One of my many inspirations in pursuing this new life has been John December, whose e-book Live Simple includes some helpful advice for the pursuit of voluntary simplicity. Particularly helpful to me has been the section on identifying dreams and desires: our motivations for pursuing a simpler, more sustainable life. What would you do, December asks, if you won a million dollars? Or if you had six months to live?
In that spirit, here’s my answer to the million dollar question:
I would pay off all my debts, including my student loans, and savor the feeling of freedom that I imagine debtlessness imparts. Then I’d take a leave of absence from grad school and my job to go SCUBA diving. It’s my favorite thing in the world, and my husband has never done it. It’s something I’d very much like to do with him. Then I’d thru hike the Appalachian Trail. My husband and I have also talked about a sailboat – selling all our stuff, saving up for a boat and sailing around the world with our family for a while. When I was ready to settle down in one place again, I would build a very small, very sustainable house, with a green roof full of sedum and lavender and solar panels, somewhere like Portland, Oregon or Carrboro, North Carolina, where I could use public transit and ride my bike to my heart’s content. I would finish the graduate program I’m in, then work for a little nonprofit that can’t pay much but does a lot of good in the world. Most importantly, though, I would adopt a child. Which I intend to do with or without a million dollars, but I’m guessing he or she would be the real beneficiary of such untold riches, scoring all kinds of art lessons and trips to summer camp.
And if I had six months to live? Scratch building a house; I’d give away all of my stuff, quit school and my job, and travel with my husband, to visit friends and family and maybe do a little diving too. I’d say my goodbyes and my see you on the other sides. And I’d definitely take a hot air balloon ride – that’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.
My hopes and goals in living more sustainably are similar to the aspirations I cited above: to pare down and minify my life so that I can live without debt, take a dive trip, and adopt a child someday. The house I can live without, unless I really do win a million dollars, although I’d like to help prove that sustainable design can be affordable and comfortable. What I’d most like is to die knowing that I didn’t waste my life, that I did some good in the world and really lived.
And knowing why I’m doing this makes it far easier to stick with it.