why I'm opting for the quiet life
April 12, 2017
I used to call myself a city girl. I thought that I really needed the energy and inspiration of an external world that was constantly changing. I had all sorts of ideas about how the city supported my deep need for community (and let's be real, my deep need for a boyfriend). I had justifications and narratives galore to support my choices to pay high rent, spend a ton of time in the car, and fill my schedule with meetings and socializing. I was glorifying being busy, and was confusing movement for progress. I was thoroughly enjoying a richly textured life, full of amazing opportunities. I was grateful and happy, but once every few months I’d feel like a dizzy cartoon character with stars and butterflies spinning around my head.
When I started to pull back and really pay attention to my motivations, I discovered that most of my justifications to stay in the city came from outside me. They came from some made up rulebook, written by every single person who believes that the future they seek can come only as a result of a specific set of actions - and I had become one of the contributing authors. Without being consciously aware of it, I was living my life based on unwritten rules on how to be happy and successful - and I was doing it all backwards.
I was making work that was too heavily focused on my client base and their preferences. I was being a good business woman, but I wasn’t doing a great job of being an artist. The gift and the curse of success is that you become recognized and sought after for a specific thing. My thing was fun for a long time and helped me to built a solid creative foundation to stand on. But overtime, that foundation stretched vertically and became walls that trapped me inside a narrow way of creating. I was so deep in commissioned work that I almost forgot what my own vision was. As an artist with a solitary work life, I made an extra effort to put myself in environments where I could connect with new people. I was booking every spare moment outside the studio with social opportunities that might put me in the same room with the love of my life. After spending most of my life as a serial monogamist, I've been spent the last 4 years single. Even though was enjoying being independent and autonomous, I always had the possibility of meeting someone in the back of my mind.
Somehow I had become scared. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in a city I loved if I didn’t keep making work that made other people happy. Scared that I would end up alone if I didn’t stay in a place full of interesting, pretty people. And scared that if I didn’t take the cool gigs that came my way that I’d become irrelevant. Most of this came into focus for me while I was traveling last spring, spending a lot of time in nature, alone. The things that had been holding me in the city started to feel like distractions instead of opportunities, and I started to get clear on what actually makes me happy versus what I thought would make me happy.
It turns out that my requirements for happiness are really simple. Nature, sunshine, sweat, creating, and space. Open space to get a clear view on my thoughts, and space away from external distractions so I can actually dig in and address the internal distractions that really stand in the way of my creativity. The more room I have outside, the more spacious I feel inside, and my work starts to tell a more honest story. Different places serve us at different times in our lives. And at this time, I feel like the city has given me what I need for now. I’ve got my sights set on the quiet life. But I’m aware that every gift that it offers comes with a reciprocal challenge to be met - and I’m ready.
My North Star has re-oriented from progress and partnership to self awareness and freedom. The beauty of this is that my refined focus will likely bring me more of my old desires. The aim to be successful and to be in love are understandable - but at the end of the day they are not the things that actually make me happy. They are only results of a more specific focus. The deep and sometimes scary work of being honest with myself and loving myself is what always brings me to my best work and my deepest connections. I’m trusting that these are my distilled desires, and I’m grateful to finally be giving myself the space to explore them and the permission to play by my own rules.