AND, HOW THE THINGS I OWNED, ACTUALLY OWNED ME
I was twenty years old, desperate to get out of my hometown. I had already attempted it once and failed miserably. It was like I was attached to an unbreakable rubber band. The further away I got, the harder it would pull me back. That’s how I felt when I shamefully moved back to Casper, Wyoming. Many people love the small Wyoming city, and in some ways I envy them. I never could.
Earlier that summer, I had landed a job as a model scout and moved to Vancouver, Washington only to discover that I would be scamming innocent people into paying large amounts of money for an online modeling profile to a phony model placement agency.
Before the end of the summer, I returned to Casper, over $6,000 in debt but determined to pay it all off and save up enough to move to… I didn’t know where. The where was less important than the achievement itself. I settled into a house with seven roommates and loaded it with all the things we ‘needed’. A bed for myself and for the living room, a couch, an absolutely beautiful 3-in-1 cherrywood dining, poker, and bumper pool table that I got for a great deal on eBay, and a used soda vending machine (or “pop machine” as they call them up north) that I found for only $200! What? I was twenty. Don’t judge me.
One year later, my supervisor at Papa John’s, who wasn’t too fond of me ever since I beat him at a pizza making competition, stole money from the safe prior to one of my shifts and framed me for it.
With nothing saved and not any further out of debt than I was twelve months prior, I no longer had an income. I went into panic mode and spent the rest of the day running around town, frantically trying to score a new job like a delusional crackhead. I could do this; spend two more months working my ass off and somehow miraculously earn enough money to move myself and all my stuff to wherever I would decide to go. At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.
Feeling dejected at the end of the day, I returned home, walked into my bedroom, closed the door, and experienced the first breakdown of my life. It was a full-on quarter-life crisis. The fear that I would never get out of Wyoming scared the hell out of me. I imagined the worst; that I would succumb to the fate that so many other Wyominites had fallen prey to; that I might become an alcoholic and possibly even a drug addict, going to the same house parties with the same people every weekend until the weekend routine eventually devolved into me being an old regular sitting by himself at the bar every night, having accomplished absolutely nothing with my life. As dramatic as it sounds, that was my actual fear based on the fate of too many other lost souls that never left Casper. I collapsed on my bedroom floor and I cried.
The next day, my best friend, Chris called me. He told me to come to Austin, Texas. I knew nothing about Austin at the time and only heard “Texas.” As much as I knew about Texas, it was just a larger version of Wyoming, but with oil money and in the South. “No thanks,” I thought to myself. He told me that I could crash on his couch and that Austin wasn’t like the rest of Texas, that it was a little blue oasis in a big red desert. I didn’t know if I trusted him, but I decided that even if Austin was the same as what I had heard about the rest of Texas, it still couldn’t be as bad as Casper, Wyoming.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” I told Chris. I made up my mind. I would move to Austin, give it one year and if it turned out to be just as bad as how the rest of Texas sounded, I would pack up and go somewhere else at the end of that year. I told him to give me two months. That’s how long I figured I would need to figure out how I would afford to get all of my stuff down there.
The estimate I received to take a uHaul one way across the country was over $1,000. I had about $200 in my bank account at the time. The uHaul wasn’t an option.
Within the first twenty-four hours after talking to Chris, I recalled a quote from the movie Fight Club when Tyler Durden says to the narrator, “The things you own, end up owning you.” It dawned on me that the things I owned were holding me back from the life I wanted to live.
That next day, I called Chris and told him that I was moving my plans to come to Austin up from two months to just two weeks. I then spent the next twenty-four hours selling everything I could, pawning what I couldn’t sell, giving away whatever I couldn’t pawn, and pushing to the curb whatever I couldn’t give away.
Early the following morning, I called Chris again and told him that I would be in Austin in a little more than the twenty-five hours it would take to drive there from Casper. I packed up my car with the remaining few belongings that I decided to keep and take with me. I drove to my mom’s house and told her goodbye. Then, with Fastball’s The Way playing on the radio, I was on my way out of Casper for the last time that wouldn’t be just a short trip to visit home.
I spent $100 to pay for the gas to get to Austin, and I rationed the remaining few hundred dollars, I made from selling my stuff, for food over the next few weeks until I got my first job and paycheck.
The very first weekend I was there, I fell in love with Austin. Moving there was hands down one of the top three best decisions of my life. I loved Austin so much that I ended up living there for over ten years until I was ready for an even bigger and better life.
As soon as I decided that I wouldn’t allow the things I owned, to own me, I was able to accomplish in less than forty-eight hours what I had tried and failed to accomplish over the course of more than a year.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my first experience with the idea of minimalism. It wasn’t until twelve years later, when I converted a van into an RV (the second of the three best decisions of my life) and lived out of it throughout the U.S. and Mexico for two and a half years, that I even knew that minimalist lifestyles are even a thing.
The third of the three best decisions of my life was selling the van and, with nothing remaining other than the contents of my backpack, booking a one-way ticket to Cartagena, Colombia for only $100.
As cliche as anyone might think that the concept of minimalism is, it completely changed my life and allows me to live the life I’m now living; traveling the globe, experiencing foreign cultures, and seeing the world, all without worrying about any of the stuff I left behind.
If you’re interested in learning more about minimalism and exploring the idea of living a minimalist lifestyle, check out these websites dedicated to the topic: