Practical vs. Romantic

I spent most of today moving a sofa. It was not a particularly good day to move a sofa. University classes all over Boston start next week, so all over Boston this weekend, students are moving into their dormitories or apartments. The streets are clogged by moving vans, the sidewalks are thronging with parents. It was difficult just getting a van to move it in, and no matter how small a sofa is — and this is a very small sofa, actually a loveseat — you can’t move it in a car.

I’m relieved that it’s been moved, because now that it’s in the apartment, I’m absolutely done with all the furnishing. All I still need to do is hang pictures and put books on the shelves. And I’m glad to be in that position before classes start. But this sofa is actually my second attempt to finish furnishing the apartment, and those two attempts made me think of my practical versus my romantic impulses.

In my first attempt, I bought something quite different: something like a small futon. I thought it would be practical: easier than a sofa to transport and useful because it could be folded out into a second bed. It would also be easy to clean because the cover could be put into the wash. But once I had brought it to the apartment and set it up, I discovered that while it fit — I had measured carefully before buying it, of course — the proportions were completely off. It was too large visually, and there was something shapeless about it — as there is about most futon-like things. I had already spent a significant amount of money on it: $275. And it was all wrong.

So what did I do? Well, right now it’s in a basement, and I’ll see if I can find some other use for it or give it away. But when I saw it in the apartment, I had that feeling in my stomach: the feeling I always have when I’ve made a wrong decision. It’s like being sick. It’s a feeling I had in law school — I recognize it well. It’s the feeling of being on the wrong road. When I’ve made the right decision, I feel happy and free, no matter how impractical that decision is.

I especially regretted my initial decision the next day, when I walked into my favorite Goodwill store and saw a small sofa for only $20. Of course it would cost money to transport, and it was somewhat battered and stained, but I immediately knew that it would fit the space I had perfectly. Underneath the hard use it had experienced, it had good lines. It was a perfectly ordinary sofa, really — but it had grace.

I think things are only worth buying if you fall in love with them.

So I paid for the sofa, and today I transported it to the apartment. The initial purchase had been a mistake, but why compound my mistake by keeping it? Instead, I paid more to fix my mistake — to buy what should have gone into my apartment in the first place. Here’s how the sofa looks now:

I learned two things from this. First, I learned that I should always trust that sick-to-the-stomach feeling. It tells me what I should not do, and that’s always valuable. Second, I learned that when I follow my practical instincts, I am often wrong, but when I follow my romantic instincts, I am always right. It is when I make a decision out of love and joy, a sense of rightness and freedom, that I end up making the right decision — the one that actually turns out to be the most practical in the end.

I need to remember that, even when it comes to a sofa.

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7 Responses to Practical vs. Romantic

  1. Yes. Your intuition will rarely steer you wrong. One day a long, long time ago, I got that sick feeling when I was getting married.

  2. C.S.E. Cooney says:

    I loved this.

  3. I gave a talk on a very similar theme twice this year; the lecture is called “Embracing Your Strange” and advocates just what you say: embracing the things that you love and bring you joy. I use examples of times in my life when I’ve gone the purely pragmatic route (my undergraduate major, accepting a full-time high school teaching position) versus those when I’ve gone after my passions (Clarion, graduate school, living off my saving for nine months so I could focus on writing). Following my passions has led to a far more fulfilling life.

  4. Margaret Fisher Squires says:

    I would like to post this part on my Facebook page (profile, timeline, whatever I’m supposed to call it): “It is when I make a decision out of love and joy, a sense of rightness and freedom, that I end up making the right decision — the one that actually turns out to be the most practical in the end.” If that’s OK with you, what attribution would you like me to give? Website? Plug? Please advise.

    • Hi Margaret! It’s totally fine with me! 🙂 And you can just include my name. Are you a facebook friend? If so, when you type in my name, a link should come up to my page. If not, and if you’d like to, you’re more than welcome to friend me! Or of course you can link to this post — I’m not picky!

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