You know, I didn’t actually dream of living in my parents basement at the age of 38. We’ve all heard the jokes of the kids, now adults, who never leave the nest. But what about those of us who leave the nest, are gone for 20 years and then return?
I will interject at this point that this arrangement is only temporary for our family. It’s actually part of a larger plan, which is still unfolding.
The funny part is the look on people’s faces when I tell them where we’re living. I can’t decide if it’s the look of pity or surprise, that fleets quickly across their face, that is most humorous. Maybe it’s the hesitating questions that follow:
- That’s good? Right?
- Ummm….so will you be there long term?
- What do the kids think?
- What do your parents think?
- Do you have plans for the future?
What they really want to ask:
- “What the heck happened that you’re living at your parents?
- Are you having trouble in your marriage?
- Are you still married?
- Did you lose your house to the bank?
- What personal crisis drove you to such drastic measures?
- Your life must be over! Right?
I know it shouldn’t be comical but I find it to be so. I try to relieve their pain and curiosity rather quickly. I tell them “The really short answer is that we wanted to be closer to family, and our line of work makes this area an excellent home base. However, we need to rent out our current house before taking on any other housing expense.”
You may ask: Is it easy? You know, moving back in with the folks? Honestly? No. Any change comes with adjustment. But, we will always be grateful to my parents for allowing us to disrupt their lives and schedules to make room for our family during this season of transition.
But people’s response has had me thinking; why do these kind of changes set off alarm bells in our heads? Alarm bells that make us assume the worst before we know the fuller story? Human nature maybe? Fear that it might happen to us?
Right or wrong, when we see someone go through a season of loss, especially material loss, we tend to view it as negative instead of positive. Can it be negative at times? Sure. But can it be positive? Can it even be intentional?
I think it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around this kind of intentional choice to live with less, because our culture has defined success as having as much as possible. The big house, a driveway full of cars, beautiful possessions, busy schedules and a high paying job.
Sadly, I believe we now measure a person’s value and worth based on what they own rather than who they are. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously. We’ve all done it. I’ve done it. And for that I am sad.
I follow Humans of New York and I am deeply fascinated and touched by the stories of ordinary people (who honestly are rather extraordinary.) What Brandon has done is taken previously invisible people, passed on the sidewalk of this life, and made them visible. What makes them extraordinary is not where they live, what they own, how much money is in the bank but rather the experiences that have shaped their lives. We see them for “who they are” not for “what they own.” We see success because of their heart, their character and their perseverance.
That’s how I want to start seeing people. Not through the lens of possessions, or economic status, or job title. I want to see people for who God has created them to be.
And yet, how often have those very things kept me from associating, participating and even serving others. How often have my own possessions, schedule and chasing “The American Dream” kept me in bondage from serving others to the best of my ability?
If I only live to work, in order to pay for the big house, the cars and all my possessions, what kind of life is that? For me, for my family, it is not enough. Viktor Frankl (A Holocaust survivor) says that it’s not about finding happiness, it’s about finding meaning in life.
If living on less allows me to focus on the things that matter to me most….that for me is living.
Honestly, we have no immediate plans to move into another house. We actually are planning to move into our motor home for a season of time (the warmer season at least), which will allow us to do some traveling, some focused serving, attend a few weddings and lots and lots of camping. With both of our jobs being mobile in nature, we have the flexibility that this season calls for, and for that I’m grateful.
After I explain to people a general idea of our plan – especially the motor home part – the looks of pity and surprise turn to excitement and maybe (just maybe) a tad bit of envy. A lot of people dream about what we are getting ready to do. I think it’s because people are attracted to a simpler life that comes with less stuff, schedules that have margin and freedom to go as you feel lead. Honestly, they see it as a way to escape the life they have built.
We see it as a way to finally live the life we want.
I know there are people that may not understand this transition in our life, but honestly that’s ok with me because I’m not asking for their opinion. This is what works for our family, what fits into our dreams and this process allows us to simplify our lives so we can focus on what really matters to us: Faith, family and being unencumbered to serve our community and the world at large as we feel called.
I think we can all do with some simplifying, some stripping away of the un-important for the important. Too often our “stuff” keeps us from diving deep into those things that matter. Our “stuff” keeps us from serving others and it keeps us in bondage to the worlds idea of success.
What if success was measured not by the stuff we owned but by the lives we touch & the impact we make?
Because that kind of success is worth living in your parents basement for.
Keeping it Simple,