Sometimes you can’t tell how hard you’ve been going at life until you’re forced to stop and live in the moment. Those of you who follow my podcast, You Say Toma(h)to may have listened to the most recent episode detailing my recent holiday in Dubrovnik with Jeremy and two of our friends. When we got back, it became very clear that the way I was living just wasn’t working for me. Oddly enough Jeremy was having similar feelings. Almost as soon as we got back from one of the best holidays we’ve had, we were stressed and very unhappy. How do you go about trying to capture and maintain those feelings of well-being that often arise from travelling?
That’s not really an easy question. I figured out a long time ago that I was at my happiest when I was travelling. I vividly remember a trip to New Orleans as part of my undergraduate coursework. I spent a brilliant week exploring the city with my friends, eating delicious food, listening to and singing jazz in nightclubs, experiencing the history and ambience of the place. When it came time to go home, I could almost feel when we were over New Jersey airspace. I began snapping at one of my friends and I’ll never forget what she said, ” Jen, you are so much happier when you’re travelling.” She was right. (Though, remember kids, unhappiness is not an excuse to be a dick to your friends.)
A major part of travelling is coming home – entering back into ‘ordinary’ life. The contrast between the two is what makes travelling special. Still, after this latest holiday in Dubrovnik, it became all too apparent that something needed to change in the way I was approaching and living life. I felt like I was living to complete a PhD and not to improve myself or the world around me. More and more I felt less human and more of a vehicle for an 80,000 word thesis. No one can be happy feeling that way. In the past few months I’ve stopped running regularly, stopped going for walks, and I’ve even stopped looking forward to fun, social activities. They all just seemed like distractions from writing – not like the things that make life exciting and worth living.
This past weekend, Jeremy and I planned a reboot. We both needed to change in order to jolt us out of the rut we were both in. We sat down together and began examining different aspects of our lives. I pulled out a few life assessment activities I had stumbled across last year to help us. If you’re at all interested here is a link to one of them. As I began to really think about areas of my life, like personal growth and development, contribution and giving, fun and recreation, and family and friends, I began to realise how much I was pushing these things out of my life in the interest of getting a few more words out on a page. That’s not to say that completing my PhD isn’t a priority, it is. The balance is just all wrong. It isn’t the only priority.
After a bit of self-examination, Jeremy and I began to come up with ideas to help ensure we weren’t living for work. Setting new goals is always exciting but it can also be daunting. I’ve found though, that when I share my goals with others, I’m more likely to follow through. It’s almost like speaking them aloud makes them more tangible and more achievable. So here are some habits I want to get into over the next month and some goals I have set for myself:
- Initiate a healthy morning routine – This involves waking up an hour earlier so that I can get in a meditation, practice positive thinking through affirmations, and visualising the day I want to have. Now I’m the first person to be a bit cynical about new age thinking, but there is actually science that backs up these sorts of habits as reinforcing positivity and happiness. I have also noticed that when I do meditate, I often feel more centred and ready to achieve my goals so it can’t hurt to begin the day like this. Also, I need to get away from the habit of beginning the morning by checking Twitter. No good ever comes of this.
- Eat more mindfully – Jeremy and I both decided that we needed to start doing some meal planning. It’s not that we’ve been eating unhealthy food, but that we’ve not been really thinking about what we’re eating. I’ve also been having stomach upsets more recently and I haven’t quite figured out what’s causing it but I’ve narrowed the possible culprits down to either bread or dairy. I’d like to know which one it is so I can work around it if possible. I also need to get better at lunch. Because I tend to work to the exclusion of all else including eating, lunch tends to be something quick and less than ideal. By planning meals and cooking up a big vat of something at the beginning of the week I can heat up for lunch, I’m hoping that will help.
- Try new things – I’ve gotten into the habit of never really leaving the house except for runs or when Jeremy and I need to run errands. I don’t really have to say how unhealthy this is. I’ve felt like it has kept me from experiencing new things in my own city and neighbourhood. When I’m travelling trying new things is part and parcel of what I do so I thought it made sense to try to incorporate that into my life at home. To that end, I’ve signed up for a Spanish language course taking place at the end of October and Jeremy and I are planning on trying ballroom dancing next week. I’ve also really been keen to try backpacking. I’ve been thinking about it for four years and I feel like it’s time to give a short backpacking weekend a go. That kind of leads on to number 4.
- Dream but also do – Somewhere along the lines I stopped dreaming. I think it’s something that happens to a lot of adults. I miss dreaming about possible futures. Even now when I try to reactivate that part of me, it’s really difficult because it has atrophied so much. I need to get back into practice, so I’ve started a list of dream trips I’d like to go on. (That’s where the backpacking connection comes in) – dream destinations, dream activities, places and sites I’d love to see someday. More than just dreaming though, I want to make sure I do these trips. I want to work towards them and make sure these dreams come true.
This is my life reboot. I’ll try to keep you all up to date with how it goes. They say it takes 30 days to form a new habit and I have several new habits I’m going to be working towards. The way I figure it, by Halloween, I will be well on my way to feeling a whole lot better about where I am and where I am going. I hope it’s somewhere good.