Sometimes, on just another day, nothing has changed: life is as it has always been, and the only difference is that I’m older — the skin on my face has spots, my joints are achy.
But when I step outside of myself, I see that things are so different. I now live in a small town, in a region of California that I’d only known from day trips and wine tastings. I’ve been married for over three years, to an Englishman. I’ve been working full-time at the same job for three years, and somehow — magically — I own a home, built a tiny house, pay my bills on time, and appear to be one of those adults that you see walking around.
I sifted through my inbox and saw that exactly two years ago — December 5, 2013 — we bought tickets to a Tumbleweed tiny house workshop in Sacramento, which we attended in January 2014. I remember this time clearly, and the spirited conversations Nick and I had in our home in San Francisco, excited about the possibility of building and living in one of these tiny houses on wheels that we began to read about. Initially, I wasn’t sure if we were both serious enough, as it’d require us to pull the new roots we’d planted in San Francisco and move out of and rent our loft; move in with my parents for at least a year; shift our schedules, commutes, and social lives; save a shitload of money; and more.
But we did all of that. And here I am, sitting in my little home on a Friday night, watching TV on my iPad, drinking wine from Mendocino, cooking pasta, and enjoying my fireplace. We’ve lived in this house for four months, and also paid it off last month (hooray!). We also got our act together and secured tiny house insurance, and generally feel more settled.
We’re not there yet, but we’re rolling along.
I remember when we sat at the tiny house workshop and dreamed up a timeline. We could save up money, start building this summer, and finish it in a year-and-a-half, in mid-2015.
We can test out living in a new place and learn new things.
We can take control of our finances and work toward a setup that gives us options.
We can consider what’s important to us and figure out a way to get those things.
While this process didn’t unfold as we planned — no, we didn’t build our house with our own hands, and there was a lot of waiting and frustration and tears — the house was still completed in mid-2015 as we originally targeted, and parked in its inaugural spot on the Fourth of July.
We recently had a conversation about what it means to be well off. Nick had asked me if so-and-so were well off, and in those first moments I thought, well, yes, they are. But then I realized I wasn’t sure what that means to other people — what they need and want — so I couldn’t answer that question. And it made me think of what others might think of us, and if they think we’re crazy for living in 131 square feet, that we’re backward for living this way. I also realized: oh shit — whether we like it or not, we are tiny house people.
All I know is that I was not happy living in San Francisco — there was something deeply missing there, in that loft, in that city, in that life. Have I filled in all the holes here, in this tiny house? No. But that first leap has helped me see new opportunities and paths for both of us, so I suspect that we’ll keep scratching this itch. For me, I suppose that well off is about autonomy.
So, what’s next?
We can answer this in a number of ways, which is both exciting and terrifying. Sebastopol, where we live, is really growing on me: it feels like home, and I don’t know why it took so long for me, a Northern California native, to escape the Bay Area. We’ve found things we love: our local coffee shops and co-working spaces, our gym, our laundromat attached to a little shop that sells the best frozen yogurt, our favorite ramen and pho spots. I’d love to linger here, but in 2016, it’s up in the air, as there are other factors. The perpetual tug to travel. The call of England, especially for Nick. A potential plot in the Catskills. All the national parks to explore. And land that is not ours.
We have very rough sketches of grand plans in our heads: ideal scenarios, bigger chess pieces in play, long-term goals. It’s up to us to create that path, which is daunting, but I’m incredibly grateful to have that choice.
Looking forward to 2016 and seeing where the tiny life takes us.