If you’ve read between the lines of scattered posts here or rambling tweets or whatever else over the last year you might have realized I’ve been thinking a lot about what I spend my time on and how I feel when I look back on where it was spent. The realization is that I can’t spend time on things that aren’t awesome. It’s easy to say yes to everything but that doesn’t give you things you can look back and be proud of, so I won’t do that anymore. I can’t. Being excited about what I’m doing, where I’m spending my time, who I’m spending my time with – this is paramount to me. It’s not worth doing something if you won’t be proud of it going forward. It’s not worth doing something just because it’s the thing everyone else is doing. This is something that has been in the back of my head for a while now, as I mark anniversaries and move into the new year, it’s moving to the front of my head and will be something I think about in all decisions. Is this worth it? Will I be psyched? What if and Oh well are fucking out. Our time on this world is limited, no reason to spend it doing anything less.
At least. And I say that fully knowing that writers block is a fucking bullshit excuse for acting like inspiration is supposed to come find you and enchant you to vomit gold out onto the page rather than putting in the work no matter what. I have excuses of course, but they are excuses for a reason. And the last thing I need here is another post about how I should be posting more. My promise to my self right now in front of the internet and everything: 2013 – The year of writing about things other than writing.
Wherein I write about those things I always write about as if trying to talk myself into something.
We’ve been in Vienna for almost a month now and yesterday Tara asked if I missed home yet, and the answer was something of a “sort of, kinda, some things maybe… not everything.” Me indecisive? Shocking I know. The truth is I miss my friends. I miss “my stuff” and “my bed.” I miss my neighborhood and knowing where I can pop out and get food at any point. I miss the comfort things, but there’s lots I don’t miss too, or rather, I haven’t thought about since I left, so I must not miss it that much. I miss my bike, though to be honest with myself I miss that when I’m home too as I haven’t been riding much at all.
I’ve written before about how longer term travel (that is, more than a few days) is an excellent way to assess your relationship with the things you have in your life. For example, I brought 1 jacket with me to Vienna. I knew it would be cold but I didn’t want to think about it so I brought my heaviest jacket only. Most days I’ve been a little warmer than I would have liked. Granted I’ve also had sweatshirts and things under the jacket, but putting things to use like this really lets you know what works and what dosen’t. I keep find myself wishing I had the one jacket that I had with me years ago on this trip, the one in my closet at home. And I keep finding myself thinking about the jacket that I threw out after I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago thinking “I’ll never need this again!”
With the exception of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll I’m a firm believer that less is more. Well maybe not so much the drugs since I don’t touch that stuff, but you get the idea. And if you’ve been following my writings for a while that shouldn’t be a revelation. Having lots of something makes you choose between them. It adds a extra layer of decision making to the decision you are making and forces you to think about something other than your main goal.
Example: You need to wear pants, so you decide to put some on. But then you have to decide *which* pants to put on. These ones or those ones. Oh the ones you want are dirty. Shit. Those ones might work but will they match your shoes? It’s a big headache. And now you still don’t have pants on because you are all worked up trying t decide which pants to wear. You created a new problem for yourself while trying to solve a simple one. If instead of having 10 different pairs of pants that you have to decide on you just had 10 pair of the same pants, you wouldn’t even think about this. Just grab one and go.
That might be extreme for some people, but there’s an argument to be made for having the one version of something that you know works, is made well, and will last you forever rather than lots of more specialized versions that only work for some things which constantly force you to make decisions. Another example – if you are a photographer and you have one camera and one lens then the only thing you think about is the photos you are taking. If you have several cameras and several lenses then you are constantly assessing your decision of which gear to use and if you should change lenses for this shot, etc. Simplicity lets you focus on the main issue at hand. (Side note: I brought 2 cameras and 4 lenses on a trip I’m on right now and realized this mistake almost instantly – upside is I think I know what I’m getting rid of when I get back)
This is why I was completely excited to find The Ones which is a site by some designers focusing on “the one” tool (or item) they’ve chosen to do the job for them. I really enjoyed reading their thoughts and rational behind each item. In a way it’s sort of the inverse of what I was doing with year of less, where I was documenting items I was getting rid of because I wanted to simplify. The Ones focuses on what they kept (or what they chose in the first place, if they chose wisely). Reading it immediately gave me more ideas of places I could pair down. For instance, when Tara and I got married we combined most of our kitchen stuff resulting in us having 7-8 kitchen knives of various sizes. We use one all the time and the others just sit on the rack. I hadn’t even thought about that until reading on The Ones about the one kitchen knife they have and use. Brilliant.
Another thing, my tool box. So much in there I’ve never touched. I need to weed out the cruft.
Travel helps with this a lot too. What do you pack and what do you leave behind. If you left it behind, that probably says something. If you can’t imagine going out without it, that says something too. I like forcing myself to constantly evaluate the stuff I choose to surround myself with. If you pick just one thing that can do the job well, and is beautifully designed, then you’ll appreciate it more and pay more attention to what you want to do, rather than what you are doing it with.
Several years ago while giving a lecture at The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the professor hosting my talk astutely noted that everything I’ve been involved with – be it putting out records, putting on art shows, building blogs, etc – all seemed to have a strong desire to build a community, and observed that perhaps a lack of community, or belonging as a child may have led to a life trying to manufacture that community. This was an art professor, not a psycho analyst, but he was more right on then he realized.
I moved around a lot as a kid so I never had the “I’ve been here all my life” experience that many other kids had. I was always the new kid and I was always trying to find my place in a group of friends who had known each other for years before I’d shown up. I was constantly trying to prove my worth and value to that community, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. When I was old enough to realize there was a world outside of my immediate surroundings and that I could actually interact with that world, I realized that world had communities too and that I might find a place that I fit in. And when the internet became an option that got a lot easier. I learned that the first and best way to a add value to a community was to actually build it.
And I love the communities that I’ve been with, but on some level I’ve always been envious of the people who grew up somewhere and were a part of the local community because of that. I have a great amount of Los Angeles pride but I’ve lived there for only 12 years. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other place, and longer than many people who move to LA, but still nothing compared to people who were born there. And while this may not have any basis in fact, no matter what I do in LA and how much I rep it I’ll always feel that I don’t have as much claim to the city as others.