Jim looked around his apartment and saw nothing. Oh there was plenty of clutter and nicknacks and other items were strewn about but he saw nothing, no accumulated goal, no defined idea or concept, nothing gained, no greater path walked on. He’d simply been doing all his life and this is what he had to show for it.

He sat in the couch he’d had since college and took a pull off his beer, preceded by a loud sigh at the moment of insight which he was far too self-conscious of to fully appreciate. The apartment was silent but for the noise of the nearby train tracks that ran 100 yards to the south. A commuter train rushed by, following the freight that had passed five minutes earlier. It wasn’t a nuisance, at least not now, but it was still something he noticed more often than not even four years after moving here.

He thought that he was on track for a quarter-life crisis and that this was what appeared to be happening. He was questioning everything that had brought him to this point, what the future lay and how he had created an empty, vacuous lifestyle for himself. Another drink was taken from the bottle and he eyed the four sitting on the floor around him with a look that said no, he didn’t care about that tonight. Tonight was about wallowing.

As he surveyed the accumulated detritus Jim did a mental inventory of the items he could happily rid himself of. To his surprise it amounted to about two-thirds of his belongings. These are the possessions that, at first glance, had no monetary value and others that he might be to recoup a few bucks on. But when he figured out how much he’d spent on what seemed now like a performance art piece in pointless consumption he was aghast and just more eager to free himself from his self-imposed shackles.

When he’d been younger, Jim’s mother had read all sorts of lifestyle magazines that were less about being yourself as defining – and redefining yourself constantly through endless purchasing. Sleep aids, pills, clothing, everything else, all with the purpose of creating a persona to communicate to those around, one of success and style.

But it all lacked purpose. This wasn’t about building a lifestyle. A lifestyle should have art and culture and appreciation for things that goes beyond “I just want to own this.” A lifestyle should communicate who you are as a person, not just what you can put down a credit card to buy.

So he resolved to set the ship aright tomorrow. Tonight he would drink, probably finishing the six-pack he’s pulled out of the fridge he’d bought just a year ago but had recently been considering replacing because newer ones had features he lusted after. Tomorrow, though, he would go through this with a merciless approach. While Jim knew about the “if it doesn’t bring you joy…” self-help trend he wasn’t an adherent and this wasn’t an attempt to get to that point. Instead the point was just to find the real Jim, the one who as a kid was endlessly amused by the hiking trails not far away from his childhood home. This era had run its course and wasn’t sustainable. He was ready to throw off the shackles and build a lifestyle of meaning.