[This blog post is part of a series, Defining Vertical Learning.]
In 2005, I was shopping for candle holders. I had just moved to Acton for a job and I was furnishing my apartment. I come from a large family, with two brothers and two sisters, three of whom are older than I am, and I’ve always furnished my places with hand-me-downs. Oh, you need some pots? I have a set in my basement. What’s that? I’ve got an old sofa that you can have. I’ve had my eye on a new one for myself. Financially it was great, but none of my stuff matched and I had never developed my own aesthetic.
When I moved to Acton, at 35 years-old, I was determined to become my own man. For months, I made weekly trips to Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ’n Things, bringing furniture home and then returning what I didn’t like. I honestly didn’t know my own tastes and I had to discover myself along the way. The final items I shopped for were candle holders. I hadn’t quite come to grips with the idea of home furnishings as decorations, so I told myself that candles were functional in the case of a blackout!
I literally looked at hundreds of candle holders. I browsed the internet for them. When out and about, I ducked into random stores to see what they had in stock. Nothing felt quite right until I found the perfect candle holders at Target. More platform than holder, they were made by setting a 3.75” black stone disk into a matte black iron rim with three small ball bearings for feet. They were very minimalistic and the materials gave them a natural feel… like candles resting on top of a stone in the wild. I liked how the green, pear-scented candles that I chose (3” tall and 2” in diameter) sat on them totally free and unencumbered. Then, every time I came home to my fully-furnished apartment, I felt this incredible sense of peace, positive energy, and well-being wash over me. I was home. This was me.
It seems like such a minor thing, but drilling down to discover myself and then bringing my surroundings into alignment with that… it was huge. I had never felt so restful or happy in a place. I started online dating at around the same time, and when I recounted my adventures furniture shopping, it was like I was the best and most vibrant version of myself. Being true to one’s self is never a small thing. In many ways, it’s the only thing.