There once was a time in my life where every 20 minute increment of time was accounted for. I planned out my days to allow for work, school, dinner with my family and sometimes a few minutes of free time if I stayed on task throughout the day. You see I worked a 40 hour workweek while taking 18 (sometimes 21) credit hours maintaining a 3.8 GPA average. I was extremely driven. To do this, I had absolutely no room for error, no room for idle thoughts of spontaneity and not much “me” time. I was a machine that hardly allowed myself to feel. I would squeeze some “me” time in while driving to school or work and my thoughts would occasionally roam to wonder what I would do with myself if I didn’t have this arduous schedule of life that I’d committed myself to. If I only had an extra hour in the day I’d be able to take up yoga. If I had an extra 30 minutes I could read more. If I had an extra day in the week I could spend more time with my family.
Time became such a commodity in my life that it was worth more than money. I became a workhorse to this system I created of work, study, sleep, and no play.
While I had a bit of “me” time one evening, I picked up this picture book my mom had of Airstream trailers back in the day going on big adventures sometimes with 50 trailers all together. There was one photo of a woman applying lipstick in the reflection of the aluminum siding of her trailer and I just couldn’t fathom a life of freedom like that. These people could go wherever they wanted, spend as long as they wanted enjoying each location and look glamorous in the process thanks to a shiny wall and lipstick.
Fast forward 8 years and that’s my life, minus the lipstick.
I woke up this morning and we had ice covering our windows. All of the water had frozen overnight and there was a thin layer of mist on the horizon causing the trees to stand out in the most beautiful haze I’d seen in a long while. I stood out in the field listening to the grass move in the wind. There was no other sound.
Back then, my idea of quiet was a study room in a library or my car bumping along the road in between work and school. Back then, I didn’t give a sunset or sunrise more than a passing glance because I simply didn’t have time. Back then, I cared more about progressing myself through the academic and professional system more than my own personal health and sanity. Back then, I didn’t have a lot of compassion or extra love to spare to strangers or time to give to a friend in need.
The odd thing was, people congratulated me on how focused on my career I was or how driven I was to accomplish what I was working for. I had people pride me in the way I managed my time down to the last 20 minutes. I thought I had it all figured out in the world because I had the praise of certain people I deemed important.
I wasn’t happy and no one asked. No one asked if I felt like I was doing the right thing. No one asked if I staying healthy through it all or getting enough sleep because those aren’t questions we’re meant to want to know the answer to. We simply see what we want to see.
Now, you may see two vagabonds living in an RV. But what I see is two healthy people in love with dirt from days well spent climbing and hiking living in our dream home. Money comes and money goes, we’ll work when we need it and travel when we don’t.
8 years later from that time in my life when success in academia and my career meant everything to me, I can honestly say I am happy. I feel fulfilled at the end of the day not because I went to school, work, and did all my homework but because the day was mine. It was all mine and I spent it with this commodity of time exactly how I wanted to.
As we’re rolling into the New Year and are contemplating New Year’s Resolutions, I ask you one simple question – Are you happy?
Happiness is one of the few “things” we are in control of that is all ours. Happiness isn’t a moment in life when you have the house, car and credit card debt paid off. It’s not when you find your dream partner. It’s not when you find the perfect job or the perfect community to live in. Happiness isn’t perfect, it’s just a way to see the world.
I urge you, I beg you, if you aren’t stoked on the life you’re living – do something about it. Maybe it’s something little that brings you true joy or maybe it’s a monumental life change. Either way, don’t let yourself fall short. You deserve every bit of sunshine and joy that life has to give. It’s yours to take, all you have to do is reach out and grasp it. When you hold on to what makes you smile, never ever let that go.
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