|Downtown LA theater // Personal picture|
I recently listened to a TED radio show about time, and was intrigued by one of the themes, animated by psychologist Daniel Gilbert: when do we become the "final" version of ourselves? Do we become who we are meant to be when we reach our life goals? Accomplish our dreams? Perhaps we change constantly over time, and one day realize just how far we've gone, like that evening, as I was stuck in the elevator, somewhere in downtown LA.
ElevatorsWhen I was a child, we lived in a three-storey building, above the Boulangerie, in front of the village's Church courtyard. I used to take the elevator to get home, until we got stuck one day with my dad. For years, I refused to take elevators. All the best for my health, but children fears hold on tight through the years.
Then Tôkyô happened. Any department store had at least 7 floors, and the most interesting one (restaurants!) was always the top floor. I also worked on the sixteenth floor, and hardly could avoid elevators anymore. Fast forward nine years, I'm attending E3 in Los Angeles. Sleeping on the 19th floor of a hotel, eating in top-floor restaurants, attending press events on the 71th floor of Downtown's highest building.
Then, one day, a thump and a stop. That possibility you don't even think about when you ride elevators several times a day. Over one hour stuck with six other people in an elevator styled à la Die Hard. That's the surprising part of the tale. Of course I remembered being stuck as a child, but none of the fear remained. I wasn't even frustrated. We got to know each other while we waited for the firemen to get us out. I actually enjoyed this one of a kind experience, think that would make the hell of an E3 story to share in the years to come.
How far have I gone since the time I refused to ride an elevator? I think we change more than we know, without realizing it until something out of the ordinary tests our limits. Dan Gilbert thinks so too. As he explains in this TED talk, we change more than we know, and we will change in the future more than we can predict now.
Change, Goals and the Journey of SimplicityWhich brings me to my point: the simplicity journey, our goals and becoming who we are meant to be. When I consciously started simplifiying my life 4 years ago, I had this ideal self in mind - the perfectly curated wardrobe of well-chosen and well-fitting items, all ethical please, a simple and practical home with personal decoration touches brought back from travels, no more wishlists or purchase desires.
I would have all I need, be perfectly content and happy, meditate every day, run marathons, saving all my money for travels and life projects. My material collection would be "finished", and I would finally be the simple, open-minded, detached from material person I was meant to be.
Then years went by. I edited my item collection, moved to Paris, read style blogs like they contained the recipe for personal style and self esteem and the perfect uniform. I culled and I purchased. My style got more defined, it evolved. Some items broke, some well-thought purchases turned out to be mistakes and some impulses turned out to become keepers. I went through shopping fasts, spring cleanings, inadequate wardrobes, sudden changes, another move to a bigger appartment as a couple.
Sometimes, I felt I was going in circles. Six months after a fast, having again not enough pants to last me through the week, like 4 years ago, like during my teenage years. The success of a fast followed by a necessary editing of worn and holed items, and having to buy 10 items at once again. Bringing mementos back from travels, filling my days with activities and discoveries, but then around the corner, wishing for that nice little printed scarf to be on sale tomorrow.
But as I moved in and took a good look at all the stuff I had accumulated over the years, arranged my wardrobe into my new drawers and closet, putting the final touch of decoration in our new home, planning for a museum visit and my next violin lesson, I realized I have changed more than I know these past 4 years. I have started participating in short story contests. I've been practicing violin again for a year and a half now, and I can (badly) play the Vivaldi concertos that got me to play violin in the first place 25 years ago. My wardobe is more adequate than it has ever been, and my home is practical, simple but personalized.
I still have wishes from time to time, and there are always objects that require replacement. Tastes evolve, I'm still working on that daily meditation habit, and on that travel fund to save for each month, but I'm closer to that goal I had four years ago than I ever realized. Because we change more than we know. There is no "person I'm meant to be". I am already the person I'm meant to be, and in 10 years I'll be someone else.
Even though this is a well-used mantra of simplicity, "journey is the destination", the actual meaning of that expression became clear as my jetlagged self got stuck in an elevator at midnight on the other side of the world. As Dan Gilbert says, we are never "finished". Our wardrobe will never be "complete", our simplicity journey will never reach an end, and the goal we have in mind now will probably have evolved by the time we reach it. And that's OK, because life is a journey, and we are becoming who we are every single day.
In the end, I think happiness comes when we realize this, doesn't it? When we are no longer waiting to become who we are meant to be, and enjoy where we are now. Take what there is to take: awesome experiences, little material wishes, getting stuck in elevators. Accept that we are ever changing, and that change makes us who we are.
This was a bit of a spontaneous ramble here, I do hope it makes sense to anyone else than myself at this point. What do you think? How much have you changed these past years? Have you ever suddenly realized the meaning of a phrase you'd heard so much in the past?