Doing things the easy way

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Yesterday we were going to go to an outdoor music festival to celebrate the holiday. But it’s July in the South, which means it’s unbearably hot. It’s also been pouring rain every day for weeks, which means muddy pathways and saturated grass. We didn’t have any food in the house, and we would have had to bring a cooler, and there would have been lots of bugs, and I’m not sure how much 4 year olds actually like music festivals. But still, I wanted to go. I really did.

Instead, we went to a pool party inside a gated apartment complex. Later, we walked four blocks down from my house and saw the fireworks. It was simple and good. We barely spent any money, and everyone had a good time. The pool was sparkling clean, everyone was well behaved even though they were drinking beer, and the kids played a game of throwing boats into the pool and then retrieving them. There was a wooden gazebo where we ate our food, a communal grill surrounded by tall pines where we grilled the burgers, and a gravel path around the mandmade lake in case you wanted to take a run. The 24 hour supermarket was less than a mile away. It was all so easy.

Until now, I’ve always hated those kind of apartment complexes, where every unit looks the same and they are all painted grey or beige. I’ve always considered these swathes of mass-produced housing to be an aesthetic scourge, a symptom of the decline of beauty in contemporary America.But after we left the pool party, I found myself fantasizing about living there, in the Belmont Suites, or the Arden Apartments, or The Lodge at Southpoint. I even stopped and took a picture. Doesn’t it look relaxing and simple? It might be ugly, somebody else takes out the trash. Somebody else fixes the roof. You don’t have to drive to the YMCA to go swimming, you can just walk downstairs.  There is a vending machine on site.

It’s the difference between doing things the hard way and doing them the easy way. I  have always done things the hard way, every since I can remember. And I have always lived in houses and apartments with plenty of character, but few conveniences. My house is 100 years old and it’s made of wood, in a place where the humidity turns wood siding into the perfect home for termites and other critters.

You can do things the hard way, and maybe it’s more interesting, but maybe it’s not. Some people think taking risks is the key to a more fulfilling life, but I’m staring to wonder. Who’s to say that hitchhiking across Canada and back, or living in a hostel for three months in San Francisco, or quitting your job to stay home with your kid, or having a child by artificial insemination is more fulfilling than staying in your home town and getting pregnant by your high school sweetheart and teaching elementary school for twenty years? Maybe it’s more interesting, but who’s to say that being interesting is even worth it? Maybe it’s better to be boring and safe.

But after a lifetime of choosing to do things the hard way, I doubt that it’s even possible to learn how to do things the easy way.

Drink water, exercise every day, post to the blog.

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