For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the mentality that “once ___ happens, then I’ll be happy”.
Once I graduate high school, then I’ll be able to live the life I want.
Once I’m done with college and have a career, then my life will really start.
Once I meet the right person, I’ll be all set and I can stop stressing all the time.
Once I get out of this town, I’ll finally be happy.
I’ve heard it said for marriage and having kids, too. Add retirement to that list and basically we can assume that we’ll never be happy as long as we’re attaching our happiness to some external event or achievement.
I’ve known that this was a bad mentality for awhile, but that didn’t change the fact that I still felt that way. I still wasn’t happy in my day to day life, and I felt my life was lacking until I could just get that next thing I wanted.
But, I’m pleased to say that I no longer think my life is lacking. In fact I really like my life and I think it’s pretty awesome. I often take moments to appreciate it and I feel what I would describe as true happiness and gratitude. In fact, something less-than-great happened recently, and yet despite feeling a decent amount of sadness about it, I have also continued to feel gratitude for all the other areas of my life that are majorly winning right now.
What comes first, appreciation or awesomeness?
I don’t know. I don’t know where to pinpoint when my life started being awesome and when I started realizing it. Did the awesomeness increase once I started appreciating what I already had? Or did my gratitude only grow once things started going my way?
I do know that practicing gratitude is something that completely changed my life, and I can credit implementing that practice to my religious conversion a year or so ago.
But something that also changed was that I took my life into my own hands and made the changes I wanted. There was a time a few years back when I realized I didn’t have any hobbies anymore. How did that even happen? It was a sad thing to realize. But even once I did, I couldn’t bring myself to start any again, because none of them seemed appealing.
I wish I could say how I found interest in them again, but I honestly don’t remember. Did I just start doing them and fake it til I made it? Maybe.
I now play piano often, and I get so much satisfaction and self-worth from the progress I make. I have been learning Spanish on Duolingo for probably a year now, and just recently started reading some Spanish texts using Readlang (I highly recommend both of these, and they are free!) I’m in a book club now, and reading more. I’m following some interests via blogs and subreddits (like minimalism, veganism, and tiny houses) and I started blogging again! It feels great to be learning and exercising that part of my brain. I have such a love for learning that I almost forgot I had.
I live at home with my parents and my dog, in small town Iowa. For years I was ashamed to admit that. For years I craved the excitement of life in the big city and all the lights and noise and expenses that come with that lifestyle. Now that’s the furthest thing from what I want.
Meeting more people in town and making friends and joining different groups (church, a group for Young Professionals, book club) and going to events (the local radio show’s monthly cooking demo, the farmer’s market) has given me a new appreciation for this little town of mine. Plus I’ve gotten closer with friends here, who are literally incredibly amazing. I am so grateful for them, and I have no idea how I am lucky enough to have them in my life.
With the exception of a couple people who were out of town for awhile, all these people, events, groups, and hobbies have been here, this whole time. What changed is me.
I’m already living my life
I used to be so caught up on reaching my destinations, I completely forgot to enjoy the journey. It’s not even that I forgot, I just didn’t find the journey appealing. But now I do.
I still don’t have “a career”. I’m not dating anyone. I have no idea what my life will look like a month from now let alone five years down the road. Uncertainties which once made me uneasy are now just a part of life that will happen when they happen, if they happen, and I’m sure they’ll be great. And if they’re not, I’ll change them.
I can finally say that I’m enjoying the journey, come what may. There are so many opportunities available in the world. I can take them if I want to.
But the other thing I realized, is that it’s okay that I usually don’t want to.
Mark Manson wrote an article called Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued. And what he said really resonated with basically everything I’ve ever “wanted”:
For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular.
But despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time to figure out why.
I didn’t actually want it.
There’s a reason I haven’t moved out of this town. There’s a reason I haven’t climbed some corporate ladder. There’s a reason I haven’t gone husband hunting and gotten myself some kiddos.
I don’t want to. Not right now, anyway. I’m totally open to the idea that some day I’ll want to move away or make some different life choices. But right now, those aren’t the things I want. And that’s okay.
The freedom that comes from letting go of the pressure to have these things is extraordinary.
Simple living isn’t mediocrity
Between my recent endeavors with minimalism and self-acceptance sans superficial accoutrements, I’ve really gotten into this simple living thing. I realized I can get by with so much less. That applies to what I spend my money on, but also what I spend my time, energy, and stress on.
For so long, I feared a life of mediocrity. There’s some quote about how a life of mediocrity is worse than failure. I’ve always lived a simple life (although I didn’t have the language to identify with that movement until recently), and I always mistook it as a life where I just didn’t do anything. I wasn’t really living.
The fact that I hadn’t traveled around Europe or gone the typical American route of the stressful 9-5 must have meant my life was lacking. Even the fact I couldn’t bring myself to wake up an hour earlier to curl my hair and put on false eyelashes meant that there was something seriously wrong with my priorities.
I can hardly type that sentence without laughing now.
This isn’t a life of mediocrity. It’s a life of meaning. It’s a life of simplicity. It’s a life that doesn’t drown out things of value with meaningless distractions.
It’s a life I love. It’s a life I’m grateful for. It’s a life I’m designing and perfecting as I go. And it’s completely okay that I don’t know where it leads. I kind of like it better that way.
What’s something you “should” want but don’t? Have you let go if it yet?