Over my life, there have been periods of time when I felt especially motivated after reading the thoughts of St. Francis of Assisi or people like-minded on the issue of simplicity (e.g. Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster, etc.) For some reason, I always had this feeling that I was one who could also live simply. Or maybe even that I was one who was supposed to live simply. For whatever reason, it was an issue that continually resonated with me.
For this reason, I determined not to acquire any possessions during college. For starters, I never bought any furniture or appliances. I noticed the way "responsible people" regarded me and my lack of furnishings, but I didn’t care because my transitory life was easier than theirs. No renting moving trucks; no gathering up people to help me move. After college I moved myself four times without help. I also determined not to get sidetracked by clothing. I’ve always had the tendency to find a piece of clothing I like and then wear it over and over again. (In 9th grade, I found a shirt I especially liked at a thrift store, and I wore it to school three days a week for a month straight. My friends eventually got so sick of the shirt, that they snuck into my house while I was at work, stole the shirt and burned it in a celebratory bonfire.) So in college I found a pair of gray pants I loved, and I wore them nearly everyday of the week. I didn’t own any jewelry because the concept of matching accesories has always made me anxious. And I owned just two pairs of shoes—one black and one brown. I say all this just to make the point: life was easy then.
It really was.
But a few years after college, something changed. I began observing those around me. I began comparing what I had and did not have. I found that I didn’t measure up. I wasn’t like most girls because most girls have a closet full of shoes and a bevy of matching jewelry. And everyone everywhere of both sexes seemed to know where to buy the “right clothes”—the clothes I didn’t have. I also didn’t have the beautifully decorated place with the right pictures hanging on the walls and the furniture fresh from Pottery Barn. I decided I just wasn’t cutting it.
I am very weak. I tricked myself into thinking it was more "socially responsible" and mature to actually care about having those things. So I bought nicer clothes from upscale stores. I bought matching accessories (even though I still got anxious everytime I saw someone with a perfectly coordinated ensemble). I gave the American consumer culture a real try.
I’m happy to say—that’s all over now. I’m finally waking up from the nightmare. That nightmare which can be summed up in one word: trying. I reread a book about St. Francis recently and it caused me to remember how I used to think and feel. I want that life back. The solution to the nightmare of trying is simplicity. The very thought of living an extremely simple life amidst our crazy consumer culture still liberates me. I feel that passion again. I wish I could thank St. Francis for giving me the wake-up call I so desperately needed.