Simple Satisfaction

No one could accuse my family of living a raucous life. My childhood was relatively simple and while we always had plenty to eat, clean clothing and a roof over our head – it wasn’t exactly a lavish experience. It was simple. 

I grew up ~60 miles from the nearest “big” town: Portland, Oregon. We’d make the trip, perhaps once a month, when we needed something that the small shops and box stores nearby couldn’t provide. Of course, now with Amazon Prime, those shopping trips are much fewer in number. 

As a child, the trip to town always took forever. I never really appreciated the beauty of the surroundings that we were blessed with as there were far more pressing concerns such as having to go to the bathroom or being hungry. On the way home, however, it was usually a different story. I’d usually save up whatever few dollars I could find or work for to blow on my grand purchase. It could be a new Nintendo 64 video game or a filter for my camera (I was very in to photography in those days) but it was usually simple. I’d spend the hour on the ride home reading whatever pamphlet or instructional manual that came with it – often holding the booklet up above my head to glean the light of the headlights behind us to make out the text in the dark. 

Like nearly anything in my childhood, I look back with the benefit of hindsight and think how foolish I was. But childhood is a time for foolish things. I remember reading the small quarter sheet that came along with a pocket knife, wishing that they had only printed in english such that the text would be a few times more. I don’t know what I wanted them to say, something profound I suppose. 

Years ago, I became intrigued with the idea of personal productivity. I listened to podcasts, read books, and spent a small fortune on Mac and iOS apps that were all promised to make me the second incarnation of David Allen. I bet I spent thousands of hours on that endeavor. Whatever benefit that I squeezed out of that phase of life will take many more years to pay off, I’m sure. 

Over time, my podcast feed has shrunk. I follow fewer people on Twitter. My RSS reader is nearly blank. While my interests remain the same, the frequency and amplitude of my desires has been severely curtailed. I think it’s a sign of maturity, although my wife might disagree. It’s a focus on the practical and less on the abstract. I used to dream about how efficient my life would become. In someways, I was right. In others, I don’t care to even measure. 

I haven’t yet decided if this a good thing. At times, I feel as if I’m accepting mediocrity. Other times, it’s as if I’ve simply accepted my constraints. I don’t know what is better or preferred. The recent transition from single to married life, from married life to parenthood, and from work to school to work is interesting. My life has changed many  times over in a couple dozen months. The steady state equilibrium that I have longed to find seems further than ever before.