Saturday, October 16

Living, simply: a life-changing roommate

One writer remembers her days with a life-changing roommate

Trey Anthony
Special to the Star

He moved in. A small cardboard box, neatly fit under his arm. Two sticks of celery, a loaf of brown bread and a jar of almond butter. I asked him what time his moving truck was coming. He calmly expressed that this was all he had. All that he wanted.

This was my new tenant/roommate, David. He explained to me that he was a minimalist. He believed he didn’t need to have tons of worldly possessions to make him happy. And happy he was.

With great curiosity I watched him as he meditated in the morning and evenings. He read many books. Burned incense. He had deep and insightful conversations with friends who showed up in long, flowered skirts and Birkenstock sandals with wild flowers or jars of home made jam. I thought they were weird, silly hippies. They tried to engage me as they questioned the true meaning of happiness. I would have none of it: I was on a quest to conquer the world! Be a millionaire! Climb the ladder of success!

They could not possibly be a part of my world, where all my friends were striving to buy a bigger house, more brand-name clothing, a Mercedes, another computer. . . We were never satisfied. Never full.

With envy I watched David prepare simple yet delicious raw food meals. He chuckled as I reacted in horror at reading my credit card statement, realizing I spent nearly $185 on a meal at some fancy restaurant of which I couldn’t recall the name.

And as I stared in frustration at my over-stuffed closet and complained that I had absolutely nothing to wear. David would breeze by me in his simple white T-shirt and brown cords. An outfit I had seen on him many times, yet each time he retrieved the outfit from the dryer he would smile and pull the T-shirt over his head, eager to start a new day.

I would come home to find him humming softly to himself as he chewed on a piece of celery while reading a book. Me, stressed and tired from another day of long meetings, talking to people whom I really didn’t care about, battling rush-hour traffic.

But I wanted to buy more things, have more zeros in my bank account, so I took on a night job that I told myself I needed to make ends meet. I felt proud that I had bought my first home and I was only in my mid-’20s. However, I realized that I spent more hours in my car than I actually did living in my brand new fancy suburbia home. I expressed this to David and he stated quietly, “Trey, we all make choices.”

I stomped up the stairs thinking to myself, it must be nice to do nothing all day!

Why would he want to live like that? Doesn’t he want anything out of life?

One day he packed up his little cardboard box and said he felt a desire to leave. Maybe travel a bit. Hitchhike across Canada. Maybe see the world? Maybe work on a farm. He and a few friends were thinking about perhaps getting a place somewhere.

Where? He wasn’t sure where he would end up, but he knew it was time to move on. And then he was gone.

Ten years later I still think of David. Now as I fight the desperate need to try to slow down my life, simplify it, I think about him as I try to respond to my growing desire to move on, go somewhere. Where? I don’t know.

I think of him as my friends and family shake their head in disbelief and talk quietly among themselves that I must be crazy to want to give it all up to just move somewhere quiet, buy a small little house, get out of the rat race.

I think about him as I realize that I now have all of this stuff. Things that I thought would make me happy.

I think about him as I examine my simple desire to have a small room by a lake with a window, and more time to write. I think of him when I admit to myself that all I really want is more time to see my friends. More time to laugh with my brother. Maybe go visit my sister? See my cousin’s new babies? More time to read. More time to write. More time to prepare home-cooked meals. More time to burn candles, light incense. More time to question the true meaning of happiness.