On letting goMon 11 November 2019
I have been feeling more and more burdened in the recent months. It first wasn't clear to me why I was feeling that way: I'm in the most happy and fulfilling relationship I've ever been in, we just moved to a beautiful apartment we both fell in love with, I'm honoured and lucky to have great friends, and a fantastic job I'm enjoying myself in (which also turns out to pay greatly), alongside some of the greatest engineers out there. Why on Earth was I therefore sometimes feeling like all I felt like doing was sit on the couch, turn on Netflix, and wait for the day to end?
I started to get a better understanding of what was happening when my girlfriend confronted me on the subject of money, which turned out to be my greatest insecurity. At the time, we were planning for a trip to Canada mid-October, during which we were going camping in one of the national parks. Having almost no camping gear, we borrowed some and went out to buy the rest. What should have been an uneventful event turned into a fight, due to the anxiety that increasing pile of items in our cart was somehow causing me. Almost all I could think about was how much that gear was going to cost, and the space they would take at home when we got back. When we finally got to the point of choosing sleeping bags (something that you don't want to be cheap about when sleeping in the cold Canadian wilderness), I'd become so anxious that I was almost incapable of adding them to the cart and snapped back when my partner asked me why I was hesitating, given that I could afford them.
That whole conversation felt like dejà vu, as we went through the exact same process when planning for the renovation of our kitchen and bathroom, in the new apartment. During the process of choosing what we liked and imagining what we'd want, I couldn't mute that little voice in my head keeping track of what it would cost.
Why was I anxious at the idea of buying something that I needed or wanted, that would bring me comfort, when I could afford it in the first place?
As a side note, I don't think that I'm a cheap person. I have no problem buying someone else a present, lending or giving money, but when it comes to me, I can behave like Balthazar Scrooge (how appropriate).
It finally clicked as I was looking for old pictures and un-used apps to delete from my phone. I was doing that to maintain it as clutter-free as possible, to free myself from the weight of the things I wasn't using. It felt good to get rid of that dead digital weight, to make space for myself. And as I was doing so, I finally realised that the anguish didn't come from spending the money, but from the fact that buying new things for home would thus decrease my living space. These objects would then add to the clutter I was trying to clear from my phone, and weight me down.
I needed to apply to the physical life what my digital self instinctively knew: that letting things go is okay.
By choosing to only surround myself with what I love and find beautiful, I can create an environment that lifts me up and "recharges my batteries", so to speak. Anything not actively contributing to a shared sense of aesthetics or not making me feel good can be given away (as long as my partner and I agree). I now realise that less is more is key to my happiness and peace of mind. Keep what you love, enjoy what you have, give away the rest.
I should probably avoid starting a new project and practice what I already know I love but haven't worked on for a while.
In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport points out that we oftentimes find ourselves installing a new digital tool (whether it's a new app, a new social media account, ...) without actively considering the benefit we're getting out of it. By doing so, we're inviting new notifications and distractions into our lives, which will eat away at our personal time and attention. As time and space are related under the Einsteinien theory of relativity, maybe our personal time and space are related as well? They both should be protected as much as possible from whatever is unaesthetic, distracting and that which weighs us down.
I've thus cleared out my Reddit and Twitter accounts from everything work-related (and almost abandoned Twitter altogether), have deactivated almost all phone notifications (except for my partner's messages), and am in the process of applying the same principles in the physical world.
Keep what you love, enjoy what you have, give away the rest.
It feels fantastic.