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My daughter and her fiancé recently drove all the way from San Diego, California to New Minas, Nova Scotia, a trail that pretty much covered one far corner of the continent to the other. They had a wonderful trip, stopping in Utah to camp, with friends in Colorado, Chicago, and Niagara Falls, with family in Saratoga Springs, NY, in the Big Apple, and Boston. They then came here for a week to visit with us, then Montreal to see more family, and then off to Nova Scotia. It was a wonderful trip and they had a delightful time making it. They are both active and adventurous young people who currently have little interest in settling down and acquiring a home or anything else material that might hold or slow them down. They sold or disposed of most of what they owned in CA to come east and everything they had left fit in their car. They had their camping, hiking, and diving equipment in the trunk and their mountain bikes on a frame attached to the trunk and they were happy. Armed with those items and their hand-held GPS, they were off to see North America. When they are done with North America they plan to back-pack through the Andes Mountains in South America. While many of their friends thought their plans sounded fabulous and exciting, some of them were a little appalled that Steve wasn't jumping straight into some high-paying job as a nano-chemist and Katie was willing to walk away from the good job she had. They are both 25 years old, shouldn't they be deciding where to live, buying a house, a car that isn't 9 years old, and planning a family? Isn't that what everyone with their education and experience should be doing?
The people who don't understand their lifestyle find it kind of frightening and insecure. When I was young we all wanted to backpack across Europe and it wasn't particularly surprising when friends we knew did it. My children's generation has been told that they have to start immediately into a career, open up a 401K, and start investing or they will be doomed to spend their lives without a really nice home, a couple of expensive cars and a condo to retire to when they are old. Maybe they are right, I don't know, but to my daughter, who has packed more adventure into 25 years than most people do in 50, living that way doesn't seem like much of a life at all. They want to have a home eventually, and Katie wants to go back to school for her Masters, but they are not in the same kind of hurry that many of their friends are. As Katie said, “I have no intention of living my life planning to be old.”
One of the things they have done that baffles people is divest themselves of most of what they owned. This is something many people find terrifying at any age. I have a friend who recently moved out of a home that she had occupied for all 30 years of her adult life. She raised her kids there and had never lived anywhere else except her parent's house. To add to that, she is a hoarder, which means that the house was full to the brim with stuff, much of which she hadn't even looked at or used in more than 20 years. Going through that stuff and getting rid of a lot of it was as painful as torture for her. The house and the stuff made her feel safe. Getting rid of it terrified her. I understand that, but by nature I am the exact opposite, so helping her involved a lot of me insisting she shed stuff and her being on the edge of tears. She had a grandmother she adored who left her no end of knick-knacks and silly stuff which she has imbued with powerful sentiment it doesn't deserve. It took all my powers of persuasion to get her to understand that her grandmother lived on in her memories, not in some piece of ceramic that was ugly when she got it and hasn't become any more attractive over the years. It was useless sitting in a box on her closet shelf for 20 years and it hasn't improved like good wine sitting there, just taken up space. She had 4 sets of dishes, her everyday, her good dishes, her grandmother's everyday, and her grandmother's good dishes. I told her that the only person who required 4 sets of dishes was the Queen of England, who does a lot of heavy duty entertaining. I finally got her to admit that none of her sons would ever want any of it, which they wouldn't, and that 4 sets were a bit of china overkill. She finally got rid of one of the sets, which qualified as a victory with her.
She had a collection of coffee mugs that was mind boggling. We all get coffee mugs as gifts from people who have no idea what to give us, but we don't all hold on to them forever. She had enough coffee mugs to start a diner; mugs with pictures on them, holiday mugs, mugs that had little inspirational sayings on them, and mugs that were from various cities in the US. She had some sentimental story for every one of them, although I doubt if she had seen some of them for a couple of decades at least. When I heard that one of her sons had 'accidentally' dropped the box full of mugs, I wasn't the least surprised. She survived the tragedy somehow.
In a moment of desperation, when I was trying to get her to sell her tourist thimble collection to some other sap, I became so frustrated that I told her outright that she should feel terribly proud of herself, she had evolved to the state where she no longer owned anything – it all owned her. I felt bad about it after I said it, but it seemed to actually make her think – the thimble collection went on ebay. Sadly, some other poor hoarder will probably want it and undoubtedly purchase it, put it in a box, put the box on a closet shelf, and not look at it again for 20 or 30 years. When they die their kids will either throw it out or put it back on ebay. I recently spoke with my daughter and told her not to worry about other people's opinions about their lack of desire to start acquiring stuff because as long as she was living a life that could never be sold on ebay she was doing just fine.
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