Why I Decided to Start Blogging Again

I heard something recently that made me think that I should start blogging again.

If your experience could help even one person and you choose to keep it to yourself, you are doing a disservice to the world.

If you have been reading my blog then you know that I gave away most of my possessions and moved to Tokyo.

Then I started teaching English and building up an AdWords/SEO consulting business on the side.

Now I am running this business full-time, which has brought with it some of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my life. It has also brought an intoxicating sense of freedom – freedom to and freedom from. Freedom to travel when I want to; freedom from being trapped in a cubicle. Freedom from the morning commute. Freedom to set my own schedule.

My life has also become much messier, more difficult to balance, and frankly, more exhausting in a way that is somehow different from when I worked for a large corporation.

I often feel ashamed of how messy and chaotic my life is. Although I’ve only been running this business for 8 months, I feel like it should be more organized, professional, and consistent.

I often feel like I need to hide this messiness and put up a front that everything is easy now, and that I’ve reached the promised land of time freedom and location independence.

Instead, I’ve come back to blogging in order to share my honest experience in the hopes that it can help at least one person who might be going through something similar.

So stay tuned.

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Let Die What Needs to Die

If you are trying to create something new and you feel inhibited, listless, or otherwise blocked, consider this: in order for new life to grow, something must first die.

Now, I’m not a gardener, but even I appreciate that death and rebirth are inextricably bound parts of nature’s cycle. Most plants must die or go dormant in the winter in order to be reborn in the spring. Plants with a life cycle of only one year aren’t reborn in exactly the same way – their progeny are reborn from the seeds that they spread.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Life/Death/Life nature. In many western cultures we see death as a final state, rather than as the night between two days, or a necessary step on the way to rebirth. While I don’t purport to know what happens after we humans die, we can see that in nature new life usually comes forth from the old. New life is impossible without death.

In my life, I often feel like so many parts of me have died. Sometimes I’ve let them go willingly, and sometimes I’ve really struggled to let them die. Often what has died is a belief about myself or an expectation about how the world “should” be. Here are some examples from my life:

Becoming Vegan
What died: the ability to “be normal,” not having to explain my food choices all the time, some degree of convenience
What was born: a completely new perspective on food, a huge improvement in my health, the joy of living in alignment with deeply held principles

Becoming Minimalist
What died: the ability to consume unthinkingly and uncritically, living without questioning my possessions, being able to use shopping as a drug when I needed a pick me up
What was born: the ability to travel, start my own business, move with MUCH less stress, save tons of time and money

I don’t see these “deaths” as bad things anymore. Now I understand that they were necessary for me to grow as a person, and to do the things that I want to do in life. I’m now very grateful for the parts of me that have died.

It is so easy to hold onto beliefs and expectations about how things “should be.” Sometimes we hold onto them because we are doing so unconsciously, sometimes it seems unthinkable to let them go.

If you are feeling blocked ask yourself: “Am I holding onto something that needs to die? Do I have a belief/expectation/habit that is no longer serving me?”

If you feel afraid to let something go, reconceptualize it from a loss to a necessary part of the Life/Death/Life cycle. Accept that you can’t know exactly what rebirth will look like, but there is a time for everything to die, because without death we would all be stale and unchanging.

If you’d like to read more about the Life/Death/Life cycle, I highly recommend reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She is a cultural anthropologist and a Jungian psychologist who psychoanalyzes ancient fairy tales and stories. She tells a story based on an old Inuit tale called “Skeleton Woman.”

Four Sources of Security That Are Not Money

One of my biggest concerns when I left my job was how I was going to create a secure future for myself. While I’m certainly not risk averse, I didn’t want to put myself in the incredibly vulnerable situation of being broke in a foreign country. To be honest, I still worry a lot about security.

We all want to feel secure, and for many of us this means earning a reliable salary that more than covers our needs and wants. Many cultures prize money and earning power for the security that it brings.

While lack of money is a huge source of insecurity for many people, in truth money is not the only source of security in the world. Over the past few months as my income has dropped and I’ve consequently felt less secure, I’ve challenged myself to embrace other forms of security. I’d like to share them with you.

1. Knowing What You Can Do Without

The greatest gift that minimalism has given me is the ability to know that I can go without. I’ve slowly given up a lot of the things that most people say they can’t do without. I gave up my (reasonably nice) condo downtown, a lot of my furniture (some is in storage), my TV, a lot of my makeup, almost all of my books (I have a Kindle and haven’t bought anything that I once owned a hard copy of), and many of my other possessions. I’ve also given up a lot of expensive habits: take out during the week, expensive nights out at the bar, brunch and dinner out every weekend, a minor Starbucks habit. I still indulge in these things occasionally (now that I have better cash flow), but I know that I don’t *need* them.

The moments when I think wistfully about the things that I once had are astonishingly rare. What I feel is a sense of liberation. I will never again fear losing material things, because I know that I can be equally happy without them.

2. Adaptability and Flexibility

If you lost your job tomorrow, what would you do? Would you be willing to move to a much cheaper apartment/city/country?

What if you got an amazing job or life opportunity but it required you to move across the country? Would you be willing and able to turn your life upside down to take advantage of the right opportunity?

I once had to move across the country (from Vancouver to Toronto) on about 2 weeks notice because I was head-hunted for an amazing job opportunity. I was able to do this for a few reasons: firstly, because I had the support of my friends and family; secondly, because I had a life that allowed for a lot of flexibility (a.k.a being single and in my 20’s); and finally, because I was open to changes in my life plan.

While there are things that you can do to build more flexibility into your life (rent rather than own, minimize your physical possessions, be single, etc.), I think the most important part of flexibility and adaptability is opening your mind to new possibilities.

What does being open to new possibilities mean? It means operating on the assumption that something good can come from any change, and not saying “no” to something simply because it is new or unknown. Listen to your words and your inner monologue when you think or talk about making changes in your life. If they first words out of your mouth are “yes, but…” or you find yourself coming up with a million reasons why something wouldn’t work for you, you might benefit from challenging yourself to be more open to change.

If you are trying to make, or are faced with a change in your life ask yourself: how could I make this work for me? What good could come of this change, and what can I do to make the most of this opportunity? What measures can I take to successfully adapt to this new change?

Once you are open to change, you begin to see logistical problems that you can solve rather than intractable obstacles. “I can’t move; I’m in a one-year lease” becomes: “all I have to do is find someone to take over my lease.”

Being flexible and adaptable provides the security of being able to roll with, and often benefit from, the punches. Life will always be unpredictable; being good at handling change brings peace of mind that money can’t buy.

3. Friends, Family, and Community

In an emergency or stressful situation friends, family, or other community members are often better than money. Some people call this “social capital.”

There are times in life (especially if you move somewhere new) when the information and the know-how that your friends have are exactly what you need to solve your problem. Need help with a resume? You probably have a friend who is great at them. Need to know the cheapest/fastest way to get from A to B? Maybe you have a friend or acquaintance who has done it. Your community may be the greatest source of information you have – especially if you need to know how to do something in a foreign country.

Pooling resources with your friends or your community is a great way to save money, especially on items that you don’t use very often. Here are some ideas of things that you can share within your community:

Kitchen appliances (blenders, food processors, mixers, etc.)
Hair styling equipment (hot rollers, curling irons, straighteners, etc.)
Clothes and shoes (having a friend who is your size is such a blessing)
Cleaning supplies (especially vacuums)
Laundry detergent
Books and magazines

And of course everyone loves having a friend with a big truck or van! These are just a few ideas to get you started, but think creatively about the things that you can share.

Your friends, family, and community can play an important role in your safety as well. Knowing that if you go missing, someone will look for you is an important part of feeling secure when you’re in a new place. In life we will always face emergencies or tough situations, and frankly close friends and family are often a lot more useful than money. Sometimes you need someone to help you carry something, or drive you to the hospital, or help you practice for a job interview; in these cases friends and family beat money every time.

4. Self-Assurance and Capability

Self-assurance is the gift of knowing that you are an able and capable person. It’s having faith in your judgement and your ability to get things done.

To be honest, some people are born with self-assurance, but if you’re not, self-assurance can come from consistently pushing yourself outside your comfortable zone. Every time that you challenge yourself to do something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, you learn that you can survive (and even thrive in) a new experience. Going forward you will have more faith in your abilities because you will have seen what you’ve been able to accomplish and overcome in the past.

Capability is a set of skills and strategies that are highly transferable to a number of life situations. Capability includes skills like being able to quickly learn new skills, make friends, to find information, adapt to changes, overcome obstacles, create new habits, deal with logistical issues.

Think about the capabilities that you have. For example, if you’ve moved abroad before you probably know how to research a new city, find housing, learn a new language, navigate a foreign bureaucracy, access health care, make travel arrangements, make new friends, and much more. Once you learn one language it becomes easier to learn others, once you’ve built a new social circle from scratch you may feel like you can make friends anywhere.

In my opinion, my own capability is my greatest source of security. I may not have a perfect business now (who does?), but I’m investing my time and energy to learn to build an online business. Once I’ve built this business, I’ll have a ton of new skills that I can apply to any other business I build in the future. Conquering the fear and insecurity associated with running a business is an achievement that pays dividends all through one’s life.

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So it may be worth asking yourself – what non-monetary forms of security do you have in your life? What can you do to build these four areas of security, and how could working on just one of these areas benefit you?

If you’ve found this post helpful, please share it with your friends or social network. Thank you!

The One Thing That Sabotages Work/Life Balance and How to Overcome It

There is one thing that consistently undermines my ability to obtain the elusive “work/life balance.” This one thing consistently keeps me from carving out “me-time” and making sure that my work doesn’t get too hectic.

I feel guilty for taking time off.

And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have always felt this way, and many societies encourage it.

On some level, many of us believe that we have to work 49 or 50 weeks in order to “earn” our 2-3 weeks vacation. We have to work five days in order to “earn” the weekend. We have to work 8-12 (or more) hours a day to earn our evening off. What if we all just acknowledged that these numbers are completely arbitrary? And whatever thought went into deciding these “terms of engagement” has been based primarily on consideration for what works best for large companies, and everyone else has simply adapted to this schedule.

What if we throw out the notion that we have to earn our rest? What is we believe that all humans have a right to rest and take care of themselves as much as they need? Maybe some people love their work and will happily work 70+ hour weeks, but I bet everyone would prefer a schedule that differs in some way from the Monday-Friday, 9-5 baseline.

And really, who are we benefiting when we buy into the “earning our rest” paradigm? Surely it’s not ourselves. Maybe it’s our company, or maybe it’s society at large, but I think that few individuals directly benefit from these cultural norms.

Now that I have my own business, every second of every day can potentially be filled with work. There is always another potential client to research and pitch, and especially since I’m in the early days of my business I feel like I should always be doing more.

But really, why did I become a minimalist if not to take back control of my life and my time?

It turns out that my job wasn’t the only thing that controls my time. My habits and my internalized beliefs about the nature of work absolutely dominate my life.

Maybe you have the same problem. How can we overcome these limiting beliefs and habits?

1. Acknowledge them
The first and most important step is naming the limiting belief, and calling ourselves out on it.

For example, you might find yourself wasting time in the office in the late afternoon or evening, simply because you “feel bad” leaving at a certain time. Ask yourself if the optics are really the problem or if leaving early just “makes you feel lazy.” Then remind yourself that you don’t have to earn your night off!

2. Stop perpetuating the belief
When a friend or colleague tells us that she is going on vacation, how often do we respond with “good for you, you deserve it”? I know that I have said this many times, and had it said to me. Even though we’re trying to be nice, we’re validating the belief that a vacation or time off needs to be earned.

How about we say instead: “That sounds awesome, do what you need to do for yourself.”

3. Do what you need to do for yourself
Let’s set a new standard for rest based on our needs.

Whenever I call home looking for validation of my decisions, my Mom says to me: “Do what you need to do for yourself.” (One more reason that my Mom is awesome.)

This is a great line, not only because it prioritizes self-care, but also because it forces me to ask the question: “what do I need to do for myself?”

When you are feeling burnt out, try asking yourself this question.
What do I need to do for myself?
And be brave in the face of the answer. If you feel like you need a day off, don’t immediately dismiss this with “I couldn’t possibly take a day off! It’s Tuesday!”

We all have to learn to trust ourselves, and to understand our own needs. The first step in this process is to ask ourselves often: “what do I need to do for myself?”

4. Just do it
I have always had a fear of calling in sick for work. For me, it feels like admitting that I’m not strong enough to do my job. I’ve taken approximately two sick days in my entire life, and I never used to schedule time for “resting” or relaxation.

Now if I’m sick or burnt out I take a day off. I feel extremely uncomfortable doing this, but I force myself to do it. I have to remind myself that no one else is going to make me their top priority, so self-care is up to me.

And I have to trust myself enough to know that needing time off does NOT make me lazy. I remind myself that I love myself, and that I shouldn’t work someone that I love into the ground. It’s not effective, it’s not kind, and (fortunately) it’s just unnecessary.

There are still times when I have to work when I don’t feel like it – I’m (mostly) self-employed and I have to pay the bills. But there are also many times when I work out of guilt rather than necessity. I’ve managed to cut down on this.

Knowing your needs and feeling entitled and able to meet them is incredibly empowering. You may not be able to meet them today – external pressures and limitations exist for everyone – but you’ll never be able to meet your needs if you don’t acknowledge them, and address the psychological barriers that keep you working out of guilt rather than necessity.

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You Can and You Can’t Go Home Again

If you ever make a major life decision that goes against the grain, you should rest assured that you can always go home again.

You Can Go Home Again

If you leave “normal life”, do something different, and then decide to go back home, you will be able to get an apartment and a job, and re-connect with your friends. It’s easy to be “normal”, or to return to the habits that you had before. Conventional life choices are thusly named because they are in accordance with what society generally believes, values, and does. Mainstream ideas and lifestyles will always exert a significant pull on our lives, and this ensures that it’s easy to return to a mainstream life, whatever that may be for your community and culture.

“Home” is made up of a familiar group of people, places, sights, smells, foods, norms, and cultural habits. You can always go home because you know how to live in this environment. You won’t likely forget how to navigate home, and you’ll be able to quickly relearn anything you do forget.

You Can’t Go Home Again

On the other hand, your perspective has changed. Your horizons have been broadened. You no longer see “home” as a default, but rather as one option among innumerable alternatives. You’ll find yourself questioning things that you never thought about before. Why do we do it this way? Why can’t I get X or Y that I was able to find so easily somewhere else? Do I really have to put up with X problem when I could be doing something else?

Some people might be uncomfortable with your new attitude. When you talk about your adventures, you may find people becoming defensive about their own life choices, even if you never directly challenge them. 

Once the joy of familiar foods and places wears off, you might find yourself feeling a free-floating sense of ennui. When you do something different, suddenly everything is a challenge. For better or worse, when you return to the familiar you will lose the constant mental stimulation of trying to navigate a new life. If you don’t have somewhere else to direct that mental energy, you might feel a bit depressed. It can be oddly isolating to return home, because no one will understand what you’ve experienced, and after awhile they won’t want to hear about it anymore and you’ll be tired of trying to explain.

So Can You Go Home or Not?

The short answer is: I don’t know. I think the answer depends on the person, the situation, and the stage of life that they’re in. While home may stay the same, people rarely do and that’s OK. If you feel like you can go home, that’s OK; if you feel like you can’t, that’s OK too. Maybe there is a new home out there that’s just waiting for you to find it.

Ladies – The 4 Things You Need to Pack When You Travel

Ladies, I rarely find much useful advice on packing for traveling that is written with women’s needs in mind. And by needs, I mean our actual needs, not like the “need” to look hot 24/7. So I’m going to be straight with you.

These certainly don’t apply to all women, but here are the things that I wish I had known to bring when I started traveling.

*I am not a doctor so please see a medical professional before you travel. This advice is based on my personal experience and should not replace the advice of a medical professional.*

1. Bring your own tampons.

One thing that I didn’t realize when I first started traveling was that in many countries, tampons are hard to find. You will find pads galore, but you may have trouble locating your favorite OB ‘pon. So now I travel with a stash of my own. Hit up COSTCO before you leave town and take all the tampons you think you’ll need for your trip, plus some extra. You might be able to trade extra tampons for beer if you meet a less-prepared female friend on the road. 😉

2. Bring your own condoms.

Now I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, but I will tell you from my experience and that of my friends that “standard” condoms are different sizes depending what country you are in. In many Asian countries (even some very modern ones like Hong Kong and Japan) it may be hard to find “standard” Western-size condoms, and impossible to find larger condom sizes. In any event, when you’re abroad it might be difficult to find condoms at all if you don’t know where to look, so do yourself a favour and bring lots. And while you’re at it, bring a few different sizes and maybe your own lube too. Even if you don’t use them, a friend in need will thank you for your foresight.

3. Consider getting a birth control implant.

Accessing the pill can be annoying, difficult, or impossible, depending on where you are in the world. All it takes is one misplaced bag, one stolen purse, or one piece of lost luggage to have your birth control gone. I personally opt to have a birth control implant. There are a few different kinds of IUD’s (intrauterine devices) available, and many use small amounts of hormones while some use none at all. You can also get a contraceptive implant in your arm called Implanon. For some reason this isn’t approved for sale in Canada, but it’s free in the UK, and costs roughly $800 in the US. I believe that it’s available in Australia and throughout Europe as well.

Now $800 for 3 years of birth control may seem like a lot, but if you don’t have insurance and are paying out of pocket for your birth control, think about how much that will cost you over 3 years. Plus implants give you the added convenience and security of not needing to remember a daily pill, or fill a monthly prescription.

If you go the IUD route you can get one that will last for up to 5 years. If you travel a lot that could be a huge stress relief. Plus some Planned Parenthood clinics will offer discounts based on income level. Call you local Planned Parenthood, sexual health, or women’s clinic for more information.

4. Take a yeast infection cure with you.

Even if you’ve never had a yeast infection before, strange lands might give you your first one. If you get yeast infections sometimes, you should really consider taking a pill with you. In Canada we have Diflucan, but I’m sure there are others depending on your country.

Tell your doctor that you’re going to be traveling and ask her to prescribe you a yeast infection pill to take with you just in case. Doctors are typically fine with doing this. Otherwise you can pick up a pack of Canestan (or other topical yeast infection treatment) at the pharmacy before you leave.

Trust me, this is easier than trying to mime your symptoms to a doctor or pharmacist who doesn’t speak English.

Additionally, acidophilus (the “good” bacteria that balances your gut and your vagina) is available as a pill supplement and it great for your immune system and preventing yeast infections. Some brands are meant to be kept refrigerated so consider asking your pharmacist for a recommendation if you won’t be able to keep yours cold. I usually try to bring some with me when I move abroad.

OK female friends, that’s all. Happy trails to you!

6 Things I Had to Mourn in Order to Live My Dreams

Sometimes in order to move forward with our lives, we have to give ourselves time, space, and energy to mourn the loss of the life we are leaving behind.

Here are six things that I had to mourn in order to move on with my life and live my dreams.

1. Being normal

The first time that I really noticed myself mourning the loss of “being normal” was when I decided to become a vegan. It was one of the last days before my roommate and I had committed to going vegan and I was meeting a business contact for the first time. We sat down in a little sports bar and shared a plate of nachos. I was a vegetarian and asked if he wouldn’t mind having vegetarian nachos. He said “no problem, as long as we can have cheese.” I felt suddenly uncomfortable as I realized that this was probably the last time that I could answer “yes” to such a normal request. The hardest part of becoming vegan was that I had to sacrifice my normality in the sense that it became much harder to eat out at non-vegetarian restaurants, and to present myself as a “normal” eater. Now if I eat out I have to let my dining mates know that I’m vegan and to a certain extent the meal is always planned around me.

Now I love being vegan, and I’m fortunate to have friends and family who are happy to accomodate me, but I gave myself time to be sad about no longer being “normal.” Your perception of normal might be different than mine, but everyone has behaviours, mentalities, and habits that they consider normal. If you decide to do something that you know your peer group will consider “abnormal,” go ahead and do it, but be sure to give yourself time to mourn “being normal.” Don’t think that feeling sad, frustrated, or upset about a change means that you shouldn’t do it.

2. Loss of societal approval

This is a big one for me. I mourned the loss of all sorts of approval from all sorts of different people. Here is an example of the loss of “general societal approval”:

BEFORE:

Random person: So Darby, what do you do?

Me: Well I’m in corporate communications for a major commercial real estate company.

Random person: Ooooo, ahhh, how did you get that job? (Or something like that.)

AFTER:

Random person: So what do you do?

Me: Well I recently quit my corporate job and I’m moving to Japan.

Random person: Wow, you must have a really awesome job lined up.

Me: Not exactly – I don’t have a job. I’m just going because I want to.

Random person: *Blank stare.* (Or some variation.)

Now obviously making career decisions based on the opinions of random people is a bad idea. But if you decide to pursue an unconventional life path, it might smart the first few times that you get this reaction from people. Especially if you are in an awkward growth stage where your business isn’t making money, your project is in its infancy, or you haven’t exactly figured out your plan yet. You and I both know that you’re going to do great things, but when you try to articulate your vision in a soundbite it might fall flat.

Give yourself time to mourn the loss of societal approval. It doesn’t make you weak to feel embarrassed, unsure, or otherwise awkward when you get these kinds of reactions. You just have to push through them, don’t let them stop you, and know that this too shall pass.

3. Loss of approval of friends/family/peers

Hopefully you will find that 100% of your friends and families will be 100% supportive of your decisions every day. I can pretty much guarantee though that there will be times when people think you’re crazy, talk down to you, try to denigrate your dreams or otherwise make you feel less than. This will particularly happen when you face hardships and try to seek some sort of support from your network. You may find that people aren’t sympathetic to the trials that you face because you’ve stopped “playing by the rules.” Maybe your parents are always calling you and telling you about jobs that “you would be great at” or pressuring you to pursue a more conventional path. At times people may genuinely be trying to help you, but it might come across as a negative judgement on the path that you’ve chosen to pursue.

In some way you will certainly lose the approval of people that you care about, if only because they won’t understand what you’re doing. Keep going any way, but allow yourself to mourn the loss of their support.

4. Loss of the familiar

Even if you hate your job, it’s familiar and it’s safe. Every time I’ve left a job I’ve felt really sad during my last few days, knowing that on some level I will miss the familiar things, faces, and routines that make up my day. Even now, on days when I’m feeling sad and nostalgic I’ll think back fondly of some of the comfortingly familiar parts of my day. There will be things that you will miss. It’s OK. It doesn’t mean that you want to stay in that life/job/place (or that you want to go back to it), it just means that you are human and that you find some comfort in the familiar.

5. Loss of the life that you thought you would have

Have you ever gone through a really bad breakup? Do you remember feeling so sad when you thought of all the plans that you had with your ex – how you thought that you would live together, or get married, or have children, or go to Bali? When you go through a breakup you lose not only a partner, but also the dreams that you cherished for your future together. Even if you know on some level that the relationship wasn’t right, you’re still sad about the loss of a future that you were invested in.

Leaving behind a life plan that didn’t work for you is much the same. Even if you hated your job, your city, your situation, you probably still saw some future that involved aspects of your life that you are now giving up. On some level you were invested in that future, even if you thought it sounded terrible. There were probably some aspects that you liked – maybe you hated your corporate job, but you liked the idea of being promoted and earning prestige (I know I did). Maybe you hate your city but you still dreamed of living in its nicest neighbourhood in a massive house.

Give yourself time to mourn the loss of a future that was at least familiar, and in which you were certainly invested to some degree.

6. Loss of support systems and social circles

If you leave a job, you are probably leaving behind a group of people with whom you often shared stories, complaints, and/or funny pictures of cats. Even if these people weren’t your best friends, or you never saw them outside of work, they likely still offered you some sense of belonging and of social support. When you leave your job you will leave this all behind. You will probably miss being around some of these people. Even if you disliked your co-workers, you may miss spending time with a group of people with whom you have something in common, if only your job. On some level these people support you, so you shouldn’t be surprised if you feel a free-floating sadness or loneliness when you leave them behind.

If you move to another city, country, or continent, you are probably leaving behind everyone that you have ever known. This is a big deal. Even if you throw yourself into new relationships and make tons of awesome friends, there may be times when you feel lonely and don’t really know why. Allow yourself to mourn the loss of familiar people and the support that they gave you.

How to Give Yourself Time and Space to Mourn

The first and most important thing is simply to understand that you are mourning a loss. Even if your new life, new job, new country, or new situation is infinitely better than what you left behind, you will likely still mourn one or more of the losses mentioned. Be kind to yourself and give yourself extra time to rest; schedule a day off and make no plans beyond relaxing. When you feel sad, allow yourself time and space to feel that, and then try to get outside for some easy exercise and sunshine, or do something to lift your spirits. Know that grieving your former life is a normal part of change, even if you didn’t much like your former life. Sometimes you might just need half an hour a day to cry and then lay around feeling sad. Give yourself that half an hour and don’t beat yourself up about it.

Rather than feeling sad, you might feel a free-floating sense of irritation or anger. Or you might feel incredibly numb, or at times incredibly overwhelmed. Whatever you feel is OK, and it’s important to acknowledge and honour those feelings.

Just because you’re chasing your dreams doesn’t mean that you’re going to be ridiculously happy all the time. That’s OK, grief is a part of any major life change, and it’s necessary in order to move forward and fully embrace your new life.

What else do I have to lose?

This is a post that I wrote over a year ago – I started it when I first decided to quit my job, and filled in the details when I actually quit my job.

October 18, 2011
Updated: May 2, 2012

I have officially quit my secure, corporate job and am moving to Japan with only a little money and not much of a long term plan.

A lot of people have been asking me if I’m afraid. They want to know if I’m afraid of losing my possessions, my foothold on the corporate ladder, the security of a well-paid position with a pension plan (!) and benefits. What if I want to get another job and I’ve lost my edge after a year or two out of the working world? What if no one wants me when I have a glaring gap in my resume?

To all those who have asked me if I’m afraid of losing something, I will say this: I have already lost what’s most important to me, what else do I have to lose?

I have lost control of my time.

My hours are set with only a little flexibility, and that flexibility is only because I was lucky enough to have a great manager. If I were to move forward in my career and my roles became more demanding, I would likely lose even that amount of flexibility. My life revolves around having to go to work.

I have lost my independence.

My employer pays me twice a month and that is that. I am beholden to the company for my ability to keep a roof over my head and food on my table. For a long time I would do whatever was asked of me in order to not lose my sole income source. I have now managed to eke out a small side income, which I hope to expand now that I will have 45-50 hours of my week back.

I have lost my ability to see my friends and family at will.

My family lives on the other side of the country, as do many of my friends. Many more friends live on other continents and I have trouble seeing them more than once a year – if I’m lucky. I miss my loved ones very much and I wish that I could see them more often, but with only three weeks vacation I haven’t been able to.

I have lost my ability to be outdoors.

I love being outside. Growing up I loved nothing more than spending my summers outside with the horses. I love to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on my face. I even love spending a bit of time outdoors in our cold Canadian winters. Now I sit inside all day, and I start to take on the pallor of the underside of a stone.

I have lost my ability to respect my body’s needs.

If I am tired, it doesn’t matter. I still have to get up and go to work. If my body wants to sleep in the afternoon, it doesn’t matter. I still have to be at work. If my body wants to run and stretch before lunch, it doesn’t matter. I have to sit at my desk and just carry on.

And most frighteningly:

I have lost my compassion.

Sometimes when a friend asks me for some of my time to help them out, I feel resentful because my leisure time is so limited. And then I feel terrible because I really do want to help them, it’s just that my emotional resources have been stretched so thin by all of the obligations that I have to attend to in my working life that I don’t have the patience and energy to help them cheerfully. On top of my actual work obligations are the obligations that support my work life, such as commuting, dropping off or picking up dry cleaning, and packing lunches. At the end of the day I am so spent that I often feel like I don’t have the energy to help other people, or even care about other people. I don’t want to be that kind of person.

So as I leave my day job, never to return to the world of traditional work I have to ask: what else do I have to lose?

—-

December 7, 2012 Update:

I have decided to finally publish this post. Although I am still finding my way in my new life of self/non-corporate employment, looking back on this post makes me realize that I have regained all of these things. Although I don’t yet have 100% control over my time, nor am I able to make 100% of my living through self-employment, I am well on my way and am much farther along than I was in October 2011.

If you found something that resonated with you, please share this post with a friend or on your social network of choice.

How to Move All Your Possessions in Just 1 Hour

Well it’s been a couple months now since I moved and the process of packing and unpacking all my stuff has been enlightening. It’s shown me both how far I’ve come and how far I have left to go. Here is the best part:

I moved ALL my stuff (including furniture) in just one hour. Seriously ONE HOUR. That includes 15 minutes of driving between my old place and my new place. Becoming a minimalist made my move MUCH easier and way less stressful.

Now, full disclosure, I did hire movers (I am very small and can’t really carry a mattress and box spring on my own) but because I only needed them for one hour, the cost was comparable to renting a U-Haul and driving it myself. I also had enough furniture and stuff to fill my bedroom, a living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Basically I had the equivalent of a fully furnished one bedroom apartment (although I actually lived in a two bedroom apartment with a roommate).

First, here are the things that I minimalized very successfully:

– Books
– Clothes
– Shoes
– Kitchen stuff
– Furniture

Paring down those five categories can help anyone’s move go much more smoothly. I would also recommend seriously questioning keeping anything breakable. If an object is a real pain to move, think long and hard about whether or not it’s worth keeping. Could you sell it on craigslist and have someone come pick it up and give you cash for it?

When you look at getting rid of clothes before a move, I would recommend culling anything that is dry-clean only first. Those clothes are expensive to maintain and involve hauling around heavy garment bags. This goes doubly for old coats – they are huge and heavy, and there are many charities that desperately need gently-used winter coats.

There are some other heavy items that I would suggest thinking twice before moving. Are these things really worth the trouble of moving them? Here are some things that I am very grateful that I did not have to move (and that you will be too):

– A couch (I gave mine to my roommate)
– A TV (I don’t own one)
– Breakable knick knacks (with one exception I don’t have any)
– A sound system or game console (I don’t own them)
– A desktop computer (I have a laptop)

If you have any of these items and have been wavering on whether to hold onto them or to part with them, an impending move may push you to sell or donate them.

Even though my move is done I still have lots of paring down to do. These are the things that I look forward to paring down on:

– Furniture (I still have a couple smaller things that I can get rid of)
– Kitchen stuff (as I figure out what I need for my new kitchen there are things that I can donate)
– Clothes (seriously, I have a lot of clothes)
– Random electronics (I have an assortment of small electronics devices that are broken)
– Random bathroom stuff (I have some drugs and medicines that I need to figure out how to safely dispose of)
– Shoes (I can see the light at the end of the shoe tunnel)

Moving is such a great opportunity to get rid of excess stuff because you really feel the pain and burden of owning things that you don’t use. It’s just SO MUCH effort to move things to a new house.

I’d love to hear your tips for paring down before a move.