Do we hate simplicity or does simplicity hate us?
Bonus: A lot of coffee talk.
Do we hate simplicity or does simplicity hate us?
You don’t know how many times this question pulsates through my mind. I’ve recently started to take note in how overcomplicated nearly everything is - all in the name of simplicity. When trying out pilates studios in my area, I noticed all of them have an app to download so that I can read about the workout ahead of time. (Just to scare me out of coming back tomorrow, no thanks). Not to mention, the app to order from the coffeeshop two steps away from me, the app to book my hair wash seven months in advance, and the app that tells me when to water my plants. (Blossom is the name of it and I’d actually highly recommend, but that’s besides the point).
I have a hard time believing that you haven’t noticed it as well. Everything is a subscription model, everything is an app, and every step you take across the street tomorrow can be broken into a checklist. Because we deserve the organization. And yet, I find myself exhausted from the complicated definition we’ve given to a simple life. It’s true, user-friendly technology can make our lives better. For example, I actually enjoy getting push notifications on when to water my family of house plants. But, where is the line on feeling like your entire life is some project to be managed? I’ve been experimenting to clarify my own and manage my boundaries with what’s helpful and what’s simply bullshit.
Between all the 'user-friendly’ and streamlined technology that ‘empowers’ us in our personal lives, I’m convinced to an extent - we’ve made our lives inherently more complicated. And we’re stone-blind to the idea.
Protecting Your Peace Without Streamlining Your Morning Coffee
This morning, I went on a walk and chatted to a stranger about the park we were at. She was visiting from out of town and was taken by the beauty of the area, snapping photos and asking for some of herself backdropped by the nature. I was listening to ‘Is Google Getting Worse?’ on the Freakanomics podcast (My friend recently suggested it. Two thumbs up, so far.) and was kind of annoyed when my train of thought got interrupted by an out-of-towner wanting to needlessly comment about the ocean. I’d already planned to drive home from the park in exactly seventeen minutes from that moment to beat a morning rush. Which according to Apple Maps, was getting thicker by the moment. But, I needed to finish this podcast episode and a leisurely stroll before doing that, so there was no room for a side-rail conversation inside the well-oiled machine that I conveniently call my relaxing free time.
Talking to her was surprisingly pleasant, the way a plain exchange with a kind stranger usually is. And when I was heading back to my car, I checked the traffic to again and obsessed on the quickest route home, rather than just finishing the episode and walk. I half payed my attention to the podcast’s resolution over my car speakers while maneuvering a ten minute ride home. If I’d left any later, it would’ve surely been twelve.
And the question creeped back into my mind: do I hate simplicity?
The simplest moments of my day usually happen in the morning. They’re always my happiest. And they usually happen very, very slowly. I used to make Keruig coffee until someone came along in my life who said I would benefit from using a French Press. He convinced me that the coffee quality is much better and there is some joy to be had in the act of slowing a busy morning down. So he bought me one, and I’ve used it ever since. I kept him around too.
Through something as microscale as the French Press, I enabled the space in my brain to focus on the simple pleasures rather than the streamlined schedule. And the two are very, very different.
Where do we draw the line with an over-complex straightforwardness within our everyday lives?
This is a question I’m still toying with, because I want to find the perfect answer. A contradictory in itself, because haven’t we exhausted ourselves enough by trying to find the perfect-something: schedule, moment, relationship, image of ourselves to post online?
Here’s what I’m attempting to focus on during this new chapter of my life:
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Simple isn’t boring. Peaceful isn’t exhausting.
I’ll probably say this into the mirror a million more times. And every time will be true.
As a human who has moved cross-country, switched roles, and said ‘yes’ to new experiences quite a bit this year: I’ve been learning about myself and how important it is for me to protect my peace. One of the things that twenty-four year old Lindsey discovered is that she is very good at self-imposed exhaustion. Trying to see all of the people, do all of the things, and accomplish every goal on her checklist. This can get exhausting, fast.
With deep introspection, I’ve found that true peace with who I’m becoming is not found by squeezing everyone else in, getting everything off the laundry list, or having the most explorative experiences every single day. My biggest accomplishments will not be boring, but they will be extremely simple.
For example, having a few hours every single day to write is exhilarating for me. A very plain action with an excitable result. It’s getting me toward my goals and enabling me to build my life around what I love the most. How great, right? And yet, sitting down at my little desk every single morning does not give me the same adrenaline rush as seeing myself in the bookstore did. But, I’m not building my dreams in the bookstore.
I used to think I needed to have some wild, complicated experiences where I have to choose between quitting my job to pursue my passion at a lower income or a higher risk. I’d have to reckless-abandon all things of a normal life to feel gritty enough to get where I’m headed. And while that’s totally fine to do, I have learned that stability and consistency empower me more than anything to close gaps between my goals and reality. I think the same can be said for relationships, friendships, and financial wellbeing. You can lose a friendship, relationship, investment, or title in twenty-four hours. That’s a rush. But, you can never get it back in the same time.
Because there’s no ‘efficiency’ in building your peace. It’s a lifelong journey that’s anything, but boring.
Setting boundaries with ‘simplifying’ technology.
(Disclaimer: A work in progress, to say the least)
Call me a hater, I don’t download the Pilates apps. I’ve decided that if I’m going to accept ‘project management’ thinking in my personal matters, it has to be in areas of my life where the expertise of another person is inherently helpful to me from an intellectual standpoint. For example, I don’t know as much about plants as my brothers wife does. (S/O Hannah) And I truly do not care to learn about them in extensive detail. So an app that manages that information and tells me when to water mine is helpful for me.
One of my goals in 2023 is to work alongside a Spanish tutor. With my learning style, that experience cannot be replaced by ‘simplified technology.’ Since speaking Spanish is a skill that I do want to accomplish in extensive detail, I’ve decided to shy away from technology models and appreciate a face-to-face experience that will make that journey simpler. It’s different than the plants app, because I actually want to learn.
For me, it’s about noticing the difference in a ten minute commute home vs. a twelve. The longer commute would’ve actually made my life simpler today because I would’ve stopped trying to multitask things I really wanted to do for the sake of efficiency. (Which does not always = simplicity) Finding these boundaries with what I give my time to and my ‘project-management thinking’ to has been in effort in itself.
Leaving blank space in my day.
I’m pretty freaking good about planning my alone time to be productive to the maximum. It’s taken lots of psychoanalysis for me to understand that it’s necessary to just rest. When I started carving out planned periods of rest for myself, I immediately defaulted to managing them like a checklist. In this two hour period I will: meditate, read 100 pages, and take a bubble bath. And when I didn’t get around all three items on my ‘relaxing checklist’ I started to feel inadequate about resting. How psychotic is that?
Leaving scheduled blank space in my day is an attempt to do whatever the hell that I want to do when that time finally shows up. I’ll decide when I get there.
Letting my happy moments be a longwinded experience.
I step out for a coffee every Friday morning, religiously. It’s my favorite way to start a Friday. The walk, the fresh brew, the aroma of morning air: it makes an everyday Friday, my Friday.
So I’ve stopped preordering my coffee to avoid waiting in the queue. Because the happy moment isn’t a singular taste of fresh coffee. It’s the walk, the music, and even the line. My morning coffee is about the essence of the morning. Not, the efficiency of it.
I do my very best not to order books online, because I love the experience of a local book shop. I don’t even like to go in knowing what I’m looking for anymore. No research. Because, the act of walking around the store in my favorite dress, browsing the shelves, and reading a few first chapters of various books on the floor of the genre section makes up some of my favorite moments alone. It’s my sacred time in a place that I love to exist. I don’t need to research it before or rob myself of the joy by ordering the book to my door.
There’s an abundance of simplicity in the scenic route. Might as well open our eyes and savor it.
That’s all that’s on my mind. I hope it enriched your day a bit. Thank you, as always, for reading this. You mean a lot to me. Back to The Sophomore Letters I go!
Lots of love.