The Year of Incredible Focus

There is a box of mismatched Legos sitting on the second shelf of the entertainment center in my apartment, they are the ashes of my childhood, pieces of my life leftover, significant but otherwise unused.

When I first moved into my apartment, while I waited for my furniture to be delivered I came across them. As I wiled away the hours and hours waiting for the furniture delivery guy to never show up I played with those Legos, making vehicles and forts, building the same way I did when I was a child.

When it came time to put them somewhere I couldn't bring myself to throw them out so I just put them in a sealed box on my shelf. Once in a while I peek in there to take a look at them, check up on them I guess. But otherwise there they sit, undisturbed.

One of the first blogs I wrote, the fourth one to be exact, was about how I had inherited all of my parents dishes, bowls, cutlery and glassware. As a single man living by myself it was far too much for one person. Nearly 4 years later it is still too much for one person. I have more glasses than I have friends. That might concern me if I didn't have enough glasses to break one every single day for the next 2 months and still have enough for a house party.

When I first moved in to my apartment the goal was stuff. Get stuff. Acquire stuff. Display stuff. And that I succeeded at. My apartment quickly went from barren to overstuffed. It's embarrassing to note that it was two months after my apartment was robbed before I realized my sunglasses had been one of the things stolen.

And speaking of, it is just over a year since my apartment was robbed. Looking back now it is very easy for me to say how lucky I was. I was not home, I was not harmed, I lost many material possessions but nothing that I couldn't ultimately get over. Between the insurance payments and an incredibly superfluous outpouring of generosity from my coworkers, I was able to continue leading my life, continue with my trip to Fiji and move on.

The toll the robbery took on my psyche was much greater. I bought a security gate for my window. I used to laugh when somebody would come into my apartment and immediately lock the door behind them. Now I do that every time. The unique creaks and noises of my apartment that used to endear the building to me now reminded me of the robbery. Every time the trees outside brushed against the fire escape, or the people in the apartments next to mine made the floor creak, my heart momentarily stops. I realize I will never feel as safe as I did before my apartment was robbed.

After the robbery I felt angry at myself for being so connected to my material possessions. Did I really need so many watches? Did I really just say I "loved" that watch? How did I let myself get so... materialistic?

I know it wasn't intentional. When I left college with no real idea of what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, I concentrated on the only truly tangible goal I had, having my own apartment.

So the two years I spent working two jobs to get my place were spent daydreaming of the kinds of things I would fill it with; the art, the books, the dishes. The sheer amount of time I spent thinking about dishware at 23 should have let me know it was time to find some new goals... or at least a hobby.

It was an easy, specific, tangible goal. Get enough stuff to fill my apartment and then I would feel whole.

Having had a year to think about the events of that night, the things I lost, and how it all affected me I realize that the sheer idea of having my personal space violated by a stranger has done far worse things to me than losing any of that stuff. And while I'm sure the robbery's effects on me will never entirely go away (though I can hope) I do have control over something else: my attachment to my stuff.

I am not about to make a claim that I am going to give up all of my stuff and live a monastic life. I love having nice things. But I can limit their importance in my life.

On the verge of a brand new year, and a year in which I will be closer to 30 than ever before, and following a year that rocked me in so many ways I could never have expected, I am suddenly aware of how scattered my lifestyle has been.

I have spent my days chasing new projects, new distractions, new experiences, things that are better, more unique or exciting, all without any real thought with how they were contributing to my overall story. As a writer I am also aware of how exhausting it can be trying to tell 9 different stories at the same time. And I have been focused too heavily on cramming my life full of stories, events, and experiences, that I have paid little attention to the story I was actually trying to tell.

I do know that I don't want my story to be the one of the guy who acquired too many things and had a bunch of experiences but never really ended up where he wanted to be. Now I know it's impossible to know exactly where you will end up when you begin, writing has taught me that too. And I'm not trying to do that either.

I simply seek to reduce my life down to more elemental things. Fewer, quality pieces. More significant relevant interactions with friends. And more focus when it comes to the things I want to do. While it was fun to write a huge play that I never produced, then write 6 episodes of a web series that got put on hold, and then write and shoot a short film that ended up in limbo, and then write and direct a play which actually went up, I always felt like I was at the whim of my life experiences and my own boredom. And the combination of the two was exhausting.

So in the next year I seek to do the following:
  • To clean out my apartment of those things that are not extremely necessary to who I am and the life I want to lead.
  • To limit the amount of things I do merely to distract myself, even if that means subjecting myself to sitting still and thinking about my life... my least favorite thing.
  • To focus my attention on the projects that I am in love with. To stop trying to do everything, all the time, in the fear that not doing means I am wasting away.
And those Legos on my shelf? Well, I will package them up nicely and donate them. Maybe the ashes of my childhood will become the seeds of somebody else's.