Welcoming the holiday season

I always love the first day of November. For me, it marks the beginning of the holiday season (sorry Halloween!). There are only a little over sixty days left to the year, and you start to feel that magnetic pull towards the new beginning promised by the following year. The holidays hold a different meaning for different people. Many look forward to gatherings over candlelit dinners surrounded by loved ones and an assortment of delectable dishes. It becomes more of a nightly occurrence compared to the rest of the year. Some envision twinkly lights hung on decks and shrubs and trees, peeking out of dark windows and above fiery fireplaces. The holiday music comes on the radio, and everywhere else, which could be a good or bad thing, depending. The wish lists are being placed in stockings, the stores are being filled with toys, and the malls are being filled with people, gathering to see the tallest of Christmas trees be lighted for the first time. The parties and celebrations may start snowballing, passing the days by until suddenly, you’re screaming at the top of your lungs, “Happy New Year!” The holiday season is fleetingly beautiful and joyous, and is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year.

This has always been the holiday season that I knew growing up. But now that I am a little older, I try to hold on to the days a little longer, and anticipated November and December happenings start to shift towards other things. Quiet mornings with my husband and slow risings out of a comfortable bed. Blanketed humans with gloved hands, holding warm mugs, both on couches and walking the streets. Turning the Christmas music off to hold conversations or listen to a crackling fire. Focusing on being present, rather than buying presents. Writing down a list of things I’m thankful for and reading it aloud on Thanksgiving day instead of placing it in a stocking. Looking at old photo albums with my parents, rather than taking another photo with Santa.  Counterintuitively making slowing down a priority, and creating space a mission.

Admittedly, I will still continue to do traditional holiday things. But the hope is that it doesn’t consume my season with traditional activities for the sake of doing traditional activities. With only a smattering of dates left for the year, these few months, days, and hours really matter. So let’s find the space to fill them with what matters most.

 

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: Creatively Escaping Mental Clutter

Raise your hand if you were born with a brain that never stops thinking. Aren’t we all these days? Most of the time, I find myself constantly wondering about what is going to happen next, what I need to accomplish, where I plan to go, what goals I set for myself. I am constantly planning for the future, and when I am not, I am constantly reminiscing on the past.

We are taught from a very young age that in order to be successful, you have to make a plan to get there. We are also instilled with a sense of attachment to things that have passed, because we assign emotions to events, people, and things. Very few of us are taught to notice the present for what it is now. For example, try to sit still, close your eyes, and focus all your attention on the present moment. I bet it takes less than a minute for your mind to wander to something in the past or in the future. When you do realize you’re thinking of this, can you let the thought pass you and return to the present moment? Can you accept the fact that your leg is itching because you’ve been sitting still for so long, and not reach out to scratch it? Can you just observe and continue observing and do absolutely nothing?

For me, this is a very difficult task. There is only one thing that could remove me from my constant state of agitation and longing, and that is creativity. I find that when I do something creative, the part of my brain that is constantly doing calculations shuts off temporarily. I first noticed this when I was a teenager, and I used to draw and do art. I would start dabbling in the middle of the afternoon on my sketchpad and not even realize that it has turned dark until I finish my work or someone snaps me out of my reverie. The same thing happens when I sing or try to play music. I could sing for hours and not even realize how much time has gone by. Sometimes, after spending hours singing, the part of my brain that is measuring my success in terms of achievements turns back on and makes me feel angry at myself for “wasting” so much time. We are so ingrained to measure our worth in terms of how much our salary is, how many titles and medals we have received, how many things we have accumulated, how many relationships we form, that we forget to create anything for ourselves, or rather, to create anything at all.

Now I am at a point in my journey where I have de-cluttered most of my possessions, removed unhealthy relationships, and allocated the appropriate amount of time to the things that add value to my life. However, after ridding my life of a lot of the excess noise, I have been left with a LOT of time left to my disposal. Prior to now, my entire life has been a race against time. I was raised to always seek achievements and had so many activities to the point where I was constantly over-whelmed in middle school and high school. I worked three jobs during my undergraduate career and still finished undergrad in three years with cum laude honors. There was never enough time to do everything I wanted to do while I was going to dental school because of the dedication it required. This is the first time in my life that I have extra time to use however I want to. Part of what gave me that freedom is really the appropriate allocation of my resources towards the things that really matter. This practice has given me plenty of time to reflect and day dream, which helps focus my attention to who I was and who I want to be. However, neither reflection nor daydreaming allows me to fully appreciate the present moment, since both require my mind to be either in the past or in the future. What I’ve found is that tapping into my creativity is the only thing that releases me from this cage of constantly assessing and re-assessing. Even if the creation is only for myself, only creativity allows me to enjoy the present moment wholly and completely.

Some may argue that if you work hard now, you will have more time in the future to be creative, but that isn’t necessarily true. This may be true if you are extrapolating in a certain way so that everything happening now is occurring or improving at a constant rate. But the question which I always use to judge what is right for me to do today is, “What things would I regret not doing if I were to die tomorrow?” As morbid as that sounds, it accounts for the single truth, which is that we are only guaranteed the present moment, and nothing more. If you spend your life working hard, looking forward to the rest of forever and forever never comes, then you just spent your life working hard and that is it. You would have accomplished much, but whether or not what you accomplished or created has any meaning past earning money or acquiring a certain status is questionable. And even if we assume you get to a later stage in life where you had once expected to spend every waking moment doing what you love, what if you couldn’t? What if a debilitating disease capable of preventing you from playing a musical instrument or creating art takes over your body? What if you suffer from an unpredictable accident? I can tell you one thing. There are many more things in life other than work that I would feel empty without. These happen to be the only things capable of diminishing the mental clutter to nothingness. Creativity is my antidote towards the incessant firing of neurons, the constant buzzing of notifications, and the little voice inside my head telling me, “You are not enough.” We are all enough.

This isn’t to say we should all stop planning our futures completely and solely be creative beings. Under-stimulation and lack of progress does not improve your life meaning. This is only to say there should be a balance. So press pause, and enjoy the now. In the end our life, fully lived, will be our best work.

Living Slow: The Hawaiian Fisherman and the Mexican Fisherman

I was in Hawaii this past week, and my family took a fishing trip up the coast of Kona on a beautiful sunny Tuesday. One of the crew members was a nice, happy man in his 60’s who has been a fisherman his whole career. We got to talking, and he proceeded to tell me that when he first made the decision to become a fisherman in his 20’s, his father was very disappointed in him. He went to UCLA and completed all his biology courses and was on his way to becoming a dentist. But he just couldn’t do it. He even worked as a lab technician and the margins gave him nightmares. It still gives him nightmares to this day, he joked. Shortly after working for a lab tech, he came to Hawaii and decided to become a fisherman for the rest of his life. His dad was embarrassed of this fact, because all the kids of his friends and family were becoming professionals. Lawyers, doctors, and engineers. And when his friends would ask him, “Hey, what’s Frankie up to?” He would have to tell them, “Fishing”.

Well eventually, his dad accepted it all when Frank caught the largest marlin on record. Over a thousand pounds! He even showed us the newspaper article of his catch. Well that day, they were walking back from the dock, and his dad said, “You know son, you did good.” At this point of his life, he had just bought his own boat, gotten married, bought a house and was about to have his first kid. And he got the record for catching the biggest fish. And he said, “Dad, I’m going to be just fine.”

I then asked Frank if he ever heard of the Mexican Fisherman parable. I had just read it on the flight to Hawaii from Erin’s Chasing Slow. He said he hadn’t, and so I told the following story to him:

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

I told him I was glad he didn’t become a dentist. I told him that I was a dentist who looked forward to living a life like his. I love my job, and I can call my own hours and can pretty much do as I please. I pursued dentistry because I wanted to be in a profession that gives back to the community and helps others, that contributes to something past myself. But the loans tie me down. I am chasing the slow life, but it’s still a chase. He was already living the slow life and has always been. It’s nice to know that he was free from anything that could have tied him down. He said that a buddy of his says the same thing. His buddy is in his late 70’s and everyone keeps asking him, hey man, when are you going to retire? To which his buddy says, “Let’s see, when I retire, I would spend my days fishing and playing golf. Oh wait! That’s what I do now!”

We’ve all got an American Dream, but I am starting to think that some people have the dream all wrong.

Living Slow: Disconnecting from the internet, once in a while.

My relationship with the internet is a love-hate type of relationship. The love part is easy to see. Googly eyes, slobbery drool, drunken teenage stupor kind of puppy love. If you ask my husband, he would likely tell you that I am obsessed with Instagram. And it’s true. I am OBSESSED with Instagram, in a very unhealthy way. If you have me added as a friend on Instagram, you likely already know that in the past, I used to post once a day. Until I added a second account, which then made it twice a day. Some of you scoff, because the truth of the matter is that I actually have three accounts. THREE. Not including the other accounts I couldn’t keep up with and had to delete. And on one of those accounts, I have admittedly posted 4-5 times a day. I am seriously obsessed with social media, and have been for a very long time. Before I had Instagram, it was Facebook. And before Facebook, Myspace. And before Myspace, Xanga and Melodramatic. It was something that my generation grew up with, which is hardly an excuse, and something which affects the younger generations more profoundly than me.

Let me stop here and briefly say a thing or two about how I perceive social media. In my eyes and in my mind, social media is a platform that many people, including myself, use to portray an image that we want the world to see. It may be a true image, or it may not be a true image. Even if it is your true self, only a select part of your life is posted for the scrollers and their double taps. It is still an image. The surface of a body of water, flat, with no depth. I have spent hours and hours creating the reflection of myself in cyberspace, having wasted probably half of the last decade focusing on this (insert sarcasm) super important aspect of my life. I mean, image is everything, right? (Let that sarcasm drip.)

But let’s not stop at social media. I use the internet for other things too. I am obsessed with checking my email frequently, as well as checking my text messages to see if a red number bubble has popped up on the corner of that green little box. It is important to clarify here that I rarely get texts at all. I could hardly be considered the popular type, preferring being tucked away with my books in odd nooks and crannies. Despite this fact, checking my phone is an instinctual habit that I developed over the years. I am obsessed with looking up new releases of products from brands that I am loyal to. Even though I don’t buy said products, I want to be the first to know what new item other people come up with. I am obsessed with following people’s lives that I don’t know. Not even famous people’s lives! Mostly people who are creative, who throw events that showcase their new avant-garde ideas. And while it is a great source of inspiration, the extent to which I follow these people has become unproductive, at best.

It is safe to say that I love the internet for these aforementioned things.

But God how I hate the internet. Well, I don’t truly hate the internet. But I do hate the way I have interacted with the internet.

In my humble opinion, the internet has become the biggest food source for feeding my ego. And by ego, I mean the Eckhart Tolle definition of the word. Ego as our inner narrator, our sense of “I”, the voice in our head. Ego has it’s signature moves. The ego is never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we buy, how many accomplishments we achieve or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete. The ego is constantly comparing itself to others. It has us measuring our self-worth against the looks, wealth, and social status of our neighbors. The ego thrives on drama. It keeps old resentments and grievances alive through compulsive thought. But most importantly, the ego robs us of life’s present moments. The ego is obsessed with the past and the future, at the expense of the right here, right now. I have primarily used the internet as a tool to try to satiate my forever unsatisfied ego. Vanity at its worst, I have found that my inner self continually tries to see what my friends, family, acquaintances, hell, even random strangers, are up to in their lives. There is a constant nagging voice in my head telling me that somebody MUST “need” me right at this very moment, prompting me to check the screen every few minutes. How egotistic is that? I feel the need to check constantly in case a life or death emergency comes along and somebody needs me. When really, truth be told, in a true emergency, I am pretty sure my friends and family would be calling 911 first, or well I hope they do. Even if they did call me, I would probably tell them, “You should call 911 right now.” Pretty much, if you are reading this, don’t call me in the case of an emergency, okay?

In addition to allowing the internet to feed my vanity, I have allowed the internet to eat up so much of my precious and valuable time. All this talk about decluttering and minimizing in order to live a slow, simple, and meaningful life cannot save me from the single fact that the internet adds so much noise to my every day. My thoughts are constantly fragmented, disconnected from each other, interrupted by every silent whisper telling me to go online to check what I’ve been missing in the last five minutes of everyone else’s life. That’s exactly what it is! I am missing out on so much of my own life because I am continually concerned with everyone else’s life. Anyone else? Don’t get me wrong, the internet adds value to my life too. I mean, you’re reading this ON MY BLOG. And I couldn’t have graduated dental school without Google, let me tell you that. So yes, the internet has its uses. But it has definitely been overused (by me) and has prevented me from creating the particular lifestyle that I am currently working towards. The internet is a wonderful source for, well everything. But that’s just the problem. I don’t want everything anymore.

I am constantly being informed of what new products are out, which trends are popular, where I have yet to vacation and explore. The internet has on blast what my family and friends are up to, who made it to that last party, what so and so just bought, who that one-girl-i-met-once-in-passing just got engaged to, blah blah blah. I wake up every morning and go on automatic scroll mode. My fingers are cramping from double tapping for two hours. I seriously think I’ve cross-eyed myself because of all the fast scrolling I’ve been doing. And the worst part is, I end up despising myself every time I binge on surfing the net. I literally would look forward all day to get home and relax after work, and then come home, and turn on my phone. The next thing I know, it’s 9:30pm and I have to start getting ready for bed.

I have been working pretty hard to minimize the excess unnecessary STUFF and have cut out those which do not add value to my life, only to realize that I am still so far from living a very meaningful life. There is plenty of room for improvement. Where I am succeeding in terms of physical clutter, I am failing in terms of mental clutter. There is so much noise around me, and I want to start focusing on cutting the fat out of that. I use the internet as a pacifier 99% of the time. Like others use Netflix, or TV or weed or chocolate or coffee, I use the internet as a crutch, a drug, a way to pass time, not even for enjoyment, but just to fill a void. Like everything else, it takes up space in my life and currently, it is using up way more space than I want it to. It’s a problem and I’d like to fix it now. My initial thought was naturally the extreme method of cutting out excess noise: Killing the internet at home. Quit cold turkey. Go big or go home. But I live with another person and that is absolutely not (“no way!”) an option. Trust me, I asked. Morals of the story here: What does not add value to your life, may add value to someone else’s, and, it is never a good idea to try and change somebody. So with plan A out of the window, I have plan B, which took shape based on a friend’s internet policy.  I figure I’d start with a 30 day trial run to see if removing internet use at home would add value to my life. Here are some goals I have for reducing wasteful internet use.

  • Upon getting home, separating myself from my phone, by placing the phone in a designated space and then letting it go.
  • Putting the phone on Silent and removing Vibrate.
  • Checking email only once a day.
  • Entering Airplane mode when going to sleep.
  • Not keeping the phone on the bedside table.
  • Allowing only maximum 2 hours of Internet time per week (plenty of fun time!)
  • Making a list of things I want to watch, listen to, or look up, and setting the list aside until the designated time to use the Internet.
  • Removing notifications and phone apps

Even as I am writing this list, I am having second thoughts, doubts, and heart palpitations. I’d imagine this must be what it feels like to abstain from an addicting drug. Because that’s exactly what it is. But I should stop being a baby, quit my whining, and just do it. The worst that could happen is that I hate it, and then revert back. The best that could happen? I could start reading more, writing more, exercising more, trying more, focusing more, dreaming more, healing more, sleeping more, inspiring more, connecting more, loving more, living more.

Worth it.

If you have any suggestions at all as to how to minimize internet use or mental clutter in general, let me know! I am all ears.

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.