Monday, April 20, 2015

on owning things.

Four years after transitioning to full-scale, live-in, half-time parenting, I am still startled by how my life has changed as a result--not too often, only every other day or so--and I think a lot about owning things, because I own more of them now. I already owned enough things that I needed a garage. I don't actually like owning things. I'd much rather be able to pack up and leave on a day's notice, an especially painful wish during any of my several moves as a renter.

The problem is that I like doing things, and the things that I do are most rewarding with the right things to do them. I could get rid of of the possessions, but then when I go to do the thing I like to do, I don't have the equipment. I could buy it again, but that's remarkably expensive compared to just keeping the possessions.

I did archery for a pretty long while, and I started with a basic bow and arrows, but after a year or so, decided I liked it enough that I would enjoy it more with a better bow. Now I own a low-end bow from a good brand, and the difference is astonishing, like going from an old VW Beetle to a Porsche.

(Ironically, and completely unrelated, VW now owns Porsche, Saab, Bentley, Lamborghini, and Bugatti.)

It's common in most forms of archery to have some widgets on the bow: stabilizers that absorb the vibration of release, and a sight to accurately gauge distance. This is the only way to consistently hit a spot the size of a quarter at 70 meters, as Olympic archers do: if you watch someone shoot a LifeSaver out of the air, they're doing it at well under 30 meters, usually more like 15 or 20.

I didn't want to shell out for a new one, though, so I haunted Craigslist for several months, and finally had a full set of stabilizers, and a sight, for 20-25% of what they would have cost new. I bought an archery-specific backpack to store it in, because it was shockingly awkward and uncomfortable to carry all this crap any other way.

I don't do archery at the moment, but I'd like to again someday. I could sell the archery equipment (at a loss), but then if I want to pick it up again, it would be expensive, in both time and money. By contrast, I have a bag the size of a small suitcase that will hold all my gear. I can just keep it somewhere--in my case, in the Terrible Garage. Provided the garage doesn't collapse (a small but distinctly non-zero possibility), I can grab the bag and go whenever I might have the impulse.

I think my little brother, the farmer, has had a similar evolution, as he accumulates several tractors and the piles of wood and metal every farmer needs to fix and build things. Well, I say "similar": I never actually went through a phase of having very little stuff, and I think he did.

And then I own a house, which is sort of the ultimate "no, you cannot pack up and leave" kind of thing. Which was the goal: I was tired of moving every few years. I have so much stuff, it was a lot of work.


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