Many times recently I keep thinking to myself “There has to be more than this.” But I can’t figure out what more would be or how to find it. The thing that I struggle with is that I was undoubtedly created with a passion and talent for design. Other interests come and go but interior and architectural design has always been there. As a kid it manifested itself in my RV floorplans and the constant room rearrangements. As an undergrad it was my architecture, the sketching the play and creativity involved in model making. And as an adult it shows itself in my job, a design assistant at an interior design firm, my love for decorating our home, and my fascination with home design when traveling. Although I know it is not this way for everyone, I knew I wanted to do design at the ripe old age of 19. Though that path has been a crazy curved line of experiences, certainly not a straight one, plopping me exactly where I needed to be.
But after all this, I still wonder, what is the point? What is the point of making beautiful homes and interiors? I can come up with a few ideas but none that my heart believes is making a difference in the world.
-To create beauty and beauty is inherently good: But it is so fleeting. And it can be bought in the form of a coffee table, rug, or wallpaper pattern.
An abandoned castle somewhere near Paris
-That by creating a space that a person and family feels at home in I am therefore helping people be happier, feel better about themselves, feel more them: The problem with this is that I am only helping those who can afford to pay me (because I have to making a living somehow!) and if they can afford to pay for a designer they probably aren’t doing too bad to begin with.
-Say you are a caterer and you are hired to cater the grand opening of a design boutique. You 1) not only get to do what you love (I am assuming….) you 2) also get to help someone else realize their dream. Then it gets hairy!! The design boutique, how does opening a design boutique help the world/society?
The thing is, I don’t see myself working with the poor in some remote locale or working for free. I don’t see myself feeding those in need. It’s not that I don’t want to help, it just I don’t see the way I will give back to society happening in the typical fashion.
At least with architecture, an architect can feel that they are giving back to the community. And although I think homes are the most personal and intimate thing you can design, unless you are working on a larger urban scale, designing a single home for a single family isn’t developing the community in any large way. The decorating aspect is even worse. Certainly I feel better in a nice environment, but an ugly environment is just as functional. And probably cost must less to fill/furnish!
There’s a blog that I was reading the other night, about a very young (under 30) interior designer. I am unsure of the circumstances but somehow her and her husband are extremely wealthy. As in, after buying, renovating, and then selling two other million dollar homes, they are now in a smaller but still more-than-a-million dollar home, and plan on doing renovations! On top of that she has the capital to open her own office (not a home office) and can afford to hire help for her daughter. Aside from wishing I were so lucky to be as wealthy, one blog commenter decided she could no longer read the blog because she felt that this designer had “devoted her life to frivolity.”
And so I just have to ask, because I have bills to pay, does it really make my choice to be an interior designer and less frivolous than hers? In fact, the more I think about the blog comment the less logical it seems. At first glance, I get it. If you have all this money and are guaranteed the security it provides, you should be using that money for good. You should be donating that money, or opening homeless shelters, or devoting your life to educating Afghan children. But why? Just because she had money doesn’t mean her purpose in life is to spend it doing good. (Put another way, having money doesn’t positively correlate with a heart that desires to be a servant to others.) Objectively we all know this statement to be true. Why then, is that the choice that this reader felt the designer should make? The designer could have decided that she wanted to sit on her butt all day, let the nanny raise her daughter, a spend her hours at the mall seeing if she could make a dent in that bank account. Instead, she is choosing to work, and by opening a business she is doing something that takes heart and guts. She is showing her daughter “Hey look, yes we have money, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still work hard at something you love.”
She is doing what she is passionate for and has a talent for. Is that so bad? Isn’t that what many people spend their whole lives looking for? Some people could only be so lucky to be able to make a living doing what they love!
There is a book that I read a few years back and then donated it to Goodwill (why??) called She Did What She Could, though it is biblically based, the message is relatable to all. It was a collection of short writings each about a women in the bible and how she gave of herself, not on the grand scale (sell all your belongings and move to Africa) but on the small, many times overlooked, scale (washing feet – back in the day or making dinner for your family – last month, yesterday, tonight!). I like to repeat that phrase to myself from time to time, “She did what she could. I do what I can.” The thing is, I am totally fine with never being some famous superhero of the world, but occasionally I’d like to realize how my little mundane acts give back in the bigger picture. I can tell myself all day long that the little givings that I give matter but unless I see with my own eyes how it has made a difference to someone, I become skeptical that it matters at all.