Every so often a relatively-common cultural quirk of one country becomes the fad of another.
Sometimes it’s pop stars. Other times it’s food or some random bit of technology. Suddenly we’re all singing the “Macarena” and checking our Tamagotchis while fitting a drizzle of aioli and pickled something-or-another into our Swedish diets.
A few years ago a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was the quirk that rose to hegemonic popularity. Western audiences marveled at how some people find it remarkably easy to cull their belongings so they can live in small (to us) spaces.
I don’t understand how the concept managed to fill out a whole book. The basic tenet (spoilers!) is that you should keep only that which brings you joy, because those possessions are the things you love.
This particular magic is lost on me. I am immune to the Japanese art of decluttering because I am swimming in the joy of my possessions. It’s very rare that I give or throw something away – it’s only if the thing has completely outgrown its use. I still have my first pair of jeans and my first comic book. I don’t have my first guitar, which lacked utility, but I still have my second – which plays nicely.
This makes it hard for me to pack for trips, even harder to pack to move houses, and nearly impossible to both. I just want to be near all of my possessions. I want that joy.
I’m the same way on the internet. There are at least four or five times I really ought to have given up on the older bits of Crushing Krisis it and started it anew. Once when my career got underway in earnest, again when I switched to WordPress, perhaps another time when I started focusing more on my band and local music, yet again while I started blogging about comics, and possibly a fifth time as I began to write about parenting.
I should probably restart it right now, as I begin life in a new city and country!
I don’t know why I haven’t. Keeping all these words around every time I add a new topic has done intolerable things to my SEO.
What can I say? I just find joy in having these more than two million words around, which is how I’ve arrived at today – the seventeenth anniversary of Crushing Krisis.
As I contemplate the joy I get from my stuff and my words, I often find myself considering the sort of person who can just pick up and go.
I know a fair amount of these people, despite them seemingly being my opposite. They are perfectly happy to change their entire lives while retaining just the clothes on their backs. They buy furniture and sell it. They are constantly trading away books, clothes, and even cars. They are not obsessed with equity or stability, but liquidity and agility.
I never thought of myself as particularly liquid or agile, but the past twelve months have changed that perception. I have always been the sort of person who is ceaselessly, mechanically obsessed with working and achievement and accumulation to the point that I hated days off and considered my ideal epitaph to be, “He had a mind like a steel trap.”
This past year forced me to become ruthlessly mechanical in my flexibility.
I’m at home with EV6 nearly every day, and while we have a framework of a schedule, ultimately we do whatever works. A rainy Adventure Day has been converted to a trip to the library and an afternoon of reading; cancelled plans with friends have lead to impromptu art projects and bike rides, squeezing in trips to the gym wherever I could.
The memorable moments of this past year came from a day where we managed to squeeze in the zoo and a bike ride, or from my first unsure attempt at pavlova.
As with my yoga practice, it’s taken a lot of dedication to become that flexible. I’ve learned to become obsessed with that irregularity, and in the process I’ve experienced more joys of Philadelphia in the past year than in the rest of my life combined.
Is it a coincidence that I’ve ended that year of daily agility and newfound physical strength with picking up and leaving Philadelphia for Wellington?
Yes, almost all of my things – my joyful, lovable things – are trailing me by ship at the moment, so I haven’t really left them behind. I still have all these words. But, I did leave behind our house, our neighborhood, and all of the Philadelphia establishments and traditions I have spent my life experiencing.
As I was drafting this post, I was struck by this quote by Tennessee Williams:
We are like a man who has bought up a great amount of equipment for a camping trip, who has the canoe and the tent and the fishing lines and the axe and the guns, the mackinaw and the blankets, but who now, when all the preparations and the provisions are piled expertly together, is suddenly too timid to set out on the journey but remains where he was yesterday and the day before and the day before that, looking suspiciously through white lace curtains at the clear sky he distrusts. Our great technology is a God-given chance for adventure and for progress which we are afraid to attempt.
Williams proposes that sometimes our clutter gets in the way not physically, but in abrogating our courageousness. Maybe those pick-up-and-go people are lugging more possessions than they ever think to mention, but they’re invisible to me as an onlooker because they never obscure their adventures.
I love everything about Philadelphia, but I think my comfort there was obscuring my chances for adventure.
Maybe I had wrung all of the joy out of it already. Maybe the life-changing magic of tidying up just works a little differently on me.
I often spend some amount of these anniversary posts lamenting that Crushing Krisis didn’t have the year I wanted it to have, but that it might never and I am still satisfied with what I did.
I can’t say that this year, because I poured my heart into CK. I had my biggest months of posts and word counts, my largest readership ever, my most-professional redesign, more writing about my adventures with EV6 than ever before, and the launch of more comic guides than I’ve ever produced in two years, let alone just one.
At points, CK was my full time job, in addition to my full-time parenting, with me somehow finding a way to write and edit for over 40hrs a week.
I loved every moment of it – every sleepless night grinding out another 1,000 words to keep up my schedule of posting. It was magical – a complete gift to myself within the wider gift of my time at home as a parent.
At the same time, I know it’s not sustainable. Daily posting is a high wire act where one day of going to bed early or making those impromptu, irregular plans sends you tumbling into the net below.
And, even at peak efficiency, there are always more words than I can capture and shape into posts at any given time. On the weeks where I wrote constantly and posted daily – even multiple times a day – there still were other posts that never got published. Little one-off posts, sure, but also great series of things – huge swaths of planned thematic content that I just never had the time to lift off the ground.
Could I write it all down if I blogged for every waking hour? If I blogged the way I sometimes worked before having EV6, from the moment I wake up to the moment I pass out, with no time spent cooking or doing laundry, a perfect automaton with a steel trap mind and a ceaseless attention span?
I don’t know. I’m not sure it would feel like a gift at that point, not only because it would become an all-consuming compulsion, but because I’m quite certain there would be yet even more words scrabbling at the fringes of my consciousness that I still didn’t have the time to craft into something more.
I wish I could write them all down, but there just isn’t enough time, no matter how much time I spend. Instead, I try to focus just on the ones that will bring me the most joy when I read and re-read them for the next seventeen years.
When I wrote my first post for Crushing Krisis I was living in a well-appointed dormitory where every utility was taken care of for me – I just needed to buy food and do laundry.
I had wrapped up my job as a New Student Orientation Leader and I was not quite certain where I’d be living in a matter of weeks as I embarked on a second first semester of college (as I briefly laid Communications coursework aside to start my music minor with a new set of 101 classes).
As I write this post to mark seventeen years of Crushing Krisis I am on my fourth day living in Wellington in an impeccably furnished AirB&B with every amenity I could possibly need – I just need to buy food and do laundry.
(Laundry, you see, is the one great constant across all life conditions.)
I’m wrapping up the final details of our life in Philadelphia as I sell our beautiful house with nowhere to live beyond our three weeks in this rental as we embark on this brand new life in Wellington (which will include starting over with building a local network from scratch compared to the deep, lifelong connections I had in Philly).
I’m the same person with the same fundamental values today as when I started blogging, yet my life could not be any more different. I went from lower middle class kid of a single parent with no money, no ideas about my career, and hundreds of songsI could barely sing to a successful, married parent and executive with years of experience as a musician and bandleader.
Despite those differences, it’s clear that the danger and opportunity of this week’s life-changing crisis align more closely with my life when I started blogging than any other moment I’ve documented along the way.
As I do seemingly every year, I debated for several months if this week’s impending crisis of life should mean the end of Crushing Krisis as we know it.
After all, my life is about to go through a major change, and with it my blog would go through yet another rebirth – this time as an ExPat chronicle. Should I take that opportunity to digitally declutter? Is it worth losing all of my Philly SEO in that transformation? Is it time for the comic content to migrate elsewhere to let CK return to the purely personal?
In writing this post I’ve become convinced that – for the moment – the answer to those questions is surely “no.” While those changes might make for a more optimized blog, it would no longer be the Crushing Krisis that brings me so much joy.
Thank you for being a part of that joy, whether that’s the result of a recent Google search or as many as seventeen years of regular reading. I draw so much inspiration from answering your questions and making you laugh as I document my life and its obsessions. You are exactly why I scratched out “undecided” to write in “Journalism” ahead of my own college orientation just a year before this blog began.
Thank you to all of my Philadelphia friends, both those I saw on my extended goodbye tour and those I didn’t get the chance to see one final time before setting off on this journey. Even if you’ve never been mentioned by name on CK you are part of its story, because you are a part of mine.
Thank you to those amazing friends and readers whose contributions to Patreon have completely paid for the hosting of Crushing Krisis every month. You have allowed me the flexibility to go on all these adventures, do all this blogging, and ultimately to pick up and go on my own terms. Your generosity has changed my life.
Thank you to E and EV6, who inspired this new journey and who take turns with me being the most excited, the most afraid, and the most overwhelmed by the avalanche of new experiences we are encountering each day.
And, thank you to Wellington – to the people we’ve met in just four days and to all of the new friends, colleagues, and CK readers on the road ahead. Your open arms are what makes this particular crisis more opportunity than danger.
Thank you, and happy birthday to this.