while living in San Francisco? Or would I be lured back into eating out every night, shopping for recreation, buying another home, and consuming my way through the city like a PacMan on speed (given a better salary than I earn with my non-profit here in the Pacific Northwest). I’d like to think so.
I ask myself many questions. Would my spirit die from the city noise, heavy traffic, street litter, and the dense population? Will I regret a move such as this, when I’m stuck in my first traffic jam while attending meetings in San Jose? On the other hand, I look forward to seeking out my SGI brothers and sisters, living in a thriving lesbian community again, the accessibility and variety of independent local theater and music, a thriving nightlife, and exploring my beloved Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park. And not least of all, reconnecting with long-time friends who have remained my confidants all these years.
Having watched the incredible movie, Return to the Garden, last night with my son and kindred spirit, Deborah Milton, at the historic Lynwood theater, I have cause to pause. The lives these rugged hippie individualists choose to lead are appealing, admirable, and enviable. I’m reminded that I live a sweet life on Bainbridge Island, and it’s true – it is lovely. And like the protagonists in our story, I don’t quite earn enough to support my son, and while I like my job, I admit, I’m ready for new challenges, and the stress of insurmountable old debt (from my previous consumer-driven lifestyle) is overwhelming at times.
Meanwhile, Noel is much more likely to find a tax attorney job in SF, and my son is chomping at the bit for the move (an Aries, like me, he’s always up for something new). Having already decided to leave high school a year early to get his GED, he wants to work at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in SF, which used to be our extended family, when his other mom and auntie worked there – until they went on to “professional” careers as a nurse and social worker. It’s a great idea – connecting him with folks who have our shared values, and many of whom remember and love him, still. Could we live in the Mission district and raise chickens and drive an electric car, like my friend Julie? Or live like Rita, who lives in a fantastic flat in Northbeach, and walks to her corporate job in the financial district each day, writing and painting by night? Could we live communally with others, enjoying shared resources while saving the extra money, paying down debt and continuing to adhere to these new values (which took me several years to achieve, after leaving the bay area)?
Here are some ideals I have, for simple living in a big city:
Ride a bike and take public transportation – ditch the car
Join a food coop, or better yet, put in a few shifts a month
Rent a place with a patch of dirt for some veggie gardening
Build or join a community garden
Join organizations to meet people and cultivate personal interests
Use the higher salary to pay down debt, increase monthly cash-flow, and put money aside for the future (rather than buying the next pretty thing)
Buy experiences, not things
Seek out and build community with like-minded individuals
Spend a lot of time in parks and nature
Join on-line communities such as Urban Homesteader to learn more. Or to have a laugh, AND learn more, check out My Intentional Life
What do you city dwelling readers to do simplify life in the city? I’d love to hear from you!