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?

is you or ain’t you?

So in my weekly readings of various blogs on minimalism and simple living, I found my way to the blog, Smart Living 365 and while I haven’t explored it fully (though I plan to!), I was drawn there regarding a post the author made which attempted to give a basic definition for what Minimalism is and then gave a small, provocative quiz on what makes one a Minimalist. I thought she hit some very poignant points about the tendency to look at it as a fad, or to use it as window dressing over a still consumer-based lifestyle. Unfortunately, that’s something I fear I do to an extent. However, as she said, “you have to start somewhere!” Still, I had some trepidation on taking her quiz, fearing I would basically flunk horribly. I felt that way since for me, at this stage I am still slowly learning to let go of some things. I’m also still pretty mired in the wants of consumerism. This is the beginning of my journey though, so I am willing to cut myself some slack as I make little steps forward.

I was pretty surprised by my own responses, they were, honestly, better than I though I’d have. I’m paraphrasing the questions here and talking about my own responses, but I’d encourage you to go check them out for yourself and think about your own answers here.

#1 asks what you would do if you won a lot of money, would you drop minimalism like a hot potato and spend spend spend? Well I have sometimes run through fantasies of “if I won the lotto” although I don’t play. I always see myself as upgrading what I have, but not going for more/bigger. I would for instance, trade in and get a newer, nicer model of my current car. But we’re talking a Honda Fit here, (don’t judge, you can put an alpaca in one of them, despite how compact they are, how cool is THAT?) But it’s an AWESOME little car with great milage and my bike fits in it. I would just like a newer one. I’d also replace the cracked white tile in the foyer of my little townhouse, with nicer tile, and the stained white formica counter tops with nice Corian-type solid surface. Several things like that. I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere bigger, I love where I am, but I would make it nicer. Is that minimalist or not? Minimalists tend to go for quality over quantity so upgrading/replacing is not the same as getting more, bigger better. However, is it the make due with what you have ethos that many minimalists adhere to? No.

Question Mark

is i or ain’t i?

#2 regards the question of doing a job you dislike if the money is good enough. I already know the answer to this is a definite NO for me. I am actually working towards a goal of working less, and focusing just on what I love to do work-wise, so that I have more time and less stress. It’s taken some time to realize a few things about me and what I do best and don’t do well, and I’ll talk more about this whole subject in a future post. But for now, I can safely say working more hours at a job that made me unhappy to have more money to buy stuff, is definitely something where I can say absolutely, the answer would be no. Of course one guy on her blog had a great answer of yes, but only for a few months to save up the money then he’d quit, LOL!

#3 Asks about if you would move into a huge mansion if you got it for free. That’s again an easy answer. Same thing if I won an expensive new car (I actually was in a contest once where that was a prize, so I’ve contemplated this). I would sell that sucker and use the money to upgrade my little townhouse or buy a newer version of my current car, make some donations and save the rest. I used to think I wanted this big house, and then we got it, and honestly I loved it, but we had huge sections closed off just piled with junk, and a lovely guest suite that was rarely if ever used. I hated cleaning it, it took a whole weekend, and there were all the bills for the mortgage and to heat and cool and upkeep it. What I’ve come to realize was that most of what I loved about it was how I made it feel like a home (ok and maybe I loved the pool/spa and my gas fireplace too). I’m in a place now that is a fraction of that house’s size, that I own outright, and although I’ve had to adapt to some things, I love it too. I just wish you were allowed to let your dogs swim in the community pool! LOL!

#4 Asks if you are truly doing it for altruistic reasons or are you only a “minimalist” because you have to/think it’s cool. I’ll be very honest here, a LOT of why I am doing this is for myself. It’s a process I hope will be similar to my path in Buddhism. I got into this to help my suffering, to find healthy ways to manage my anxieties. The outer chaos in my life is effecting my inner state, without a doubt. I also feel it stymies my creativity and causes a lot of my procrastination. So really this is about me right now. But with both minimizing and Buddhism I think if you walk this path with intention, you start to naturally become more compassionate and more focused on things that matter, it’s kind of the nature of both of them to an extent. Buddhism, perhaps more so, but I see over and over in blogs how as people got rid of the junk in their lives and worked on freeing themselves of consumerist thought and spending more time following passions and being with family/friends that they seem to gravitate to a more compassionate mindset and sustainability attitude. I’ve already seen some changes in myself over the years since I started meditating and practicing, I hope to see more. But for now, I need to find some equanimity. I think as I do, that will open up more space for others as there is less of the needy “me” filling that space up.

#5 is how you would handle being with someone who was not interested in this, would you drop your minimalist ways for them. Having lived with a “collector” in the past before I started this minimizing thing, I know this would all be a lot harder if I had someone like that in my life. I think, although this was meant to be a litmus question on how serious you are about Minimalist living (would you adhere to this? Is it really a core value for you? Or not?) I think in any situation like that in life, there is always room for compromise and a middle ground. I will say though, I am still a “baby” with this, could I get derailed right now if I fell for a guy who loved excess and took me along with him? Maybe for a while, but I think I’d come back to this because I know for a FACT stuff is not what makes us truly happy. I do still derive a lot of pleasure from nice things though, so I could see that effecting my path. I do think I’d still walk it. For now, I have the freedom and luxury to do this exactly how I wish and answer to no one. I have a financial stability that allows me to mold a work situation that fits me best, I have no children to be responsible for and a skill and profession that allows me a lot of flexibility. Many do not, and I acknowledge that and am grateful for what I do have. I do also know, wether a new love or a medical problem or a job loss, change is always a moment away, and I would hope I have reached a point where this is a core value to me. Not as much the fetish of having less stuff, but and understanding that stuff is not the real answer.

So what about you? Did you take Smart Living 365’s quiz? Did you see her list of 8 components of a minimalist? What did you think?