Looking Forward to March

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I’m actually surprised at myself for titling this post “looking forward to March”, because – for many reasons – March is going to be a particularly hectic month. For one, two people at work have asked me to covered their shifts for them. This is great in itself – more hours, more money- but I work at a clinic where the shifts are 10 and 11 hours on average. The lengthen of a work day is super daunting when I think about it too hard and I’m covering these shifts days apart from each other. Hope I can handle the added stress.

Another reason I’m looking forward to March is because of the start of Lent. A lot of people use Lent as some sort of spiritual excuse to diet and I guess I’m no different this year, because I’ve decided to give up processed sugars. I’ve been exercising a lot this past month. In late January I purchased a one month unlimited package to Pure Barre and went very near religiously even though the closest location is no where near my house. It made me feel good to exercise so regularly, but I realized that I wasn’t really losing any weight. If anything, I was using exercising as an excuse to eat more, because I could get away with eating a few extra calories a week without gaining any weight (or so I thought). A body truly is a temple. I don’t know what kind of conditions await me during my time in the Peace Corps so I want to work on my health while the elements are still familiar to me. That means more than just losing weight. It means exercising regularly, eating healthy, and learning to properly manage my stress. Weight loss is only a side-effect of putting the health of my body first.

Yet, another thing I’m looking forward to is where this whole minimalist journey takes me. So far I have three surface tops in my room that I’ve managed to declutter and part of me can’t even remember what the areas looked like in the first place. The clean look is amazing and it feels so stress-relieving to purge unnecessary things. I’ve been mainly focusing on my on stuff, but yesterday I received the okay from my mom to purge all the unused blankets from the linen closet that have been collecting over the years. You wouldn’t even believe how excited I got when she gave me the okay. I’ve been hanging out with my friends on the weekend for the past few weeks, but we have no plans this weekend. I was looking for something to do on Saturday. I told my mom about my plans to clean on Sunday and she jokingly said that I should clean the whole house. When I rephrased the sentence using the word ‘purge’ she was less enthusiastic about me touching her stuff. She did, however, express an interest in having a clearer linen closet , which I took both as a cue and permission to clean it for her. It’s amazing the types of things that make us happy. I don’t consider myself a complicated person, yet I never would have imagine that all it’d take to make me happy is a cup of coffee, free time, and the desire the purge unnecessary possessions.

So in the month of March I’ll be working extra hours, paying extra attention my health and spirituality, and also extra attention to preparing for Peace Corps. I have to admit, that before I wasn’t really focused that much on the Peace Corps, because it’s a event that’s so far, or was, so far into the future, that I could put off thinking about it for awhile and focus on more pressing issues. Well now that March has arrived, preparing for the Peace Corps has become a pressing issue. All of my medical exams have to be in by early April. I have to finish filling out the new volunteer paperwork and I have to start getting my legal affairs in order, which is really just one: student loans. It’s going to be a busy month, but I can do this. No other choice really, but to keep moving forward.

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Minimalism: Taking Those First Steps

I would like most of the posts that I write, at least for now, to be in some way connected to my up-and-coming Peace Corps service and I think that a post on minimalism fits that bill just fine. Minimalism comes from the ideology of simple living and, according to Wikipedia, the two phrases can be interchangeable. I like the way this blog put it best. Right there under the name of the blog to the right is the tag “Own less. Live More”. I really like that idea, because I honestly believe that the whole “American Dream” is counterproductive in accumulating the things that actually make us happy in life.

This is only coming from my personal experience. I grew up in a household where my parents expressed their love monetary (not that my family’s rich or that my parents never hugged me as a child). I also I grew up in a household whether I was told to save everything, to keep the memories or because I never knew when I’d need something “later”. Two days ago I threw away a father daughter dance invitation from 2001 that had been hanging on my dresser mirror. I’m pretty sure that every single grade school assignment I ever did is sitting in two large containers in my closet; kindergarten macaroni art included. I have also experienced, more than once, a time where I had to buy an item that I know I own already, because I couldn’t find the original in all the clutter of everything else, which is never fun.

For the past few months I have been practicing minimalism in a non-direct way. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but I have become very disillusioned to the idea of accumulating stuff. It was probably a mixture of living in China as an exchange student and being unemployed for a month after I returned to the States. Even if I did care to spend lots of money in the export capital of the world, it wasn’t a very practically idea given my limited amount of luggage space and the high cost of shipping. I came back from China with $300 in my pocket, $300 in an American account, and no job prospects. My biggest concern was how I was going to pay my student loan when the first of the month came, which was three weeks away.

Luckily I was hired back at the company I’d left before going to China right at the end of July. During that question mark period between coming back and getting hired, I learned a valuable lesson about consumerism: I don’t have to spend money. Of course I did spend money during that period of time, on gas and groceries, but outside of that I didn’t spend a dime and life trekked along all the same. It was really easy for me to not spend money too, because there was nothing I really wanted.

I still carry that mentality now, only I’m starting to become more active in decluttering my life as opposed to simply not adding to the clutter. My hangers are hung backward, except for that clothes I’ve already wore (really surprised that I’ve hardly been wearing my once favorite T-shirts, didn’t even notice). I’ve given away three things this week and plan to continue if people are interested in the stuff I have. I’ve cleaned the clutter off  two different areas in my room and it literally only took about five minutes (and I absolutely love the clean space look). I definitely plan to keep going. All I need is a day, maybe even just an afternoon to purge my closet of whatever papers are in those boxes, recycling in the process of course.

If I wasn’t doing it myself I wouldn’t believe that cleaning could actually be fun, but deciding to declutter your life is different than normal cleaning. It’s not about moving things around and getting at the dust. It’s about purging non-necessities and opening yourself up to the truly irreplaceable things in life. I understand the blogs that state that minimalism is a way of life. And the best part is that you can tweak it to the comfort of your own particular lifestyle. Be as extreme or as relaxed as you want. At the end of the day minimalism exist to improve on the individual’s way of life. I think that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) know that better than anybody, that happiness isn’t accumulated in the amount of stuff we have, but in the relationships we make and the experiences we live through.

Setting a New Course

Hello friends, family, people who have stumbled here by pure destiny of the universe and last of all future self (cause I write for self just as much as I write for others, maybe more). Welcome to my journal.

Four weeks ago today I received my invitation to service in the Peace Corps. In four short months I, along with 20 or so others, will be embarking on an adventure of a lifetime to serve as the first wave of Peace Corps Volunteers – known as Early Generation Volunteers (EGVs) – to enter Kosovo, a country in Eastern Europe.

I have wanted to join the Peace Corps for as long as I can remember. Luckily over the past few years I have been acquainted with a numerous amount of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who have personally shared with me their experiences as volunteers within the Peace Corps. As excited as I was to hear the stories of others, I am now proud, honored, and a bit amazed at being able to share my own story with the world. I look forward to documenting my life as a volunteer in hopes of encouraging and inspiring others to join as well. Feel free to comment, follow, ask questions, and share your story.