I just started reading Walden, Or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau. This being said, I should mention that I have "started" this book three or four times now, but I think I am ready for it this time. I believe it definitely takes a certain mind-set, and even perhaps a certain commitment, to read this book. Maybe I feel like I'm ready simply because I've been freaking out a lot about money lately (who hasn't?) and Walden is proving to be, if not a ready provider of solutions, a source for some reprieve from money woes.
Granted, I'm not very far in. And I realize that there are people out there who spend their lives reading and living out this book. Not that I could be one. But it is interesting to think about a life in the woods.
Perhaps I could not make the leap to life completely out in the woods, but I do think it's important to at least TRY stepping out of our social expectations of what a "normal", "quality" life is. I've been thinking about this a lot as I read about the housing market and hear about my friends buying homes. For the most part, all I have seen are articles about buying homes, when is the right time to do it, etc. These articles all are written on the assumption that one should be buying a home, that it is expected, normal, and something we all will do at some point, it is just a matter of when. However, I did run across a very interesting article in the New York Times the other day that definitely caught my eye.
This article takes a different approach - it focuses on the men who wish they hadn't bought that home, the people who have become home-buyers and grown to regret it. In a time when all I hear is "renting is a waste", "now's the time to buy", I really like seeing the articles that are on my side. Now, whether my side is the result of logic or rather the result of an immature need to escape any real responsibility in this world, I'm not exactly sure. That is a different conversation altogether.
But my point is this -- I am at an age where I see many people around me rushing towards what they believe is the American dream. Which is fine. But I have to wonder - are they doing it because they want it, or because they think they are supposed to want it? Great, no new revelation here --- I'm sure many a 20-something first entering the real world asks him or herself these questions about her own life or the lives of her peers, but this is the first time I feel I have been observing it from the outside.
I live in a tiny TINY studio apartment, with a record player, a laptop, and my cat. No couch. Just a few chairs. My freezer is not big enough to fit a frozen pizza into. I can't remember the last time I went out to a dinner that didn't involve a hot dog or french fries. I keep my apartment heated to a toasty 58 degrees in the winter. I am not bragging. Nor am I asking for pity. It's the state of my being, for now, to live frugally for the most part, to throw money away on expensive coffee when I feel like it, and to find reasons to be happy living an existence that cannot rely on stuff, things, and gadgets. And who is to say whether it is good or bad to live this way? I am not passing judgment on those who have the means to buy homes, buy the good feta cheese, and heat their homes to a normal temperature when it is -30 outside. I am just trying to examine what it is that makes these things so appealing. What is it that makes us, as humans, WANT so many things?
Hell if I know. Just something I've been wondering. And just so you don't get the wrong idea, yes, I probably will drive to a cafe this afternoon and put $3.00 on the counter in exchange for a poorly-made but oh-so-delicious latte. But I will recycle the cup.