READING TIME: 5 MINUTES –
Like many of us in the world, I had followed the media´s instructions to a “perfect life”. Wore high-end labels (that I couldn’t really afford) took a gap year. I went to university, graduated top of my class, worked every internship possible so I could land a really “good job”.
I had perfect nails and perfect hair and literally worked my ass off at the gym. I had it all. My goal? To be a successful businesswoman, to work for a great corporation and climb to the top so I could drive a nice car, travel overseas for work meetings and wear Gucci and Prada.
Like any person brought up in western society, I wanted to be able to buy a house in a nice suburb, marry well and have two wonderful children that I would drop off at daycare every morning before I went to work. After work, I’d buy perfect, frozen meals with no nutritious content that would just fill the void in my stomach.
I wasn’t living what I wanted but what I was told to live and even worse, what the world expected me to live. A “perfect”, “pre-canned” life for the masses.
Have you ever wondered why is it that so many people in the world want the same thing? If that would truly be the formula to happiness, would there really be so much depression in the world?
I was miserable, but my brain was so numb from all the marketing that I couldn’t even tell what was it that I truly wanted. I felt ungrateful for not being able to be happy with the material possessions that I had. I had the purse, the car, the university degree, the work experience; I had the world at my feet right?
Wrong! I had nothing! I had a purse, a car, a piece of paper and a brain full of information but no knowledge, a closet full of clothes and a heart empty of satisfaction. So I packed my bags and left. I decided to take another gap year, I was scared beyond words, thinking about how maybe it was all a mistake, how I was wasting time that I could put to good use getting more work experience. But what I learned was something that I never expected I could find.
My year away wasn’t an easy one, at times I found my self-living in some very precarious conditions. I worked in anything I could find, bartending, cleaning, collecting funds for charity, everything and anything.
Strangely enough it was a bar of chocolate that I bought that changed my entire life. Four months after I bought that chocolate bar I found myself on an empty beach in a remote part of New Zealand, with my fancy Coach purse, 300 dollars in my bank account and working as a maid in a small hostal. It was in that moment that I realized how truly happy I was with so little.
My clothes were rags (Cinderella dressed better than I did), I was completely alone 15,000km away from my home with only enough money for food. I had no boyfriend, no car, it was just me.
But for the first time in my life I felt truly at peace and realized I would never go back to my previous mindset again. It was by minimizing my desires that I became the richest woman in my life, because I STOPPED LIVING FOR OTHER PEOPLE AND STARTED LIVING FOR MYSELF.
I realized that to me, happiness wasn’t the external possessions, degrees or acknowledgments. I realized that happiness was feeling content with whatever I was wearing, having a job I enjoyed even if it wasn’t a “fancy” job, that my body, while not perfect is beautiful.
I had tried to match societies standards of beauty and success instead of my own. But above all I stopped desiring everything and began to be satisfied with the basics. I realized that the basics are more than enough; food, a safe town to live in, a small warm house with a garden, a beach, water, wine, a warm sweater and above all A PART-TIME JOB AND FULL-TIME LIFE.
I had quit the rat race, the never-ending competition. I was never a competitive person but I felt the pressure to be considered “good”. I hated the feeling of having to measure myself using others as a rule, using age and accomplishments as a parameter to determine people’s success.
But here on the other side of the world in this small town, I became comfortable in my own skin. The competition wasn’t against others, it was against my own self. I didn’t have to look good with what I was wearing, I had to feel good wearing anything. Ripped jeans and an old t-shirt made me feel better than an Armani dress would before.
For the first time in years I stopped wearing makeup and realized that it was marketing that called the freckles on my skin imperfections. I accepted that I’m not going to be young forever and that it’s ok to have wrinkles; they show that I have lived life so therefore I have more years of life experience.
I stopped looking for the perfect man that was good on paper with a high income and a flash car, and instead fell in love with a man that makes me happy, with whom I can have a stimulating conversation, a man that makes me laugh and that treats me well.
I still haven’t figured out what my dream job is, but I know that I will keep looking for it and that working in an office is simply not for me, and THAT is ok.
I stopped determining success by what the media had taught me and started determining it by the goals I have personally set for my self, free from the worlds expectations.
My life is not perfect, but it is the life I have chosen and not the one that has been sold to me. I might go back to do a another Bachelors or maybe I will become a yoga instructor.
Of course, unhealthy marketing styles are still present everywhere, even in the voice of my friends telling me how I’m too old to be going back to school. At 29, apparently I’m too old to do many things. But for the first time I actually feel young. I started feeling old at 20 and by 29 I became a kid again, getting to know the new world around me.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with no one around, no wi-fi and no smartphone, would you care about the wrinkles in your face? About your weight? About how good do you look with the clothes you are wearing? How about what brand your shoes are? If you had enough money to buy a ticket out of this island or buy an Hermes purse, which one would you choose? Escape the island? Or buy a purse that no one but you are going to see?
When there’s no one to see us, when there is no one judging us, suddenly we realize that many of the things we live for don’t really matter. So now my question is this:
What truly makes YOU happy?