Kristin Armstrong and the Wisdom of Goldilocks
Tribeza's favorite insightful thought leader discusses life's transitions
As a little girl nerd in school, I loved the assignment to make a diorama. I loved the intimate, bird’s eye view into a home, a scene, a period of time. I loved transforming a shoe box into a work of art, complete with a million little details. I am reminded of dioramas every time I drive by a home at night, lit from within, the cast of characters on display eating dinner or watching TV. It’s also probably why I prefer the privacy of a front courtyard, nothing to see from the street.
My fiancé and I are trying to create the diorama that resonates with our particular scene of life. There is a decidedly in-between place in the transition zone between Part 1 and Part 2.
Three kids in college, one out and working, one finding herself, being newly engaged at 51, and searching for the new home and neighborhood that suits our new tribe’s collective transitory lifestyle. The big family house now feels too big. A condo feels too small. A pool is too much trouble, but it’s too hot here to survive without one. A high rise downtown feels too hip, and our dog doesn’t want to trade her dog door and fenced yard for a leash and an elevator (or maybe I like the option of walking her). The old neighborhood feels more like a place to raise children than a place where we want to welcome them home.
Some friendships forged by the proxemics of parenting don’t always survive the migration to Part 2. The bubble that once felt comfy now feels like it needs to pop. We need enough room that we can host happy holidays and provide a comfortable place to bounce for kids as they springboard, but not too comfortable that they don’t launch. Never have I felt more compassion for Goldilocks, wanting something juuuuust right.
“The place you choose, the space you choose and the people you share it with become the backdrop for your life.
I am ready to purge the excess of Part 1, hold onto a few treasures and let the rest go so we can travel light. Upstairs bedrooms feel like the museum of childhood natural history, full of artifacts, devoid of energy and far too clean. Except for the occasions when they are over-full and far too messy, which I must say is delightful. Otherwise, I barely go up there.
We’ve looked at some houses for sale, and my usual comment as we depart is that I wish we could shave off the entire upstairs. I want no wasted space, no media room (I don’t even like media), no formal dining room (we intentionally only dine with informal people). One living area that feels amazing and seamlessly opens to the outside. One story, not two — I can’t stand walking into a foyer with a staircase. A cook’s kitchen with soul, that beckons, and a kitchen island where you want to dock for the night. A trifecta of fireplaces — in the living, the master and the patio. And my Betrothed is a car man and wants a nice garage, so a carport simply will not do.
I am restless, ready for what’s next. I feel like a trapeze artist who won’t let go of one bar to free her hand to grab the next, so I keep swinging. Dangling in the space between Part 1 and Part 2.
In an ideal world, where interest rates were friendly and our portfolios weren’t pillaged, I would like to sell our old oasis posthaste and find a smaller island. Or even better, two smaller islands, one in Austin and one in our beloved Santa Barbara. I can envision a life of floating between the two, and creating a life of working with clients in both locations, teaching, seeing kids and eventually grandkids, visiting friends and walking the beach with my sweetheart until our final sunset.
Part 2 will be an opening up, not a closing down. I cannot foresee a life of errands, lunches, workouts, travel plans and visiting children. I don’t want to be passing time, I want to be expanding and deepening it. I don’t have a vision of longing for retirement, because I don’t engage in work that feels like work. My work feels like meaning, more being than doing, and that is an entirely different experience. I am not waiting to retire to live my life, I’m living my life until I expire.
So that is precisely why our neighborhood and community are so vitally important. We want to surround ourselves with likeminded people, resonant energy and a shared view for what is possible. The place you choose, the space you choose and the people you share it with become the backdrop for your life.
And that is exactly the scene I want to depict in the diorama of Part 2, pared down to only the finest and most useful, creative and inspired, and well-lit from within.