Why do we live like we do? Is it because it works for us or is it just habit? With rising levels of debt, depression and inequality: our lifestyles clearly aren’t working for many of us. I believe that more people need to actively choose how they live in order to be happy. I also believe that we have a responsibility to live in a way that doesn’t damage other peoples lives or degrade the environment (therefore damaging other people’s lives).
If you’re reading this you must have internet access and probably a roof over your head. Relative to most of the world, you’re in a really privileged position. There’s no excuse for staying in a job you hate, a relationship that drains you, and a lifestyle that leaves you unhealthy, broke and miserable. It’s time to challenge the status quo, it’s time to live differently.
The internet is your most valuable resource in planning your ideal life. You can find out about, and talk to, loads of amazing people who’ve done really amazing things. I’m constantly inspired by other bloggers. By people such as Amber Rae, Jon Morrow, Phil Drolet, Tammy Strobel, Colin Wright and Sarah Kathleen Peck.
It’s often a struggle for me to question things because I’m naturally a rule-follower and a people pleaser, but my most rewarding experiences have come about when I’ve taken a risk and done the ‘different’ often ‘unsensible’ thing.
When I spent six months away from friends, family and home comforts volunteering in India after university, instead of joining the scrabble for internships and masters places. I learnt more about myself than I had in the past three years of studying, met some really extraordinary people, and loved exploring a new place and immersing myself in a new culture.
When I moved to a new town for “just” a part time job. I quickly learnt to budget, I got really good at turning up at (and enjoying) parties where I didn’t know anyone, and I made some really great friends.
When I refused to settle, leaving a perfectly adequate permanent job and regular paycheck for a short term contract with an organisation I admired. I feel more fulfilled with my job, met some awesome people (noticing a trend here?) and actually have now been made permanent, so the gamble paid off.
When I make the effort to make things myself instead of buying them. Friends and family get more excited over a hand made personalised birthday card or present, making gift giving so much more rewarding. This Christmas my Nain (Grandma) didn’t realise at first that I had crocheted her new scarf, and once she did, couldn’t stop gushing about how neat and professional it looked. It was a bit embarrassing, but mostly just nice.
When I resist the urge to plan every day of our travels. Usually it’s the crazy spontaneous plans that make the best memories. In October 2011, my boyfriend and were in South Africa. We were in Durban, and had hired a car to explore the area before we caught a flight to Cape Town and did a similar thing there. On a whim, we decided to drive to Cape Town instead (a cross-country trip of 1000+ miles). Everyone thought we were crazy, but I saw so much more of the country than I would otherwise had done and had the adventure of a lifetime.
I also think it’s important to question the small habits. Sometimes going without a little thing you once considered necessary can have quite an impact on your bank balance, your peace of mind or the environment. Inspired by Miss Minimalist’s One Less Thing series, I’ve been experimenting to discover what I can live without.
One of these things has been nail varnish. While at first my feet looked weird without brightly coloured toes, after a year without I have no inclination to go back to painting them. I can’t really say that this has had any major impact on my life, but it was an interesting challenge when I considered red finger and toenails to be part of my identity. Learning to go without reinforces the truth that we are more than our nail colour/clothes/make-up/car/music collection (whichever may be appropriate to you).
Personal happiness can too often be seen as a selfish pursuit in a world full of inequality. But we shouldn’t be embarrassed about needing to life a rewarding life: we only get one and sometimes we need to put ourselves first. Only then can we think about making the world a better place for others.
How are you challenging yourself to live an extraordinary life?