First of all, how do I live?
Well some, including me, would say I’ve lead a pretty crazy, adventurous, out-there, and unconventional existence so far (although now I’m meeting 20 year-olds who’ve already gone to twice as many places as I have). See what you think:
When I was 18 I took a bus across Canada from Ontario to the Yukon to house-sit for a senior nun for the summer. (about 100 hours on the bus one-way btw!)
When I was 19 I went to Indonesia and taught English for a year.
Then I moved to Halifax and went to art school, which is crazy by any standard out there! I also got elected to students’ council and lead several student protests.
Halfway through art school I got bored (a.k.a. academics and stress gave me a nervous breakdown) and decided I needed to do something more real and in-line with my values, so I moved to Toronto to live and work with refugees for 8 months.
After finally completing art school I moved to Victoria B.C. to try to make (part of) my living as an artist selling my art on the street, while also getting a certificate to teach ESL
Victoria was far too middle-class, white, (and expensive) for my tastes so I flew to France, travelled around with a friend in his VW van, then from Italy I took a boat to Turkey where I worked on a few organic farms for a few months.
I was getting low on funds, so from Turkey I flew to South Korea and started teaching English there (ended up doing so for 2 years and 3 months).
In-between teaching gigs in Korea, I travelled to Peru and Bolivia with my best friend Corinne, oh, and I became a Baha’i (but that’s for another blog).
After Korea, life got pretty normal for about 3 years when I taught English to International students in a college in my hometown of London, Ontario.
During all of this teaching English stuff, I realized something was missing and finally concluded that my calling was to be an art therapist and if I didn’t do it, I would forever wonder “what if?!”
So in 2012 I moved to Montreal, learned French, and began the long, trying process of applying for the sole masters in art therapy degree in Canada. I finally got in and started in Fall 2013 and graduated in 2015.
At that point, my dad had asked me if I wanted to walk over 500 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with him, so that seemed like the next logical thing to do.
While walking the Camino, my mantra was “May the eyes of my heart be open” which I repeated about 100 times a day while walking 6-7 hours a day across the north of Spain until we reached León. (See, I was finally an art therapist, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with that – where I was meant to be, where I could be of most service).
I decided to leave the Camino and travel around Spain and visit old/make new friends, which is when I applied for a volunteer position doing art therapy with children in an orphanage in Guatemala!
Just before I flew to Scotland for the Fire festival on Halloween, I found out I had been accepted for the position in Guatemala, and I had better start becoming fluent in Spanish by early December, since the job started in January 2016!
I moved toGuatemala, learned Spanish, and spent 2016 learning way more from living in that orphanage than anything else in my life had previously prepared me for.
Just when I told myself I didn’t need any more crazy challenges, I applied to volunteer for The Red Pencil International, an art therapy organization that partners with on-the-ground NGOS in various relief/humanitarian missions. I was accepted to go to India for 6 weeks to work with women survivors of domestic violence/acid attacks.
I list all of these highlights (because really, the real living takes place in all the moments and details in-between!) to now answer the question of “how do you live like you live?!”
There are many answers for this but here is what presently comes to my heart and mind (in no particular order):
- I was born as a white Canadian, which gives me many privileges that I have often taken for granted.
- I never felt called to have a family or a conventional life.
- I never exactly had ONE calling. I’m more of a multi-potentialite or renaissance person (I’m kinda good at many things, and have many, many interests!)
- I’m very, very CURIOUS and an experiential learner, meaning I only really learn things by doing them.
- I love people. I go where people who interest me go, and I go where I can meet new and interesting people.
- Anxiety helps – I get antsy after being in one place for too long (3 years is my usual limit)
- I am (secretly until now) deathly afraid of being boring – this lights a fire under my ass.
- I (so far) have not met the ONE person who I am willing to compromise my freedom for enough to “settle-down”. If he/she is out there, then this person will likely never ask me to anyways!
- I’m very heart and gut driven. I listen to my heart and gut and follow them (btw meditation helps pick-up signals better). They are my compass.
- I tend to follow the seemingly irrational rule that whatever I am afraid of, that is probably what I should move towards, because that is where my growth lies (ask me more about this if you want).
- I was raised by parents who taught me that the measure of my success was my happiness, not “the job” that I did, and that they would love me unconditionally.
- I was also raised by parents who lived simply, within their means, and who put family, spirituality, the golden-rule, doing meaningful work that helped others, travel, and their happiness before monetary gain.
- My parents are incredibly generous with their space and let me come and live in their little guest-house in their backyard whenever I am in-between travels or jobs.
- I live simply. I own a ton of clothes, jewellery and books, but other than that, I am free! No house, no car, no mortgage, no debt.
Of course, maybe you’re saying, it’s easy for me to live this way since I am single and I have such helpful parents. But I believe this way of living – following my heart, travelling a lot, doing meaningful work – a lot of my freedom comes from not investing in having stuff (more stuff than I need) and not putting my energy and money into consuming what I really don’t need. I just watched a great documentary that in fact inspired this blog post, it’s called MINIMALISM and I think there are reasons that this way of living (and it CAN be done with kids in tow!!) is catching on: people are realizing that just working so that you can live paycheque to paycheque, and spending all of your hard-earned pay on getting more stuff which doesn’t really fulfil you anyway, it’s not cutting it.
How many times have I heard “yeah but when are you going to come back to living real life?” If “real life” is feeling stuck, unhappy, in-debt, and stressed-out, then my answer is NEVER. Even when I’m living in my hometown I don’t subscribe to that lifestyle, though it’s very easy to fall into that way of thinking where you accept feeling stuck, unhappy, in-debt, and stressed-out because you convince yourself it is NORMAL. Because society tells us it is normal. It doesn’t have to be!
The point is, I have people who look at me with fear and/or admiration and say “how do you live like you live? I could NEVER live how you live.” Well maybe travelling all over the world and volunteering isn’t for everyone, but at the core of how I’m choosing to live my life is my belief that I OWN THIS ONE LIFE, and that it is precious, and that I’m going to do my best to live it without regrets because I’ve done what I feel called to do during my time on this planet. If you are operating from similar beliefs, no matter what that looks like, then you ARE living your life just like crazy ol’ me! But in YOUR OWN style.
P.S. – Here’s an amazingly good, kick-you-in-the-pants, motivational video in case you need some inspiration! It’s called “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives”. Boom!