30 Days of No Shopping.

Spoiler alert: I like to shop. Similar to a lot of people with shopping problems I like to find deals. As I have stated previously, I love the hunt, to dig through the racks of vintage or used clothes and find cheap treasures that otherwise would have cost me a small fortune. The irony is that I spend money on things I do not need or sometimes do not even particularly like because I think I am saving money….. The problem with shopping-especially thrifting-is that I wind up with a bunch of excess items because they were a “good deal” or I saw something cute and felt I might “regret it” later if I didn’t buy it. The photo above is a great example of a thrift find I purchased because I worried I would regret it if I did not buy a white sequined dress from the sixties, you know, a very reasonable closet must….

There are things that do not go together like toothpaste and orange juice or minimalism and a shopping problem. I recognize that in order to work towards a more minimal and meaningful life I have to give up some stuff, literally give it away and get rid of it. There are mental things that weigh me down but also a lot of physical things, like clothes. Clothes for me is the biggest issue, it always has been. I buy items to fit the person I want to be instead of the person I am. Fit is both literal and figurative. Clothes I buy can be for the size I wish I was as well as for the personality I wish I had. I will see some bohemian goddess wearing a floral jumpsuit and I go hunting for a floral jumpsuit because I want to be a bohemian even though I do not really like jumpsuits. It is almost as if I forget that just because I wear the outfit of a bohemian goddess does not make me one. Just like wearing a pantsuit does not make me Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or wearing crop tops with heels make me Jonathan Van Ness. My ultimate goal is to stop and figure out my style and only buy what fits my current body and what I actually like and need, but for now I just need to take a step back and just stop buying altogether.

These next 30 days I will not be buying any unnecessary items. These include:

  1. Clothes, obviously.
  2. Home Items: artwork, dishware, linens, knick-knacks, furniture, etc.
  3. Fast Food.
  4. Beauty products: Duplicate make-up, nail polish, face-masks, etc. (This does not including needs like shampoo, sunscreen, or toothpaste if they run out).
  5. Media: Books, movies, apps, etc.
  6. Misc: Soveniers, candles, or any other items I see at TJ Maxx and convince myself I need to have…

Things that I am allowed to buy are necessities like shampoo or the items mentioned above, groceries, or gas. Other things that are not included are experiences. Paul decided to join me for this 30 day challenge and we agreed to not exclude experiences as part of the 30 day no-buy. This includes going out to eat or drink (if with friends), concerts/live shows, movies in the theatre, surfing/snowboarding, and weekend getaways. We gave ourselves a pass because we have a friend’s birthday coming up that includes a weekend getaway and the whole purpose of this shopping ban is to stop buying frivolous things. I believe spending time with people you love and spending money on experiences over things is not frivolous, it’s valuable.

This 30 day ban is really going to test me. When I feel sad or stressed I go to thrifts shops and wander around, buy things and then it makes me feel better. This is the reason shopping can be an addiction. It gives you a pick-me-up, a feeling of euphoria until the second you get home and realize how much you spent. Then the guilt comes calling. The same is true for thrifting. Am I really saving money if I am buying things I don’t really need? If we are not testing and pushing ourselves then we don’t grow. So in the next 30 days I fully expect to grow like a redwood.

It’s the End of the Year as We Know It… and I Feel Fine.

Daibutsu (giant Buddha) in Kamakura, Japan

December is the bookend month. The month to reflect the months before it. The close of the year. For me, it also represents another year around the sun, also known as: My birthday. Like a new years resolution, every year I promise myself that I am going to do something great by the time the next birthday comes around. I vow to run a marathon, write a book, learn Mandarin, land my dream job, etc. Then comes December and I am hit with a gut full of regret, feeling like I wasted the year before me, wishing I could start again from the beginning. Birthdays and the end of the year are a reminder for me that I am not where I thought I would be- where I want to be. 

Reflecting on this last year I can get stuck on the things I have not done, but if I pause my worries and let myself reflect deep enough, I see baby steps toward the things I have done-the changes I have made towards my goals. I started a blog this year. This has been a teeny tiny step in allowing me the space to write my thoughts, as well as keep me (semi) on a writing schedule. I did not run a marathon, but I trained this year and was able to run my fastest mile ever. I did not learn Mandarin, but I traveled to China two times since my last birthday and that is when I figured out that Mandarin was the language that wanted to speak and I found online lessons for when I am ready. I did not land my dream job, but I quit a job that was unsatisfying and took a chance on a job more rewarding and is pushing me out of my comfort zone; teaching me skills that will benefit me for the next step in my work career. 

I can beat myself up over the fact that I did not complete all the things I wanted to accomplish, or I can acknowledge that overall I had a pretty great year and did a bunch of different things that I enjoyed and that pushed me to be better. I get caught up in what I am “supposed” to be doing by accounts of what Pinterest and social media quotes think I should be. Pins and Posts tells me to “follow your bliss” and “find your passion”, but what if I have no idea what my bliss or passions are? What if my bliss is just a day at work where I do not have a panic attack? What if my passion is laying in bed with my dog, eating cookies, and watching re-runs of The Golden Girls? The “follow your passion” mentality is such horse shit, to put it kindly. No one is constantly passionate about what they do, even if they say they love it. I enjoy writing, but sometimes it makes me want to bang my head against a wall and I feel insecure posting my “white girl problems” for the world to judge. Even people with the best jobs and lives have hard days-it just is not something that gets advertised.

Recently, my husband, Paul and I were taking a drive, which is usually when we have our deepest discussions. We were chatting about life in general when I brought up the fact that I felt stuck. 

“Everyone else seems to be happy and capable of pursuing multiple things and I can barely take a shower without feeling exhausted and spend most of my time working a job that gives my more grief than joy, instead of following my passion and going on adventures. Just seems compared to everyone else, I am lost, and it makes me feel inadequate and unhappy,” I complained. 

He did not even pause before replying matter-of-factly, “Of course you are unhappy. How can anyone actually be happy with these ridiculous expectations we have created-as a society-for ourselves? We are constantly told that we have to buy more and be more. Living outside our means, up to our eyeballs in debt, trying to chase the lifestyle we are told we “deserve”. Just to prove to people that our lives are impressive. Who can be happy forever chasing the unattainable?” 

I nodded, reflecting on his words. “I feel like I am forever trying to be someone I do not have the capacity to be in order to have feel like I have a fulfilling life.” 

I may never be the person who wakes up when the sun rises to workout, who can wear a white shirt without getting some part of my lunch spilt on it, or who has the energy, money, or photo editing abilities to make my life appear like it is put together. Most likely, I will never be more than middle class. Which is a blessing in itself to be middle class, but will mean my house will not end up in a magazine, I will not find the cure for cancer, and my vacations will not be to the Maldives. That does not mean that my life does not have value or that I will be deprived of happiness. 

Why is happiness and passion the ghosts we are always chasing? As if happiness and passion are concrete instead of fleeting; as if it can actually be bought. It is seen as a destination instead of a product of a well-lived life. If you go out and interview thousands of people on the streets, asking them what they wanted most out of life, I bet you they would reply with “to be happy” (or to be rich, which they think will make them happy). Yet, each person defines “happy” differently. Reading makes me feel happy, but to Paul it is misery. Golfing makes him feel happy, but it is one of the last things I want to spend my day doing. It is assumed once we get to the state of “happiness” that life halts. That’s it, we made it, and we no longer have to try. The pursuit of happiness is future oriented. I catch myself saying, “once Paul is out of school and we have more money and time together, then I will be happy” or “once I land my dream job that I am passionate about, then I will be happy.” If we are always happy then it loses its magic. Like daylight savings, we spend the winter praying for summer and revel in the light once it comes, but if it were light all the time, we would become desensitized and would take it for granted.

So my goal for this next year around the sun is to stop pining and punishing myself for not having the life I wish I had and to stop waiting to be happy. Instead of trying to “find my bliss” I am going to work hard towards things that bring meaning to mine and others’ lives. Hopefully when I look back next year I will have made progress curating the life I want and will also have no “ragrets.”


30 Days Social Media Free

socialmedia

For the whole month of November, 2018 I took a hiatus from social media. For the past year it has become increasingly obvious that I had a problem with overusing social media apps and they in turn, wreaking havoc on my mental health. The moment I opened my eyes in the morning I would reach for my phone and just start scrolling. I put off chores, workouts, and other obligations in lieu of watching people post pictures of their breakfast or post about their 5th pregnancy. At night, I would turn the lights off and stick my head under the covers (so my husband would not see the light from my screen) and keep scrolling until I passed out (phone still in hand). I constantly woke up feeling tired, unrefreshed, and my mood and self-esteem were consistently low.

I did not make the connection that the reason for my fatigue and mental “fog” was due to my overuse. The blue-light screen plus hours of viewing other people’s lives instead of living my own is a potent combination. The weekend would come and I would have plans to clean, take the dog to the park, or have brunch with friends and instead would get sucked into my phone and then half the day would be gone. I would also find myself in despair after seeing all the exciting things people posted about their lives, homes, travels, and then I would feel inadequate about my own. Instead of getting off the couch and feeling inspired to create a life that I wanted, I would feel discouraged and spend the rest of the day moping around thinking “My life is never going to be that good, so why even try?”

The most memorable comparison I recall was being in Shanghai, China and was scrolling through social media and saw someone was in Patagonia, Chile and I thought to myself: “Wow, I wish I was there.” I was in the arguably the most vibrant, exciting city in the world and yet I was longing to be somewhere else just because someone posted how incredible their trip was going. Not to mention I was spending my trip on social media instead of soaking in the present city. I had to scold myself when I realized I was jealous of a person I barely knew’s trip when I was on a trip some people will only ever dream of.

That is when I decided I had enough. I decided to put a stop to feeding my spirit with things that were causing more harm than benefit. I decided for 30 days I was going to end the cycle of abuse I created for myself. I decided for the month of November to delete all my social media apps (including Pinterest and Poshmark, both of which I spent hours mindlessly scrolling through) off my phone and to not use them at all for 30 days.

The first week was the hardest for me. At night I wanted to come home from work and escape with social media. I went on a trip to Seattle the second week and had to stop myself from putting the photos I took on my feed. In the first two weeks, I constantly felt “the itch”. The itch was the feeling of need to reach for my phone and click onto my apps, which occurred multiple times a day. My hand felt almost naked without a phone in it (however, my thumb pain from scrolling improved). It was a habit I created that did not want to die.

Finally, around week two, I started noticing the benefits. I was sleeping better and waking up more refreshed, because previously I was up odd hours of the night on my phone. I started to feel less despondent about my life and more grateful. I really did not have a lot to compare it to so the choices I made or the things I experienced were not influenced by what the rest of the world was doing. I was more present with my husband and friends because I was not too busy playing on my phone. By the last week, I did not even miss being on social media. There are still apps I currently have not logged into since I deleted them.

Social Media, like most things, has its perks and flaws. Its perks are that is allows us to stay connected with the people we love, to market businesses, to share art, to meet new people, etc. Its flaws are that it keeps us from enjoying the present, distracts us from getting things done, encourages us to compare ourselves to others, to buy more things, and it promotes FOMO (fear of missing out) when we see with one click what everyone else is doing at that exact moment and wish we were there instead of here.

Life is not always sitting on a beach in Cancun, drinking margaritas topless. Sometimes it is standing in the messy kitchen, wishing for a nap, but instead yelling at your dog to stop barking, threatening that if he does it one more time you are going to throw him in the street. Sometimes it is sitting in your cubicle at work all day, trying to get through the hours so you can go home, flop on the couch and scroll through Netflix. Life is not always glamorous. For the most part it is not social media worthy. So why do we make it seem like it is?

Seems to be so much effort to make it look like life is a constant orgasm. We buy things we cannot afford to make it seems like our lives are more luxurious than they are. We travel places only to take pictures to show others that we went there and to make them jealous that they are not. We spend our time editing, brightening, styling, and cropping our lives so that they fit in a tiny square photo waiting to get approval from others by the amount of “likes” received

It is okay that sometimes I spend Friday nights watching television with my husband on the couch while other people are out at concerts, dancing and drinking with their friends. It is okay that I am not always #livingmybestlife and am riddled with anxiety and my house is a mess and I have a pimple the size of Texas on my chin while at the same time other people are in Spain on a yacht, making love to a buff guy named Enrique. It is okay because it is my life- real life. Sometimes real life is just okay, and that’s okay. Frankly, I am just glad to finally be living it.