A few years ago, there was this tacky term that made everybody cringe but also made everybody drool with wonder: lifestyle design. (Okay, fine, it was like ten years ago and I'm officially ancient.)
The term always annoyed me, because it was widely represented by a bunch of twenty-something hopefuls traveling the world with their laptops (okay, fine, it was me), and the whole thing just reeked of one big, cheesy platitude. Not to be confused with a cheese plate, which is 100% legitimate.
This, of course, is the problem with human language: words can never remain objective, true to their own merit, because we are constantly layering new meaning on top of them. (Sorta like how “hussy” used to be a mere contraction of the word “housewife”—*wide eyes*.)
Despite lifestyle design's bad rap, however, the conceit behind it is more relevant than ever—and perhaps more necessary than ever, too. Forget Thailand, forget outsourcing, forget the twenty-five-year-old doing somersaults off the edge of a cliff because THIS IS THE MEANING OF LIFE, YA'LL. Forget all of the preconceived notions that parade themselves all over the term “lifestyle design,” and consider what it means on its face:
Designing your life.
There's an artistic underbelly to it all; a sense that we may be able to style our days, rather than merely sit through them. To take life and shape it the way you might a cold, clay ball. To be an artist who uses her time on earth as her medium.
How can that be anything but honorable?
The problem is that most of us are operating under one major constraint, and that's an obligation to be in an office for eight hours a day—which is more like twelve, once you add in all the time it takes to get ready for work, go to work, and then return home from work. Most of us are spending 70% of our waking hours doing the Hokey Pokey around the workplace, so what's there left to design?
I do not pretend to know the answer to that. When I was still in the corporate world, I couldn't bear to only live 30% of the time—it felt like my heart was only beating 30% of the time. Part of that was a function of the work I was doing, which left little room for inspiration, but part of that was the inability to create at the level I so desperately desired. I had this visceral need to sculpt beauty out of my own existence; if not beauty, then what's the friggin' point? Surely our purpose is not merely to withstand. (And withstand. And withstand.) For me, it was a compulsion to save my own life. Work that didn't inspire me felt like a violent assault on my person.
What I can tell you, after a decade of working independently and forging a lifestyle that's unique to most?
Every hour is always a new chance.
Whether you've got two or twenty, this is true. But we forget that—all the hours start bleeding together, tainted by those that came before it. Maybe because when you work for others, you don't own your time the way you do when you work for yourself; every individual hour becomes something you strive to get through, instead of something you hope to make the most of. To be able to look at an hour and say to yourself, “what shall I create with this hour?” is a liberty few experience. And yet, it may be what so many are missing.
Don't be an innocent bystander when it comes to your own life. You are very much in charge. Whether it feels like it or not, you really can do whatever you want with this next hour. You can stand up on your desk and sing Rihanna. You can go to the airport and get on the next plane. You can begin the first chapter of the book you've always wanted to write. You can sign yourself up for trombone lessons. You can back out of every commitment you've ever made. You can paint your hair purple, or quit that project, or tell your boyfriend it's over, or walk into that class you've been dying to try…right…fucking…now.
Right fucking now is the best time to do anything.
Make no mistake: there is great dignity in pleasure. There is an enormous amount of self-respect in choosing to—yes, design—joy into your life. There is great fulfillment when it comes to creating your own specifications for the way you want to live. And there is an even greater sense of satisfaction that comes from being able to say that your time on this earth was yours.
And you spent it well.
And you were true to yourself, always.