A friend of mine posted a quote from the Dalai Lama recently:
“The planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with ‘success’ as our culture is the set.”
I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to reach a certain level of financial success. When I was 20, I planned on being a millionaire by the time I was 30. I’ve been investing and planning business strategies since I was 19, and it’s not because I’ve wanted more material things. I have everything I need materially. I think it’s because I’ve always associated money with freedom.
I thought that if I had a million dollars then I would be totally free. I would never have to depend on anyone or any job ever again. I’m 33 now, and I’m not a millionaire. But by pursuing this financial freedom and success, I’ve kept myself trapped.
I’ve been a prisoner for the last 12 years to my income and insane schedule. I’ve given myself plenty of time to travel and play, but even while I was playing, I never quit pressuring myself. The feeling of not having enough, whether it’s enough money, enough love or enough freedom, follows me wherever I go.
Another one of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama says:
“Man… sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
I know this quote has made the rounds and may even sound a little cliché, but it has definitely been true for me.
There were several nights while I was working on the basement that I felt like I was slowly killing myself. I loved working on the project, and I love working hard. But as I sanded countertops at 1 am, exhausted with lungs full of sawdust, I thought, ‘this pace isn’t sustainable.’ The pace I’ve kept for the last decade isn’t sustainable, and if I do it for another 2 decades, it will probably kill me. If I’m thinking about sustainable building projects and agriculture, I first need to make sure that I’m able to sustain my own health and well-being!
Since I finished the basement, I’ve decided to take 2 days off a week from my work as an interpreter to rest and maybe spend more time writing. In the meantime, I’ve promised myself that I won’t worry about money. The fear comes and goes. When I start to panic, I just remind myself that I won’t starve. My family will feed me if I run out of money; I can always start working more again if I need to, and I’m trying to have a little faith, faith that something unexpected will emerge if I just calm down and stop running.
It’s funny to watch myself on my days off. I start by stretching or meditating, and then my list gets longer and longer with all the things I “should” be doing. Everything from calling a friend or family member, to doing the dishes, to re-painting my whole house. I’ll sit down and meditate for a few minutes, and then I give in and start researching properties in Roebuck or I look up third world countries or organic farms I could volunteer for. It’s funny how crazy our minds are. They really don’t like to be still.
I know there are plenty of people who don’t have the luxury to take this time for themselves. Every situation is so individual, and many people have kids or elderly parents that depend on them-just health insurance alone can be insanely expensive. And a lot of the world is truly just trying to survive.
But I also believe that we often have more choices than we realize. We get so busy doing what we’ve always done that we forget we have a choice. When I work 50 hours a week, I go on autopilot, and I have no energy left to consider other options.
There are plenty of millionaires who feel broke and unhappy, which tells me it’s probably not about the money. When I look back over the last decade, no matter how much money I was making or not making, I saved and invested about the same amount every month. And I spent the rest. In college, I lived on $500/ month, granted I lived at home and my parents covered my insurance, but even without a mortgage and insurance, it feels impossible to live on that amount now. It’s interesting to see how our lifestyles often adapt to our income, so I’m curious to see if by working less, I might just naturally spend less. Or my ego might decide that it wants to prove to me that it can’t be done, and a peaceful life isn’t possible, in which case I could rebel and spend even more! Either way, it should be an interesting experiment.
Deciding to work part-time was a hard decision, but it feels like an important decision. It feels like I’m taking responsibility for my life. By taking more time to be passive, I’m saying that I refuse to be passive about the life I choose for myself. I’m making a commitment to not just complain about the things in my life that I have the power to change.
To quote Omar Khayyam, “this moment is your life.” This dysfunctional, hyperactive, attention- deficit disordered life of mine, is mine, and I really love it! I hope you love yours too!