After graduating college, I applied for a volunteer position in Colorado. I wrote the following essay as part of the application process. I did not follow through with the program. I did longwindedly describe my concept of simplicity.
As I wrote my responses, the answers to questions one and two began to merge into one another. I have found that my motivation for applying & my definition of simplicity are intertwined, as will be the following essay.
I once read that “Your whole life has been a journey, leading to this exact moment…” At the time that I read it, I thought this was a beautiful and comforting phrase. Now, I know it to be true. I will attempt to explain how recent events have aligned to reach this moment…
Before graduating from college, I filled out applications for AmeriCorp and PeaceCorp with the best intentions. I also graduated from college with great work experience, self-confidence & a lot of ambition. I wanted to be a manager, a director or a vice president. I wanted the house, husband, kids, dog and the money that would support it all. My thirst for “success” and accumulation triumphed over my attempts at philanthropy.
Over the past nine months, I have treasured newfound “free time” that was not available to me when I was handling a full course load and working during college.
Although I’ve always been an avid reader, my reading list lately has been more inspiring than usual. These books recommended by friends and family or rediscovered on old bookshelves:
- Bryce Courtenay The Power of One
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime & Punishment
- Ekhart Tolle The Power of NOW
- Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin
- Wayne Dyer Your Sacred Self
Movies from the library practically leapt off their place & begged me to watch them:
I’ve found activities that inspire me and keep me feeling alive:
- Taking a Yoga class
- Saying hi to acquaintances who might not remember who I am
- Studying Feng Shui
- Begin training for a marathon
- Rekindling friendships with people I have not seen in years
- Practicing Pilates regularly
- Taking care of my one year old nephew once a week
In the midst of all this, I decided to remodel my bedroom with a new coat of pain and new furniture. I began the process of cleaning out my room, by throwing away and giving away items that had been sitting in my closet, desk and drawers for months or even years without use or love. When the garbage man came on Monday morning, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and a new sense of relaxation penetrate my shoulders and neck. I then turned to my “electronic clutter” by cleaning out my Yahoo and UW Alumni email inboxes. When I turned on my computer to begin a long and arduous process, it crashed. I smiled at the irony of the situation. I had just lost four years worth of documents, music and pictures, yet all I felt was an enormous relief.
The next day, I checked my personal email during a lunch break at work. An email from volunteers lapuente was sitting in my inbox. I read about the values and mission of La Puente and responded with my interest.
Simplicity is about “letting go.” Letting go, not only of material items that crowd space, but also of the self-indulgence and self-absorption directly connected to those things. As I got rid of those things, I also threw away an emotional attachment to those items. I threw away any negative energy associated with that object, letter or ticket stub. I created all this new space in my life. This space welcomes intangible experiences and revitalized relationships based on openness and truth into my life. This space paves the way for a new opportunity that seems to align with my inner purpose.
I hope to continue on the path that I have been on. I’d like to realize who I am when removed from longstanding relationships with family and friends as well as outside the context of Madison, Milwaukee, North Shore, Wisconsin, the affluent. I want to live without the burden of accumulation and surrender myself to the needs of someone else.
Just a few days ago, I found a book on my brother’s shelf called Snow in Summer, the diary of a monk who gives up all attachments and lives on his own in the forest to “watch his mind.”
Yes, my whole life has been a journey, leading exactly to this moment: Here, writing this essay.