Living Dangerously

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

~Gustave Flaubert

Human beings love their comfort. We find lethargic content in doing the same things and doing them the same way for a long time. Until a forced change arrives. Nobody would actually go looking for a better situation when they know they have it pretty good already. Take us for example. We live in one of the most expensive cities in Northern California. However, we rent an inexpensive house five blocks away from the ocean. In fact, our rent which amounts to $1500 for a two-bedroom shabby chic surf shack, has been the best-kept secret in town. Nobody would believe it, even if we told them, that in a city where two-bedroom houses go for $3000 and above, our rent has stayed that low for ten years. TEN YEARS.

But that ten year period, it ended four months ago. I am now sitting on the steps of a different house. It is 6 am. Sipping hot coffee and observing the moves of my cat who is trying to catch a gopher. Same cat, same coffee mug, different house. Inexplicable things happen all the time. Like our landlord deciding to sell the surf shack. And us being homeless for two months. THAT. WAS. TERRIFYING. Inexplicable is the word I picked for it because otherwise, I’ll have to say “inevitable”, or “unavoidable”, and those are words I like to…avoid. I avoid them because I admit that I could’ve been better prepared. But instead, I got complacent, lazy.

And here’s all the ways in which NOT BEING LAZY would’ve saved us – for one, we could’ve stashed money away in our savings account; you know, all the extra cash we were saving by paying the lowest rent in the history of rentship; come to think of it, the difference between paying $1500 instead of $3000 for ten years comes to 180, 000 dollars. Enough for a downpayment on a new house, even in this luxury paradise of the world called California.

Second and third and fifth: WE. SHOULD. HAVE. SAVED. THE MONEY! Instead, we ended up scrambling for cash and resources when everything came crashing down on our heads! And it crashed with a pretty spectacular bang!

As Nietzsche wrote: “Men are inclined to laziness. At bottom, every human being knows very well that he is in this world just once, as something unique….he knows it, but he hides it like a bad conscience. Why? In the vast majority, it is the desire for comfort, inertia.”

I can think of another sphere where inertia sets in easily – business. I thought we had achieved better control in that department, but noooooo. Our small freelance business of branding and graphic design was kept small and nimble on purpose. We knew that having a small operation (not having any employees or renting an office) meant freedom and the ability to move at last moment’s notice. And so we did. Relocation didn’t scare us. We could travel, crash at friend’s houses, work from coffee shops and still keep our clients happy. That was the good news. The bad news was, as nimble as we were, we’ve operated the exact same way without a change for too long. For example, we haven’t raised our prices in many years. And we haven’t really achieved freedom in the true sense of the word, because we work so damn much. We went into this business with the romantic idea of freedom and with the intention of breaking orthodoxies and conventions. We wanted to live dangerously. Instead, we got timorous and snoozy. And overworked. What the hell happened?

Some would say life happened, but that is a euphemism for the real answer, which, in my opinion, is not paying the price (or the rent haha). We forgot that in order to be truly wild and crazy in our work, we needed some kind of structure and planning in our life. Oh yes, we were living dangerously, but dangerous in the reckless kind of way, not in a committed way.

The committed way requires something more than investing physical labor and time, it requires mental and emotional labor to identify priorities and make difficult decisions. And it doesn’t take our situation to understand this. I know that most freelancers, without being evicted from their homes, live this scenario in a different way. Being self-employed often means living in a grind and having no time for health, leisure or relationships. You burn out and still at the end of the day feel thoroughly unfulfilled.

And that’s not even the real price; the real price that we as freelancers pay is the complacency price. We are so tired that we shut down our biggest asset – the brain. The brain which, if doing its proper job and thinking critically, would be able to tell you – no, too good of a thing like super low rent is NOT A GOOD THING (well of course it is, BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE PUTTING SOME EXTRA CASH AWAY EVERY MONTH); and no, having a small business operation doesn’t mean diddly squat unless you make it scalable.

So, I had to ask myself some difficult questions. I subjected myself to a thorough analysis.

The analysis came back with this plan:

1. Administer a combination of preparedness and wildness to LIFE

2. Administer a combination of preparedness and wildness to BUSINESS

3. Repeat

It seems to be working really well so far (I got this post out, didn’t I?)

You can live and work dangerously AFTER you have set up systems of order.

To create systems requires mental and emotional labor, not physical labor. And for that, you need your brain not being COMPLACENT and LAZY.

But listen closely. I want to expand on this, because, what good is this post if I didn’t give you any advice to take home (wherever home is and whatever you pay for it).

First, if you already are living dangerously the committed way, respect! That’s not an easy feat, so kudos, my friend.

But. If you’re living dangerously the reckless way (hell, even the committed way) chances are you will experience some life-changing events. Of course, the idea that you can prepare for any emotional wreckage is just an illusion.

However, the day you find yourself swimming in a disorienting blur of anxieties, or fear, or grief, remember my name and what I wrote here: you will need this ONE THING to carry you over to the shore; it is usually a spiritual idea, something that has helped you through similar agonies, messes, miseries or grief, in the past. For me, it was writing and reading. Reading helps if you’ve hit rock bottom. Here are a few books that got me through – “The Beauties” by Anton Chekhov, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D.Salinger, “Young Jane Young” by Gabrielle Zevin, “Help, thanks, wow : the three essential prayers” by Ann Lamott.

I also picked up on a lot of other people’s advice and help. That’s how I got to be a Wim Hof follower and a listener of Esther Hicks (desperation baby!)

So, there you have it, people.

Stay focused and daring.

Meanwhile, I will be here finishing my polka-dots-mug of coffee, marveling at my bohemian new home, and you better believe it, I will be paying the rent. At a market price.

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