I thought I had everything
I don't know what happened to my life, but once I turned 35, it wasn't as fun as it used to be.
I had everything people around my age should have: a mortgage, a partner, an awesomely quirky teenager daughter, a well-paying and secure government job. Check marks to all of the above.
But I had that nagging feeling that I'm missing out on something. I didn't know what but I just wasn't convinced that I should settle for what I've got. I thought if I could find out what I'm meant to do, like my true calling, I would be happier. So I started a quest to find my hidden talent. I ended up spending over five years on this adventure.
(This is all so cliché and cheesy, and I'm kind of embarrassed to write about it. But whatever. It's how it happened, so I'm not changing my story.)
I had to gaze into the issues and worries that were palliated by having things
About two years ago, I was having a tough time at work. One of my colleagues was being a jerk, and also a couple of projects that I was involved were stressing me out. I also bought a condo, and the moving triggered a massive decluttering phase which I shall call the Last Great Decluttering (LGD).
During that LGD, I got rid of most of my worldly possessions and became a minimalist by anyone's standards. As I stripped myself down to the core, I had to face many of the issues and worries that were masked by having things. For example, when I felt down, instead of going to a mall and picking up a new outfit which might compromise my capsule wardrobe, I had to continue feeling down until I was tired of being miserable. I fought the urge to buy new makeup when I felt old and unattractive.
It wasn't and still isn't easy to resist the urge to buy my way out. But, by focusing on and studying my negative mood and emotions, instead of just trying to avoid feeling bad, I was starting to understand myself better.
But, even after I became a minimalist, I wasn't sure what my so-called calling was. I thought maybe it was a silly idea that everyone had at least one talent or work that they enjoyed so much. I was neither hopeful nor had given up. I kept googling for relevant keywords in both English and Japanese until one day I stumbled upon a website of a Japanese therapist named Takashi Sugita.
I rediscovered who I am and was ready to accept it
Sugita's method of figuring out what you want to do is so simple and brilliant. He says that what you want to do is something you've been doing all your life. It's something you can't help but doing, even when you're dead tired, depressed, or super busy. He also mentions that it's absurd to spend the time to figure out what you like. For example, if you love eating curry and rice, you don't work hard to like curry and rice. You already know you like it. Here is the link to his website (Japanese)
For me that something I can't help but do is organizing. Even in the midst of thesis-writing induced panic and depression, I had to have my closet organized in a certain way. My books were arranged so that they were grouped by genre, author, size and colour (I since got rid of all hardcopy books. I now own digital books only.) Makeups, shoes, the same thing. It doesn't feel right if things aren't organized the way I liked.
To be honest, I had known about this tendency for a long time. I even contemplated pursuing a career in professional organizing more than a decade ago. Why did I not go for it? Because I was working towards my degree, and thought, once I'm out of school, I want to land a job where I was required to have all of the skills I gained in school, like using SPSS. I needed to justify the time in school and the student loan. Besides, I thought research analyst sounded more impressive than organizer or declutterer.
But since the Last Great Decluttering, I became honest about what I enjoyed and was ready to pursue a new career.
I wish if I could say that it was an easy decision to quit and jump into a new life; unfortunately, it wasn't. Even after realizing I couldn't stand working for the government, I was doubting if I should quit. It seemed crazy because, well, do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent job in Nova Scotia? That's why people move to Alberta. It seemed so wasteful to let go of something a lot of people would love to have.
But, in the end, I chose what I wanted to do. And honestly, I am great at decluttering and organizing, and I can't say the same about office politics and statistical analysis.
In summary, decluttering makes you vulnerable and honest about yourself. There will be no clutter to insulate yourself from all your flaws and weaknesses, and you will feel like sh** while you adjust to the new environment. But, I highly recommend doing it, especially if you are trying to figure out who you are.
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