In preparation for my impending move from Boston to New York, I’ve been simplifying my life. Excess clothing and trinkets are stored at my parents house. My bed, the one I’ve slept in ever since I graduated from the top bunk in the double-decker I shared with my sister, is up for sale on Craigslist. I haven’t signed a lease in Boston, but don’t yet have an apartment in New York. My current roommates and I made our last rent payment, and as two of them moved out, I have no furniture outside my bedroom. We no longer have internet or cable. At the end of the month, I’ll pack up my car, return it to my parents, and bus south. I have never felt more free.
Immediately after I graduated college, I embarked on a month-long road trip with my friends. We roamed the country along a pre-determined path, camping or crashing with family and friends as we explored. We had no obligations, but we did have a timeline. At the end of the month, we would return to the real world, taking jobs in corporate America or attending grad school. I relished our frugal and communal lifestyle, as we temporarily went off the grid and left our responsibilities behind. We knew we would return to civilized life, and savored our time away especially because of that knowledge. But we never fully unplugged. When we did have cell phone service, we checked our email and kept in contact with employers. We made travel plans for when we returned, and posted pictures to Facebook. We shirked responsibility for a month, but never rejected it entirely. I played at the simple nomad’s life then, but now instead of an interlude or vacation, I will be adopting it with no end date in sight.
I’m dropping responsibilities at an alarming rate. In 21 days, I will have reduced my life to one part-time freelance commitment. Nothing else: no home, no car, no recurring bills. I will be completely mobile; although my plan is to move to New York after a pit stop at my parent’s house, I could go anywhere in the world.
I am intoxicated with this freedom. I am job and apartment hunting, but I admit to myself that I dream of maintaining an unattached lifestyle. The allure of short-term and flexible commitments is obsessive. I don’t want to not work—I want to do everything simultaneously, in small doses, which is just as unsustainable. I dream about the many lives I could cobble together, without dwelling on the real concerns of housing myself and settling down, of contributing more to my 401(k) or remaining in contact with people across the country. Today, I want to live a nomadic and spontaneous life, flitting across the city between jobs and apartments, with a suitcase or two to sustain me. I want to make do with as little as possible, instead of focusing on the material components of a happy life. Tomorrow, I will want the same thing. And in a week, I will be just as excited to uproot myself as I was the day I decided to start over again.
But I am afraid I will fall into this life for too long. What will I want in months or years? I will want my own bed in an apartment I’ve carefully decorated with photos and art I’ve chosen. A well-stocked kitchen full of spices I’ve accumulated as I experiment with new cuisines. A job where I’m no longer the new girl, who as bright as she may be, doesn’t have the long-term savvy of a veteran. And in order to slip into that lifestyle in the future, I need to prepare for it now. It takes time to grow roots: I need to cultivate that life in advance. My struggle is to maintain a sense of simplicity and excitement while remaining stationary. As tempting as my dreams of remaining detached may be, they are simply dreams. But I can draw out the reasons I am so drawn to that lifestyle—lack of clutter, mental freedom, spontaneity and adventure—and consciously seek to infuse those elements into a life that also has an element of stability.