The principals of simple living, describe a minimalist lifestyle pretty well. Minimalism itself, is more commonly used to describe art, “A trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1950s and used simple, typically massive, forms.”
In the last decade, minimalism has become more mainstream, and has grown in popularity. Through social media, and the release of the documentary, “Minimalism”, it has gained quite the following.
To use the word minimalism as a lifestyle, we have to look at the definition of simple living. Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include, reducing one’s possessions, or increasing self-sufficiency. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they have rather than want.
People who practice simple living, may do so for a variety of reasons. Some may live this lifestyle for personal reasons such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, financial sustainability, frugality, or reducing stress.
Simple living or minimalist lifestyle is a conscious decision to live with less material possessions, and refrain from excessive materialism and excessive consumerism. Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean that you are only allowed to live with the bare minimum to maintain your life, but to live without the excessive items that don’t add to your life.
When I started my transition to a more minimalist lifestyle, I noticed a change in my mindset as well as the time spent on my daily routine. Choosing outfits on a daily basis became easier and my life became easier to manage. I didn’t waste time on maintaining unnecessary possessions or routines. I simplified my life by only keeping possessions that are important to me, and letting go of the rest. It was a conscious decision for me to transition to this lifestyle; it just made more sense to me. I sought out happiness where my possessions did not fulfill. Granted, I still love to dress up for parties, gatherings or to go out to dinner, but I did get rid of all of the other unnecessary items.
I’ve never regretted my transition to a minimalist lifestyle. As time has passed, I have evaluated and continue to re-evaluate possessions that I might still want to donate. I always look for more methods to design my life to become ever more simplistic; it never ends.
I enjoy life more now, than I ever did before. I enjoy going to cafes and drinking my coffee on the weekend mornings. Enjoying every sunset I can take in, and being thankful to even experience it. I love having conversations during a good meal. I love going outside to spend time in nature and I love to spend time with family and friends. I love white walls, a clean floor and clean surfaces. My home brings me peace and my space is serene. Minimalism has changed my life in so many ways. Over ten years ago, my life changed for the better, and I can never go back to the way I used to live.
Truth be told, you start small, start with baby steps. You have to look at this challenge as the fact that you’ve accumulated your items over a period of time, technically, your entire life. Don’t look at decluttering your home all at once as a whole, that’s too overwhelming and no one needs that.
When I initially started minimizing my possessions, I envisioned a goal for myself, that applied to each area of what I wanted to tackle. The vision didn’t include everything that I would end up decluttering, but there was a feeling of peace and tranquility I was seeking. I wanted to see more space between my possessions, clean surfaces, simplistic routines and a more uniform look with my wardrobe. I started out by going from room to room, and I filtered through items that I knew I did not use anymore, or would not use in the future; items that I kept “just in case I need it”. Getting rid of definite YES items was easy, but then I would make a pile of MAYBE items. I always gave myself a few days, and would then return to the MAYBE pile of items, and see how I felt. Almost every time, I returned to the MAYBE pile, I never kept the items. The initial shock and emotional attachment I had when contemplating about getting rid of a possession, was a feeling I had to recognize and get used to.
I started with my bedroom because it was the easiest room to declutter. It’s a lot easier to declutter your personal items versus communal areas. The biggest area to tackle in the bedroom, was my closet, specifically my wardrobe. I created three piles. One pile was for items that I frequently wore, one pile was for items I knew I did not wear at all or that I had not worn in a very long time, and the last pile was the maybe pile. If I was unsure about any items that I wanted to keep, I would hide them from my view. What I mean by that, is I would hide in the closet; literally, a closet. The reason why I did this was because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t need the possession emotionally or physically. Most of the time when I hid my items, I really didn’t need them any longer. I was still emotionally attached to the possession, and that’s what my hesitation was. Hiding items out of view, out of sight is an emotional training method that I use to really test my need for the object. I didn’t end up hiding too many objects.
Also, for my wardrobe, I adopted a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing for a season. There are many different types of capsule wardrobes, and it really boils down to your own preference and climate. Some people have seasonal capsule wardrobes, in which they have a set wardrobe for each changing season. Some people will combine seasons so that they may have a set of clothes for the colder seasons and then one for the warmer seasons. Some have year round capsule wardrobes, which they don’t change out their clothes at all. The set number of garments they have, they will use for the entire year. I have a year round capsule wardrobe. My capsule wardrobe also sticks to a specific color palette, so when I do buy a new piece item, I can only choose from that palette. It actually makes shopping easier, since I only look for certain colors and certain styles. When I started my capsule wardrobe, I started with 30 items, but it’s now become a 40 item capsule wardrobe. I’m more comfortable with 40 items, since life has changed a bit.
For my bathroom, I evaluated my morning and nighttime routine and really set a goal of what I wanted out of those routines. Honestly, I just wanted a simple routine. I didn’t want to constantly buy products and spend my money on questionable personal care items. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the mornings to get ready. At night, I don’t mind as much if my routine takes a bit longer, since I’m still trying to wind down; in the morning though, I want to get out the door.
So, I used up all of the bathroom products I knew I didn’t need, or were items that were not ideal for my lifestyle. I invested in vegan makeup and replaced toxic chemicals in my bathroom, with non toxic products. I cleared off my vanity counter and reduced the items I needed to maintain a clean bathroom. The irony was that the more products I had, the more complicated my morning and evening bathroom routines were. You’d be surprised how many products you don’t really need, and how toxic those products really are to your health. By simplifying the items in my bathroom, I was re-setting my expectations and standards for myself.
I went through each room and each area, and applied the same methods. I would first evaluate why I didn’t like the space or wasn’t happy about the space, and then I would envision what I wanted to feel, see, when I entered the room. I would then evaluate each item and really ask myself, “Is this necessary? Why do I still have this?”
Eliminating items can be a difficult process, and it’s not going to be quick. It will feel like a mess when you first start, but it gets easier. And the likelihood, is that you’re going to re-evaluate your items repeatedly over time.
Marie Kondo uses her KonMarie Method in which, she will tell her clients to take all of their items out and lay them in a large pile, for each category. She created this step in the process, so the client could see everything they had accumulated. We’re good at hiding our clutter. We hide our clutter in drawers, cabinets, and inside of other items. Laying everything out in the open can feel embarrassing, even shameful. But it’s a good thing, because everyone is good at hiding their possessions.
To this day, I STILL will walk around my house and go through each drawer, cabinet, shelf, etc. to make sure I still find all my possessions necessary.
My main goal when I started my minimalist lifestyle, was simplicity. I wanted more room and less stuff. I wanted more time in my life, and less stuff to take care of. I wanted non-toxic products in my home and that took time to research and educated myself on alternative solutions. I wanted to feel like my walls were breathing and my spaces were tranquil. That was my ultimate goal. In order to get to that point, I had to break down where my routines and spaces were not bringing me that tranquility.
More time in my life, meant that I could enjoy life and not feel pressured to run errands or maintain a possession. I could go to the beach more, go on more hikes, spend more time with family and friends, or simply enjoy doing nothing… but more.
Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean to purge all of your possessions. The concept is to really only keep items that matter to you; the rest is unnecessary. Hopefully this post will help you start living a minimalist lifestyle, if you’re looking to start one. I will say that starting this lifestyle was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life and there’s no going back to what it was before.
Have you ever created a New Year’s resolution and were not able to fulfill it? You know, when you hype yourself up during the last week of December, and then plan out your goals, and your morning and evening routines; then life gets in the way? I know I have. I failed when the goal was much larger than I expected it to be. I didn’t take my goals step by step, but tried to accomplish them in leaps and bounds. It took a bit of time and discipline, but I’ve learned to break down my goals into small daily habits that I could adapt to.
My blog does talk about Life Hacks but this is more of a personal life hack. If you’ve ever set up goals for yourself and wondered why you failed halfway through there might be a good chance you’re biting off more than you can chew.
There are a lot of YouTube channels that talk about 30-Day Challenges that may vary from health challenges, to emotional and environmental challenges. Some of the challenges might be, decluttering, getting in shape, going to bed early and even drinking more water on a daily basis.
I follow Matt D’Avella, who was the director of the documentary Minimalism, and he has been taking on his own 30-Day Challenges for 2019. It was really fun and amazing to see how the challenges helped shaped his habits and helped him push his limits. It was inspiring.
If one of your goals was to workout in the morning, but you’re finding it hard to wake up early and still have enough energy to workout, maybe the first challenge to overcome, is simply waking up early. Instead of your goal encompassing waking up early, going jogging, making breakfast, and then going to work, maybe the goal should just be – to wake up early. You don’t have to pile everything on at once. Perhaps the next 30-Day challenge might be to wake up early and then go for a short walk; just a short walk. Nothing crazy, nothing over the top, but a simple walk.
I wanted to set up 30-Day goals through the rest of 2019, so I could see what habits stuck and which did not. They were only a 30-Day commitments, so the dedication didn’t feel overwhelming. I only had to commit 30 days, out of 365 days in the year, to see how I would adapt.
The idea here is to develop keystone habits, that will help you set up healthy habits, which will help contribute to your larger goal.
A lot of people tend to set goals and are passionate about accomplishing them, but we’re a society that is conditioned to expect immediate results. Developing patience is a skill, no matter what stage you are at in life. The habits may not be easy, but persistence is key.
I tested out my own daily challenges, and when I broke down my goals into smaller habits that I could develop over time, they were easier to accomplish and my habits stuck with me.
If you’ve had a goal in mind, and you still want to accomplish it, perhaps breaking down the goal into 30-Day habit challenges, might help. If you have a partner or friend or internet support group that can do a challenge with you- all the better! It’s only a 30-day commitment, so why not? You can find a lot of 30-Day challenges on the internet, but I thought I would make a list of 50 challenges, that I thought were interesting, down below.
Here is a list of fifty 30-Day Challenges:
Drink more water
Plan all of your meals in advance
Practice good posture
Make a green juice or smoothie every morning
Eat 7-9 cups of veggies every day
Keep a food journal
Bring your lunch to work
Detox your house of harsh chemicals
Cook a new recipe every week
Eat vegan or vegetarian for a month
Take a cold shower
Take a 30 minute walk each day
Walk 10,000 steps every day
Take the stairs each day
Go to the gym
Set priorities for your day
Clean up your clutter
Clean up your digital clutter
Follow a morning routine
Follow a bedtime routine
Make your bed
Wake up early
Check email once or twice a day
No credit cards, pay only with cash
No fast food
No social media
Listen to audio books or podcasts instead of music
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
This year, in the celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d walk through my process of how to do a plastic audit in your home. But first, let’s take a look at the dangers of plastic and why it is not as recyclable as we are lead to believe.
EDUCATE YOURSELF ON PLASTICS
What do you know about plastics? Although it is one of the most common packaging material used worldwide, it ends up in our landfill and our oceans. It eventually makes its way back to us through the foods we consume. There are also a lot of facts that are not widely known, here are some facts from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
Although it was considered one of the breakthrough materials discovered in 1907, only now are we realizing the damaging consequences of using this material so rapidly. How is it harmful?
There is a huge misconception that all plastics can be recycled, however, that is not the case. Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment. They come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems.Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue. Here is more information from the National Ocean Service, What are microplastics?
What plastics can you REDUCE or better yet, REFUSE in your home? Track the amount of plastic used in different rooms/areas of your home by using the Daily And Monthly Plastic Pollution Chart (this chart is a template, feel free to customize it)
Keep track of items that are contained in plastic by going through areas such as your: (add or take out any items that are missing or not applicable in the chart)
Slowly go through and keep track of each item on a daily basis or monthly basis
After charting each item, plan how to avoid purchasing plastics by using the Plastic Pollution Audit Chart. What actions will you take to reduce the amount of plastic being brought into the home? Can you refuse the plastic packaged product by finding an alternative in a non-packaged form? Or would reducing the amount taken in be a better step for you? Maybe consider investing in a sustainable, resuseable product, so you eliminate the single use plastic product.
If you choose to keep track of your plastic use on a monthly basis, you can audit each month by recording how much plastic you use and compare your yearly results using the Plastic Pollution Tracker.
SOME OTHER ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY
Around your home
Change out all of your light bulbs to energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. The energy savings of cooler-burning bulbs, including CFL and LED, can have a significant impact on your utility bills and on making your home greener. An Energy Star light bulb replaces about six incandescent light bulbs because it lasts six times longer than the average light bulb.
Change out your dangerous household cleaners with safer versions or make your own from vinegar/apple cider vinegar and water. Vinegar is a mild acid, which makes it a great multi-purpose cleaner for around the house. As a household cleaner, vinegar can be used to do anything from removing stains, to unclogging drains, to disinfecting, to deodorizing, and it can even be used to remove stickers. You can use it undiluted, combined with baking soda, or as an ingredient in a homemade household cleaner, and every room in your house can benefit from vinegar in some way. Check out 45 Uses For Vinegar.
If you have the option of drinking tap water, switch to tap water or buy a attachment filter if needed.
Bike or take public transportation instead of driving. Instead of driving everywhere, try taking public transportation, biking or even walking to places.
Schedule a visit your local recycling center and tour the facilities to understand where your trash goes and how it gets sorted. It sounds strange but every piece of trash we throw away has a different route towards recycling or on its way to the landfill. Each county and each state has different recycling processes and so learning about your local recycling process is always helpful. You’ll be more informed and more aware of what REALLY happens when you recycle your trash.
Join a local park, river or beach clean up.
Plant a tree, herb garden, or even flowers!
Check out your local city’s or county’s Earth Day activities
Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22, 2018 this year, so you still have over a month to decide what you want to do! Check out the Earth Day Network to find out more information. They have an extensive website that has a list of campaigns and activities for participants.
In the honor of Earth Day, check out some of these blog posts from other fellow bloggers:
Towards the end of each year, I like to think about what goals I’d like to set out for myself for the following year. Each year lends itself to different points in my life so my goals change as I change and get older. I tend to break down my goals into three categories: daily goals, weekly goals and yearly goals. This is what I came up with…
Spend more time outdoors. Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.
Take Care of yourself by scheduling time for yourself. Even reading a book for an hour a day counts!
Exercise your body for a happy mind, or maybe a quick morning meditation.
Keep a journal.
Read a book or a magazine, take a break from technology.
Get enough sleep.
Make your home efficient. By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees Celsius or 60 degree Fahrenheit. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!
Pick seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!
Take your bicycle out of the shed. People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!
Use public transport more. Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2018 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.
Take recycling to the next level. You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2018, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not over packaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are too many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.
Become a toxic-free household. This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.
Keep your electronics for the year. New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).
I usually push my daily goals because those goals are habit forming. When it comes to the monthly goals, I’ll set time aside on the weekends to work on them. The yearly goals are scheduled where I’ll tackle them by picking a day of the week and focusing on one yearly goal. The good thing about the way the goals are organized, is that the daily goals are the hardest to tackle, but you get to continuously work on them throughout the year. The daily goals are more focused on personal reflections, so it’s a nice reminder to not forget about taking care of yourself on a day to day basis. These are my goals that I’ve come up with, What are some of your goals you’d like to reach in the upcoming year?
Check out some other Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions from some other fellow bloggers:
Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.
On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfies a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces.
Write letters to the President about climate change.
Give up smoking
Give up plastic bags
Reduce eating meat
Carpool, bike, or take transit more than normal this week
Have a conversation with a close friend about what they do to green their day-to-day life
Organize a beach clean up
Challenge yourself to recycle more or produce less trash
Install the Nest thermostat you have been putting off at home
Switch your home (and office breakroom) cleaning products to eco-friendly across the board and use micro-fiber cloths and mop heads
Go digital – especially more virtual meetings at your business
Use less paper towels or no more paper towels at all
You can choose to reduce your carbon footprint, give up certain habits that contribute to greenhouse gases or even start with a small herb garden. This day is to remind all of us that we have one Earth, and we must care for it before we destroy it any further. I’ve been a member of the Surfrider Foundation for many years and I follow many wildlife conservation organizations on Twitter. You can find these organizations on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram. There are many organizations out there that help protect the environment and protect wildlife habitats. Please consider joining one or contributing to one.
Trying to create zero trash for my cat is almost impossible. I’ve tried, but due to some medical conditions, it’s virtually impossible. I have a male cat and he was neutered when he was younger. Unfortunately, male cats who are neutered, are more prone to urinary tract infections and therefore, require special diet food that has a low sodium content. Also, in order for him to not develop another urinary tract infection, he needed fresh water constantly. We bought him a small drinking fountain which he helped himself to. These two requirements produced empty tin cans of cat UTI management food as well as charcoal filters.
As he aged, he developed Diabetes and requires insulin shots twice a day. This required insulin medication as well as insulin needles. He’s a large cat, but he’s always been a large cat so weight gain was his genetic default. Lucky for us, he’s always been an indoor and outdoor cat, so he always used the backyard as his giant toilet. But with him being an indoor and outdoor cat, he required flea medication. I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just make him an indoor cat? It would cut back on the flea medication trash that you produce.” But forcing an animal to stay inside when we clearly have outdoor roaming space for him seemed unnatural to me. I wanted him to roam free and go play outside when we weren’t home. So the diabetes and flea medication produced tin cans of glucose management food, insulin needles, insulin medication and the flea applicators.
Over the years, he also got into a few fights with other cats or raccoons that roamed the neighborhood. For those special occasions, he required medication and sometimes even surgery which produced trash as well. I usually return the pill bottles and jars to the veterinarian so they can dispose of it. I’m lucky that I live in an area that allows free medical waste dumping, and even if I didn’t, I know my veterinarian will collect the medical waste from his patients for a small fee.
As for toys, he never loved to play with a lot of toys. In fact, he really only likes his catnip pillow, shoelaces and metal chain necklaces . I had a catnip plant that I grew for him awhile back and once in awhile, I would dry the catnip leaves and compost the old catnip. I would then refill his pillow with new dry catnip. Unfortunately he liked it so much that he would lay on it and eventually crushed the life out of it. That too went into the compost bin. I’m lucky that he’s easily entertained. He also never wanted his own bed, he always just adopted any place in the house to sleep.
Urinary Tract Infection Medical History = Prescription Diet c/d canned food & Filtered water with charcoal filters
Diabetes II Medical History= Glucose Management m/d canned food, insulin needles, insulin medication
Indoor & Outdoor cat = Advantage Flea Medication BUT no litter box
Entertainment = Catnip pillow, but I refill the catnip pillow with fresh catnip. He just likes to play with shoelaces and metal chain necklaces.
So the recyclable items that I do produce are the tin cans of UTI food and diabetic food. His insulin medication, insulin needles and other medications are also recycleable, but considered medical waste recycling. The charcoal filters and advantage flea medication are the items that do end up in the landfill. I actually have a separate jar of trash that comes from owning a cat. He also no longer uses the water fountain that used the charcoal filters, he requests fresh water from the faucet when he’s thirsty with a drawn out meow.
Trying to own a pet and not produce trash from them is quite difficult. I know this much, to take on a pet is a great amount of responsibility and it is not a simple responsibility to ignore. I am not a veterinarian and I do not know what nutrients he needs and the sufficient amount of each nutrient and vitamin, therefore I do not attempt to make cat food on my own. He has very few toys, only wants his catnip pillow, which I will stuff with fresh catnip and compost the old catnip.
I started this journey almost five years ago, so I’ve compiled a nice amount of Advantage Flea Medication applicators for cats as well as charcoal filters. He stopped using the water fountain about three years ago, so he hasn’t produced anymore trash from that. He probably won’t last through the end of this year, but it’s amazing to see how much owning a pet can add to your trash collection. Once you lay it all out and calculate the amount of trash that’s produced, it’s an eye opening realization of what you’re contributing to the landfill.
So I’ve been asking myself the same series of questions for the past four years. I do this at the beginning of the year and then I revisit my answers midway through the year. These questions don’t really fall along the lines of a “New Year’s Resolution”, but they inquire more about growth as an individual. So here they are:
How do you want your future self to be like in one year?
What are the different dreams and goals you would want to be realized by then?
What is your desired status of the areas of your life wheel right now?
I want to ….Career/Business?
I want to ….Finances?
I want to ….Family?
I want to ….Friends?
I want to ….Love?
I want to ….Health?
I want to ….Spirituality?
I want to ….Recreation?
I want to ….Personal growth?
I want to ….Contribution?
What hopes do you hold for yourself in the future?
What fears and obstacles do you currently face that you wish to overcome?
What internal resources do you inherently possess that will help you, now and always?
How will you remember what you have to offer, and how will you continue to know yourself and your presence as a contribution to this world?
What are ways that you can seek to love your future self no matter how much the future varies from what you expect it would be?
I ask these questions because I like to hold myself accountable. I save these questions in my cloud each year and I’ve revisited my answers from the past. Some answers have stayed true, some have not. Some answers altered due to unforeseen circumstances.
I’m posting these questions now because at this point we are halfway through the year and I’m wondering if you guys ever visit these kinds of questions. Even in your jobs, there’s an evaluation of your growth and your plan and position in the company. And even if you are self employed, there is still growth to be evaluated. Some of these questions may not have to be answered or may not have a complex answer, but I do think revisiting who you are and what you want is always a good notion.
So this is blog post is going to be slightly different from my normal posts. In this post, I want to take some time to celebrate my mom.
My mom is a versatile woman, a woman of many strengths and many stories. She grew up in the in the 50’s and lived through the Vietnam War. By the time she had reached the young age of 23, she had established a well respected career as a flight attendant with Air Vietnam. During her young adult life, she also met my father (that story will be for another time). As a flight attendant, she got to travel around southeast asia and experience different cultures and met many people. She made her own money and enjoyed life tremendously.
I do give credit to my parents for being role models who always told me to grow up to make money. They never told me to grow up, get married and have kids. Perhaps they worried about my financial security, perhaps they simply didn’t want me to live paycheck to paycheck, but regardless, I did just that.
After my parents split, it was her strength that guided and paved the path of the following years. She managed to balance being a single mom, staying sane and still taking care of two kids. I admire her strength and I hope that when I reach her age, I will still be as strong as her. To this day, when we sit and talk, I still enjoy hearing the stories of her childhood. As an adult, my relationship with her has become even closer and for that, I will forever be thankful. She has blessed me with my life and I’m so grateful that I get to spend one more day with her.
As children, we understand our parents are our leaders and rule makers. In adolescence, we test those rules to see where the boundaries lie. And as tenagers, we’re trying to figure out where we stand among the population of adults and our peers, yet we still test the boundaries between being deemed a child or an adult. As young adults, we’re still trying to get to that comfortable place to call ourselves an “official adult”, but we still seek guidance from our parents. Now as official adults, we can see the flaws in our decisions- and also theirs. Lastly, as adults, we can look at our parents as friends and maybe even peers. We can sit down and have a cordial conversation, with the understanding that where we sit now, is how our own children will view us as their leaders and their rule makers.
For a relationship between a parent and child to come full circle, is quite special to watch and be a part of. I value those conversations with my mom over dinner or in a phone call, because I know she still has many more stories to tell me, and I hope to hear each one of them.
SO HERE’S TO YOU MOM- HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May all your wishes come true, and know that when you look back on your life- you’ve accomplished so much and lived through so much more. I’m proud to call you my mom, and also my friend.
Horst Faas/Associated Press. A farmer helplessly held the body of his dead child as South Vietnamese troops looked on. March 19, 1964. The child had been killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. Lens Blog, New York Times
Vietnam War November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks, 1 day)
There’s so much history involved with this was that it’s too much to write about in one blog post. My family is from South Vietnam and my father was drafted into the South Vietnam Army. He was also held captive for 3 years by the Viet Cong after the Fall of Saigon. He escaped and was deemed a POW. He doesn’t speak much of his experience either, I think most POWs don’t. It was a rough time in history, for everyone. There were protests in the United States, families were torn apart, and refugees fled seeking asylum in the US. There was so much chaos and pain- it’s unimaginable.
It wasn’t until the age of 14 when my mom started revealing to me the details of our family members, including her escape from the Viet Cong. She told me “You would run until your feet would bleed. You can see bodies dropping around you as the Viet Cong shot the refugees trying to escape. They didn’t care. You ran because your life depended on it and you hoped the next bullet wouldn’t hit you. Each time you ran from them, you would lose track of your loved ones because running in a group just means you’re a larger target. You had to disperse, to create the illusion of smaller moving targets. Dispersing meant you would be alone, but you could save your life as well as the others.” She attempted to escape 4 times because during the first 3 times, someone had informed the Viet Cong and the location to meet up was compromised.
I have an aunt, who always stood out in my mind. She was so sweet and doted on the kids when we would visit. She made you feel like you were the #1 kid in the whole wide world. During this conversation, I asked my mom why she never had kids, she was loving and kind and seemed to have so much love to give. My mom revealed to me that she once had two young boys and a husband when she was on the boat that was headed to the US. On the boat, the men were on the top deck and the women and children stayed on the bottom deck. The boat had approached a Korean oil tanker and the captain asked if they could board the tanker. It didn’t make any sense that he wanted the passengers to board the tanker because the refuges were not allowed into Korea, they were not granted sanction in Korea. For whatever reason, the captain made his decision. Unfortunately, as the boat got closer to the oil tanker, the wave that it had created while cutting through the ocean water, rocked the boat and shook it. The wave was strong enough that people were thrown overboard and injuries were sustained on the top and bottom decks. At the exact same time, my aunt was climbing the access ladder, with one of her boys in her arms, the other was ahead of her on the ladder. They were trying to get to the top level to be with her husband so they could be ready to board the oil tanker.
When the wave had hit the boat, she was knocked off of the ladder and so were her boys. When she woke up, she was on the lower level of the boat again, lying next to other victims who were recovering from injuries attained during the shake up. Another refugee informed her that they were rolling the deceased bodies into the ocean. They couldn’t carry the dead across the Pacific Ocean because they would rot horribly and the damage they sustained from the wave was already an issue. She informed my aunt, that my aunt had been placed with the dead bodies, because they thought she had died, but after another check, they realized she was breathing- so they brought her downstairs to recover. When my aunt got to the top level, she saw that her husband and her two sons were among those who were deceased. When the time came for her husband and sons to be rolled into the ocean, she helped roll them off of the boat. And that was it, they were gone.
When she arrived in the US, she was alone, and didn’t know any English. Inevitably, she was placed in a psychiatric facility for some time. So many had passed during that event, I’m not sure she ever recovered from the incident. I don’t know if she had time to mourn the loss of her family, or time to heal from the emotional scars, but I do know that she felt lost and alone in a strange land. She eventually met my uncle whom is now her current husband and they’ve been married ever since- but behind her smiles, she was never the same again.
The reason why I tell this story, is that there are so, so many stories such as that one, which have never been told. As first generation American, I have no idea what it took for my relatives to come here. Guerrilla warfare is hand to hand combat and if you couldn’t stand your ground- you would easily be killed by the hands of the other. I look at my relatives now, and I wonder what stories they have not told. I wonder what life was like, the fear they felt as they watched their country collapsing, their homes being destroyed and the future filling up with unknown endings.
I have a deep respect for life and people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. Please ask, learn and spread that knowledge. Every single one of us has a story, perhaps not about war, maybe trauma, maybe a moment that changed our lives- but every single person has a story. I always knew war was bad, and it took 14 years to finally hear the details of how bad it was through my mom’s eyes. Some stories are so painful they they can’t be repeated, but for the stories that can, I hope each person takes something away from it.
South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) CNN, 25 of The Most Iconic Photographs
So I found this article of “Those Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old”, (here’s the link Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old) and I thought I would audit the list. I separated the items I haven’t done from the items that I have done.
Items that DO NOT apply to me : (because I’ve already done it or I’m currently taking care of the issue)
2. Not learning another language
You’ll kick yourself when you realize you took three years of language in high school and remember none of it. ===> I speak 3
3. Staying in a bad relationship.
No one who ever gets out of a bad relationship looks back without wishing they made the move sooner. ===> Get out when the first red flag goes up
4. Forgoing sunscreen.
Wrinkles, moles, and skin cancer can largely be avoided if you protect yourself. ===> Wear it everyday
5. Missing the chance to see your favorite musicians.
“Nah, dude, I’ll catch Nirvana next time they come through town.” ==> So far so good
8. Letting yourself be defined by gender roles.
Few things are as sad as an old person saying, “Well, it just wasn’t done back then.” ===> Grew up a tomboy but now I love being a woman
9. Not quitting a terrible job.
Look, you gotta pay the bills. But if you don’t make a plan to improve your situation, you might wake up one day having spent 40 years in hell. ===> Get out while you can- or you’ll hate yourself later
10. Not trying harder in school.
It’s not just that your grades play a role in determining where you end up in life. Eventually you’ll realize how neat it was to get to spend all day learning, and wish you’d paid more attention. ===> I’ve achieved my education goals I set out
11. Not realizing how beautiful you were.
Too many of us spend our youth unhappy with the way we look, but the reality is, that’s when we’re our most beautiful. ===> I think I’m alright
12. Being afraid to say “I love you.”
When you’re old, you won’t care if your love wasn’t returned — only that you made it known how you felt. ===> Yep I’ve said this too
13. Not listening to your parents’ advice.
You don’t want to hear it when you’re young, but the infuriating truth is that most of what your parents say about life is true. ===> I still go to them for advice
14. Spending your youth self-absorbed.
You’ll be embarrassed about it, frankly. ===> I always saw myself as the “funny” friend
15. Caring too much about what other people think.
In 20 years you won’t give a darn about any of those people you once worried so much about. ===> Never cared much of what people thought
16. Supporting others’ dreams over your own.
Supporting others is a beautiful thing, but not when it means you never get to shine. ===> I think everyone deserves a fan
17. Not moving on fast enough.
Old people look back at the long periods spent picking themselves off the ground as nothing but wasted time. ===> My personality bodes to constantly be working on projects
18. Holding grudges, especially with those you love.
What’s the point of re-living the anger over and over? ===> You just have to accept people as they are, or you don’t deal with them at all.
19. Not standing up for yourself.
Old people don’t take sh*t from anyone. Neither should you. ===> I’m solid on this one
22. Missing the chance to ask your grandparents questions before they die.
Most of us realize too late what an awesome resource grandparents are. They can explain everything you’ll ever wonder about where you came from, but only if you ask them in time. ===> They died before I was born so this was defaulted
23. Working too much.
No one looks back from their deathbed and wishes they spent more time at the office, but they do wish they spent more time with family, friends, and hobbies. ===> I’m too young to say that
25. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
Young people are constantly on the go, but stopping to take it all in now and again is a good thing. ===> Do this every morning when I have my coffee
26. Failing to finish what you start.
Failing to finish what you start.“I had big dreams of becoming a nurse. I even signed up for the classes, but then…” ===> I’ve finished everything I set out to do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have more future projects in mind
27. Never mastering one awesome party trick.
You will go to hundreds, if not thousands, of parties in your life. Wouldn’t it be cool to be the life of them all? ===> I can make a shot disappear
28. Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.
Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.Don’t let them tell you, “We don’t do that.” ===> I never have
29. Refusing to let friendships run their course.
People grow apart. Clinging to what was, instead of acknowledging that things have changed, can be a source of ongoing agitation and sadness. ===> People grow up, they change and evolve
31. Never taking a big risk (especially in love).
Knowing that you took a leap of faith at least once — even if you fell flat on your face — will be a great comfort when you’re old. ===> If you’ve had your heart broken, you can check this off
32. Not taking the time to develop contacts and network.
Networking may seem like a bunch of crap when you’re young, but later on it becomes clear that it’s how so many jobs are won. ===> I have a great network
33. Worrying too much.
As Tom Petty sang, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” ===> I let go of what I cannot control
34. Getting caught up in needless drama.
Who needs it? ===> I’m too old for this one, and it’s a waste of time
36. Never performing in front of others.
This isn’t a regret for everyone, but many elderly people wish they knew — just once — what it was like to stand in front of a crowd and show off their talents. ===> Performed in choir from 10 years old to 18 years old
37. Not being grateful sooner.
It can be hard to see in the beginning, but eventually it becomes clear that every moment on this earth — from the mundane to the amazing — is a gift that we’re all so incredibly lucky to share. ===> I thankful that I’m able to wake up each day
Here is the list of Items that I HAVEN’T DONE and that I AM regretting> and I plan to change :
1. Not traveling when you had the chance.
Traveling becomes infinitely harder the older you get, especially if you have a family and need to pay the way for three-plus people instead of just yourself. ===> Need to do this more
6. Being scared to do things.
Looking back you’ll think, What was I so afraid of? ===> Taking steps right now to do so
7. Failing to make physical fitness a priority.
Too many of us spend the physical peak of our lives on the couch. When you hit 40, 50, 60, and beyond, you’ll dream of what you could have done. ===> Doing this now
20. Not volunteering enough.
OK, so you probably won’t regret not volunteering Hunger Games style, but nearing the end of one’s life without having helped to make the world a better place is a great source of sadness for many. ===> Need to volunteer more with the organizations I support
21. Neglecting your teeth.
Neglecting your teeth.Brush. Floss. Get regular checkups. It will all seem so maddeningly easy when you have dentures. ===> Need to go to the dentist too
24. Not learning how to cook one awesome meal.
Knowing one drool-worthy meal will make all those dinner parties and celebrations that much more special. ===> I want to make more than a few awesome meals
30. Not playing with your kids enough.
When you’re old, you’ll realize your kid went from wanting to play with you to wanting you out of their room in the blink of an eye. ===> Don’t have any… yet
35. Not spending enough time with loved ones.
Not spending enough time with loved ones.Our time with our loved ones is finite. Make it count. ===> Time with family/friends can never be enough
So I left some answers as to what I plan to accomplish soon. They’re basic answers, nothing written in stone or planned out clearly. These items are nothing new to my TO DO list and I plan to do them. The underlined items will be done sooner than later. The rest of the items will be done eventually 😉 Ok, ttyl!