Recently, I wrote about our experience when our apartment’s floors flooded during the holidays for No Sidebar, one of my favorite sites about simple living and minimalism (my article is here) Sites like No Sidebar helped me to realize that I was literally making myself sicker—mentally and physically—on the path I was on.
Becoming a professor had been my dream for so long that I was doing whatever I had to in order to succeed in graduate school. I scarified sleep, exercise, healthy eating, connecting with friends, and spending time with my spouse in order to go to class, write, teach, attend lectures, apply for grants, and do everything else I felt I needed to do to stay on track in my PhD program.
However, I was miserable. I never felt that I was succeeding and after a while I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish by doing research and getting a PhD. Talking with others in the program, I realized many of us felt overextended and increasingly hopeless about our future prospects.
Any time I needed a break, I would read about how other people had changed their lives to fit their goals and values and I thought: I want that. I wish I could, but I can’t.
I kept thinking I can’t do that, until I started to think I can’t do what I’m doing anymore. And I started to ask, for the first time in years, why am I doing this? I began to work on outlining the kind of life I wanted and what was important. I realized that I wanted to prioritize my health. I wanted to get stronger and healthier. Be more present. Make work a part of my life, not my whole life. I wanted to stop waiting for someday when all the work would pay off.
I started to wonder if I could have a good and whole life now. What would I need to do to accomplish that? As I wrote in No Sidebar, one of the ways that I’ve been trying to achieve my goals of living a better, healthier life include trying to live a simpler life.
My husband and I have been decluttering since before we even moved into our current apartment. We purposely chose to have a massive decluttering before we moved his stuff from his current place.
We brought little furniture with us and decided to only buy what we absolutely needed and wait to see if we needed anything else. We still haven’t needed a bookcase (our kindles and one built-in are enough) or a coffee table. In fact, the space where those things would go we use for stretching (when it’s not flooded of course!).
We buy carefully and have specifically asked our families to buy us experiences or perishables. This past holiday season, we were given spices, cooking lessons, and a robot vacuum. The robot vacuum was carefully considered after years of trying to find the best ways to clean our apartment between the two of us that doesn’t exacerbate my back and hip pain and mobility or require greater contribution from my husband. He already does all the carrying and bending related chores to help me.
As a result, I felt like I had been preparing for the day I could fully embrace a simple, fulfilling, and health-focused life. Last summer I announced my decision and since then have been working on creating this life. To help me with this transition (which includes rethinking not only my life, but my identity, which for so long had been wrapped up in my status as a graduate student), I signed up for Courtney Carver’s A Simple Year and I am starting to work through that program to make a life I am happy living.
In addition to talking about this transition in a broader way in this space, I will also work in some of the experiences and thoughts I have working through the program. The program focuses on many different areas of one’s life and how to edit them in order to fit your values and goals. As a former graduate student, the idea of using my editing skills to apply to my life really appealed to me and we’ll see how it goes!