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  • Writer's pictureShan

How do you begin a life less ordinary?

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

It's July 2017. Soon I will be 36. By this stage in my life, you would no doubt expect that I have accumulated certain ‘life points’, racked up some milestones and am well on my way to becoming a loyalty card-carrying member of society.

In some ways, you would not be wrong. I’ve been married for six years. I have worked my way into a promising career in advertising. I've paid off my car. I own two cats and a Le Creuset casserole dish. But, in other ways I have truly failed society by steadfastly refusing to conform. Despite having a full-time job I also play music as a side gig, performing in restaurants and bars and serenading drunk people at weddings and funerals.

There are other societal rituals that my husband and I have chosen not to partake in. We don’t own a house. We don’t aspire to acquire many things. We don’t want an SUV, a Smart TV, a swimming pool, a giant sofa or a designer toaster. Truth be told, I do enjoy a good vacuum cleaner. And I believe religiously in the merits of a quality bed ( much, much more on that later).

But the biggest way in which we have bucked the system is in our choice not to have children. Why this singular decision seems to have such a profound impact on so many people who have nothing to do with my reproductive system, is an ongoing source of bafflement for me. Everyone is convinced we would make the most wonderful parents. Perhaps we would. But, unlike so many people who have children, this was not a decision made in haste or without great consideration. And it is one that has ultimately allowed us to make the decisions that we since have, and live the life we now live.

During the past 10 years those who know and love us have watched us work as hard as two people can, simply trying to survive and attempt to build a life for ourselves in South Africa.

The things we love – our creative passions, our hobbies, our families and friends, each other – have all been sidelined in this desperate hustle to pay bills and try to put a dent in our debt. Maybe make enough to go on holiday for a week at the end of the year.

It was at this point we watched a documentary on minimalism. I was struck deeply by the idea of living a life filled with experience and short on ‘stuff’. We wanted more time and flexibility to learn new skills, develop ourselves creatively, see the world from new perspectives, adventure with new and old friends and tick off an expansive list of bands to see live before we die.

We found ourselves at a junction – Stay where we were, in a comfortable and happy but constrictive bubble… or find another way to live. We chose the latter.

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