not afraid to jump…

I honestly dislike this meme. Outside my comfort zone is usually some level of panic for me. However, when you can be smart about it and manage the risks to a level that lets you cope with the fear, it’s time to take the jump.

Image from This Is Indexed

Ok, truth? I’ve always been scared as hell to jump. As someone who suffers from fairly significant anxieties, I often feel like throat punching the various inspirational bloggers and writers who tell you to just go for it, as though it were the easiest thing in the world to take huge risks for your dreams. It’s also a little scary when you ask yourself, ‘what is my great passion?’, and you realize, maybe you don’t have one. That is to say, I have things I deeply love, but it’s more about enjoying a moment… Like the feeling I get starting out on a ride on my bike, when the morning light is streaming through the trees. Another is when I’m engaged in a great discussion with students and they are excited and engaged. I feel a deep welling of happiness in my heart when I’m spending an evening with family or friends. I love the excited satisfaction of completing a good design or freelance illustration. I enjoy the pleasure of a good book, or time playing with my pets. I love my art, and design and teaching, but I have finally come to realize after *mumble* years of age, that there is not a single grand passion, instead I have many things that if balanced and enjoyed, make for a passionate life.

So my “grand passion” if you want to call it that, is something very simple; a life well lived. One filled, as much as is possible, with a myriad of things that are important to me, this includes things like art, design and teaching. However, equally important to me is time to relax, to watch a good show, read a book or hang with the people I care about. I want time to pursue my Buddhist practice, time to play, time to work on things I feel matter. I want a life in which I have the balance and focus to appreciate all the little simple things that make up my day, and I have actually been working very long hours and pushing myself for a few months now towards this goal. My interest in minimalism, and easing back from the consumer driven lifestyle was in large part driven by this desire. I’m looking to not be on a cycle of working hard all the time at a job to buy things I don’t really need that puts me in debt so I have to work hard all day to… Well, you get the picture, I want to get off that wheel that so many of us get stuck on.

Girl jumping

Sometimes making a jump terrifies me, but sometimes it makes me feel like this.

Image by Kain Kalju

So I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post but I’ve been crazy with this change. The big jump is that I am leaving my current job. It’s in my field and I love teaching the students, but it is a job with a lot of responsibilities that were outside of my skill set, and has required huge amounts of time beyond the regular hours in training. It’s been a crazy schedule and I’ve been stressing like mad over the last 2 years to try to handle it all. Long story short, I am going back to working as an adjunct instructor (where you are not full or part time, but get paid just for the number of classes you teach). I have some plans and real interest in new venues of teaching and training that I see as part of where education in my field is moving, and I’m excited to pursue them, but I am equally excited that I will again have time to take my 93 year old grandmother out to breakfast regularly and get out on my bike more than once a week. I look forward to continuing to challenge myself, but without working so far out of my abilities and interests that I am making myself stressed and miserable.

So it’s a jump, but me being me, it’s one I did fairly carefully and thoughtfully. I recently heard an interview with a minimalist who gave away all but 15 things, quit his job and then decided what he was going to do. Um… yeah, no. I will never have that kind of story for you. Sorry people, but anxiety disorders and throwing everything to the wind don’t go well together. In fact, my intention is of living a life that supports minimal stress and maximum time for pursuits, like exercise and meditation, that manage my anxiety in healthy ways. So I lined up adjunct positions and for a while, have been pulling insane hours to teach nights after my full time job as I built things up. So this week is my last week of full time work. Starting next week for a month or two I’ll adjunct for them till they find another full-timer to replace me (which I’m helping with). I will then, on very good terms, be leaving and working slowly towards building a career that I can largely do from home, with a few classes on the ground. I adjuncted for years when I was married, I was very happy and comfortable doing it. So a divorce and huge changes later, and I am in some ways returning to what I know works for me, and in some ways gaining time to pursue other aspects of my field like offering online training, that I’m interested in. This time however, I am doing it without the safety net of my husband’s income, which is a pretty huge jump for me.

So that’s where minimalism comes in. (You thought I’d never come back around to it did you?) I now need to live much more simply and frugally. I’ve been working on my new budget, but now it’s time to live it. I need to stay very organized as I am diversifying the schools I work at, and everyone is on a different schedule with different requirements. I will be at home more, so I want it to be clean and simple and well organized in all aspects. I want to ease away from a consumerist mindset so I spend less as I will, at least initially, and possibly for a while, be making less. I want to work on shifting my focus to doing simple things that are much more important to me. Rather than spending lots of money on expensive meals and buying things, I want to focus the pleasure of being with people and doing things I really care about and enjoy. So, I look down from the edge, excited and scared…

Time to jump. I’m ready.

Have you taken a leap, big or small to pursue what matters to you? Was it the right thing for you? How did it feel to take that jump?


so… why?

The first night in the Townhouse

Once upon a time…

A girl managed to carve a niche for herself. She was an instructor, a wife, a friend, cyclist and budding Buddhist. She lived in a big 4 bed, 2 bath house with so much stuff in it that she and her husband could not park a car in the 3 car garage. She was very happy sometimes and not happy other times, but overall life was good. Still, she always felt she was going through life clinging by the skin of her teeth. A lot of that was Anxieties (yeah, capital A ones). She’d had them since she was little, never feeling safe was something she’d had to work around her whole life… she was always finding ways to cope, some healthy, some… not so much. Still, overall things were ok, then suddenly the bottom fell out of life as she knew it…

And so…

A divorce, a new job and move across town later, I sat in my townhouse and felt deeply uncomfortable and unhappy. I had already had a huge purging of so many things, moving from the large 4-bedroom home to the small but lovely 2 bedroom townhouse I now owned. The purge had been very freeing in some ways, but also horrifying to me just how much detris and junk I owned. I spent my whole life buying and owning things to identify who I was and to soothe, or entertain myself. At that point I was paying over $80 a month on a small storage place that was housing boxes of my most beloved possessions, books, and some other things I had felt I needed to hang onto, like my wedding dress, and family china.

It felt good to get rid of so much, even though it was due to necessity in my new, much smaller home. The feeling of having less felt good, and yet there I sat, still feeling deeply lost in chaos. If anything, things were worse, the organizing influence of my ex-husband and accountability of not living alone was gone, and the much smaller space got dirty and cluttered MUCH more quickly. I’d gone from having tons of drawers and cabinets in my old kitchen to TWO drawers in my new one, I had almost no storage space anywhere. I finally cleared out the storage and closed that down but now boxes were piled ceiling high in my office. I was feeling out of control and simple tasks didn’t get done because everything was overwhelming.

It was bad enough that I lost and had to re-apply for my homeowners insurance because I’d let the policy lapse. Not intentionally, I just was stuffing mail into piles to be “looked at eventually” so the bill didn’t get paid. For a while since I’d moved I’d wanted something simpler, I was seeking a happiness that no amount of things, or food or TV could really satisfy. I had been using Buddhist practices like meditation, and mindfulness in a half-assed way for over 6 years at that point, but like everything else it was being done sporadically and without real commitment.

I was surfing around Amazon when I saw a book on minimalism for only three bucks. I had heard about people who went all radical, only owning 25 things. Though I thought that far to extreme for me, I remembered reading something about it and finding the basic principle appealing. So I bought the book for my Kindle app, chewed through it in a couple evenings and had a real aha moment. When I read how we don’t own our stuff, it owns us, there was a real resonance for me.

picture of the townhouse

So empty! But it was QUICKLY filled up with stuff!

So now I am in the middle of “cleaning up my act.” I doubt at the end of the day I will be classified as a minimalist by many in the movement. I feel getting extreme about having as little as possible can be almost as clingy a “thing” as being attached to consumerism… the goal for me is fairly simple and straightforward. I want to have a simpler life. I want to be more at ease and have time to do the things that are most important to me. I want to live in a space that supports this and my practice of mindfulness/metta/meditation. I’m going at this both from the inside-out and the outside-in. I want to have no more items than comfortably fit my needs and my new smaller home. I want to have only what I need and what I truly take pleasure from owning. I want to consume less so I can spend less, and hopefully work less and focus on both work and play that I feel really passionate about. I want to live more simply, and frugally with more meaning. So this is my place to hash through my work on this. I will be doing this largely as an accounting to myself, as well as hopefully having some accountability to whomever might glance at this blog from time to time. And if I inspire or help others in the process, so much the better.

~ Respectfully Submitted, K