The Year Of Simple – Autumn Update
My goal for 2018 was to seek simplicity in everything I do. So, nine months in, how has the year of simple worked out?
The days have finally started to cool and the leaves here in Tokyo have begun to turn. Autumn always brings a change of pace. The summer ends with a bustle of activity; then, as though with a collective sigh of relief, the season finally changes, the birds chirp more freely, the sun no longer feels like a weapon we need to hide from, and one reflects on how the year has passed and what can be done in the months that remain.
Back in January I declared this my year of simple. I’d already been editing my life for some time, trying to get back to the essence of who I was and how I wanted to live. At the time I said,
“Simplicity is about finding the core of what life means for you, then trying to build a new home there.”
In so many ways, this has been a year of home.
Having celebrated my fifth anniversary here in Tokyo, I’m reminded this is the longest I’ve lived in one country since leaving Australia at the start of 1999. It’s also the longest I’ve lived at the same address since leaving my childhood home.
That post back in January was full of domestic activity. I’ve leant into that throughout the year –partly because I love my home here in Tokyo; partly because I work from home as well. But mostly, because it helps keep me sane, as we used to say, or helps me feel calm and centred, as is the prose of our time. Slow, deliberate, domestic routines became one of the best ways to deal with anxiety.
Of course, not everything this year has been domestic simplicity. The summer was full of travel: London, Paris, New York, Washington, Chicago, Vancouver, Hong Kong and, of course, Adelaide. But in each place and at every juncture, I found myself trying to cram less into every day and being more present with what is most important.
My priorities for each day have become fewer and fewer. It’s not that I’m doing less, but I’m adding less to the to-do list.
Simplicity and Mindset
Back when winter came to an end and Spring’s flowers started to bloom, it became clear how simple was less about what filled physical spaces and more about what was filling the space between my ears. Domesticity gave me time to think and time to audit those thoughts.
In many ways, the year of simple has also been the year of mindset.
Simplicity is another way to talk about commitments. It’s hard to simplify your life if you feel constantly distracted or overcommitted.
Perhaps that’s why all the quitting was so important. It opened up the space to contemplate and regain a sense of priorities. It’s also why creative health has become such an important theme as well.
Learning to Do the Easy Things
I find it hard to do easy things. Something has to be world-class if it’s going to be worth doing. So I push myself hard. People call it perfectionism, but that’s not quite it. Maybe it should be called amazingism. Keep striving, editing, reworking, until every aspect of life is amazing.
It’s so tiring!
Simple isn’t the same as easy. But as the year has progressed, I’ve found that asking ‘what’s the simplest option here’ often meant doing the easiest thing. Or it meant doing the thing I knew how to do well, which I tend to write off as easy, but which is really something closer to mastery.
Our hustle-oriented, always-be-improving-and-reinventing-yourself culture makes it easy to write off the knowledge and skill we have and the things we have mastered, or, at least, have become very good at. We are so trained to seek out novelty and ingenuity that it’s easy to dismiss well-worn ways of doing things. Add an artistic temperament to the mix, a soulful desire to be unconventional and unorthodox, and it only makes it harder to value one’s own sense of mastery.
This is the challenge I’m thinking about most entering the final quarter of this year, when the leaves will fall, the days shorten, and the inevitable brace against the winter winds returns: how to find a balance between simple and experimental. Is it possible to seek simplicity and also be innovative?
It promises to be a fascinating winter.