Notes on Beauty and Age (or A Very Minor Midlife Crisis)

grey beard

I think it was perhaps that midlife crisis issue that I swore I wouldn’t have, that made me do it…

Sometime before my 40th birthday, I tried coloring my hair. I suddenly felt as though I needed to hang on to my fleeting youth; this was a new and alarming sensation to me. I had never before concerned myself with age much. When asked by complete strangers I had no problem divulging the digits, as it never really seemed to have much bearing on my happiness, career, or anything else that was important to me. Age was simply that, just a number.

Age still has very little bearing on what projects I choose to take on or what new adventures I seek to have. I feel younger than my age, I suppose. Not young, mind you, I guess I just don’t feel how society tells me I should feel at this age. Not just physically, but, though I’m a little ashamed to admit it, mentally. I think that may be why those little grey hairs suddenly blossoming into faint grey streaks began to alarm me a bit.

Not to say that I don’t find grey hair becoming. In fact, I distinctly remember myself and a few girlfriends gushing over the elegant beauty of our high school counselor’s long grey mane. It was thick, and shiny, and grey as storm clouds, and we all prayed that it would be the kind of hair that we would inherit as we matured beyond middle age.

Nonetheless, now I was currently in middle age, and baffled by this blend of brown and silver that had evolved at my crown over the previous few years. So, I colored it. I went to a professional as I did not trust my clumsy hands and asked her to color my hair, something as close to my natural color as possible. She mixed scads of liquids and gels together and made a dark, henna-like paste that was then slathered over my coiffure.

It stung, and it smelled. Although my colorist was a professional and there was no one I know who could have done a better job, or attempted to make it more pleasant, the whole process was time-consuming and unpalatable. By the time I exited the salon, my scalp burned and I had a vague sense of regret.

Everyone I knew “loved” the new color. I heard about how beautiful it was from all my friends and family. I fully admit that it was pretty. It was shiny and soft and uniform in color, the frosted streaks masked seamlessly by a masterful mixing of colors.

It was just that, now when I glimpsed myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize me anymore. Perhaps an exaggeration, but it’s true that after seeing (but not) the slow progression of my hair color over several years, having it all erased came as a bit of a shock.

I have a handful of friends who color their hair regularly in order to maintain their look. My theory is that maybe they started years before I did, and therefore never experienced the drastic change that I did. I love their hair on them, and I can’t really picture them with grey hair…

For some strange reason, though, after I had colored my own hair, I felt like a fraud. Not in an “I’m going fool everyone else” kind of way, more like a “what have I done to myself” kind of way. It seemed as though the change I made was accepted so easily by every one around me, but never by myself.

Since then, I have let the color grow out and am dealing with ends than are a different color than my scalp. I cannot say that I will never color my hair again, as I can be slightly impulsive when it comes to things involving beauty. However, I am also learning to accept my limitations when it comes to my own vanity (cost, time, and comfort).

This is obviously not an argument for or against coloring one’s hair (or doing any other beauty procedure-people should do as they like). It is an observation at how such a small, seemingly insignificant change bothered me so much, and how surprising that, in and of itself, was. I am still quite envious of those with a single color in their hair, be it brown, blond, red, black, or grey, artificial or not. Even so, I am attempting to be patient and hoping that eventually my hair will settle into the beautiful thundercloud grey that my high school counselor had.

If patience fails me, I still have my colorist’s number…

 

What are your thoughts on the details of midlife?

Warmth to all, and stay cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 3: Money

dollar

“It’s not how much money you make, it’s how you spend it.”

My father has said this so many times that I associate the phrase entirely with him…even if it’s been said by countless other folks.

Perhaps because I heard it so many times, or just because I was young, I never really contemplated what it meant. Fast forward a couple of decades and the implication hits home as I compare my incoming and outgoing expense reports. I suppose it is somewhat natural for most of us to either live at, or slightly above, our means (a budget will generally swell to fill the revenue it’s granted). Yet, it can be so disheartening to see most, if not all, of your hard-earned cash disappear at the end of the month without a trace.

I suspect that’s why people across the United States, young and old, are attempting to live leaner, more functional and fiscally conscientious lives, as discussed in the initial post in this series. In the new American dream, currency is becoming a means to more time, rather than more possessions.

The Money We Make

The manner in which Americans, and millennials particularly, are earning currency seems to be changing. While many continue to procure employment by large companies, more and more folks are cobbling together incomes from various smaller jobs (often referred to as “gigs”), either because there is a lack of employment in their geographical or professional field, or because it fits their schedule or lifestyle better. As company dynamics and economics evolve, sometimes corporate needs call for a more flexible worker who can come and go as needed, or work remotely online.

One interesting aspect in this changing game of cash flow juggling is the phenomenon of “scaling income.” This means that income is generated from a product (usually electronic) or marketing campaign that can be “scaled,” i.e. increased in size or reach so as to escalate revenues (as opposed to the time-for-money exchange that most of us are used to).

Increasing numbers of savvy people appear to be trying their hand at strategies such as affiliate marketing or designing products, while many others are earning profits from training programs, courses, and e-books designed to train people to become successful marketers. Although it’s generally accepted that only a small percentage of affiliate marketing startups actually see success, thousands of people attempt it every year. (I, myself, know very little about affiliate marketing, but  I like to follow Malan Darras’s You Tube channel just for his unique perspective on the subject.)

Of course, maintaining one’s income with “gig’s” or online arrangements typically means that an individual is essentially a small business owner. Therefore, more people are having to become intimately involved with issues such as taxation, insurance, and retirement savings (items typically handled by an employer in days of yore). It will be interesting to observe how this influx of small businesses changes the markets, as well as government policy.

The Money We Spend

Our shopping habits are evolving in this new economy as well. This adjustment is definitely influenced most by millennial spending mannerisms, but it is a pattern that can be seen in all generations. As described in this Forbes article, discretionary spending is slowing down just a bit in the United States, most notably by millennials (though, this may change as millennials buy houses and start families, also mentioned in the article). Folks all over the country seem to be experiencing a need or want to downsize homes and possessions, either for aesthetic or economic reasons, and no doubt influenced by the latest minimalism and decluttering trends. This also means that people are making a concerted attempt to bring no more (or very little) clutter into the home.

Other characteristics of millennial spending are guiding the market, as well as influencing other generations. These inclinations include using social media as a shopping guide and using mobile devices as the primary way to locate, research, and purchase products, as outlined in this Entrepreneur article. Retailers are having to adapt to this new, “hands off” approach to marketing and distributing products by sustaining brand social media accounts and creating beautiful and functional websites. Millennials, particularly, are also very concerned about cost, as the Entrepreneur article eludes to as well. With increased competition in regards to price, both online and physical retailers are having to cut overhead and operate on leaner budgets in order to compete, while also maintaining online operations.

calculator

In summary, the new way to make money is on one’s own schedule, and, with any luck, by one’s own rules.  Work can be done anywhere and performed at almost anytime. Our spending is becoming less dictated by what we desire, and more so by what we require. 

*To read more about my take one the new American dream, you may see part 2 here, and the initial article here.

Thanks for stopping by, and stay cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 2: Status Symbol

pocket watch, sands of time

Many of us are products of the 80’s and 90’s and can recall some of the items that were popular back then. Certain shoes, cars, and electronic gadgets were considered a sign of wealth and social status (or good credit) at that time. Owning things brought prestige and envy, especially amongst peers and colleagues. The phrase “he who dies with the most toys, wins” was coined.

Fast forward twenty-five years, through 3 recessions, a housing bubble, the healthcare crisis, and crippling student debt. In each case, we have learned something about handling money (or how not to handle it). We have also been awakened to the fact that the economy in most countries, but perhaps particularly the United States, is a living, breathing thing. It is a beast that can both make and ruin people, financially and otherwise, as it waxes and wanes.

For most of us though, through all of the perambulations of the market, there has been the constant of employment. A vocation to pull us out of our student loan obligations and afford accommodations whether they be our own, or rented from someone else. Work, a perceived cornerstone of our nation, and something that we are all taught to pursue passionately. After all, where would all our “things” come from without some form of paid occupation?

flea market stuff

Not to mention that those “things” come with costs aside from their purchase price. It can be alarming to consider that everything you own, you are still paying for (hence, the idea of being “owned” by the objects one has acquired). Ultimately, any “thing” that you possess requires some type of residence, whether that be your abode, a storage unit, or your parents’ house (although those costs may be more intrinsic), and this will usually be something that you have to pay for. These items have physical costs too, such as some form of maintenance, or, at the very least, the time and effort it would require to rid yourself of them.

So, we toil for someone else in order to acquire possessions, we continue to work in order to pay for the said items’ housing and maintenance, and oftentimes must physically use or care for an item to keep it operational. While we usually look at this equation in terms of monetary cost, it could be argued that the largest and most valuable expenditure here is not of dollars, but of time.

wristwatch

Although it’s true that we all get at least some time, it is lamentable that we don’t always get to spend it the way in which we desire. Those fortunate enough to have surplus wealth, however, get the side benefit of utilizing their hours as they choose, rather than for another’s cause.

Accordingly, having “free” time has become a sign of wealth and means. This could be true either because the owner actually has a healthy income, or simply because they are adept at budgeting, and choose time over objects. In any case, the freedom that an individual has due to their possession of spare moments is becoming associated with greater social status, rather than ineptness, as had been the stigma in decades past.

clock tower

Now that seemingly everyone is operating on someone else’s schedule, those that are allowed to function according to their own agenda are seen as the new elite, having escaped the so-called “rat race.” The value of currency is becoming more associated with its ability to grant chronological freedom than the accumulation of commodities. Time, and the freedom to dictate it, are becoming the new signs of prestige, in a nation that has brandished its 40 hour work week as an ideal for so long.

*This article is the second of the New American Dream series.

Stay cozy!

One Lovely Blog Award

My first blog award! Very special thanks to Wreaditor for the nomination!

one loevely blog award

One Lovely Blog Award

Rules:
Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog.
Post about the award.
Share 7 facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 people.
Let your nominees know you’ve nominated them.

7 Facts About Me:

  1. I have yet to meet someone with a sweet tooth stronger, or more brash, than mine.
  2. Although I started this blog so as to become a new vocation for myself (quite hopefully, years and years from now, of course), I have actually found the business of writing and communicating with other writers to be quite therapeutic, in and of itself.
  3. In real life, I am a dogged pragmatist. With a hedonist bent, occasionally…
  4. I love makeup (I see it as an art form), though I don’t always wear it.
  5. I have beheld the Dalai Lama in person. His presence is as warm and comforting as it is purported to be.
  6. Although I realize it’s trendy right now, I am absolutely fascinated by hygge. I feel as though I have been practicing a few of its precepts for most of my life, yet there is so much more to be learned and adapted to my existence!
  7. I am blessed with such a wonderful little family. They are my reason for being. Period.

There are multiple blogs that I look up to and wish to emulate with my own, as well as those which I find absolutely captivating in their own right! Here are my nominees:

Honestly, it was so hard to narrow it to 15. There are so many blogs that I love and follow. Nominees, please do not feel obligated, this is just an homage to your efforts.

Thanks again, Wreaditor!

Stay cozy!

The New American Dream

small houses curaco

While I wasn’t around for the depression, and I don’t recall with any clarity the recession of 1990, or the collapse of the “tech bubble” in 2000,  I do distinctly remember the subprime lending disaster of 2008. I remember watching the IRA that I had established a decade earlier get pummeled in the markets. I remember wondering if it would ever recover, and if the economy itself would ever recover (not to mention the international exchanges that suffered).

It seems eons ago now, what with the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) cresting twenty-one thousand and the demand for housing appearing to ceaselessly increase. It’s hard to recollect just how worried I was back then, maybe because I believed that this was such an unusual instance of lack foresight by a government, or simply such a rare and isolated occurrence that no organization could have predicted it. I have learned a lot about economics since then.

Several articles in the last few years have pointed out how these economic disasters have shaped the manner in which the younger generations (specifically “millennials”) perceive and interact with the world. Though, I would argue that it’s not just millennials who are experiencing a paradigm shift. Almost all age ranges in the U.S. have shown an interest in downsizing both budgets and possessions, for economic, as well as aesthetic reasons.

So what is the new American dream?

Basically, it’s smaller. After the consumerist, disposable culture of the 80’s and 90’s, the current millennia has ushered in a new way of thinking. We are beginning to realize how possessions don’t largely contribute to our happiness, and that living within our means is not only absolutely necessary to our financial future, it’s also kind of sexy.

Housing

After the housing bubble imploded in 2008, many folks lost either their home, large amounts of money from their retirement accounts, or both. While the housing market appears to have rebounded (quite handily, I might add), the persistent lack of housing in the U.S. has caused prices to rise steadily in most markets, nudging out buyers with less buying experience or income.

Enter, the tiny house! I must admit, I have been fascinated by these miniature dwellings for years now, ever since my first episode of “Tiny House Nation.”  Even the most “expensive” tiny houses cost no more than a fourth of the average home price in my area. I am enamored, and I’m not the only one; tiny home communities have sprung up all over the country in the last few years. They’re not just geared to millennials either, as this AARP article suggests.

Jobs

If you’ve been lurking on blogger sites recently (not that I do, *ahem*), you’ve probably ran across the term “digital nomad” at least once. A new breed of occupation is among us, it would seem. While conventional work-at-home jobs have been around for a while, waxing and waning with corporate demand, “digital nomads” are often individuals who work for themselves, either through their own, personal business, or via freelance endeavors (or “gigs,” as they’re often referred to) .

While these entrepreneurial enterprises offer a lot of freedom, there are some plausible downsides, such as isolation and economics, as outlined in this Huffpost article. Still, the siren call of escaping the “rat race” and architecting one’s own agenda is powerful. (I wonder at how many millennials and Gen Xer’s, like myself, who write blog posts outside of traditional business hours, are secretly hoping to make this our primary “gig?”)

minimal office

Minimalism

It does seem a bit trendy right now, but, to be fair, there have been brilliant people throughout the last several decades who have been praising the benefits of a lighter life. I’m not sure how many folks actually achieve their personal version of minimalism, but with all the buzz, it appears that many are trying, and for good reason. When I observe the ratio of items that I actually touch and use within a day, versus the total number of items that I own, I am often sick to my stomach. Then, I consider the time and money that it requires for me to keep and maintain all of those items that I never touch in a day, and perhaps not even in a year (ergh, more queasiness).

Many insightful souls have written extensively about minimalism in recent years (Marie Kondo, Joshua Becker, and Leo Babauta, to name a few). They have inspired myself and many others, of all age ranges and socioeconomic backgrounds, to ditch the extra weight and focus on what is really important.  My favorite resource for all things minimalism, as of late, has been The Minimalists. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus talk intimately about not only the physical operation of shedding superfluous articles, but also the internal processes that occur alongside it…to the tune of 20 million people, according to their website.

small house in the snow

In conclusion…

The new American dream is lighter and leaner than its predecessor, grounded in fiscal autonomy and economic sustainability. A pragmatic approach to living, and a focus on the simple necessities to facilitate life, pervade. Excess is loathed not because it seems haughty, but simply because it lacks functionality. Time is prized over possessions, and liberty above all.

How do you see the new American dream? Are you a digital nomad or a tiny house dweller?

Thanks for reading. Take care, and stay cozy.