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Jon Westenberg

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Give Me The Simple Life

I want me some hot black coffee on a cold morning.

I don’t need it to be fancy, I don’t need it to be anything more than strong, steaming and ready around the same time that I need it.

I want a laptop that works and a phone that can make calls, and a good, sturdy notebook that I can fill with ideas. Oh, and a pen that doesn’t leak too much.

I want my health and 5 minutes a day to spend with someone I love. I want a weekend with nothing on, every now and then. I want to go running in the mornings in the spring, and I want to see the ocean in the summer, and when the weather gets cold again, I want to smell wood burning and warm my hands to it.

I don’t believe that life used to be simpler without technology. I think it may have encompassed less variety, but I don’t believe the natural spectrum of human emotion and experience and activity has ever been simple.

I wouldn’t give up what I’ve got. I wouldn’t want to. But I think there’s something to be said for finding a way to simplify it.

I started keeping anti-wish lists last year.

What’s an anti-wish list? It’s a way of keeping track of the things that cloud my mind with wants, and “needs” and stuff. Endless stuff. When I want something new and shiny, I write it down on a list of things that I wish never to own, because if I own them, I’ll spend money on crap I don’t need, energy lusting after crap I don’t need, time reading about crap that I don’t fucking need.

My anti-wish lists are full of junk. Despite having a new-ish laptop, there are 4 other laptops on there. Despite having a few good pairs of shoes there are piles of sneakers on there. Despite having furniture that holds me up and provides a place for my family to sit when they visit, it’s full of leather couches and art-deco chairs…none of this stuff would ever improve the basic quality of my life.

It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. It won’t. It can’t.

And you know what, it shouldn’t.

But these wants intrude into my life all the time, and so I write them down, and I accept – in doing so – that I’m committing to never owning them. Never getting into useless debt to own them. Never working just to own them.

All of this stuff is just noise. And it blocks out my signal.

My signal is what I can feel, and know, and experience in real time, away from the distractions. The noise corrupts the simplicity of what I want to do, and so I try to quiet it.

It’s not that I don’t own things. I own a lot more than a lot of people, and I’m lucky to. But I don’t need to always own new things, the latest things, the shiny things, the expensive things.

I want me some hot black coffee on a cold morning. It doesn’t have to come from a $1,000 machine.

I want a laptop that works and a phone that can make calls. They don’t have to be purchased milliseconds after they get announced at a flashy keynote presentation. I know folks whose MacBooks are 5 years old, and folks whose MacBooks are 3 months old, and they all get the same things done and feel the same levels of happiness and personal satisfaction.

I want my health and 5 minutes a day to spend with someone I love. I don’t need to cloud all of that with a million fitness trackers and apps and restaurants that cost $10 to ask for a glass of water.

I heard a saying once – it doesn’t change how mustard tastes.

…and that’s always spoken to me. So many of the wants and worries that I have, that cause such a rift between simplicity and complexity, won’t change how mustard tastes. They won’t change the root and base of what I am, and what I like, and what I strive for.

So today, I’m trying to focus on the simpler things. I’m sitting here, drinking a cup of hot, black coffee and reading up on the tech news. It’s exciting, sure – and I do love excitement – but I’m keenly aware that I can consume and think about this stuff without needing to pull out my credit card.

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