I have a few moments to myself this morning, although no doubt there are things I could be doing, things I will get to later today, ones scribbled on the back of a catalog that I've not yet perused and likely won't. My "desk" (soon to be the dining table in the Airstream) is covered in notebooks and mail and bills, haphazard to-do lists jotted down on anything handy. Organization has taken a bit of a backseat in my life these past few months, along with everything else...like swept floors and a social life. Currently, every surface in our house is covered in walnut sawdust. My writing, this thing I turn toward to make sense of it all, the worst of the losses. So even though my list is long, I couldn't ignore the urge to write, to share with you all. After all, it's been months. Thank you for waiting, thank you for reading. I'm so glad you're here. I don't normally stop for coffee, but this morning I did, a rare treat. As I stood at the top of the steps leading to the coffee shop, I looked out at the crisp, gray-blanketed morning and breathed in deep. My eyes, my heart, my mind were clear. For just a moment, I could see what life will look like after this last stretch of crazy, these last nineteen days where our lives are consumed by the build, as we rush and push and fight against the Airstream's ever-present, ever-strong will. Last night, our anniversary (the one we were too busy to remember and only knew of when a dear friend reminded us), we ate carnitas and drank red wine while sanding our self-built walnut countertops. We stayed up later than usual to listen to Ella and eat a piece of chocolate cake a friend was so kind to drop by for us when I texted her my confession: we forgot our own wedding anniversary.
We knew it would be a test of our will, our strength. Yet when it's all you have, when it's all you want, isn't there no other option? When we sold our first Airstream last December, at first, I'll admit I was grateful. I breathed a sigh of relief. Hell, we celebrated. We toasted with champagne, barefoot with Willy and Ashley in their California kitchen. We were certain it was time to move on, that we'd gleaned everything we could from the road and we were so ready to settle down again. Until we did. We deliberately sought out a small house, nine-hundred and thirty square feet. Tiny in comparison to the homes in our neighborhood, monstrosities with three-or-four-or-five thousand square feet of dead space, corners to dust and little else. Suddenly, we found ourselves missing one another...in the same house. A self-labeled introvert, a person in need of time alone, space to recharge and revitalize, and I found myself craving the closeness of the Airstream. Never far away from one another, and alone time was sought outside. Under the trees. A walk along the beach. A run through the campground.
It didn't take long at all for us to recognize our mistake, our rush to return to a life of ease and convenience. Less than a month in, we began scouring the internet for Airstreams. Less than two months from finalizing the sale on our first Airstream home, and we'd purchased and began demolition on another. At first, we weren't quite certain what the Airstream would become for us. We knew that despite our feelings of regret and grief for the loss of the road, for tiny living (for it was most certainly grief - so many tears were shed, they still are, a year later), we'd needed to come home and face so many things. Familial relationships, yes, but on a more personal note, our own emotional growth. I've said this many times and even now, all these months later, it rings true. We had to come back here to realize so much of what we learned out there.
Understanding our true and full desire to live life differently and be okay with ourselves in that desire, to grasp that while we may forever be defending living tiny, it doesn't mean that we are living irresponsibly or are somehow less 'adult' than our peers. I feel that many people we know or meet, who don't understand why we'd want to live small, see us as somehow lesser than they. We are often the target of pity and criticism. One hundred and sixty square feet? Incredulous. But why would you want to? That's way too small for three people. Ellen chimes in - plus a dog and a cat. They shake their heads, as if electing to live tiny means we're somehow in need of their assistance, or that we're seeking freebies, or that we're not willing to work for what they and so many others have - things we currently have, and are happily, eagerly leaving behind. This is a choice, not a sentence. Recently, another woman at my daughter's school peered at me with worry as we waited for our children to be released to walk home: oh, how are you, honey? We'd recently gathered for drinks on an unseasonably warm Friday evening where we shared our story, and she'd been questioning, confused, at our choice to live small.
I run along the streets in our neighborhood, homes with perfectly manicured lawns, the houses themselves sprawling and beautiful. There was a time in my life where I thought that's what I wanted. The dream, right? And then I started working toward that, living it. Somewhere along the way, thank goodness, we decided to sell everything we owned and travel. We went on the grandest, most difficult, life-changing, eye-opening, brilliant adventure and emerged as entirely different human beings. We didn't know it right away. We thought that by coming home, it meant we needed to fit in, to have a house packed full of things, but ultimately, it didn't take long to realize that we've been beautifully and irrevocably changed. That fitting in, for us, is for the birds.
It's taken this past year, of living in this neighborhood, surrounded by excess - where people have more than they will ever need, land and space that could house so many in need, money that could feed the hungry, to realize that fitting in would mean letting go of our values and principles, our commitments, our desire to help others, our dreams. Our dreams are different. They don't fit into a mold predetermined. They are ours. I can say that, wholeheartedly and with complete confidence. As I walked with my coffee this morning, amongst men and women in suits, half hidden behind newspapers, I realized I was smiling. Broadly. For the first time, I realized that soon, I'll be living in the Airstream with my little family - but that doesn't mean I'm not part of the world itself. Life will go on. We'll shop at the same grocery store, pick up coffee from the same place, go to dinner at our local haunt. Living tiny doesn't exclude us from the norm, it just affords us so much more. Brings us joy. Allows us to live our dream, to pay down debt we'd not otherwise be able to unearth ourselves from, for me to pursue my design business, to travel again, to cultivate closeness and a family bond unbreakable.
If we didn't want this, if we didn't believe in it, we wouldn't have spent the last eleven months working toward it, even in those moments we weren't sure what would happen - and there have been many of those. We'd have not spent the last five of those months working every weekend, toiling our bodies until they were so weary and broken all we could manage was falling into bed, ignoring the piles of dishes in the sink and laundry to be done. We'd have not spent hours working when it would been far easier and more enjoyable to ignore the work and have a relaxing, comfortable weekend. It's not been easy to watch our daughter sit on the sidelines as we've worked, but we're all we've got. Just the two of us, our four hands working until cut and bruised. Tears have been shed, arguments had, frustrations taken out in walks around the block to cool off, or a beer can snapped open with a pffffsshhhhhhhh. Yet as my sister's boyfriend wrote me yesterday (after admiring our will to fight through the Airstream obstacles, admitting his fear that he'd want to give up) it's better to live than merely exist, he said, and you're living!
We are living, friends. Really living. We are seeking out what we want and desire most in life, the opinions of others be damned. Thank goodness for that. We aren't sloughing off our responsibilities in the process, in fact, we are enabling ourselves to more effectively meet and exceed those responsibilities. We are choosing, one step at a time, to live a life that gives us so much. We aren't just building a home, we are building a life. It will have only taken us a year - one short year - to move back into an Airstream. No, it's not our first one - that one will always be missed, but like the things we've learned this year, the ways in which we've grown, this Airstream is better for it. The experience of it all has given us a gratitude and understanding we'd have not had otherwise. Isn't that a beautiful example in this season of thanks? Friends, if there's something that is keeping you from something you dream of and long for, whatever that may be - know that's it's not too late. You've not fucked up too much to fix it. Past mistakes are just that - past mistakes. It's never, never too late to go after the life you want. So go. Do. I can promise you it'll never be something to regret.