The Passion Conversation, Continued

I discovered a few years ago the idea of cultivating a passion instead of finding it. The article on the Minimalists website explaining this idea brought validation to the struggle I felt so strongly in college to find something I was passionate about so I could be like my peers. During one lecture in college the speaker even asked, “What are you willing to lose sleep over?” as an exercise to determine what we get excited – or passionate – about. But the silent answer I came up with was that I’m not willing to lose sleep over anything because sleep is important. It’s important to live a balanced, healthy life.

And so my journey of personal growth developed over the years. I still love sleep every bit as much as I did in college, and I become vexed if I can’t have my sleep. As I have explored in many of my previous posts, I have many interests and many things I love to learn about. However, I only love to explore them if I can do so in a healthy way.

As I’ve grown, I’ve realized I do indeed have passion within my being, just not a traditional, 21st-century type passion. My passion is not for a particular career or cause, but for life itself.

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Living Without A Passion; A Yoga Practice

These are some thoughts I began to write a couple years ago. I have often felt insecure that I didn’t feel passionate toward a particular career or cause like many of my peers did. This is a snippet of my mental process.

Reflections from February 2018

I bow my head, palms together in a prayer-like position. Close my eyes; breathe. I do not feel a particular passion toward anything.

I reach my hands up to the sky – feel a gentle pull in my muscles as my body awakens. I do not have a dream job, only varied interests.

I touch my toes; my head pulled down by gravity. I accept what is. I have a bucket list of things I’d like to try, but more importantly I just want to be.

Weight shifts onto my hands as my feet shoot back to land in a plank. I am strong; I work hard. I pay my bills and reduce debt. I am learning to purge my possessions to live more simply.

Lower onto the belly. I enjoy cleanliness and wellness. I like simplicity and natural products. I diffuse essential oils and buy bamboo toothbrushes. Arch my back, feel the stretch in my throat. I enjoy animals and nature.

I raise my body up until I’m in an inverted “V” shape – my hands and feet on the ground with my hips toward the sky. I’ve often wondered if something was wrong with me because I don’t feel a passion toward a singular career. I just want to live a balanced life. I breathe in, breathe out. I let go of my insecurities.

I walk my feet up to my hands and slowly rise to standing again. I long for more in life, but I am also learning to become one with the present.

Confession of Anger

Forgive me, Father, for my anger.

And not for the anger itself, but for the depth to which my anger roots itself to my soul.

I have caressed it, coddled it like a child, raised it up to grow into a monster. Feeling blessed by my own self-righteousness I give way to bitterness, resentment, envy. They make me feel good. They are faithful friends who stay by my side, nursing my hurt and making me powerful. 

But this is not the way of Love. Love takes hurt into her arms and weeps. Her tears wash away the filth in my soul, melting the monsters I have grown to cherish. She puts pain in its proper place – acknowledging it, grieving it, transforming it – and letting it go.

Getting Debt-Free by Going Waste-Free

As I learn more about money management, I can’t help wanting to learn more about life management as well. And part of living a balanced life involves being mindful of what I consume and how I consume it.

One girl I follow on social media, Lauren Singer, has been my main inspiration for transitioning to a waste-free lifestyle. What does that mean? To me, that means learning ways to produce less waste and live more naturally – not because I’m turning into a hippie, but because being mindful of my consumption is leading me to a healthier way of living.

How do I do that? I’m starting by taking baby steps. After I’m finished with my current plastic toothbrush I plan to buy bamboo toothbrushes, which break down much faster than plastic. I am also using bar soap for my face and body. Bar soap requires less packaging than body wash or other liquid soap, and can also be more beneficial for the skin if it contains natural ingredients. A third step is changing out my plastic razors for a stainless steel safety razor. That is my most recent purchase, and I have to say I’ve actually enjoyed the progress of learning how to use it.

Not all of the change is fun, however. In addition to using bar soap for my skin, I have also started using a shampoo bar for my hair. For the last six weeks, my hair has been one greasy mess as the residual silicone and chemicals from drugstore shampoo have slowly disappeared. In their place, my body is having to re-train itself on how much oil it produces to regulate my hair. One thing that has helped with this is rinsing my hair with lemon juice on occasion; it functions as a conditioner as well as a way to cut through the grease. Showering in the morning has also been very helpful, instead of going to bed with wet hair (although I’m usually a night-shower-er, so that’s really weird for me!).

The most challenging and probably most tedious next step for me will be reducing my food waste. I find it much more convenient, and often cheaper, to buy frozen vegetables in plastic packaging than buying fresh ones and cutting them up and potentially having to throw them out because I didn’t eat them quickly enough. I also don’t like cooking and meal-planning in general, so my journey with eating habits has always been a difficult one. I hope to remedy this by developing more consistent routines with meal-planning, and perhaps even utilizing the local farmers’ market more.

I still live pretty wastefully, so when I say I’m taking baby steps I mean really baby steps. I imagine it will take many months for me to transition to where I want to be, but it starts with becoming a conscious consumer and growing from there.

Taking Care of Debt By Taking Care of Myself

As shared in my previous post, my goal for 2018 is to be debt free by December 1. Throughout the year I will be focusing not only on financial freedom, but also overall wellness. Taking care of myself will help me achieve my goals in a healthy way.

I am mindful of my health this year, since I want to put money toward debt rather than emergency expenses. As such, for the month of January I am working on developing routines to help keep my body healthy.

I have been doing 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene via her YouTube channel, and after January I am planning to continue a consistent yoga practice several times per week. It is not only great for improving the body’s strength and flexibility, but also for calming and focusing the mind. I don’t love working out, but yoga takes the focus away from working out and instead directs it to being well overall.

This winter, I am developing a nightly routine of making tea (it’s actually a concoction of cinnamon, honey, and hot water). These ingredients are loaded with antioxidants that help fight bacteria to keep the body healthy. I’m finding it helpful during the cold months. Plus it’s also a cozy way to end the day.

After tea, I do oil-pulling with coconut oil to enhance my dental health. Recently I began noticing some sensitivity in my gums, but the oil pulling has helped clear out any bacteria as well as eliminate the discomfort.

Before going to sleep at night, I wind down by doing a bit of reading. I’m aiming to read 15 books this year, and I keep track using the GoodReads app. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve discovered some interesting books. Reading helps keep my mind alive.

I still have trouble sleeping sometimes. I used to struggle with really bad insomnia, and I still awaken several times at night, but I am thankfully able to go back to sleep. I use a sleep-tracker app to help maintain an awareness of how I’m doing, and I will say that having a daily and nightly routine has helped tremendously.

As I start the morning, I usually drink hot water. I don’t have much desire for coffee or tea, but it is a welcome treat on occasion. I really do love the warmth of hot water in the cold weather. It helps me ease me awake as I begin working.

I’ve discovered that developing healthy routines has helped nurture a spirit of contentment in my being. And while I’m ambitious about the future, I’m also learning to become one with the moment I’m in. And it’s even okay if my plans or goals change, because I’m satisfied with the now. It’s all I’ve got, and I’m loving it.

Social Life After College

I’ve often reflected on humans’ basic need for community, and tried to brainstorm how I can best develop my own community of people around me.

I hear it’s easier to make friends in college than post-college because you’re going to class every day with people you have things in common with, be it age, major, etc. I can see truth in this. Personally, though, I felt pretty lonely in college because there were very few people I felt I could really connect with. Yes, several friendships I have today are ones I cultivated in college, but most of them are with people I didn’t even share classes with.

In the south where I live, the “thing” to do as an adult is join a small group or Bible study. I am definitely a fan of being active in one’s faith as well as finding like-minded people. Many times, however, a Bible study is not where one feels they can connect with people on their most personal level. I have experienced social relationships from work, game nights, or other contexts where I can reveal different sides of myself to different people. Not in the sense of being deceptive, but in the sense of being a human with multiple dimensions.

The challenge is finding a community of people where you can be your most authentic self. And that evolves over time, especially during big changes such as a job transition, moving to a different location, etc. It’s always frustrating to be in a transition time of any sort. Because transitions can coincide with a lack of depth. And lack of depth is isolating.

Trapped in Education

“I could just run away,” I thought to myself, “yet I’d still feel a need to finish my homework first.” -my brain between classes as I looked out a window to the campus below.

It’s amazing how different it feels walking on a school campus after graduation in comparison to before. I wander the brick pavement, taking my time, while students rush around me to class. I can finally relax because I’m on the outside looking in.

As a student, the stress of never being done gnawed away at my soul. There was always another assignment, always more reading material, always something exhausting my mental energy. There was no relishing in what I learned because I always had more to do. Even times of rest were laden with the knowledge I would have to get back to work soon. There was no clocking out until suddenly everything ended for break.

When people say school prepares you for life, I suppose they are referring to stereotypical 70-hours-per-week jobs. The ones where you wear a suit and stay late out of a need for constant busyness and endless production. I am not envious of them. People say school (college years) are the best years of your life, but I have never been more relieved to not have homework looming over my head.

Too often we trap young people in constant to-do lists that probably prohibit their growth rather than aid it. This can happen in adulthood too, but adults tend to have a little more control over it. I empathize with young people who are still bound by academic responsibilities. And while I am a huge advocate for learning and growing, I am so glad to not be in a formal school setting anymore.

In my limited life experience, I find I much prefer independent adulthood than the stress of student-hood/childhood. Going through high school and college was mentally and emotionally draining, not just because of the endless cognitive workload, but also because of the development that was happening within my own body and brain. Life is still immensely draining now, but I feel much more equipped to handle it now that I don’t have homework to worry about.

My Money-Awareness Tricks

Everyone’s financial situation is different. These are some things I do as part of being aware of my spending and developing responsibility.

  • Save $2. Don’t use the dryer unless absolutely necessary.

    I don’t own a washer or a dryer, so sometimes I will use public laundry facilities. However, it’s even better when you have friends who will let you borrow their washers and dryers. If you have enough friends who have their own, you can rotate whose you borrow so it won’t be an issue. Plus they smell much better than the smoky public ones.

  • Use amazonsmile.com. Donate to charity when you shop.

    Not really a money-saving trick, but something good to do.

  • Have multiple savings accounts like a student account.

    I opened accounts at a new bank when I began college. I had one checking and one savings. The savings account was one I couldn’t withdraw from unless I went to the bank personally, simply because it was a student savings account. After graduating, I still kept that account open while creating another savings account without the student status. Having the two savings accounts has helped me because the student one is “locked up” until I physically go in and permit the withdrawal of money. It creates another layer of conscientiousness about where and how I’m using money.

  • Use a budgeting app like Mint.

  • Make a list of household items you want to buy – underwear, trash can, Windex…

    Break up the list to small monthly purchases. I once set aside $12 to purchase a really nice wastebasket. Two years later I still have it and love it.

  • Buy name brand jeans at Goodwill.

  • Host a clothing swap.

    One of my friends did this: Get a group of friends together for a “party” where everyone brings unwanted clothing items. You basically get to go shopping in your living room, and whatever is left over goes to Goodwill.

  • Christmas/birthday money goes toward debt.

  • Tax return goes toward emergency purchases or debt.

  • “Fun money” goes toward things like trying new shampoo or lotion.

    I used to not buy lotion because it seems frivolous to me. I still rarely buy it, but when I do it is a luxury, and I try to get a different kind of lotion every time so it seems new and exciting.

  • Host potlucks

    Great for spending time with friends and eating a full meal for a low cost.

  • Create wish lists for different stores; then you know how to break down gift cards when you receive them.

  • Don’t buy anything you can borrow from the library.

  • Invest in a microwave.

  • Save on heat; buy microwaveable body wrap.

    In the cold times I heat it up and put it under the covers at the foot of my bed. It helps to keep me warm so I can fall asleep.

  • Buy cheap disposable razors; spend an average of $4 per month.

    Not the most environmentally friendly option, but I hear of other people spending up to $10 per month on razor blades. If I can make a razor last the whole month before it gets dull or icky, then it’s really only like spending $2 per month.

Creating an Ideal Day

I often think of things I wish I could accomplish in a given day if I could only muster the motivation to do them. Sometimes they are even things I enjoy doing but haven’t developed the discipline for turning them into regular habits. Therefore, I have decided to list tasks I would love to accomplish in my ideal day:

  • Write in my blog/practice writing in general
  • Read 50 pages or so in any given book
  • Devote time to a yoga practice
  • Practice harp/work on reading music
  • Draw
  • Work on quilt or some craft project
  • Write to a friend
  • Create (bake) something in the kitchen
  • Practice singing
  • Clean/organize something around the house
  • Devote time to spiritual reflection/reading/prayer
  • Bask in sunshine

Last year I had made a list of goals (resolutions, perhaps) which I did not accomplish in 12 months time, other than reading 15 books and cleaning out my car (for I had to get rid of it). This year I want to focus on furthering my self care routines. Since one of the most common New Year’s resolutions this year is to “become a better person,” which is ridiculously vague, I have decided to create my own goals to strive for and grow into.

My list above is not one I can realistically expect to complete daily; however, it helps to outline my ideal day. Because of this, I have something tangible to work toward in making every day an ideal day, whether I complete the list or not.

 

 

How I Define Success

That which is simply defined is often simply achieved, which is why I believe that for the definition of success to be encompassed in a single sentence would not be doing the word justice. At least, not to the satisfaction of the people who want to understand it.

If I were to define success as making lots of money – well, it’s simple to make lots of money. Now, if I defined success as obtaining lots of money by legal and ethical means as well as continuing to obtain money in such way, that becomes a little more complicated.

Success is a huge buzzword in the western world, especially now because people’s perception of its definition is changing drastically from what it used to be. I heard someone recently refer to success as “getting out of it what you put in.” I prefer to view success as the act of finding fulfillment by enriching one’s life as well as the lives of others.

There are many avenues by which mankind can find fulfillment. In my limited life experience, I have come to learn that there are various dimensions of wellness: physical, mental, spiritual, financial, to name a few. I believe the more we pursue wellness for ourselves, the more enrichment we find in life, therefore allowing us to pour that enrichment into other people.

Beware of trying to find fulfillment in one single, earthly source. If you believe fulfillment comes solely from a supernatural source – be it the universe, God, something greater than ourselves, etc. – cool. If, however, you look to a single finite element as your source, you will find yourself wanting. Money cannot buy love. A lover cannot provide unlimited happiness. Self-awareness does not equal self-improvement. Where one dimension of wellness suffers, they all suffer, which is why finding balance in life is important.

To me, being successful looks like becoming debt-free, finding an enjoyable-yet-sustainable source of income, developing more healthy relationships, replacing the sugar in my diet with more natural foods, maintaining an exercise routine through which I can achieve certain fitness goals, stimulating my emotional and intellectual growth, and deepening my faith.

In my mind, I have not yet “achieved success,” but I am on my way to becoming successful.