Keeping up with my monthly series in 2020 as a slow farewell to AoS, today I’m sharing my final letter to myself in 2010, ten years ago. Though these are to addressed to me, my hope is that you find a just-right smidge of truth, beauty, and goodness. Perhaps this exercise will inspire you to write your own letters to yourself, ten years younger.
Dear Me in 2010,
I don’t quite know how to begin this or what to say. It’s my final letter to you (at least published here on AoS). When I was you, I think part of me thought AoS would last one week at a time, depending on my mood and the weather, and another part of me thought it would last forever. But it’s not going to last forever. My last post will go live in little more than a week. That’s wild.
It’s time. It feels good to know that. I think I wanted to wind things down, topic-wise, about two years ago, but I just wasn’t sure how to best do that. I spent some energy pivoting the message here, trying on different definitions of ‘simple’ and seeing how they fit.
It was fall 2019 when I finally admitted that it wasn’t the word ‘simple’ that had outgrown this space, it was me. The Art of Simple needs to stay about the beauty of living simpler. As a writer, it’s time for me to explore different topics in different spaces.
I still love the truth, goodness, and beauty of simple living — in fact, I’ve grown to love it more in 2020, as we’ve been collectively forced to do so in myriad life domains, but also because soon having the freedom to talk about other things has brought me full circle to the original reasons I started this humble blog 12-plus years ago.
1. It’s still gratifying to know what matters most to you.
Really, there’s no other way to live well. The purest, most workable definition of ‘simple living’ remains ‘living holistically with your life’s purpose’ but you can only do so when you know your life’s purpose.
This, to me, is the great voyage of life. Viktor Frankl learned this in a World War II concentration camp when he said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” The great adventure is to understand our purpose for being here.
Once we know our purpose — and only once we know — we can then make a helpful, concrete, pliable, life-giving plan for simplifying. I’ve been at this pursuit for twelve years, and I’m fairly certain it’ll remain a lifelong pursuit.
This is the main reason I’ve come to wholeheartedly embrace the process of writing a Rule of Life that I can revisit regularly. After trial-and-error attempts using different methods, this ancient Benedictine practice has proven most helpful and sturdy.
2. After a while, the best method of living simply finds its way home.
The idea of simplifying is no longer at the forefront of my mind, not because it doesn’t matter to me but because it feels normal. Yes, I still love learning new things and trying new methods, but what might be considered unorthodox to the average 21st-century American feels quite normal to our family.
The five of us live in about 1,400 square feet, share one bathroom (for now), and have no desire for anything bigger. We adore our walkable, historic neighborhood.
We’ve got a dog and chickens, and they make us laugh daily.
I still love to travel and look forward to doing so again (hopefully soon?), but now that our kids are older, I’ve really grown to appreciate the stability of home.
Our kids thrive at their small hybrid school of three days in class, two days homeschooling. I wish it were in our neighborhood, but five-plus years in, and it’s still worth the drive three days a week (though I’m done with it by March).
My favorite stores are thrift, my favorite workout methods involve being outside, my favorite hairstyle is short with natural silver, and my favorite pastimes encompass the liturgy of ordinary life.
I love my local library, coffee shops, cafés, and shops. Every time Kyle and I go on a date, we entertain the thought of actually driving to a restaurant in the city, and this lasts for precisely two seconds when we then passionately walk out the door and down the street to one of the many restaurants available at our fingertips because holy cow, we live here and this is our life.
We don’t buy something if we don’t have the money for it.
None of this is because we’ve arrived, we’re experts, or we’re better than anyone else. It just seems like this life has settled in the nooks and crannies and found a home where it wants.
3. The best experts are the ones that listen more than talk.
Never in a million years did I start this blog so that I could tell other people what to do or to be seen as an expert. It started as a space to catalog my own learning process as our family lived overseas, redefining every square inch of our life. If anyone else wanted to read along, they were welcome to join the journey.
The internet has made experts out of ordinary Janes and Joes, and there’s something lovely about that. It can also putrefy into something ugly, and after twelve years of navigating these waters, I want absolutely none of the muck.
The people I admire most are the ones that know full-well how little they know, that they’re one small-but-significant player in the collective common good (like we all are), that there are treasure troves to learn from other people, and that fame and wealth is a toxic trap. We’re not made for fame.
So, Self in 2010, my final bit of advice to you ten years down the road is this: keep at it. Keep showing up to write. Keep saying yes and no to the right things. Keep saying hi to people and asking for room at the table. Keep setting places at the table for others. Don’t let others guilt-trip you when you’re not willing to be their personal mentor. Don’t feel badly when you can’t answer every email or DM on social media.
Do continue to say thank you all the time. Do keep being a regular person. Do prioritize your family and local community more than internet hustle. Do quit things when the time is right, change them when they’re calling out to be changed, and start new things even if they may not pan out. You won’t know unless you try, and you’ll always learn something even if it fails.
You’ll have failures and you’ll have successes, and they’re all good because they’re all part of being human. God’s the author of life and the giver of all good things.
You’ll be more than alright.
xoxo, Me in 2020