As many of you already know, I quit my job at the end of February. I have been working 2 days a week since, and have been spending more time on my spoon carving. Or at least that is what I have been telling people. In reality, my days have looked a lot more like waking up early and going to bed exhausted after a rousing day of chipping away at an infinite To Do list.
While I was working, I felt like I was waiting for my real life to begin, which is never a good sign of a sustainable future. I got tired of waiting and decided to start taking action. I put in my notice, and said the hard goodbye to my wonderful students. Then I began working on those things that I felt like I was waiting to do. Turns out that waiting feeling was the result of a back-log of tasks 6 months deep. For that reason, “leaving to focus on my spoon business” didn’t feel so true when I was buried in applications, paperwork, payments, gardening tasks, housework and a van rebuild. I was really only getting a couple of hours of carving time in each day. My website was far from polished. Despite working constantly, and forgetting to eat (let alone take breaks) I went to bed each night questioning my decision, asking myself “Am I doing enough to justify quitting my job?”
Then a friend lent me a book, as friends are known to do. This book was called Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. I’m often a very slow reader; most of my books take months or years to finish. I finished this book in under a week. Suddenly all I could do was read. As my mom said, I “fell in” to the book. It was everything I needed to hear. Here’s why:
The main premise of the book is that we live in a consumer culture. Big surprise. Hayes spends the first half of the book describing all of the ways that capitalism, consumerism and sexism have failed us. She lays out, in no uncertain terms, our need to reclaim domestic skills in the name of feminism in order to shift our households from consuming units to producing units. She describes a frankly creepy history of the evolution of housework that I didn’t completely know, yet was intrinsically aware of. Advertisers at the turn of the 20th century caused a major shift in a housewife’s role from growing, cooking and productive crafts to glorified babysitters and shoppers. Many of the lost homemaking skills were sold as convenience products. Why can your tomatoes when you can drive to the store and buy them? This resonated with me deeply, because while I was working at my salaried job with benefits, I couldn’t seem to hold onto any money. I felt trapped in a work-buy-use-toss-repeat cycle. I was so exhausted that I needed to spend tons of money on coping mechanisms and entertainment in order to not fall into a pit of despair. But I fell anyway. I realized I wasn’t going to make any more money, so I should start focusing on spending and needing less.
This book was validating because it described a life that no one has outright acknowledged the existence of to me before. You can work for yourself. Your work can center around the home. You can grow your own delicious food, sew and mend your own clothing and make all the art you want. You don’t have to be married or have kids to raise. You can just do it. You don’t need to work for a corporation to make the rich richer. Maybe people did tell me over the years, but society yelled over them. It made me realize that I was already starting down this path. I want to live simply, without chemicals. I want to scavenge and scrounge and repair and reuse. I want to thrive in a living world with clean water and clean air. This book just gave me permission.
So here I go, on my journey to spend less. My garden is nearly planted, and my van is nearly finished. I am spending the summer carving and selling spoons at various farmers markets around the city 3 days a week. I am slowing down and turning off the television. Expect much more writing from me about my adventures.