My New Year’s resolution this year is to get back on track with the simple living/minimalism movement.
I first discovered this movement way back in 2000, when I was only 22-years-old. I embraced it with the passion and fearlessness that come naturally to the young (and a lot harder to my now about-to-turn-40-years-old self).
For two years, I pursued simple living & minimalism relentlessly, paring down on unneeded possessions, paying off debts, exercising and eating well, and reading copious amounts of literature in my spare time, of which I had an abundance. At the end of the two years, I had pared down so much on unneeded “stuff” that all of my possessions fit into my car (before I got rid of that, too). A lifelong anxiety sufferer, I remember it as one of the most peaceful times in my life.
And then I screwed it all up. Worried about my lack of career prospects (I was an English Lit BA working in the stereotypical barista-type jobs), I decided to apply to law school because I had a feeling I would do well on the LSAT. Yes, you read that correctly. I made a huge, life-altering decision on what was little more than a whim. I had mastered a lot of the physical aspects of simple living, but clearly, I had a long way to go on the mental ones.
It turned out, I was right about my test-taking prowess, and I was accepted into one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. I wish I could say that my training in the simple life had caused me to seriously reflect on what getting an expensive degree like this would mean for my life, but the truth is, I was so honored to be accepted by the school that I never seriously considered not going. I had grown up working class with less-than-ideal parents, and rejection – from my parents, from opportunities, from people from higher social classes, etc – had worn on me. This acceptance filled a gaping hole in my self-esteem that I hadn’t even known was there. It was the “big F you” that many picked-on children fantasize about.
Except, it turned out, I was entirely unsuited to being a lawyer. Perhaps I would have been ok at a smaller, less competitive school, but at this one, I was surrounded by people with wealth and connections beyond my wildest dreams. I could never decide whether to try to fit in or to stake independent ground and this feeling stuck with me well beyond law school – as a result, I floundered between multiple identities for years. I would strive to accomplish some “prestigious” goal, only to realize that I didn’t really want it and quit either mid-stream or after I’d achieved it.
I graduated from law school almost 13 years ago. Since then, I have passed the bar, obtained another graduate degree, and embarked on three different careers (in fact, I’ve actually changed careers four times, but the last time was back to career # 1, albeit in a higher-level position). I never did become a practicing attorney, but my law degree & M.S. did land me all of those jobs, so, from that angle, grad school was a good decision. On the other hand, I still owe nearly $100k in loans (that is a triumph – it was once nearly $200k), my job is far more stressful than I want (much of it of my own doing – saying “Yes” to too many things), and, most importantly, I simply do not feel “at peace.”
I know now how right I had it back in my early 20s; I think I just needed to experience all of the things I was trying to avoid before I could truly believe that they weren’t worth having. Well, now I have, and I’m ready to rededicate myself to simple living. I suspect that with the hole I’ve dug for myself, it will take more than a year to dig back out, and, really, I’ve already started, but I’m taking advantage of the new year to begin chronicling my journey.
So, with that, let’s get started – Happy 2018!