I started 2016 thoroughly and utterly entrenched in a rut – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Life had kicked the shit out of me and here I sat battered and bruised, trying to catch my breath and make some sense of what was swirling around me. I was at (what I thought to be) the end of my Life’s Venture. Things had not turned out the way I thought they would, in fact, nowhere near it.
I had managed to battle my way through the ups and downs of starting my very own First Business and now, as I flew back to Seattle after spending a week with my family for the holidays in the Midwest, my mind was clear and calm for the first time in months. As we soared over clouds and blue sky, I pulled out a notebook and started writing. Writing about what to do next, who to be next, what got me to where I was, and what will get me to where I want to be – I asked myself, “Hey Claire, how’s it going? …So what do you want to do?”
I had come to realize that I had been naive, under-funded, and pretty much entirely on my own (for better or for worse) in the business venture – not the best situation to be in but I sure did learn a lot. And now I had to decide what my next steps were going to look like. I came to the answer as I wrote on; “Put your health and happiness first.” But what exactly did that mean?
“Put your health and happiness first.”
I threw out some suggestions like cooking school, travel, reading, art, knitting – finally opening up that Etsy shop with my mom that we’d been talking about for ages. I had watched some interesting TED Talks while I was home for the holidays, listlessly posted up on my parent’s couch. The playlist had been titled, “Talks to watch when you don’t know what to do with your life”. How appropriate.
The last video in the list was Stefan Sagmeister’s The Power of Time Off. In it, he talks about how he’s created a life in which he takes a few years off of his retirement years and intersperses them into his working years. Every 7 years or so, he says adios to work and takes a year off – a “sabbatical year.” He reads, writes, travels, and dreams. He gives himself mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual space to explore old and new ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Navel-gazing, as some would call it.
I told myself as I wrote, “You don’t need to do anything revolutionary.” Funny thing is, though, it wasn’t until recently did I realize that giving myself the gift of time, the gift of self-attention, and the gift of “navel-gazing” was actually a revolutionary act in itself.
“You don’t need to do anything revolutionary.”
We live in a culture in which it is expected that you embrace and fulfill the expectations of those around you. Especially for those who are coming from poorer backgrounds, we represent the culmination of our parents’ (and our parents’ parents’) hopes, dreams, and struggles. “We went through hell to give you this life of opportunity,” they say. “You better be glad that I’m not my mother,” they insist. “I’ve worked hard to give you this life, so you need to move away, go to a good school, and get a good job to show that all my effort has not been in vain.”
I had never taken a year off, hell, I had not even had a summer off since age 15. I started working that summer between 9th and 10th grade because that was, of course, what was expected of me. I once joked to a friend in college that my time during the school year was my “time off,” not my summers. My summers were when I worked my ass off. One summer in college, I remember working 3 different jobs while also going to German classes at the University of Cincinnati. So much for summer “breaks.”
The question on my mind as I sat writing was, “What do I have to prove?” Why couldn’t I put my health and happiness first? So that’s just what I did: I decided to cleanse and purify my life, reducing it down to the essentials. I needed to consolidate and de-clutter my life. I wanted to get rid of all of the physical, intangible, and emotional baggage that was weighing me down and getting in the way of me being the best version of me.
And so I set out on the journey of a lifetime; learning, reading, and absorbing everything on the way to becoming mindful, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. We are human becomings, not just human beings. I now see everything as a learning opportunity and I am constantly on the look out for new books, people, and ideas. And I would like to share what I’ve found out with you guys.
“We are human becomings, not just human beings.”
I’ve decided to start writing about my journey and the process of becoming self-aware. I’ve come across so many good books, articles, TED Talks, and the like that I can’t seem to stop talking about with everyone that I run into nowadays. I find myself continually recommending this book or that book, sharing articles on Facebook, or sending emails with links.
I will try to focus on one book (or topic) a month, so please stay tuned for some mind-blowing content. I sincerely hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have.