Tuesday, May 3, 2011


People have asked me many times what it is I plan to do in New Orleans. My answer is that I plan to live my life. I'll do similar things that I do up here-- I'll sell cheese, I'll write, I'll cook, I'll spend a lot of time with my friends, I'll dance and drink and make love and eat. I'll definitely eat. And yes, I can do all of those things here. And yet, life has seemed to close in on me a bit here. While the past year has unfurled delightfully, and I have no complaints about the way it has, there are things that have gotten smaller as well. My work life has shrunk, partially because of my own decisions, mostly because I know that sometimes you need to tear down an edifice to build a new foundation. I hope and believe I am doing so.

Rather than take inventory of my work life over the past decade plus, I'll suffice to say I'm pretty happy with it, overall. Glancing back, I have achieved all of the goals I have set out to. (Except for, you know, becoming independently wealthy and famous). American culture is so strange that way. Enough is never really enough. Not only are we supposed to be personally fulfilled with our job and career choices, but we should gain recognition, climb up the ladder, amass wealth, and hopefully retire at a sprightly age that allows us equal time to travel the world, indulge in hobbies and relax. Or something.

But I've noticed, amongst my peer group, that there are new dreams and aspirations when it comes to career and work. The first one is to be able to pay one's bills. If you've got that covered, by all accounts you're doing pretty good. Another is to not hate your work, and another is to have more than one, and sometimes up to four or five jobs that you dabble in, or where you collect a hodgepodge of paychecks that eventually amount to enough. I've found, the more I ask around, that I'm not alone in any of this.

A word on "enough." When is enough enough? If I ask myself this morning, if I have "enough," materially, I would have to say yes. I paid my rent in full yesterday, my phone bill will not be paid on time, but it will be paid. I have some debts that are outstanding, one to a friend which I would very much like to pay. And yet, all of the important things are in place. No doubt I will eat today and eat well. The heat is on in my apartment. I have a fine cup of coffee to my right, and I have plenty of comforts like toothpaste and a nice tube of lipstick to start off my day. My bike is in working order and I have a job to go to today. Yes, I think I have enough.

There are mornings, yes, where I wake up with a little pit in my belly because there is no safety net. Your mind goes off on all sorts of "what ifs". I have a fantasy that I could be a good steward of wealth. That I would be generous and kind with money. That I would support artists and other people living on the edge, give them a little financial push to realize a dream. Help my aging parents when they need it, rather than just stand helplessly on the sidelines. I've made a pact with the universe that I'll do these things if wealth is ever to come my way.

And yet, in this financially meager year, I've learned so many lessons, many of which I would not have learned with a lot of cash in my pocket. I've been faced with the generosity of others. Whenever I think that there won't be enough, that I'll suffer some indignity or go without, someone steps up to help. It's kind of beautiful, actually, because you don't even have to ask-- the necessary thing, the amount of money, the moment just sort of gets taken care of. I've seen this again and again.

I've also adjusted my mindset regarding what I need. When I separated from my old life, I scaled down to mostly bare necessities. I took with me two plates and two coffee mugs, two wine glasses, a handful of silverware. One spatula, a cheap coffeemaker, one skillet. I found no need to have more possessions around that what I truly needed in a given moment. I got rid of my car, I got rid of TV, and now watch less than a couple hours a month in the form of a movie on the computer when I get the urge. I dumped all the books I'd never read again (but kept those I thought I might) and ditched a closet's worth of clothes. (You wear all the same shit all the time, anyway, don't you?) I have two comfortable chairs, a bed, a lot of music, said books, and many, many keepsakes-- only those things that are really meaningful to me in some sentimental way. I have art on the walls, and you know, really, that's what I have. I've never been happier and I've never had less. I have towels. One always needs towels.

It could be good to have a safety net, and that little bundle of cash to pass out when someone else needs a bump. And to buy a plane ticket now and then. And to have a little extravagant adventure sometimes. And yet I know that comfort can be overrated. I'm healthy and robust. And the sun happens to be shining. That's all the comfort I'll be needing. For today.

1 comment:

  1. it is oddly exciting to suddenly be in a position to pay the visa bill...

    great post.