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Earned Simplicity

Updated: Mar 19

“I want to live a simple life.”

You’ve heard the phrase, and you may have even said it before, but what does it mean? What is a simple life? I suppose, like most things in life, the definition depends on the one doing the defining. I won’t pretend that I can define it for you, or any one for that matter, but I will share a little about what it means to me.

I haven’t had a permanent address for more than a year and a half. I left a so-called “normal life” behind and set out on the road in pursuit of a dream – but I found so much more.

If you’ve followed me for long, you know the story of how, when, and why I began to live life the way I do. If you don’t know the story, look back through the posts here on my blog. I’ve written about it a few times, and I don’t want to bore anyone by rehashing it all again. 🙂

I set out to live as a nomad so I could devote more time to my writing. I wanted – needed – to become a better writer. In order to do that I needed to spend more time writing. I also needed to spend more time living. When the idea first entered my mind early in 2018, it seemed like a relatively simple process. Just get rid of stuff, and hit the road. Sounds simple enough, right?

As it turns out, extricating oneself from the “normal life” is harder than I had imagined. The biggest challenge wasn’t ridding myself of nearly every material possession I owned. It wasn’t leaving behind the security (which isn’t real by the way) of a job. It wasn’t even denying myself many comforts in order to save up enough money to hit the road. All of those things were challenging, but the biggest challenge was shifting my way of thinking, feeling, and seeing the world.

We humans are odd creatures. We tend to measure and value our existence by material wealth. The more we accumulate, be it money or anything else, the better. We create labels and expectations – literally make them up – and then become their victims. For generations, we’ve allowed ourselves to be programmed and conditioned to live and think a certain way. And if we don’t measure up to our own invented measuring devices of success, we’re crushed by a sense of failure. It’s interesting that the things we value as indicators of a successful life, are almost all external. In our fervor to be seen as successful, we’ve neglected the very things that breathe life into our souls.

I should make clear that I have no issues with owning things, or having money. I do have an issue when the pursuit and accumulation of those things become the primary reason for existence. Material wealth isn’t a life-source. Money and things are merely tools. Tools are meant to be used to help, build, or repair when necessary.

Since hitting the road, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many different people; people from all walks of life. I’ve met wealthy people (millionaires to billionaires,) homeless people, white-collar and blue-collar – and here’s what I discovered: The most unhappy and miserable people I met had tons of wealth. Their lives were so complex, few real friends, and all of their time spent on maintaining what they had accumulated.

Once again, I want to make it crystal clear that I have no problem with being successful, or earning money. But, when that becomes the reason for living, unhappiness will surely follow. And my observations and experience has been that excess is usually tied to complexity, and the more complex you make life out to be, the more life will be sucked out of you. That’s my view of course, and your mileage may vary. 🙂

I guess what I’m trying to convey is this: We’ve created a bunch of ways to measure how successful we are, and we kill ourselves (our planet and others) trying to measure up. All of the noise is drowning out the voice of love, the cries of the lonely, and hearts begging for a helping hand, or a kind word. We push ourselves without mercy, and demand the same of others. Working to the point of burnout has become a badge of honor, instead of a warning sign.

And what’s the goal? Is it to work away the best years of your life, gambling on the hope that you’ll live long enough to retire when you’re 65? 70?

How long can you safely defer life?

Is the goal to acquire enough wealth to make possible a life of ease? And what does a life of ease look like? Less responsibilities? No debt? Time to enjoy things like sunsets, a walk in the woods, or holding hands with someone you love?

Ah! A life of ease sounds a lot like a simple life, doesn’t it? Herein lies a profound truth: Life was simple before we made up all of that other stuff.

I would love to see more people get back to living simply. There’s no need for excess money or things in a simple life, but it’s a way of thinking that has to be unlearned because we’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise. You don’t have to sell all your stuff, quit your job, and hit the road as a nomad. You just have to shift in your thinking, and it isn’t an easy thing to do, at least it wasn’t for me. However, when you do you will have earned a simpler, lighter, and more fulfilling way of life.

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