Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Simple Life

Post by Alana Cash

Once, when I was looking for a new place to live in Austin, I met a man about 30 years old who was renting out one side of a duplex that he owned in South Austin between Riverside and Ben White.  I’ll call him Joe. 

The area where the duplex was located is the one that the KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD bumper stickers were created for.  It used to be the area where creative types – musicians, artists, filmmakers, writers, and old hippies – used to live, but the real estate market changed and the property values soared so high that rental prices in this area became extreme.  There are still creative people living there, but they were lucky enough and smart enough to buy their houses before the Internet exploded and tech companies moved to Austin.

I can remember the year that a California techie moved to Austin and knocked on the door of a home in my neighborhood – a home that had last sold for $80,000 three years before – and offered the owners $600,000 for the house if they would move out.  They moved.  After that, houses in Austin sold in a couple of hours or went into bidding wars that lasted a full day taking the selling price well above the asking price.  Families that had lived in the Clarksville neighborhood for generations, moved away. 

Back to Joe’s story.

Joe had lived in that old, somewhat deteriorated, duplex in South Austin as he worked to create a type of software program.  He had friends over to talk about what they were all doing.  He rode a bike to listen to music downtown at night.  He had a day job that was just “in the meantime,” but kept him in touch with new people. 

While he was living a regular life that he enjoyed, Joe channeled his passion into his software product, and he dreamed of having a life of ease and pleasure.  When he got his program to a certain stage, Joe presented it to people who could fund a start-up and they liked it.  Joe’s software program took off and he became a millionaire.  He bought a big house in West Austin on half an acre and a fancy car.  He could shop any time he wanted for electronic gadgets and he was free to travel anywhere, anytime.  What a wonderful life.

But he wasn’t happy.  In fact, over time he had realized he was sad because he’d lost the simple life he had.  The one where friends came over and he rode places on his bike.  He remembered scraping together money to do things, and scraping it together made him extra appreciative for whatever it was he did with the money.

Joe sold his big house and bought the duplex that he used to live in.  He told me he wanted to recapture the way that he felt when he lived there before.  He did remodel the duplex and he was charging the exorbitant rent the neighborhood commanded, even while he admitted that money didn’t bring him happiness he had expected and that he wanted his simple life back.

I thought of this story on Sunday when I was talking to my friend Adam about the frustrations of a creative life.  It’s so much fun to write or paint or sew or act or dance or sing or play an instrument or design things.  The frustration appears for me when I long for more than the experience, the full experience of what I am doing, and leave the moment to compare myself to famous artists, or worse, enter our society’s habit of putting the value on my experience in terms of money.

How much is a fabulous afternoon painting worth?  What about writing a poem on the arm of your lover – what should we be paid for that?  A walk on a crisp night looking at the designs that bark makes on a tree or the shape of their limbs against a moonlit sky – how much should we pay for that?  What about waking up one morning to find ducks have landed in the swimming pool - how much should we pay and to whom?

I only talked to Joe once, but I’m sure glad I did, because he reminds me that it’s the passion and immersion into the experience of the moment that brings joy, not the financial payment or the trophies.  


Laura M said...
I love this, Alana! It's so simple and yet such a profound truth and so beautifully expressed by "Joe" and by you!

Thanks for writing it!

1 comment:

Laura M said...

I love this, Alana! It's so simple and yet such a profound truth and so beautifully expressed by "Joe" and by you!

Thanks for writing it!