Why I Love My 9 to 5

A lot of minimalists seem to seek a “location independent” source of income.  And that’s totally cool.  I, on the other hand, have a “normal” 9 to 5 job.  I clock in between 8 and 8:30, clock out between 4 and 5.  And I love it.  Here’s why.

My job is pretty mundane by normal standards: I’m a glorified secretary (excuse me, administrative assistant) in the financial industry.  I enjoy my boss and am good friends with the two other women in the office.  Together we make the days go by (relatively) quickly and all leave the office behind mentally when we leave it physically.  I don’t have a work sponsored Smartphone, and I don’t know how to check my office email from anywhere but in the office.  I’m in a very happy place in the responsibility:income work ratio.  This is all a very lengthy way of saying that whenever I’m not in the office, my time and my focus are all my own.

This freedom lends itself well to my personality.  I tend to have “passion ADD.”  This year and last I’ve focused on training and racing triathlons.  The several years before that I spent quilting and knitting.  This is of course in addition to various and sundry other things I’ve dabbled in: photography, spinning, blogging, yoga, mixed media collaging, rock climbing, and other things along those lines.  For a long time every time I was interested in something I’d think “okay, I like x, how can I make it into a career?  How can I twist it into an income source?”  And I didn’t like that.  I was afraid that I would take something I enjoyed and make it black, put a stain on it, turn it into something I had to do, instead of something I enjoyed doing.

I came to realize that I wanted to keep my work and my life separate.  My job pays the bills and leaves something left over to fund my life (bike parts anyone?).  Because I don’t take my work home with me at the end of the day, I walk out of the office free and clear and ready to play.  On any given day that “play” could be running, biking, napping, going to the library, the movies, dinner with a girl friend.  It doesn’t matter.  It let’s me flit around to different interests and ideas without worrying where my next paycheck will come from.  If I decide I want to plow headlong into, I don’t know, hang gliding, I have 4 whole hours every evening and the entire weekend to do that.  And if next week hang gliding switches to tapestry weaving, I can easily make the switch.  I know my 401(k) will still be funded and my rent will still get paid.  My mind can rest easily while it picks its next whim from the hat.

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The Five Year Plan Revisited

I wanted to revisit yesterday’s post.  I think I may have missed Miss M’s point (this tends to happen to me a lot – please get used to it – I have!).  I think her and Mr. Babatua of zen habits have the same idea, but I understood it better when Mr. Babatua explained it here in his post entitled “The Best Goal is No Goal”:

What do you do, then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping and watching TV and eating Ho-Hos? No, you simply do. You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.

And in practice, this is a wonderful thing: you wake up and do what you’re passionate about.

Perhaps this is another way to look at it:  Have you ever heard the expression “Life is a journey, not a destination”?  Maybe what Miss M and Mr. Babatua are trying to say is that the goal is the destination, and thus not the point of it all.  And maybe the passion is the journey.  As long as you are passionate about what you do everyday, then where you end up isn’t important.  Who needs a five year plan when every day is filled with what you want to be doing right then?  You will have lived passionately.  And who could ask for more than that?  I think this quote sums it up well:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”     ~Howard Thurman

That’s my (non)goal: to do what makes me come alive.  And right now?  Today?  I think I did pretty well.

5 Year Plan? I Want a 5 Year Plan!

In my various minimalist readings, I came across a post by Miss Minimalist about drifting like clouds and flowing like water.  And I think I might have to disagree with her on her theme for the post.  Here’s an excerpt:

I want to live my “real life” the same way. Sometimes I think there’s much too emphasis on setting goals and planning futures and reaching milestones. Why not simply enjoy life, instead of creating additional stress? I’m not against having aspirations; but to be honest, I don’t want to schedule my life on my iPod, download productivity apps, or attend virtual workshops on how to be successful at x, y, or z. And I certainly don’t want to create a five-year plan and mark my progress each step along the way.
Instead, I’d like to approach life the same way I approach travel—simply taking each day as it comes. I want to be surprised and delighted by what transpires, rather than ticking off a series of planned events. Mostly, however, I want the freedom to “wander” without the burden of possessions and responsibilities. That’s primarily my motivation for living a minimalist lifestyle; by keeping my “baggage” and “itinerary” as light as possible, I hope “to drift like clouds and flow like water” each day of my life.

Now, I may be barking up the wrong tree, but one of my goals for minimizing the clutter in both my home and my brain is to make way for the bigger goals and desires that aren’t currently being addressed in my life.  I once read an article* (sorry, can’t find the link now, I’ll look more for it tomorrow) about a woman who, as a junior in high school, visited an apartment in a Manhattan neighborhood and fell in love.  With a style of apartment.  Everything she did, from that moment on, was to get her closer to living at that address.  From the colleges she applied to, the friends she made, and the jobs she took after college, every decision she made was weighed with the exclusive scale of “will this get me closer to that apartment.”  (Whether basing your life around an apartment is a good plan is a different argument all together, as the author goes to to explore) And right now, the place where I’m currently at, the thing I’m looking for, is that drive.  That’s what all this is about:  giving myself the time and permission to peel back the layers to discover exactly what I want.  To figure out my purpose in life.  And create a plan to get there.  To devote myself entirely and selfishly (if necessary) to attain it.

Just one small thing: I don’t know how to do it.

But I’ll get there.  I’ll figure it out.  Maybe the two paths that I’m on aren’t even connected.  Maybe cleaning out my house is a method of procrastination on my part, and not a way of getting closer to my true self.  It probably is come to think of it.  But, it’s the path I’m on at the moment, and hey, my house is looking  a lot neater these days, so I’ll just keep on keeping on.

Oh, and Miss Minimalist, I’m very sorry the first time I mentioned your blog I was questioning your post.  I’m totally in love with your blog.  You are a talented writer.  I’m slowly working my way through your archives and particular like this post, as well as this one and this one.  And many more.

*I found the article.  It’s by Meghan Daum, is titled “My Misspent Youth”, and can be found here.

Update: Since posting this I have thought a lot about what Miss Minimalist said and have done additional reading on the topic.  If you’re interested in my evolving thoughts, please see this post.

This is what I’m talking about people!

When I say “it’s not about the white sheets or futons on the floor”, this is what I mean:

When I first began my minimalist quest, I felt like I wasn’t “good enough” unless I conformed to what other people’s standards and definitions of minimalism were. When I decided that I didn’t really care about the physical number of things I owned, but rather about my attitude surrounding consumption, sustainability, and simple living, minimalism became a much more attainable and realistic goal.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the “rules”, that we forget the true heart of the matter, what really counts.

This was a comment made by Ann Marie (see her blog here) regarding a post on Courtney’s minimalist blog, BeMoreWithLess.  Courtney herself said this:

You might be a minimalist, or maybe you’re just happier living with less. Then again, what’s the difference?

In my version of minimalism, it’s not about the number of things you have.  It’s about your relationship with your things.  Do they rule you, or do you rule them?  Since I’m a girl and played princess when I was younger, you can bet your ass I want to be the one wearing the crown and holding the scepter.