As I hit the big 4-0, I got to thinking about how my life had changed since the slightly less big 3-0.
I could approach this geographically. Ten years ago, the extent of my adult international experience was limited to a couple skirmishes over the border into Canada. Since then, I’ve lived on an island at one end of the Eurasian landmass and moved to another island on the other end.
I’ve also visited a dozen other countries in between. Miraculously, even with all that flying, I still haven’t used up the carbon karma that I’ve accumulated. (I’ve planted a LOT of trees in my time.) At least according to my calculations.
I could also catalog the physical changes of my body (from Olympian to a bad back), recount my reverse midlife crisis (bohemian performing artist to academic), regale you with my wardrobe evolution (tank tops and hiking boots to neckties and dress shoes), muse over my transportation choices (mountain bike to car to subway back to bicycle), or even list my gastronomic inclinations (organic bulk whole grains to convenience store rice balls).
But really the best way to encapsulate the labyrinthine trek from 30 to 40 is to list all the baggage I carried around with me through the years. And I mean this literally.
What was in my bag over the last decade? And what’s in my bag now?
Wind the Bohemian Artist
In the spring of 2000 this is what I carried around with me.
Bread (my favorite was challah)
Fruit (usually a juicy apple)
Nalgene bottle of water
Spare tank top for dance rehearsals
Wallet with library card, ATM card, under $20.
All in a panier (a bag attached to my bike)
And that’s it. No cell phone. No watch. No walkman. In my pocket I had two keys, one for my bike lock and one for my house. Sometimes I had a little crystal in there too.
It’s remarkable when I look back on that. I actually broke out laughing when I made that list. I danced, worked at a natural food store, wrote poetry, played my guitar, went to the gym, pruned my fruit trees, and ate couscous at potlucks. Those were simpler times.
Wind the Wired Cyborg
Let’s now contrast that with a more recent list.
USB flash drive
Business card case
Flash cards (to memorize kanji)
Wedding ring (the most significant addition)
Wallet with credit card, bank card, immigration card, health insurance card, train pass, point cards, and about 20,000 yen.
That’s a lot of things. But since they’re all pretty small, everything fits into a manbag. Nevertheless, the level of complexity is much higher than ten years ago. Lots of tech gizmos have been added. And absent is any kind of food or water, which is kind of alarming when I think about it. But I guess since I can’t walk ten feet in Tokyo without tripping over a convenience store or vending machine, I’ve been lulled into complacency.
Wind the iSimpleton
That long list of urban paraphernalia was true up until the end of last year. In December I got an iPhone and that device has increasingly simplified what I carry around. I stopped carrying around the Nano since there’s an iPod built in. Then I started leaving behind my camera because the photography apps allowed me to take more interesting photos.
In quick succession, I abandoned my appointment book, notebook, and books, since I can write notes and read books on that tiny screen.
Now I don’t even carry a bag. In a way I’ve come full circle. Back to less. Albeit it’s a very high tech less.
But I’m not quite satisfied with that level of less. Because even though Apple has allowed me to simplify everything into one sleek device, it’s exhausting to be so unrelentingly connected.
So I’ve been experimenting with being offline for hours at a time, even nakedly going without any device for a day now and then. I recommend it. Get back in your mental and sensory birthday suit.
Now if I can just find some good challah and a piece of fruit for under $5, I may be able to relive the good old days.