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2020s Vision: Playgrounds, Not Prisons

To the tune of Green Day's "American Idiot":

Don't wanna live in an Instagram photograph!


But I do want to keep having fun using Instagram and every other dumb thing in life, so my personal vision statement for the 2020s is to turn everything I can into a playground, not a prison--my house, my yard, my thoughts, my diet, my budget, my creative practices, my relationships. Everything. By that I mean I want to live mindfully to get the most joy out of life, to create the most freedom within the circumstances I find myself in, to stay creative and flexible and adaptable in a changing world, and to avoid the traps of addiction and mindless habit that turn pleasures into chores.

I'm entering the 2020s with a crisp, clear new pair of rose gold glasses. Vision is something I don't take for granted. I've been wearing glasses since first grade and contact lenses since 6th, and I come from a long line of artists--painters, writers, composers. Nearsighted people with great vision. And one of my favorite things to do is to read.

This cozy holiday season, I've pulled an old favorite off the shelf, My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (translated exquisitely into English by Erdağ Göknar), which is about 16th century miniaturists who illuminate books in poor lighting, leading often to blindness in their old age. Eyesight is a conscious concern throughout the book, something understood as a valuable and limited resource.

It makes me appreciate modern lighting, optometry, and other advancements that allow artists and writers to enjoy long careers without sacrificing their sight, and it also reminds me that I need to take care of my own eyes. This past decade, I've been Mama instead of my usual self. My lens prescription stopped changing years ago, so I haven't considered going to the expense of buying myself a new pair of glasses for a long time. I didn't realize that after so many years, even though my nearsightedness didn't worsen, my old lenses did. They're so scratched and crackled that when I put on my new glasses, I had that shocked experience of being able to see clearly for the first time ever. Wow! The font in my old copy of My Name Is Red is so black and sharp!

This miracle of remembering not to neglect myself came just before my husband gave me the epic Christmas gift of Till Lindemann and Joey Kelly's National Geographic coffee table book of photographs and poetry, Yukon: Mein gehasster Freund. Oh joy!


Mmm, old man shoes roasting on an open fire.

It's amazing what you can get used to and accept as normal when you could be having a lot more fun.

It's an extraordinary time to be alive, a time rich in possibilities and also in peril. I want to keep my vision, literal and psychological, clear not just so that I can drool over my celebrity crushes and read my favorite books. I believe that staying alert and ahead of the curve is going to be critical for survival as climate change begins to affect every aspect of human life. It's not going away, and it's definitely going to get worse--unless something else annihilates humanity first, like a giant asteroid or a black hole or a supervolcano or, you know, ALIENS. But if none of those things calls dibs on the apocalypse, we'll have to deal with climate change. And I don't want to sit here and get boiled like a frog as the temperature slowly rises.


I'm not one of those Super Important People who thinks that my personal choices at the grocery store can save the Earth. But I do understand that humanity, like every other living thing ever, will have to adapt to survive--by choice or by force. If we survive, policies will likely come first--or at least failures of infrastructure--that will take away some of the conveniences we've learned to take for granted, like disposable plastic containers and cheap gasoline. I prefer to start learning to live more simply before I am forced into it. This way, exploring different ways of doing things can feel more playful, less restrictive.

My personal vision for the 2020s does not include any travel goals. That isn't because there aren't places and people I would dearly love to visit. It's because I believe that now is the time to hold off on unnecessary fossil fuel consumption. I can wait for technology and safety advances that may make travel more green and comfortable in the future. Meanwhile, this is a great time to invest in sustainability and survival. It's time to deepen roots and focus on habitat-care--like self-care, you know, taking care of stuff before it all falls apart. There's nothing frivolous (though there can be much that is fun!) about learning and making home improvements that set the stage for a healthy, sustainable life well into the future.

My family is settled down in one of the world's prime bug-out locations, Michigan, so we are betting on staying put. There's no alternative planet, after all, so we might as well become experts at sheltering in this place where we grew up. We're not planning on flipping our house, renting it to strangers on an app, or using it as a backdrop for our influencer photo and video shoots (LOL). It will not be designed for Instagram, for a magazine spread, for showing off to the Joneses, or for sale. It will not end up looking like an Ikea display or a TV show set. It will be customized for my family and for the stuff we like to do: lounge and read books, watch movies, write, create art, cook and bake, play games, play outside, eat and drink and laugh with our friends, snuggle with our feline goddess, dance, do yoga, and have chill conversations over a beer. It will be designed around ambience, movement and flow, ergonomics, acoustics, textures, scents, and feelings that cannot be captured in flat images. It will be weird, dark, moody, bold, sensual, functional, simple, and FILLED with Christ's love--uh, I mean, character.

Meanwhile, I don't imagine I'll be accepting any sponsorships from brands or products, so please enjoy The Magic Nutshell as it remains ad-free and honest. I hope that writing about my process and showing it online will inspire others to create their own unique habitats that aren't mere copies of mine. I'd rather be an inspiration than an influencer anyway.

Because money is an object in my life, our home won't end up perfect and ideal. We'll make compromises and shortcuts to get the most out of the options available to us. But our sweet home also won't glorify dysfunction, as so much of the anxiety-driven internet humor of the 2010s has done. You won't see it featured on HGTV, and you also won't see it splashed on one of those human sideshows like "Hoarders." Our home will be a space between perfectionism and fetishized failure, where we can just live our best lives. A playground, not a prison.

To prepare for these renovations, I'll be saving money, looking for creative budget solutions, and thinking deeply about how we want to live. Starting in 2020, I'll try posting twice a week. Money Mondays will be the sort of thing fans of Mr. Money Mustache who have never been rich might enjoy; Throwback Thursdays will resurrect super old blog posts of mine from the aughts to revisit the energies of my 20s and evaluate how my thoughts and feelings and values have changed or stayed the same over time.

Isn't it fun that Green Day is still rocking and relevant? And prophetic...


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