Do you have a $12,000 dollar sofa? I did. I don’t know why, but I did. I also used to have two Cartier watches, two Bulgaris and an extra little Hermes that I threw on for more casual occasions.
Actually, I do know why I had those things; because I hated my life. More specifically, I hated my job which consumed my life and made me into someone I never wanted to be. I have heard numerous times over the years people whom I would deem as hippies say things about how we are slaves to our possessions and that the only true freedom is owning nothing. Of course in their version, there was also usually some added on mini-diatribe about being watched by, and slaves to “the man.” Discount or derive whatever you wish from any part of that, but it took me until the age of forty-seven to figure out that what they really mean is that ridding yourself of possessions allows you to be owned by nothing; and no one.
It took me to forty-seven to figure out that the reason I worked so hard to make ever-increasing amounts of money is because I craved the freedom that can be bought with large sums of money, except that along the way, I would become so unhappy with the daily toil of my life that I would buy myself treats. Mini-motivators, congratulatory concessions, feel good pick me ups, to get me through the hellish day/week/month/meeting and back to my apartment/hotel room/flight. All the while, my expensive tastes in mood-elevating materialism consumed ever larger portions of the money I made driving the need to earn even more, acquire larger clients, take on new roles and do even more things that I despised, resented or which made me feel like a soul for rent. I could tell myself whatever I wanted to, but I wasn’t working to buy my ultimate freedom; I was working to pay off the monthly limitless Amex. I had been captured by capitalism in the most gilded of cages and extricating myself from its grasps would become a dance of mutually abusive agony.
I suppose I should be thankful that I figured it out at all, let alone while still at an age where I could stop, take stock and make the serious changes required to keep me from dying in regret of never having truly lived.
Of course, I am also blessed that I can write; prolifically, well, badly, sporadically, emotively and sometimes only to please myself or as catharsis in the place of expensive therapy, but I can and so I do. My book and my son’s graduation from university coincided serendipitously with my own personal version of a midlife crossroads (more so than a crisis). I did not want to go back to work full time – the thought of going back to office politics and immoral ambition made me physically sick – and I no longer wanted to live as part of a never-ending race to some invisible line at the top of some elusive mountain. I wanted to wake up late, take long walks, breathe clean air, not wear makeup, dress fashionably only when I choose and go for days without speaking a living soul outside of my immediate family if so inclined.
The only place I’ve ever been entirely happy in my life and the only place I’ve never felt even minimal pressure to stand out, fit in or outshine is Wales. So two days after my son’s graduation, we were on a plane, in a car, at an estate agents, committing to a house. It happened quickly and I would be both lying and insane if I did not admit that I had moments of pause and doubt, albeit brief, in the quick seven weeks since all of this began.
But what to do with all of my stuff? I could ship it, sure, but for those of you who have never shipped containers of furniture across the world, suffice it to say there are some pretty hefty costs and manifold complications associated with doing so, and given my newfound pursuit of lightness the last thing I wanted was to be further burdened by the things I already felt were weighing me down.
I could have donated it all, but to what – a Scandic chic orphanage? No, my things do not exude warmth of any description. I have – in the past – sold some of my expensive watches, more pricey handbags, and even some diamonds and had a feeling for what those things would bring and where to sell them. I struggled more with the Tibetan rugs but was completely stumped as to what to do with the two storage facilities of furniture.
After some research I came across a place who specialize in consignment for unique pieces of furniture, catering only to interior decorators who are looking for one off items. I called them on a whim, sent through some photos, the woman came literally the same day and after only thirty minutes said, “I’ll take it all.” And she did. Including the $12,000 sofa, though it will of course now yield me far less.
So lighter not only emotionally but also in terms of jewelry, handbags rugs and credenzas, I am now exactly where I want to be. And I suppose depending on whether you’re a cynic or one who cries during “Circle of Life” in The Lion King, you could say that my expensive taste for motivational treats has finally paid off, if only in a circuitous fashion of diminishing returns. But the particular path I trod was by no means fair recompense for the place I am now, even if it is my own heaven on earth. If I had it to do over, I would save every dime, listen to the hippies and retire by forty. But sometimes we don’t get to choose as we get caught up in the crowd, pushed along by their force, nudged forward by expectations not our own. Sometimes we have to follow the road, however curved, indirect or incongruous it may seem while straining our eyes and craning our necks and doing whatever else necessary to not lose sight of the final earthly destination.