Letting Go of Perfect

I grew up in a world where perfection was taught as the ideal. I was surrounded by critical (yet loving) adults during my childhood, and each shortcoming that I had was never missed, and pointedly brought to my attention. While a positive take on this particular upbringing would include a constant desire for continual self-improvement, to which I attribute my acquisition of a wide array of knowledgeable tidbits and how-tos, I would like to argue that perfectionism in excess could be damaging to any human being, and even more so, to a child.

We are all human. Meaning we all make mistakes. Perfection is not attainable by any means. Yet it is societally portrayed as an achievable goal. At an early age, we are taught to reach for perfection. Examples of this include staying within the lines when you first learn to color. Using a ruler when drawing a line. Organizing your desks into rows and columns. Dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Aim for 100% on every exam. An A+ is the most covetable grade, would you not agree? This extends into our later school years, when we have to practice our speeches before we present. When we try out for Club sports teams, or for a part in the school play. And so the cycle goes long after we’ve graduated. When we see coworkers getting promotions, friends buying new cars or new homes, advertisements showing off the latest gadgets, Instagram photos of so and so still looking fly at age 30 while you’re trying to hide the dark circles under your eyes. We get graded our whole lives, judged, measured against our peers, our progress monitored with the hope of seeing some improvement. Alas, I am not saying improvement isn’t good. I am only saying perfection is not.

For the entirety of my first decade on earth, and for the majority of the second, I believed that creating a life as close to perfect as possible will yield a very successful life. I remember my personal frustrations when I would fall short of perfect. I would throw tantrums, loathing myself for my humanness. I would watch kids close to my age and aim to beat them in everything I can. My competitive spirit urged me to fight, until I left everyone behind in the dust. If I lost a game, I would be livid. If I didn’t get the highest score on a test, I would not allow myself any joys. Once I did start getting the highest scores on the test, it stopped being enough. I also had to be the first to turn the test in. I had to be the kid with the highest grades in the highest classes with the most volunteer hours while balancing multiple jobs. I was doing well at striving for perfect. I now realize that perfectionism is unsustainable, and if I had continued down that path, I would end up exhausted, burnt out, and defeated, because I would have never, no matter how hard I tried, ever reached the point of perfection. I would have spent more years of my life, afraid of being judged, but being judged anyway.

I got to a point in my early teens where I felt I was never good enough. My ego was deflated to something akin to paper thin. I think if striving for perfection is forced at a very early age on children, it can lead to a number of insecurities that, misguided, could have life-long detrimental effects. I, luckily, am not such a child, but how many teenagers today feel a vast emptiness in their lives? How many people develop eating disorders, depression, or suicidal tendencies? How many adults play “Keeping up with the Joneses”? How many people spend every day trying to be somebody they’re not? I was able to escape the rabbit hole towards perfection before it all together consumed me. It did however, define my early teen years. I was a very shy young girl, who was not confident at all in my abilities, despite achieving more than my peers. I felt like my accomplishments always fell short, although I kept on trying, and because of that, I had a tendency to undersell myself. More importantly, I lived in constant fear that whatever I was accomplishing in life was not good enough by other people’s standards. Because of this, I kept my accomplishments mostly to myself. I was afraid to share ideas, to ask questions, or to take a risk when opportunities arose. I was hesitant to meet new people, to start trends, and to step outside of my comfort zone, avoiding activities such as sports or acting. Public speaking scared the living daylights out of me. I once had to stand up and give a speech in front of a class for Academic Decathlon. I was so afraid, I remember shaking like a leaf. A funny classmate of mine yelled, “Is the wind blowing in here?” I remember starting to cry in front of twenty other students. Not exactly the best impression. The teacher never made me do a class presentation for the rest of the year, and I was forever ear-marked as a sensitive student. Ironically, six months later, I won third place for my speech, in all of Orange County, out of more than five hundred students. It’s not that my speech wasn’t good the first time, or that I improved my delivery dramatically by practicing for the competition. It was because I was presenting in front of twenty peers who I was afraid would not understand my writing style, my topic, or my delivery, VS speaking to two judges who I felt understood multiple writing styles, topics, and deliveries. I would have forever been doomed to this constant, insecure state, if it weren’t for art.

My savior came in the form of an art teacher in 11th grade named Mr. Welke. He was an older fellow who had a gray handlebar mustache, wore a leather jacket, a white tee, and jeans every day, played guitar, and rode a bright blue motorcycle to school. He was my hero. I decided to take art class because, well, I loved to draw, and paint, and make things out of nothing. I didn’t take an art class before that point because it wasn’t considered “productive”. I was only able to take it when I was finishing up a majority of my requirements to graduate and I still needed a fifth period class. Creativity has always been an attractive soul mate, a kindred spirit that stayed the course with me from childhood until now. My problem was that whenever I created something and showed it to a grown up, there was always room for improvement. Additionally, if I ever created anything remotely avant-garde, it would be scoffed at for being a bit too creative, which, little did I know, does not exist. Repeatedly redirected to copying other famous artists’ work, or redoing mine own to be a bit more perfect, I fell into a cycle of non-creativity. I was told I was making art, when really, I was RE-making art. The same art that already exists.

When I started art class, I thought I was going to be great at it. I thought it was going to be an easy course to add to my five AP classes (zero period included), and will allow me time to relax at school. However, for the first few months, I struggled. Not because I had awful hand-eye coordination or lack of attention to detail. Mostly, because my fear of falling short of perfect crippled my ability to produce anything. I fell behind due dates, turning in assignments such as drawing vertical lines without a ruler and making circles with the left hand very late. I remember I struggled most when we were asked to make a self-portrait of ourselves in pencil. I must have stared at myself in the mirror for a hundred hours, scrapping every attempt I made because I felt like none of them resembled a hard-copy photograph of the mirror. I think he recognized my struggles, and one day told me that I was trying way too hard. He gave me a small speech and though the words are now lost to me, the message never left.

You cannot be an artist and perfect at the same time. Aiming for perfection will handicap you in more ways than one. You will not be able to produce, and you will not be able to create. You can only copy what has already been done, and continue to re-do it forever and ever, because there is no end with perfection. True art, or any form of expression of self, cannot coexist with something so definite. If you want to be a genuine creative, you have to let perfect go. The point of art is to produce. At the end of the day, if you made one thing, regardless of what it looks like to others or to you, you have still made one thing. It’s a product that you can sign, or not sign, share, or keep to yourself. You can do whatever you want with it, because it is yours and only yours. A true artist needs to learn to genuinely express what is inside their being, without fear of being judged. An audience should never shape what you are trying to make, or else they will rob you of your true self. You would be a complete waste, if you do not create for the rest of your life.

While it took me many years to start implementing this advice, and I continually tweak it even today, it taught me what it meant to be the real me. At first, I applied it solely to my art. I started to turn in paintings and drawings that were unfinished, but on time. I learned that to finish something, I had to stop spending my time lolling, overthinking, overanalyzing, and scrapping. I stopped running in circles until I was ragged, and started drawing straight lines without caring about their lack of straightness. I stopped being so hard on myself, and I started to love the freedom of making a blob and calling that art. I started to answer questions, then ask them myself. I started to challenge multiple thoughts, and reach out to other people I didn’t know. I conquered the fear of tackling any task that might initially seem too big. I stopped believing in limits. I started living life, one day at a time. My goal is to no longer be perfect. My goal is to be free. Every morning, I wake up with one mission. To be slightly better than I was yesterday. That’s it. I don’t have to reach a milestone. As long as I work towards improving myself in even the slightest bit, then I have already created a better me in a better place. I can put my signature on it, and share it with the world, or keep it to myself. By wanting to become an artist, I learned to reach for something beyond perfect. I started to reach for something completely human.

Thoughts on: Less and Happiness

When I tell people that I have found more happiness in less things, I usually get a blank stare, followed by grilling questions, and finished with a sort of resistance. I’ve successively proceeded through multiple stages of redefining what brings happiness in my life within a relatively short time span. The following are real life examples of people’s responses to some of the lifestyle changes that I have started to implement within the last year that required living with less.

Me: “I’ve started to de-clutter everything I own that I don’t love or that serve me no purpose.”

Response: “You are going to miss those things in a few months.”

Me: “I started to practice minimalism.”

Response: “You mean, getting rid of all your stuff and living with nothing?”

Me: “I am recently trying to give up drinking alcohol.”

Response: “How are you going to have any fun?”

Me: “We are being selective with which social occasions we go to with our friends, because we don’t want to waste money on things like dining out, disguised as hanging out.”

Response: “So you don’t hang out with your friends anymore?”

Me: “I am going to give up shopping for one year. I don’t want to buy more clothes, for the sake of keeping up with the fashion trends.”

Response: “I could never do that.”

Me: “I am going to attempt to do all my grocery shopping without purchasing plastic.”

Response: “That’s too much of an inconvenience. Good luck with that.”

The consensus? People generally do not like the idea of less.

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Thoughts on happiness. 

The 2017 World Happiness Report measured happiness using six variables: social support, income, healthy life expectancy, trust in government and business, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. Only one of these categories involves money, which most people unfortunately and truly believe will buy them happiness. The problem is that as people try to increase their income, other variables that are used to measure happiness decrease. Most people have a social support system that consists of their family and friends. Sometimes, if they are lucky, they will also find a social support system at work. For example, I work with dental assistants and treatment counselors, and we have each other’s back when it comes to delivering good dentistry. When it gets crazy busy, everyone helps the other out, and I don’t care if I’m a doctor, I’ll clean rooms, scrub instruments, and set up trays like everybody else. But for other people, they go into work and sit at a desk, and work on a task individually, then come together in group meetings and present their work. So usually for this type of work, the more people work trying to increase their income, the less social support they have.

I watch people overwork themselves to earn “enough” money to “barely get by”, but I also see these same people going out to Happy Hour for “reduced” prices, hitting up sales to get “great deals”, buying Disneyland passes and lining up for the new Iphone. As people try to increase income, they apply a lot of stress in their lives, wear themselves down, get sick often, and usually get less exercise. These factors decrease another variable, which is a healthy life expectancy. Okinawa, a Japanese island, has the highest life expectancy in the world, 86 for women and 78 for men. It is also considered one of the happiest and most laid-back communities in the world, built around community, dancing, and music.

I always hear people complain about going into work or hating their job, and I think to myself, why don’t you just quit? When I ask them this, many express that they can’t leave because they need to pay their bills. What they don’t realize is that their bills are so high because they there is a certain lifestyle that they try to attain. I see parents who work five days a week in order to buy their kids that video game system they want for Christmas, instead of staying home and spending actual time with their kids. And then they complain that the kids grow up so fast, and they don’t have the time or energy to watch them grow. Most people who are unhappy with their jobs have a decreased perceived freedom to make their own life decisions. The more money becomes the reason you work, the less you are likely to leave, voice your opinion, challenge your superiors, and work creatively. The more tied you are to your job, the less likely you are to reduce your hours, move to a different city, state, or country, say no to co-workers, and so on and so on.

Lastly, generosity. It is difficult to be generous when one’s time is occupied by work or when money is valued so highly. It is difficult to give back when it feels as if every dollar needs to be spent on “necessary” things, when it feels like you’re broke. But we aren’t broke. Broke is when you have not had something to eat for days. Broke is when you don’t have a roof over your head anymore to shield you from the cold. Broke is when your children can’t go to school because they have to work or help out at home. We are not broke. I believe that it is this last and final variable that will bring the most happiness. We are a compassionate species.

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Thoughts on less.

What I have found in my path to living with less, is the happiness that came with it. Uninvited, unexpected, but one hundred percent welcomed.

  • When I got rid of a majority of my clothes, I found that I wore something I love every day, and getting dressed in the morning was no longer stressful, because the decisions became easy. Remember when we were kids and we just started dressing up for school on our own and we had a favorite shirt? It feels like wearing your favorite shirt every day.
  • When I started to focus on experiences rather than things, I found that I accomplished more in the last year than I have in the last five years. I traveled extensively to New Zealand, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Palm Springs, Mexico, Hawaii, and Germany in the last year, all for leisure. I learned how to do yoga on my own (no longer am I paying for classes at a ridiculous rate of $20/class or $165/month) and take joy out of deciding what poses come next or what part of the body I will focus on that day. I learned how to do ceramics with my own hands, how to play guitar (at least I can dabble), how a latte is supposed to be poured (I can make a leaf, on a good day), how to use a calligraphy pen, how to speak German (well, enough to understand signs in Germany), how to make tortillas out of scratch, and more. Because I wasn’t out spending my money on time-sucking tasks like shopping, dining out, going to Disneyland, I have found ways to add to my skill set and rack up some pretty cool and diverse abilities under my belt. I find happiness every time I learn something new, meet a new person, and achieve an accomplishment or a goal.
  • I started to refuse out-sourcing things. I love the challenge of fixing something without buying an additional gadget or paying for a service. I once paid $180 this year to clean our loft by professional cleaners. It was seriously the worst $180 I spent, retrospectively looking at it. It was nice because it saved me time, but arguably, the time it saved me was probably used doing less efficient activities anyway. I told myself I don’t want to continue doing that anymore. Now whenever a home improvement task comes along, I learn how to fix it on my own, and I just feel so proud knowing that I am capable, resourceful, and all sorts of frugal.
  • I realized that alcohol was starting to make my stomach queasy the next day, or that skin rashes resulted from being too dehydrated (also the reason why I gave up caffeine and started drinking decaf). I tried to eliminate alcohol consumption completely as of June of this year (the only exception was a beer or two in the weeks I travelled to Hawaii and Germany), and found that I enjoyed the social gatherings as much as when I used to drink. Heck, I was even more engaged and developed deep conversations and connections with people. Plus I feel totally fine the next day.
  • We started being more selective with which social gatherings we go out to, which then started to shape who we hung out with. We realized that we were hanging out with groups of people who really enjoyed spending their money on bowling nights, fancy dinners, happy hours, and other activities. We also realized that we no longer wanted to spend our money on those things, and to spend them instead on other prioritized experiences, such as travelling and new hobbies. We started to say no, and we were okay with that. Our friends who were really close to us found ways to hang out with us without spending money. We established a new group of friends (who I happen to work with) with whom we meet up every Wednesday night with at someone’s house to play board games or video games. How many people nowadays have time set aside to meet with their group of friends, once a week, every week? Very few people I know do that anymore. We found that the friendships that were truly meaningful became more connected and stronger, and those that were less meaningful fell out of our lives. Some people question us for this decision the most, but it was probably the best decision in my opinion. You are as good as the people you surround yourself with, and we just couldn’t surround ourselves with people who would prevent us from living our best lives. We didn’t dislike those people. We just had different goals. It wasn’t a compromise we were willing to make.
  • I created a personal challenge for myself, which was to not buy an article of clothing this year, which later turned into not buying anything for myself. Once I de-cluttered everything, I did not want to spend that much time doing it again. The most important thing about minimizing is not how much you let go, but how much you add in. When I started doing this challenge, it felt like I was a recovering addict. Seriously. Which is probably why most people’s excuse is, “I can’t do it.” It was a very difficult thing to do. I didn’t realize how easy it was to get sucked in by advertisements and notifications which I have set for myself via email or Instagram telling me that I need to buy more stuff. I checked my favorite companies and websites continuously, and added things to my cart and I physically ached for things. It took me a few months to stop feeling this way. And even some days, after I was better about it, I would turn to Mike and say, “I miss going to the mall.” But I no longer allow myself to go. Because it is truly an addiction. This particular scenario may not apply to other people, but maybe the weakness is Amazon, or video games, or car parts, or happy hour. Whatever it is, once I felt better and got over the burning desire to purchase stuff, I knew that I cannot go back. Admittedly, I did fail once so far. I bought myself a used, vintage dress from a local small coffee shop. It was spontaneous and highly unnecessary, but it was a mistake I thing I had to make. I loved the dress and wore it once a week for the rest of summer, but I also knew deep down that it was money that did not need to be spent, and it grounded me and furthered my resolve to say no. This is usually when people assume my life is awful because I am depriving myself from things I want. But I’m not. Consider all the things I have accomplished this year and the places we have been. I am just re-writing my life for things that I want more.
  • And lastly, giving up plastic. I’ve had people laugh in my face, scoff, roll their eyes, ask me “Seriously?”, sarcastically tell me “Good luck!”, quietly judge me, or whisper about me in the middle of the check-out line as if I can’t hear every word they were saying. I’ve also had people support me, get on board, genuinely tell me “Good luck!”, and thank me for “Saving the world” (my favorite lady at the register). I’ve gotten people to watch documentaries about plastic and started many conversations about how to do it and why. And it just feels good. It feels good to be intentional and mindful and to just feel like you’re making a difference, even if others don’t see it that way. It feels good to be optimistic about everything.

I consider myself happier than a lot of people I know. I consider my husband happier than me. I consistently hear the same loud complaints or murmurs of dissatisfaction about the same few things. Work, money, health, relationships. I can’t convince a person to change their life, neither do I want to. I do want the people around me to be happy about their lives. I want everyone to be happy. We are all responsible for our own happiness. Discovering a world with less emphasis on STUFF earned me a higher level of happiness. The one thing I can do is to verify that this is doable and true.

Interested in other thoughts on happiness? Right this way. To see what traditions you can give up this holiday season, come hither.

Minimalism: Curating closets

The true cost of fast fashion has been exposed multiple times throughout many media forms, my blog included (here), and the change is slowly starting to happen (yes!). There is a growing awareness that fast fashion allows for underpaid workers, unsafe working environments, unfair labor laws, and unethical trade, in exchange for the consumption of “low-cost” seasonal goods that flow and ebb faster than a rising tide. Thankfully, there are ways to slow it down, or get rid of this trend all-together. We can start by curating our closets in order to have a clear vision as to what stands in between us and them. I can tell you right now, the answer is simple and lies within our clothes. But how do we get started?

  1. Although it may seem as if getting rid of all your clothes is what you want to do, the opposite is actually true. You want to use as much clothes as you already own instead, and prevent yourself from accumulating new ones. Lightly broken down articles of clothing could be patched or saved. When things break down, try to salvage them instead of replacing them with something new.
  2. Now, if there are clothes that you know you do not wear anymore (or never have worn because you are waiting for the day when it will finally fit right), then donate them, with the lesson learned that compulsory buys are not the answer. Another human being was part of the process of making those clothes for you, and while we donate our clothes, it is important to understand that so many clothes are being donated that a majority of them end up at the landfill because there is just not enough space to house them all.
  3. Which brings me to my next point. Buy used. If you have to buy, buy from my favorite, a vintage store. Help remove some of the waste we create. I personally love to go to the following sources to buy used clothing:
  4. Consider borrowing instead of buying. Especially in the case of one-time special events and occasions, such as a wedding or a performance, consider borrowing a dress from a friend or family member. To be worn one time, and then returned. A much better alternative than shopping for a specific dress that you know will be out of season before your next wedding.
  5. Practice mindfulness when selecting your apparel. Now that you’ve gone through steps 1-4, you know exactly which items speak to your heart. Everyone has that favorite shirt that they wear once a week even those it’s got tattered sleeves and holey arm pits. If you are acquiring a new piece, not only evaluate how much that sparks joy for you, but also how often you will wear it and how long it will stay in style. Try to avoid trendy pieces and go for timeless and versatile additions. Instead of cheap materials, go for ones that are durable, but also soft on the environment. It isn’t so much what we subtract as it is what we add back in.
  6. And if you must buy new, please support ethical companies who either promote fair trade, fair wages, environmentally friendly materials, and/or most importantly, transparency. You can find a small list of my favorites here. The costs of these goods are high, yes, but just think of the true cost of cheaper goods. I like to look at it a different way, and use the high price as a constant reminder to evaluate whether I really need to be shopping right now or not. Really love a piece before committing to buy it (this also applies to used clothes!). If you have any doubts, it can wait. Mull it over in your sleep, and honestly, if any doubts arise, it likely isn’t something you are pining for anyway. If you find yourself constantly obsessing about it after a few days, then yes, listen to your heart and go ahead and buy it. At least you went through the process of thinking about the real reason why you felt like you needed said item. Try to consider these questions.
    • Is it to impress others?
    • Is it to be a part of a trend in the hopes of being one with the cool crowd?
    • Is it to fill a void?
    • Is it to achieve a certain social status?
    • Does it spark joy?
    • Is it practical?
    • Is it ethical?
    • What is the true cost? Is it worth that?

 

Living slow: Saying No

Life is a whirlwind, and that’s the simple truth. The dogma of western culture states that an individual has increased freedom with increased choice. This unquestioned thinking has led to what some describe as the paradox of choice. It is so embedded in our culture that it is difficult to stop and think that the opposite could also be true (which it is). That is, the abundance of choices may lead to an overwhelm that could rob us of true satisfaction.

I used to be a “Yes Man”. Born with a strong urge to please others and to be the most helpful I could be, I said yes to everything. I said yes to all social events even though I was introverted, I said yes to peer pressure even though I knew the difference between right and wrong, and I said yes to all projects even though I was stressed and extremely overworked. It garnered me a lot of “friendships” and “accomplishments” and many, many people liked me. But I was tired most of the time, sickly at best, and honestly dissatisfied with a lot of my relationships, including my relationship with myself. Most importantly, I did not have a very strong sense of self. I had a very deep understanding of what others wanted me to be. But I did not know what my own goals in life were, what values meant the most to me, which relationships I truly enjoyed, and what it meant to be truly successful.

Confused about what success truly meant, I said yes to a lot of ideas that were shaping my life to become what others expected of me. I bought a lot of clothes in different styles so that I could be socially accepted by different groups of people. I bought stuff just to shape an image that would be appealing to the public. I bought into the idea of getting married at a young age (at 18, I said I would be married by 21), and buying a home as soon as possible (I was planning my future home as early as 20), and having kids (by 24!). At the same time, I had planned to be a doctor by 26, I had wanted to have a large smattering of friends, and hoped to be working towards a vacation home, a dog, and even more stuff. I never thought of travel. I put my hobbies aside, or rather, discarded them completely. In order to gain this level of “success”, I had three jobs in college, stayed out late partying with random groups of people, said yes to many school events, and studied my ass off. I hardly saw my family, despite the fact that I lived at home during undergrad. I stopped being religious, which isn’t so bad because I still haven’t gone back, but when I was religious, I used to at least thank God every day, and I think a part of me stopped being grateful at that time, so that wasn’t too good. And I never took care of myself. I was sick for months at a time, because I honestly didn’t allow myself enough time to get better. Always saying yes, my life was a mess.

So in 2010, I met a boy who was living slow, and saying no. It was frustrating at first, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around why he would say no to a LOT of ideas, events, and things that a normal person would embrace. Even his movements were slow. He could be described as deliberate. Purposive. Intentional. Calculated. Most importantly, he was someone who was true to himself, and nobody else. He was also the most satisfied human being I had ever met. One day, we were eating breakfast omelettes and potatoes that cost $7 a plate, because we were still living on close to nothing, and out of the blue, I remember him saying, “You know, we are two very lucky people.” He expounded, saying we had everything we need and want, and more, and we had each other. We had things that some people never found in a lifetime. “Life is good.” I married the damn sucker.

It took forever, but he was the first and only person who ever taught me how to live slow and more importantly, say no. Over the years, I learned that time was more important than money. My work goals changed from wanting three jobs to earn money to buy stuff, to working ONE job that I had to love doing so much that it does not feel like work. I quit the librarian position I hated during dental school, which I only had to take in order to make ends meet when I was living at a conveniently located, high rise apartment in the middle of downtown LA. I moved to a small bedroom in Torrance and cut my rent from $1300 a month to $375 a month.  I got rid of clutter and stopped buying junk. I did not go out excessively, except to celebrate important occasions, and I cooked healthier meals at home. The money I saved, I used to travel the world with my partner in crime, and we learned more about ourselves and each other in the process. I started focusing on experiences and hobbies rather than social status symbols. My favorite thing to do in my teens was to hit the mall, scour the sales, and go out with friends. My biggest worries in my teens were the perception of self, and what others will say about me. My favorite thing to do now include taking classes and learning things that improve myself and increase my contribution to society, whether it be art or science. My biggest worry now is whether or not my friends and family will be safe today, whether or not other people in parts of the world are suffering, and whether or not I will do good by my patients through my work.

My relationship goals changed from saying yes to all my acquaintances or people I hardly met, to saying no unless I really, really liked you. I became selective in who I chose to hang out with, and I lost a lot of relationships along the way, but I regained a few that were more important to me anyway, and that was worth it. I learned that you shouldn’t try to change the personalities, beliefs and values of others, that changing the people around you is never a good thing. But you can still change the people around you. I cut out the excess fat. I realized that people who did not share the same values and beliefs as me only take away time from people who do. I don’t mean to say that you should cut out everyone who does not agree with your beliefs, but surround yourself with people who have the same end goal. You and your friend can vote for different presidents, but if both your end goals are to try to improve this world to become the best that it can be, it’s totally okay if the paths you take in order to do that diverge. Diversity is good, but so is working towards a common end. Now if you have a friend whose goal in life is to make someone else’s life miserable by spreading bad rumors about them, then maybe that’s not a friend I would want to keep hanging out with. And that’s just my personal preference, because it does not line up with my values and that’s okay. In return, I see my family more frequently. I built stronger, longer-lasting relationships, rather than transient relationships which last only half a decade. I have surrounded myself with a support system more focused on pushing me to become a BETTER person, rather than a more successful person.

My husband also slowed me down in my ridiculous fast speed chase of buying a home and having kids. Which gave me this opportunity to learn about myself. It gave me a whole new perspective on a way to live life in order to enjoy it most. I now have the time to take care of myself and to grow. He made me question why there is always this constant need for more. Or why there are social norms that we accept to be true. Why is there a timeline that one is expected to follow, a path that people expect you to take. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. In order to live a meaningful life, I had to make room for only the things that matter. And very few things truly matter, in comparison to the abundances of choices we make every day. Some will still argue that with choice, comes freedom. Sure, it does, up to a certain extent. Kind of similar to the idea that money will buy happiness, only until your basic needs are met. Once you have food, shelter, safety, and a stable income, money has little effect on happiness. Likewise, freedom is defined by the ability to choose. However, choosing to say no to a lot of the choices offered to you will arguably give you even more freedom to fill your life with important matters and will lead to a more meaningful life as defined by individual ole you.