DISCLAIMER: This story is ridiculously long-winded. Read at your own risk (of nodding off while you’re surfing the web at work, day-dreaming about the beautiful Mediterranean beaches described later in this post [#spoileralert], or simply becoming a huge fan of my whacky writing and finding yourself irresistibly thumbing through every blog post on this site).
My “minmylife” story started with the typical middle-class American dream: growing up in a culture of excess, consumerism, and entitlement. I lived in the suburbs in North Carolina where it most adults I knew worked long hours to pay for their large cookie-cutter homes, two SUVs in the driveway, a boat or 4-wheeler in the garage, professional lawn care and cleaning services because they were too busy to do it themselves, a big screen TV in the basement man-cave for hosting that once-a-year party, and the list goes on… Meanwhile, as this lifestyle persisted over the years, most of the adults became stressed, obese, divorced, and generally just more miserable.
Every now and then I’d see someone who seemed to “have it made:” retired and having all the necessary items to fulfill the mandatory social status boxes while somehow managing to hold his/her family together to the point where the adult children would come visit once a month with the grandkids. For years I had my sights set on achieving that vision: somehow get through the stressful, working part of life acquiring all the things and people that would make me happy when I could finally retire and enjoy them.
How wrong was I! But I wouldn’t learn that lesson for several more years. Being a go-getter, the post-college-graduate-me immediately set to work collecting all those mandatory things on the list. My beginner salary was sufficient for any reasonable life; but I didn’t have time to be reasonable! Not if I wanted to get to that “have it made” status sooner rather than later. I needed to buy all the things quickly so I could then use those things to attract and marry my wife to start that picture-perfect-family playing fetch with our golden retriever on the lawn in front of our big house in the country.
Watching TV ads between episodes of The Walking Dead convinced me I needed to buy a fancy 4 wheel-drive Dodge Ram, a shiny motorcycle, a garage full of power tools, an entire gun collection, two kayaks, a sailboat, a kite surfing rig (never mind that I didn’t know how to use it), and no less than a full grandma’s-kitchen worth of cooking items to show off my culinary skills to the ladies. Add in the mandatory costs of gym membership dues, craft-beer tastings, nights out on the town, and a few man-pays-the-first-date outings and suddenly I found myself nose-diving into an unsustainable financial future. I was quickly hitting the red on my accounts, but I had no idea how bad the situation truly was, or why I was in the situation, or that I needed to get out of the situation, and much less what to do about it.
Call it divine intervention if you believe in that sort of thing, or just dumb luck if poker is more your game, but precisely the moment when I really would have fallen off the rollercoaster financially my employer moved me to Turkey. Wow–what a lifestyle change! Suddenly I was forced to live in a tiny apartment with only a few suitcases of possessions, sell my fancy ride and all the toys, and quickly change my mental framework. Without all my stuff where would my social status come from? Would I suddenly have to woo friends with my charm, great-looks, and humor? The previous years of stuff-collecting hadn’t done much to practice those skills, and I certainly was not naturally gifted with any of them!
Low and behold, I slowly started changing to my new, exotic environment: socializing more thanks to living in an apartment complex, eating a bit healthier by virtue of not having so many American “fine dining” options, trimming off a bit of flab by walking and biking to work, catching flights around Europe each weekend instead of hitting the same smoky bars, and experiencing completely new cultural perspectives like seeing thousands of Syrian refugees going through the motions of life just trying to survive.
Without even knowing why, I saw my bank account grow from nearly nothing to $20K. However, it wasn’t yet a complete coming-into-the-light turnaround that eventually caused me to start the minmylife community. I hadn’t yet consciously realized what was different–only that my circumstances had changed. And my transformation was far from over. Case in point: I developed a habit of buying handmade Turkish rugs. Don’t ask me why–I still can’t explain it; bottom line is I liked them. And although I only bought from the cheaper end of the spectrum, they still weren’t cheap. Especially when you buy 15 rugs. To fit in a tiny apartment. Like I said–I can’t explain it.
About a year into this life my employer uprooted me again–this time to rural southern Spain. What a dream come true! In the land of Sangria, Tapas, and Flamenco I finally started realizing that my financial decisions were literally killing me, and this was compounded by the numerous unhealthy and negative choices I made everyday. I was lucky enough to have some lonely, dark days in that rugged land, and yet humbled enough to enjoy some truly profound conversations with people that grew up with very different backgrounds than me but shared very similar values. What a juxtaposition! Summiting the picturesque mountains overlooking Africa, and tanning on the most incredible virgin beaches I’ve ever imagined, I pondered on seemingly opposite inspirations I receive from the works of authors such as Paulo Coelho and Ayn Rand. I drew inspiration from several blogs, magazines, and discussions with people much smarter than I. Additionally, I was driven to action by many long talks with my super-duper awesome sister, Bryanna, from www.balancewithbryanna.com, who encouraged me to sort out my life. I finally put pen to paper and wrote, scratched-out, revised, thought, discussed, edited, wrote more, and eventually put into practice.
Since that time I’ve moved yet again, stashed away over $100K and become debt-free, developed deeper relationships than ever before, improved my health to reasonable levels, and feel as though I’m radiating positive energy nearly every day. My life has truly become meaningful. I have developed a deeper understanding of the world and my role in it. I’ve determined that a minimalist lifestyle is a vision worth attempting, one that can bring financial prosperity, optimal health, and meaningful relationships. My life now is devoted to living that vision and sharing my experiences in hopes of empowering others to do the same.
I warned you this was a long read! But you stuck it out till the end–I’m proud of you. Thanks for taking the time. I now invite you to browse the blog posts here, or if you haven’t already, read up on the minmylife components: