This is the final wrap up of the 365 Days of Carpe Diem project. The journey has been incredibly life transformative, but so much has happened that I can’t seem to tie it up with a neat and tidy bow. My insights are a bit jumbled, but here we go.
Get Well, Get Happy
The core goals of this project was to Get Well, and to Get Happy. I feel satisfied that I achieved these goals to the extent that I now just need to maintain this lifestyle. I made big progress in understanding my body better, and now I just need to continue living well according to what works for my body, and be disciplined in my exercise program to rehabilitate my body to function better. I also worked through a lot of internal stuff through the reflective pieces, and I feel I have grown so much.
The final Positive/Negative Ratio after 274 days is 831/29 = +802.
My ambitious aim was to complete approximately 3 positive actions a day towards my goals. 274 days x 3 actions = 822. So in fact, I did exceed my ambitious aim. 274 days is 39 weeks, so on average I had less than one negative moment per week. Of course this isn’t completely accurate as what I was measuring isn’t always equal (is reading a book for 20 minutes as good as watching a documentary for 1.5 hours?), and I think I have forgotten to capture a number of negative moments (particularly on days where I don’t blog). But overall, the purpose of keeping the Positive/Negative Ratio was to keep myself on track and motivated to keep moving forwards, and I believe it worked. There were many many days where I felt aimless and uninspired, and I would refer to my Goals page. I’ve really instilled in myself that the small actions matter collectively over time. Nothing in this life is really hard, it just takes discipline and patience, and they are things we have control over.
I changed my goals many many times this year. I learnt that situations change, goals change, and even our own intent or commitment changes. My perfectionist self found this really hard to accept in the beginning. I beat myself up if I did not blog every day. I beat myself up if I strayed from the original goals I set. I beat myself up for not setting appropriate goals to begin with. I was so hard on myself even though very few people were reading, and that none of this project mattered on any sort of life-threatening level whether I followed through or not. This project really made me face my perfectionist as it reared it’s ugly head through many unexpected forms. Blogging (nearly) every day meant that I didn’t get to edit out the less than perfect parts, and to report a tidy and neat conclusion at the end. I had to be honest about what was happening each day, and that even on a good day, we can never achieve as many things as our mind can think up. Our brain is powered by a limitless imagination-fuel, while our physical lives are limited by time and energy and resources.
I’ve spoken about my interest in personal finance and minimalism, and this project has continued to strengthen my values. I feel that so much was possible because of my existing values about living simply and knowing your money. Having pre-paid my food, rent and bills means that I have not given a thought all year to whether I could afford to survive. The rest of my money I continued to use wisely according to my priorities, and to make do or go without. Even in a modern urban setting there is surprisingly little that is essential aside from food, shelter, health, transport, and phone/internet. This experience has been really liberating, and made me realise that if I had the choice, I would choose to be able to prepay all my expenses even if it means living very simply, rather than having more but needing a certain income to maintain my lifestyle.
My “Real” Self
One of the mantras I have repeated throughout the blog is Action Expresses Priorities. My actions this year reveal the real me. It’s been surprising and humbling how much I don’t meet my own expectations of my ideal me. There is something about the attachment to an idea that gives us credit, even if we don’t follow through. For example, if I say that I want to learn an instrument some day, somehow that gives me more of an identity, even if I never ever pick up an instrument. My reflections throughout the year have made me a lot more aware of all my assumptions and expectations and the things that lend me identity, and I feel tired of the falsities. It seems that humans have a tendency of painting a picture of our ideal selves, but we don’t truly know ourselves. It feels a bit like we’re just this puppet, and our brain tells us what our story is, and we act it out. I haven’t been in a workplace for quite some time now, and I’ve had the luxury to just be me in my own space. Whenever I’ve had to engage with “the rest of society”, like going to a function with The Partner or a community event, I have been really confronted by having to develop my story again. I am learning how to share the core essences of me, without delving into the superficial stories. My story is no longer “I am a social worker my trade, but my last workplace was very challenging and I got unwell, so I took time off to get well, and now I’m preparing to do The Europe Dream”. I am working up the courage to simply say “I am just living, and my focus these days is on my health and living well”. People will ask more questions and I will give the facts, but I hope to refrain from responding to assumptions and expectations before people have made them.
When you’ve been experiencing something for so long, you start to think it’s normal and cannot fathom anything different. Once that veil has been lifted, the clarity is precious. I got into the rat race, and I believed it to be the norm, even though it was what I always challenged. I had pain and ailments for a long time, and I believed it to be normal, and that I was just weak for not soldiering on. Now that I have clarity, I don’t want to forget how good it feels to be well. I don’t want to spend a third of my life in an unsupportive toxic stressful environment, and the other third of my life drinking my sorrows away. I don’t want to eat junk or rely on medications to manage symptoms, rather than preventing it in the first place. Even though I was such an advocate for making active decisions and challenging the norm, I myself lost that clarity and could not fathom anything different. It took a year of being incredibly unwell and unhappy and my parents moving back from overseas and getting life threateningly sick to force me to make a change.
I started off the year incredibly unwell and unhappy. I am now making progress to being the most well I have ever been, and I am emotionally and mentally at peace.
I started off the year extremely burnt out, and unsure whether I ever wanted to work again, never mind work hard, and what in the world my purpose in this world was. I am now feeling ready to contribute to this world again.
I started off the year losing a big sense of identity (social work career, my work place, friends and acquaintances associated with work, being a productive person of society, being a successful adult). I am now in a more emotionally mature place about what identity means and how we make sense of our place in this world.
I started off the year with quite a rigid expectation of my life and it’s contents. I am now making peace with letting go of those expectations, and letting go of the attachment to expectations, and embracing the unknown.
I actively changed fundamental parts of myself that I didn’t know was possible. I used to be quite a negative cynical person who was always anxious and worried. I’m now a much more joyful person, able to go with the flow and welcome change. The joy journey felt gimmicky at first, but by focusing on joy and retraining my brain, I honestly feel that it has made a difference in my default outlook.
The Butterfly Effect
“The phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere”
If I had not quit my job, I would have stuck it out until things got better, and would probably still be there today. It is still just as chaotic and toxic today as it was a year ago (I continue to hear what is happening at that organisation).
If I had gotten another job rather than choosing to take a year off, I would definitely not have reached the level of physical and mental health and wellness I have today.
If I had gotten another job, it would most likely be in the same field. Given that I was “fortunate” enough to be involved with the reforms from the beginning, I would be somewhat of an expert in that field and probably pigeonhole myself into that field. I would not have allowed all the mad ideas I have had this year to flourish.
If I had gotten a job any sooner, I would not have considered The Europe Dream or made it happen.
If I had not embarked on The Europe Dream, my family dynamics would most likely have continued in unhealthy ways for longer. By being physically away, my parents will truly have to accept the empty nest and make new meaning of their lives.
If I had not decided to blog this journey, I would not have made a connection with Simple Authentic Woman, who is now a close real life friend.
If I had not decided to blog, I would not have made as many important reflections as I have, because my quality of journalling is vastly poorer.
Who knows what else in my life might have vastly changed trajectories because of choosing to quit my job, and take a year off. We can never know what our alternate realities would have been, but I do feel that this reality was the right thing to do.
I’m so glad I did this journey. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received through the community. I hope I’ve inspired you too. I’m off to the next chapter of my journey now, so…
So long, and thanks for all the fish!