This is a guest post from my friend Britt. :)
The first time I truly interrogated the idea of abundance was when I was in graduate school in 2012. At this point, I had stumbled across tiny houses and the minimalist movement and it all made so much sense to me. Maybe it was being saturated in a higher education environment that urged critical thinking, but when I projected forward to what I thought my life would look like in 20 years, it did not include the traditional markers of success.
But when you tell your family (who generously helped pay for a portion of your education) that you want to essentially abandon any call to a high-powered (i.e. high-paying) career and want to build a tiny house, you can probably imagine what their reaction was like.
Of course, a high-powered career and living in a tiny house are not mutually exclusive, just look at the CEO of Zappos. But, in my case, I knew I wanted one because I didn’t want the other.
On the whole, or on the surface at least, my family is supportive of my ‘alternative’ lifestyle aspirations. Sometimes though, small comments here and there make me wonder if my dreams are good enough.
- “You’ll get sick of each other in that small a space.”
- “I don’t think you realize how small it will be.”
- “It’s not going to be a good investment.”
- “Do you even have plans or designs for it?”
My quick rebuttals to these comments are normally “No, we won’t”, “Yes, I do”, “That’s not why I want one” and “Exhibit A: My Blog”. I could write much more detailed posts dedicated to refuting each of these questions and comments, but that’s not a meaningful use of my time (nor would my family read them). If you have any sort of dream that is counter to the mainstream (a simple life, early retirement, a nomadic lifestyle, etc.), you probably know at least one person who has a knack for making your dreams feel small and not quite good enough. Even if, and sometimes, especially if, they mean well.
For me, ‘enough-ness’ has been something I’ve struggled with for years (or at least since elementary school). If there is a society upheld ideal, I’ve never quite felt like I’ve achieved it. I’ve never really felt smart enough, fit enough, strong enough, pretty enough, etc. This isn’t a pity party, it’s just the truth. I don’t really know where the feeling of lack came from, and, at this point, it honestly doesn’t matter.
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. I know exactly where my lack of enough-ness came from. My childhood, while wonderful in many ways was, oftentimes, filled with parental alcoholism and mental illness. As a young child, it’s hard to process those situations in the moment. I’m 27 now and I’m still coming to terms with all of it. And I’m sure I will be processing it for years. However, I’m not looking to lay blame. Ultimately, that won’t get me anywhere. What my childhood did leave me with was the sense that you might as well believe in your dreams, because no one else will. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Especially when there are entire industries that have been designed to make money off your sense of ‘enough-ness’.
It will likely come as no surprise to you that consumers in North America are sold the same version of what success and abundance look like. There may be some variation, but the general recipe looks something like this:
big house + fancy car + high-powered job = happiness/success/abundance
I want to make it clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. If they are what you truly desire, that’s great! I think everyone should have a chance at the life they want, whatever that looks like for them.
However, since you’re here, on Cait’s blog, you are probably questioning this formula for abundance. Something about it might not sit right with you. You might not be able to put your finger on it, but you know it’s not for you.
What is more problematic than this equation, is the mindset that we are supposed to buy into. If we don’t want the ‘things’ in the equation, we’re not good enough (or we are made to think we’re not good enough). Our dreams don’t matter if they don’t fit into that narrow view of what abundance looks like.
But where does that leave you? If you aren’t buying (figuratively and financially) into this equation, what’s the next step?
Redefine it for yourself.
A dear friend and mentor of mine gave me this question to ponder during a retreat a couple of years ago. I think it sums up the idea of enough-ness perfectly.
“Others will tell you who they think you are, but if that doesn’t align with your gut or internal truth, how do you proceed in a way that is healthy for you?”
‘Others’, in your reality, can be family, friends, colleagues, or society as a whole. If any of what I’ve written so far has resonated with you, you can probably think of at least one person who imposes their idea of who you should be, onto you.
I can honestly say I’ve been pondering this question for years. What it has led me to is a reworked understanding of what abundance means to me (and no one else).
In my mind, ‘abundance’ are the things that bring you joy in life. I’m sure that’s different for every person reading this. It could be family, friends, experiences, health, etc. But, the fact remains, we can redefine it for ourselves if we want to —if our current definition no longer serves the view of what we want in our life.
What would an abundant, successful life look like to me?
- Being able to contribute something meaningful to the world.
- A modest home, filled only with things I truly love.
- Being able to spend my time doing what makes my heart feel full.
The bottom line I’m trying to get at here is that your dreams matter. Period. Whatever you want for your life, I promise you that it’s good enough. Not ‘good enough’ in the sense of settling. No, I mean ‘good enough’, in that your hopes and dreams are important.
No matter how big or ‘tiny’ they are.
Britt is the blogger behind Tiny Ambitions—an online space dedicated to documenting her journey to simplify her life with the ultimate goal of building her very own tiny house!