My Most Meaningful Decision (or How I Went Completely Insane and Loved Every Minute of It)

by Maxwell Tielman


Photo by Daniel Kanter.

Over the past few weeks, the Design*Sponge team has been recounting each of their own most meaningful decisions in the domestic realm. Amy discussed her efforts to live in the moment and create the home that she wants now. Grace recalled her struggles to regain her confidence and sense of self at home. Now it’s my turn and, if I’m being quite honest, I’m not sure exactly where to begin. Not because I haven’t made any meaningful decisions or because I can’t recall any particular moments, but because my greatest decision about my home life was, in essence, about making decisions. Over the past few years, I have made a number of wildly impulsive, gut-fueled, life-changing decisions—each of which was made on my own, solitary volition, oftentimes in direct opposition to the advice of my friends, family, and colleagues. And you know what? I have not regretted a single one of those decisions. Not a single one.

“That’s all fine and good,” you might say. “But what am I supposed to take from that? You make AWESOME decisions. Good-for-freaking-you. So what?” Making rash, foolhardy decisions on the off-chance that they might work out is a total crapshoot—not particularly good advice and not really the best way to govern one’s life. So, allow me to back up a little bit and reframe my point.

I think that the moment I began making my best decisions, no matter how seemingly impulsive they were, was the moment that I began truly understanding myself. I know that’s totally Eat-Pray-Love of me to say, but it’s the truth. Up until recently, I allowed people’s ideas of who I am and what I should be doing with my life inform many of my decisions. I followed advice given to me based on other people’s lives, on other people’s paths, and other people’s good fortunes. What I ultimately realized, though, is that other people’s advice, no matter how well-intentioned or clear-minded, can often have the same effect as an ill-prescribed medication: what might work for some people might not work for you. At all. Eventually, after more than a few ill-prescribed decisions and life-paths, I came to the rather simple (but nonetheless monumental) realization that it was I who knew myself best and who knew what made me the happiest. In short: I learned to trust my gut.

A little less than three years ago, on February 13th, 2011, I met my boyfriend, Daniel. After dating my him for roughly four months, I went with my gut and decided to move in with him. Although many a nay-sayer (and my therapist) told me that we were moving wayyyy too fast, I knew that it felt absolutely, unquestionably right. I boxed up all of my things in my tiny, Clinton Hill apartment and moved them to our new fifth floor walk-up in downtown Brooklyn. I have not once regretted it.

Less than a year later, in January 2012, Daniel and I were walking down Atlantic Avenue and saw a puppy adoption truck parked in front of the neighborhood vet. We walked in, decided to take a rambunctious pitbull for a test walk, fell in love within the course of one block, and took her back home with us. When I told my friends and family that Daniel and I had just welcomed a gigantic, over-energetic pit baby into our lives, many of them reacted with the same wide-eyed vexation, as if to say, “giiiiiirl, you crazy.” And perhaps it was a little bit crazy. We were two students in our twenties living in a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. But you know what? That little nugget has made my life happier and more fulfilled than most of the other “good” decisions I’ve made in the past. NO REGRETS. BOOM.


A few months after adopting Mekko, Daniel and I were walking her down the street when a woman approached us with a horrific, mangy mess of a dog. She informed us that she had just found the dog a few blocks away and was trying to find its owner. She needed to get back home to her own dog and wondered if we might be able to take over. We obliged and, really, really long story short, we ended up with dog number two—an adorable, elderly stray that needed dental work, neutering, and more than a little TLC. As many of my friends were quick to inform me, it was insane. But clearly, insane is my jam. That little stray got cleaned up and turned into this cutie pie, a tiny bundle of fur that will cuddle up to me no matter where we are. NO REGRETS. BLAMO!


Then—in rather quick and disorientating succession, Daniel and I decided to get engaged and buy a house in Kingston, New York. Depending on who you asked, we were either maddeningly, nauseatingly in love or out of our damned minds. Probably a little bit of both. Still, if you ask me, I will tell you that I’ve never been happier, that my life has never been fuller, and that—surprise, surprise—I have no regrets.

While many of these life changes have happened at breakneck speed for me, getting to this point of gut-trusting decision-making delirium did not happen quickly. It took me a long time to realize that what seemed to work for my friends and colleagues didn’t necessarily work for me. What people my age wanted wasn’t necessarily what I wanted. It took more than a little introspection and self-acceptance to come to the understanding that I was a twenty-something guy that would rather stay inside with my knitting and dogs than go out to party—and that was okay. I’m was a twenty-something guy that got more excitement out of the dishwashing/dog-walking/dirt-digging of domesticity than living the so-called single-and-fabulous life. I knew, deep down, that I wanted to build a home and a family and once I finally accepted that, I was able to let go of my inhibitions and be the crazy, out-of-control homebody that I’ve always wanted to be.

While not everybody is in the position to drop everything and go utterly, domestically nuts, the real lesson here is less about the specifics and more about accepting what makes you as an individual happy—even when that isn’t what your peers expect of you. To put it plainly: Haterz gunna hate, you gotta do you. THE END.


Photo by Daniel Kanter.

Suggested For You


  • YAY! Guts + Love = Your Heaven on Earth.

    Remember growing up how we all just wanted to “fit-in”? Yeah – that was sooooo over-rated! Isn’t it just amazing the twists & turns your life takes when you jump on the wild ride of “Be True to YOU”? Love how the universe gives you everything you need.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story – and sending your good vibes out into the world! Now, that’s my kinda jam :)

  • Max, this was possibly my favourite design*sponge post of all time. I completely, whole-heartedly relate to this and I so appreciate that you wrote about it! I am going to bookmark this and re-read it whenever I need reminding that I’m on the right path for me…


    Ps. Can you please let me know where Mekko got his red jacket? I love it and want to get one for my black lab Remy. :)

  • My first time on Design Sponge and I know it was because I needed to read this!
    I just met an amazing guy… Things are going fast and I feel it’s alright but I still fear the reaction of the people around me! Thanks for sharing your own experience! Made me realize that I need to listen to my voice and not let it be drowned under other people’s voices!

  • Max, clearly you’re a domestic god and all but you are SUCH an amazing writer. I never start a post you’ve written without reading right to the very end – couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. Hope you write a book one day.

  • love your post and love you have the guts to follow what is right for you and your family; good luck with your future decisions!

  • Your post has inspired me to embrace the homebody side of myself… no matter what the “haterz” say. THANK YOU.

  • WAY TO GO. What a great story. You are lucky to have discovered such a sure internal compass at such a young age. I feel like a lot of people don’t figure this stuff out until their 40s! Here’s to quiet Saturdays spent in front of the fire, curled up with the pups and your loved ones.

  • Thank you so much, Max. I’ve been reading what you and Daniel have been kind enough to share with us for years, and I loved this beautifully written reflection. You guys are fantastic writers, amazing dads, and inspiring to me in many ways. Just thanks.

  • Truly touching because it’s all about love, all the way!! Love for yourself and for your beautiful family and kudos to you for finding the essence of life in your twenties!!! Hope I run into you in Kingston this summer.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.