Final Post


Thank you for visiting. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions over the past four years on this blog and the previous 10 years via the StacksandStacks Q&A feature. It’s time for me to move on now. But before I go, I wanted to share with you something I wrote a few years back. I hope you like it.

Sometimes simplifying can take you by the hand.

I used to have long, beautiful fingernails. From the time I was about six years old, my nails were a source of pride and protection: they were naturally hard and strong, and worked well as weapons—the only defense I had when my siblings or other children picked on me.

By my teens I was already obsessed with manicures, and all through my twenties I continued accumulating mass quantities of the implements and supplies required for maintaining perfect fingernails.  Having learned how to be my own manicurist from an early age, I took care of them expertly. I was proud of the way my hands looked and my nails were often the source of compliments.

When I was 31, I decided to follow a long-time dream: I wanted to learn how to play the Celtic harp. The first thing my harp teacher told me was, “You’re going to have to cut your nails.” I stared at her super-short nails as she played a beautiful melody on her harp, and suddenly knew I was at a crossroads in my life.

I didn’t even know how to cut my nails—I’d never done it. After agonizing over saying good-bye to my talons, I finally asked my husband to cut them for me. We had to do it gradually. For weeks, each time I returned for a harp lesson, my teacher said, “Not short enough!”

Getting used to the feeling of short nails took months, since the ends of my fingers had never been exposed (I’d always used the pads of my fingers for pushing buttons, etc.) and were therefore very sensitive. But as I eventually became accustomed to this new way of being, I also discovered how liberating it was to not have to think about my nails. Slowly it dawned on me how much time and effort I’d spent maintaining them, not to mention all the manicure clutter I could now dispense with. I got rid of a drawer full of nail repair supplies (no more need for glue and patches!), manicure tools and dozens of bottles of nail polish, and felt oddly relieved.

Now my life is simpler in small but satisfying ways. I keep my nails short and sometimes buffed but always unpolished.  I never have to worry about my nails breaking, nor do I obsess over how they look. And I get more joy out of playing my harp than I ever got from having long nails.

I’m not saying everyone should follow my lead. My point is this: Step back and look at what you think is important to you. Are there things you do that you’ve always done which may no longer be in line with who you are now? Could you be doing other things that you’d enjoy more and that might take less effort and/or space?

Perhaps it’s time to reshuffle your priorities and maybe even retire those that are no longer valid for your current reality.  Sometimes the things we quietly outgrow are the things that hold us back.

Harriet Schechter