The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the category “change”

Things That Make My Life Easier

When we moved to our dream location last year, we vowed to live a “simpler, smaller life.”  Who knew that the biggest challenge to living simpler and smaller would be…me?  A lifetime of indoctrination into the world of more and bigger is not easy to overcome.  It requires a serious mindset shift.  And I slip…a lot.

Watching my husband set off on his bike to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner just now made me think of some of the things we’ve put in place to keep our lives simpler and smaller.

Our beach bungalow

Our beach bungalow

  1. We right-sized our house.  Ok, technically we down-sized.  We have lived in homes as big as 3500 sq. ft. and as small as 1200 sq. ft.  The truth is, our needs are small and simple.  We need three bedrooms: one for us, one for our son, and one (or a den) to use as a home office since we both work from home.  Check.  We need a kitchen.  Check. We need a place to eat (dining room).  Check. We need a family gathering place (living room). Check. We had to get rid of about half of our furniture when we moved and I had to get rid of about half of my clothes since we now share a closet.  I don’t miss any of it.   That we have a front porch is a bonus.  That we added a (bug-free!) screened in back porch is positively decadent!  Sure, I would love to have a proper guest room for the occasional guests we have.  But guests are rare and we make due with air mattresses and a trundle when we do have some.
  2. We have a housekeeper. A splurge.  Worth the money and a great time-saver.  The time we don’t spend cleaning house is spent with each other.  This morning my husband and I took a walk on the beach together while our house was being cleaned
  3. We order our groceries online. Any chance my husband gets to avoid talking to a human being, he does so this works great for him.  We order online, swing through to the special lane at Harris Teeter to pick them up, and bring them home. Probably less impulse buying too.
  4. We use HelloFresh for meals.  We love it!  It has given my husband (the cook) three new menus to try each week (they take about 30 minutes to prepare) and the fresh food comes boxed to our door. Less waste and some new tastes!
  5. We did have a yard guy, but he wasn’t helping keep our plants alive and I can kill them myself without paying him to do it.  And we only have a tiny swath of grass that I could cut with a pair of scissors in about 30 minutes (but won’t).
  6. Next thing I want to try is Stitch Fix which will do my clothes shopping for me.  They surely will do a better job than I do for myself (I’m fashion-challenged and will wear shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops any chance I get).

I know some of my simplifying measures are just paying other people to do things for us.  But that’s the great thing about it…we would rather pay people to do some of the things for us that we don’t like to do than pay for a giant house or newer cars or rounds of golf or whatever.  Everyone’s different.  But these things make our lives easier and we don’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything.  Others might really want a golf club membership but be willing to clean their own house.  It’s all about prioritizing.  And everyone’s priorities are different.

The one area in which I just can’t seem to simplify is pets.  We have three cats and a dog.  That’s a lot of fur in a small house.  (Thank goodness for Swiffer.)  But it’s also a lot of pet love. And while that doesn’t make my life smaller or simpler, it makes it more wonderful.

Autumn, the latest addition to our family

Autumn, the latest addition to our family

Carpe easier!

Doing What You Know versus Being Who You Are

Aha.

I had an aha moment and I want to share it with you.

My brother used to call me a “human doing” because, as a (sort of) recovering Type A personality person, I was always busy.  Going, doing, keeping busy.  My theme song might have been this quite wonderful song BusyBusyBusy by Kevin Kline (yes, the actor) on Philadelphia Chickens, one of Sandra Boynton‘s albums for children.  [You may not have know that the wonderful author Sandra Boynton had albums.  They are fabulous!  I…I mean, my son…loves them!]  

This is seriously one of my favorite albums. Where else can you hear some of your favorite artists sing silly songs?  Awesome is what it is.

This is seriously one of my favorite albums. Where else can you hear some of your favorite artists sing silly songs? Awesome is what it is.  http://www.sandraboynton.com/sboynton/boyntonmusic.html

Anyhoo, what I am coming to realize as I get old and sparkly (my hair is sparkly, not grey!) is that I stay busy doing what I know, but that doesn’t always coincide with who I am.  And if I am not being who I am, then I’m not really living the most fulfilling life I can.

A long time ago, I remember reading an article (in the pre-blog, tweet, post days) that talked about how compelling it is to ask people to answer a simple question and that their answer to this question reveals a lot about them.  So I’m going to ask you this question and–without thinking about it long and hard–tell me what the first answer is that pops into your head.  Or don’t.  No pressure.  Ready for the question?  Ok, here it is.  Remember, don’t think.  Just react…

Who are you?

What was your knee-jerk, gut reaction answer to that question?  It might have been something like:

– I’m a woman

– I’m a dad

– I’m a Christian

– I’m a free spirit

– I’m an accountant

Now think harder about the question.  Did you really answer “who you are?”  Or did you answer the questions “what you know?” or “what you do?”

Whatever your answer was or is (and you are welcome to change your answer now–I’m not the thought police), think about how you spend your time.  Are you spending your time doing things that make the most of who you are?  Or are you spending time doing what you know?

As an example, I know about crisis preparedness and legal issues for the meetings, hospitality, and tourism industry.  I spend a lot of time on those topics–researching, writing, editing, teaching, social media-ing (it’s my blog, I can make that a verb).

A picture of a more "real" me than I suspect some of my colleagues might imagine.  I was glad this day when my suitcase failed to show up at the resort with me as it gave me an excuse to wander around in a gift shop t-shirt and swim trunks.

A picture of a more “real” me than I suspect some of my colleagues might imagine. I was glad this day when my suitcase failed to show up at the resort with me as it gave me an excuse to wander around in a gift shop t-shirt and swim trunks.

But that’s not who I am.  I am: a writer, a mother, a wife, a stifled creative, an educator, a speaker, an anti-authoritarian…and a few things that maybe I won’t publish here lest we get off track.

My aha moment came when I realized that when I’m just doing what I know, I am less happy than when I am being who I am.  Which in turn reminded me of this wonderful quote:

“If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’?  And if not now, when?”Hillel the Elder

If not now, when indeed?

Carpe now!

Getting Unstuck–THEM

One of the biggest obstacles to getting unstuck, in my experience, is THEM.  You know THEM–well-meaning friends, family, and all-purpose lovers of the status quo.  The ones who think you are crazy when you tell them you are selling yet another house and packing up to move yet again (maybe to a city where you’ve already lived three times) yes–even though you’ve only lived there two years, yes–even though you have a good job, yes–even though you’ll lose money on that house.  Or going back to school…again.  Or (surprise!) having a baby at 42.  Ok, that last one was one of my better moves.

It’s the side-eye you get from your mother when you say you are thinking of just throwing out all but 33 items in your wardrobe.  It’s that judgmental over-the-glasses look you get from your son’s teacher when you say you are thinking of home schooling him.  It’s the wary look your spouse gives you when you say you think you might give up your lucrative career to become a popsicle-stick artist.

From  Courtney Carver's blog "Be More With Less."  Check it out.  It's awesome.

From Courtney Carver’s blog “Be More With Less.” Check it out. It’s awesome.

It’s hard to battle THEM because most of the fight is in your head.  I attribute a great deal to my husband’s single raised eyebrow.  That eyebrow speaks volumes to me.  In fact, it talks to me all night.  It argues with me all day.  And by the end of the day, I’m furious with the eyebrow.  Or I’m resigned to believe the eyebrow is right.  But 9 times out of 10, when I ask my husband for eyebrow-interpretation, he attributes some innocuous meaning for the raised eyebrow like “Wow, I didn’t even know you were a dog person.”  Or he has no idea what I’m talking about.  Or he confesses that he didn’t hear my question because he was wondering why people keep eating orange cheddar cheese when by now, everyone knows that’s not natural.

Here’s what I’ve come to realize.  Although opinions are like ***holes (everyone has one), people aren’t really that concerned with what I do.  Other people don’t spend vast amounts of their time thinking about me.  What I do with my life doesn’t directly impact them (unless they happen to be married to me or my son).  So while I can listen to their input, their collective input has to be given it’s proper weight–0.000427% of my decision-making factors.

GapingVoid.com @gapingvoid always knows just what to say

GapingVoid.com @gapingvoid always knows just what to say

And just like that, THEM (THEY?) don’t have the power they used to have over me.  Don’t give people more power than they have earned.  Don’t let them take up valuable real estate in your head.  THEM are only a barrier to getting unstuck if you let them be.

Carpe THEM!  I mean, carpe us…I mean carpe YOU!

Getting Unstuck: Sacrifice

I feel sure that there are a number of people out there who think I’m bat-shit crazy.  I’ve moved 17 times in my adult life (six times to where I live now – I kept at it until it stuck).  I’ve changed jobs 16 times in 26 years, often into a completely different career (for example, caterer to lawyer).  I have four college degrees.

IMG_3106

When I got engaged, I told my would-be husband that I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to stick it out for the long haul because I didn’t seem to stick with anything for the long haul.  I’m happy to say we’ve been married for 15 years…in no small part, perhaps, because he’s been willing to move six times (and sometimes the moves were even his idea!).

Now maybe I am bat-shit crazy, but here’s the thing: I don’t just tolerate change.  I crave it.  I thrive in chaos.  I loathe the status quo.

So when someone tells me they really want to change ____ (job, career, relationship, location, etc., etc.), I am baffled when the next words out of their mouths are…”But I can’t.”  Sure you can.  You always can.  The thing is, change takes sacrifice.  It’s not so much that people “can’t.”  It’s that they aren’t willing to make the sacrifice.

I can’t even tell you how much I’ve sacrificed to make all the changes I’ve made over the years.  But I’ll try.  Here are just some of the sacrifices I’ve made:

  • Damaged or lost relationships with friends or colleagues.  So many I’ve probably forgotten some people altogether.
  • Money (sometimes significant amounts) on the sale of houses and condos in real estate transactions (we’ve bought and sold six dwellings in 15 years).
  • Opportunities to be near and with family, sometimes during major life events and crises.
  • Stuff–mountains of stuff.  Stuff I’ve replaced and had to get rid of again. Stuff I bought, was gifted, was given.  Stuff I loved and hated and outgrew.
  • Space.  I’ve lived in a 3500 sq. ft. house.  I’ve lived in a 1296 sq. ft. condo.  I’ve lived in several in between. It’s all the same to me.  You know, except for the amount of stuff I can fit in it.
  • Career trajectory, upward mobility.  I could probably be a Chief Purser, law firm partner, Full Professor by now if I’d stuck with one of those things.
  • A passel of kids (but we did manage to acquire one along the way.  And by “acquire” I mean adopt, not snatch…just for the record).
We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo...and lived there two years.  Next!

We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo…and lived there two years. Next!

Of all the things I’ve sacrificed over the years, do you know what I’ve grieved the most? (And I’d like to say it was relationships because that would make me sound all deep and stuff but…) A chicken basket.  A white basket with a small ceramic chicken glued on it.  It was given away in one of many “Brutal Purges” that resulted in hundreds of “off to the local charity” trips.  I’ve grieved it because my mother-in-law talked a store clerk out of it when it wasn’t even for sale and gave it to us as part of a wedding gift.  She cracked me up, my mother-in-law.

I’ve known people who have made the sacrifice, decided it wasn’t worth it, and went back to their old job/relationship/town/whatever.  I applaud that.  Some sacrifices aren’t worth it.  I wouldn’t give up my husband and son for anything.  I wouldn’t give up chocolate for anything. (As aforementioned, I’m neither deep nor sentimental as evidenced again by giving my husband, son, and chocolate the same priority level. But it’s chocolate, for heaven’s sake.)

But those who say they want to change, but can’t?  I’m not buying it.  It’s just a matter of whether value of change > sacrifice.

Carpe sacrifice!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: