In a remarkable testament to what can happen when preparation meets opportunity, I find myself in the midst of a major change in my life. I have long hoped to trade in my suburban house for a condo closer to the beach when I retire, and – to my surprise – the stars have aligned in such a way that the dream is becoming reality (except for the retired part – I’m not quite there yet).
I am looking forward to a complete change of venue, change of pace, and change of lifestyle in this move. In packing up the house I’ve lived in for 28 years, I’m learning a few lessons I thought I’d pass along…
Let it go!
I am convinced that those big plastic storage bins are a terrible invention. I won’t embarrass myself by detailing how much of the “stuff” I had stored in my basement I donated, gave away, or finally threw away. My new home has fewer hideaways for stuff, so I have had to be very selective about what I keep. It’s remarkably freeing to pare down to essentials.
This downsizing exercise reminds me that the basement is not the only place where I keep a lot of “stuff.” Unneeded lessons learned, inaccurate assumptions, old hurts, out-of-date thinking, ancient skills – these all clutter up what could be pristine head space ripe for exciting new ideas and approaches. As I make the move, I plan to list and ceremonially discard the accumulated baggage that no longer serves me (if it ever did). This fall will be a season of renewal and rebirth.
As I go forward, then, it’s important to consider what I’m holding on to and why – and to learn to let go of more of the stuff that may be in the way of… well, of whatever – success, well-being, the good life. Perhaps you, too, could use a good decluttering. Don’t do what I did and wait until it all had to be done at once. Better to keep things clear for new ideas and opportunities on an ongoing basis.
Reading is fundamental!
It’s no secret that I love books – across a number of genres. I agree with Anna Quindlen in that I applaud the kind of people (and I AM the kind of people) “who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
While I’ll have a good deal of bookshelf space in my new condo, I nonetheless needed to cull my book collection by half (offloading over 500 books!) And yes, I’ve already gone looking for a few I gave away, but it wasn’t a big deal. In “Marie Kondo-ing” my eight bookshelves, I held on to books related to current interests, books that truly impacted me, and seminal work – keeping nearly 500 books as the seeds for my continuing collection (nearly all non-fiction; I mostly use the library for fiction reading). I’m still a fan of physical books, but perhaps I’ll start to transition to a more digital collection in the coming years.
I noticed that there is a remarkable history of learning in my book collection: passing interests that intrigued me, nascent ruminations on what were then emerging trends (now reality or eclipsed by something different), advice for a particular time and context, and some fads and flashy best-sellers that were interesting at the time. But my bookshelves are also my external memory for (dare I say) intellectual growth – foundations that laid groundwork for current principles and practices, deep explorations of theory and models, and fascinating long-form explanations of others’ deep thinking.
I highly recommend books as a way of more deeply exploring ideas and gaining understanding of nuances that can’t be captured in short videos, presentations, and slide decks. The availability of audio versions and substantial summaries can serve the needs of folks who are not inclined to read for long periods. Or one can also find more condensed long-form thinking in newsletters, blogs, and journals – I’ve got those on my reading list as well.
I’m happy to sit down with a book, a yellow marker, and a pen, and I am imagining a few book-reading niches in my new space. I fully align with Stephen King’s observation that “when you stack all the years we are allowed against all there is to read, time is very short indeed.”
It’s freeing to have a fresh start.
In her book on how to change, Katy Milkman talks about how important a fresh start can be in making a transition between the old you and the new you – new habits, new practices, new outlook. I’ve always taken advantage of the fresh start afforded by starting the school year, marking my birthday, and celebrating a new year – but that feeling is amplified a hundredfold in this major move. I truly feel the difference.
Even though I’m approaching retirement age, there’s quite a lot of time left (God willing!) for me to contribute and make a difference. I’m in that career stage where I am more concerned about making a lasting contribution, welcoming newcomers into the field, passing on a knowledge and skill base that can be the foundation for the next generation, and leaving some sort of legacy.
Even if you are not making the kinds of changes that prompt reevaluation of life choices, you might consider drawing your own line in the sand at some significant date to give yourself a fresh start. I recommend some preliminary thinking and planning, so that you can explore the current-you and the new-you that you want to be. And if you can metaphorically and physically draw that line in the sand on a contemplative beach walk, so much the better.
What’s gloriously possible
Back in early 2021, I made a vision board that aimed for “what’s gloriously possible” and admitted that it’s “better at the beach.” I recognize just how blessed I am in this moment. This move seems to me a result of having put my dreams out into the universe so that they might come to fruition. In that spirit at this new beginning, I’ll say that my new aspirational hyphenate is author-beach-walker.
I hope you’ll keep following along. And if I can help you achieve goals, develop skills, or meet challenges, please be in touch. I want to put this renewed energy to good use!