Beginning again

A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with – that’s poverty – but how efficiently we can put first things first…When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ~Victoria Moran

I know spring is generally the time for renewal, but I feel like this fall has been full of restarts and second chances. Maybe I’m just subconsciously getting a jump on some New Year’s resolutions, though I’ve never been one to commit to those, anyway.

I’ve been trying to implement some lifestyle changes…just little things that I can improve on to get me closer to the life I feel I should be living. We’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home, eating healthier, enjoying the great outdoors, and spending time with family. I’ve gone from hitting the gym 2-3 days a week to a pretty consistent 4-5 days. I’ve even started running again here and there, though not for any great distances.

We’ve been playing a lot of disc golf on the weekends, and have played courses all over New England. I’ve improved quite a bit since I started, but am definitely still a novice. Mostly, it’s just fun to get outside, and the courses are beautiful and full of pine trees.

Curtis and I have both been struggling with trying to “unplug”…we have realized how utterly dependent we are on our smartphones, our cable TV, and the Internet. We have been a bit better about not using our phones while out to dinner, and at night before we fall asleep, but it’s a challenge…the temptation to use it is always there. On the rare occasions I am forced to go without my phone, I feel like I am experiencing things so much more fully. I am hoping I can continue to chip away at the time I spend with that thing in my hand.

I think the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is finding time for friends. With work, gym, and weekly visits with both our parents, there isn’t much time left over. I feel like I need a full day to recover from the work week, and then when Sunday rolls around, we are preparing for the beginning of another week. It never ends. I’m not sure how to make time for people, unless they book me in advance, and it seems a bit presumptuous to expect that of my friends. I wish I could be more spontaneously available to them, but I am a creature of routine.

Fortunately, November is a month full of birthdays, and my calendar is slowly being filled up with dinner dates with the girls. It will be nice to catch up with all of them…we live such different lives these days. Some of them have a house full of kids, some are trying to, one is eternally single, another is a serial romantic…and here I am, married, still living in an apartment, and no plans to have children. It definitely makes for interesting conversation.

My main priority right now is simply trying not to stress out too much. There are things that I want in life that I do not yet have. But that will always be the case. As easy as it is to find things to complain about, I think it’s better to celebrate the good in life. I have a roof over my head, a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and two cats that keep me entertained. I eat well, and I have fun every weekend (sometimes, a little too much fun). It’s a good life.

Mt Washington

We finally hiked Mt. Washington. 2 hours, 20 minutes to the summit!

Hammock

Relaxing in Maine at my parents’ cabin. Good times.

Pumpkins

Annual pumpkin carving with the in-laws!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

Reboot the mission

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. ~Ellen Goodman

Many times lately, I’ve found myself sitting in traffic on the way to and from work, thinking about what my life would have been like if I’d discovered minimalism ten years ago. I have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I decided to go to school when I was 25, years later than most of my friends. I’d been working in libraries since the day I turned 14, and LOVED my job, but I knew that I would never make enough money to get by unless I got a degree.

At the time, I was very ambitious…freshly divorced from a man who was adamantly opposed to my being successful at anything outside of the kitchen, I wanted to go all the way. I wanted to get my bachelor’s in technology, then go on to Simmons for my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. This would be the safest way to stay relevant in an age when libraries are becoming increasingly under-appreciated. I was hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of my colleagues who had worked tirelessly to reinvigorate the image of the public library and promote its relevance in today’s world by using the same technologies that were supposedly rendering us a thing of the past.

I began my education at ITT in June 2007. I was a good student, and was selected for an internship with a government agency in Boston. I worked at their help desk, answering phones, and responding to a variety of complaints (usually, I just told the user to reboot). For 8 months, I worked 60+ hours between my library job and my internship, on top of a full-time course-load at ITT. I was burnt out. Just when I was about to completely unravel, I received full-time job offers from both my employers simultaneously. I had to choose between a job that I loved, and one that I knew would guarantee my financial security.

I chose the money. My heart wanted to stay at my beloved library, with my wonderful patrons and co-workers who were like family to me. But, my brain knew that my student loans hung above me like an ominous raincloud, just waiting for their opportunity to crush my American dreams. I began working in Boston full-time, though I was still an intern. I received my associate’s degree, then continued on with the bachelor’s Information Security program. And then, the government imposed a hiring freeze. I was next in line for a permanent position, but found myself facing possible unemployment once I graduated, as one has to be in school to maintain internship eligibility.

Somewhat miraculously, one of the telecom contractors was retiring about that time, and they asked if I would be willing to replace him. It would mean going “to the dark side”…contractors are treated as second-class citizens in federal buildings, receive little to no benefits, and there’s pretty much no going back. But, I nearly doubled my salary. Once again, I sold my soul to get more money. In my mind, I was doing the right thing for my future.

Today, I’m making more money than I ever thought I would. But those pesky student loans came due, like clockwork, 6 months after I graduated. Since I have to drive to work (my company pays for parking, but not public transportation), I had to get a reliable car. Between student loans, car payments, and hundreds of dollars a month in gas, I find myself feeling more broke than ever before.

Was any of this necessary? Couldn’t I have lived more simply, and continued doing what I love? Would I have been happier? Have I wasted the last 7 years of my life chasing someone else’s idea of “success”? These questions torture me daily. At this point, it’s futile…I have to make peace with the decisions I made years ago. And I firmly believe that all of the choices we make – big or small – determine the course of our lives. From meeting my wonderful husband, to being able to make that trip to Sweden, there is definitely some good that has come from my decisions. Would I do it differently if I had the chance? Absolutely.

For now, I will look at my job as a means to an end. The bills will all be paid off in time, and that will enable us to live more freely. And the more simply we live now, the sooner that day will come. This whole epiphany has only strengthened my resolve to pare down my possessions and my lifestyle. I would be just as happy with a meal at home and a walk on the beach as I would eating out at a fancy restaurant, if not more so. And I really, REALLY don’t need another pair of shoes. Much as I want them. Making these small sacrifices daily will make a big difference over time.

It’s time to reboot!