This essay is a guest post by Joshua Millburn of The Minimalists.Â Follow him on Twitter or else.
You thought I was crazy
Admit it, you thought I was crazy, didn’t you?
I heard what you said about meÂ when I quit my six-figure job to pursue my passions.
You thought I was crazy when I said I was going to be a full-time fiction writer. He’ll never make it, and He’ll be back in a few months, and God is he is stupid! That’s what you said, isn’t it?
You thought I was crazy when I got rid of all my junk and became a minimalist.
What the hell is a minimalist? Why would anyone want to get rid of all that stuff? Who the hell doesn’t he own a TV? and I think he’s going through some sort of quarter-life crisis.
You thought I was crazy when I started a website with my best friend to help other people live a life of freedom. You said, It sounds like a gimmick, and They sure do look gay in those pictures together, don’t they?
You thought I was crazy when I completely changed my diet and started exercising like it was a religion.
You thought I was crazy when I started an experiment and refused to buy any physical items for an entire year.
You even thought I was crazy when I started donating a lot more of my time to charities like soup kitchens and building homes for the poor. You couldn’t understand why this would be important to me.
But wait. What if there’s something wrong with you?
Perhaps I am crazy
Fine, call me crazy. If living a more meaningful life– one that is filled with happiness and passion and freedom– is crazy, then I am utterly insane.
But let’s be honest for a moment– you wish you could do it too. You said so. Even if you didn’t say it to me directly, your body language said it for you. I can see it in you– in your eyes and the expression on your face. Other people can see it in you too. They can see through you.
You wish that you could quit your soul crushing job. You wish that you could pursue your passions. You wish that you could get rid of the stress in your life. You wish that you didn’t give so much meaning to your possessions. You wish that you could reclaim your time and live a life of conscious freedom.
The truth is that you could do any of those things, and you know that you could, but you won’t. At least not until you stop acting like a fucking pussy.
You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way
Here’s a great scene from the acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire. Marlo Stanfield is a drug dealer, and a disgusting, reprehensible human being. But he has one incredibly powerful virtue. He knows exactly what he wants in life, and he is willing to walk the walk to get it.
The rent-a-cop confronts Marlo outside the store, and after a moment of tension, Marlo calmly reminds him that “you want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.”
You want to be the one with the power. But you’re not.
You want it be one way– you want to be happy, free, and have the right to pursue your passions and live a more meaningful life– but it’s the other way. You choose to live the life that you’re living, and don’t change even though you think you want to.
So you hate what you do– you hate your job or your physical health or your debt or your depression or your life in general– and I’m crazy?
You can’t be serious.
I’m living a more meaningful life now. I’m pursuing my passions (writing both fiction and non-fiction). I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m more free than you. I’m more passionate than you. I’m growing as an individual. And I’m contributing to other people in a more meaningful way.
And you’re doing what? You’re just talking.
Make change a must
It’s not too late to stop talking and get up off your ass.
Turn off the TV.
Shutdown your computer.
Get out there and act.
Or you could just sit back and do nothing. You can just keep being you, content in the vast pool of mediocrity.
And you can continue down your current path if you’d like, and if you work really, really hard you can end up there— six figure job, all the stuff you can imagine–Â which on the surface didn’t look too bad. Hell, IÂ looked really successful too.
But displaying status symbols is simple. They’re easy trophies– but I wasn’t actually successful at all. I had luxury cars and a house with more bedrooms than inhabitants, a bunch of gadgets I hardly used, clothes I didn’t wear, and all the trappings that our heavily mediated culture tells us that we should have (and a nice size debt to accompany those “accomplishments”). But I wasn’t happy at all, which is perhaps the true measure of success.
The people who envied my life didn’t see the other side, they didn’t see the life behind the curtain. I did a good job of masking my fear, my debt, my anxiety, my stress, my loneliness, my guilt, my depression. I displayed a impressive facade, revealing only what I thought the world wanted me to reveal.
Worst of all, my life was void of any real meaning, and it felt as if I was flying in ever-diminishing circles.
Not too long ago, I was you. I was that guy: Joshua Fields Millburn, the unhappy young executive. But then I did three things to change my life:
- I made the decision to change my life.
- I made that change a must instead of a should.
- I took action.
I’m not saying that it’s easy, and sometimes you’ll be terrified by the changes you’re making, but it’s so much better than the alternative. It’s so much better than walking with the living dead.
It’s not too late for you. Make the decision to change, make it a must, and take action. You deserve to be happy. You deserve a better life.
But if you refuse to change, then perhaps you deserve the life that you already have.
Joshua Millburn writes essays about minimalism with Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists. He also writes fiction and his first novel, AS A DECADE FADES, will be published soon.
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