“I think you should take some time off from sharing your life with the world.” Those are the words my new friend Saima said to me on my final day in London, and they were followed by a question. “What would it look like if you just wrote for yourself, for a little while?” I didn’t have an answer. We were sitting in her living room, relaxing while waiting for the sun to go down, so we could go out and she could break her fast during Ramadan. I couldn’t think of an answer to her question. The only thing I knew was that I was tired.
Earlier that morning, I had sent Saima a few text messages to warn her I wasn’t in my usual good spirits. I had also sent similar messages to my friend Bianca, before we met up with our mutual friend Laura that morning. After confessing to spending the previous night crying in my hotel bed, I told them I wanted to see them, but that I couldn’t promise I would be the best company. What I was really doing was forewarning them there was a good chance I would cry in front of them, and to please prepare now and forgive me for it then.
Both Bianca and Saima took care of me that day in a way I didn’t even know I needed. They picked the restaurants. Bianca got a better table. And then Saima did something I believe she’s skilled at, but which felt like the greatest gift of all: she ordered food for me. Food for us to share. This was something she’d done every time we’d gone out together, but it felt bigger that night. Like she could physically see the weight on my shoulders, and lifted just a little bit of it off by making a decision for me. I was beyond grateful.
The next day, I was stuck at Calgary International Airport for a lengthy six-hour layover. After finishing the second of the two books I’d started reading on my first flight, I popped my Canadian SIM card back into my phone and called a few friends to tell them I was almost home. The first call was to Azalea, who had been staying at my place in Squamish while I was away. I shared a few stories from my trip, then reiterated to her what I had said to Bianca and Saima—and told her about the question Saima had asked me.
What would it look like if you just wrote for yourself, for a little while?
As we talked about it, I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t have an answer to the question. It was that I didn’t like my answer. I have shared the details of my life on this blog for close to eight years. It started as a hobby, but has since become a part of me—and is now part of my job. And the thought of not writing and hitting publish made me feel really uncomfortable, not just because I worried about what people would think if I disappeared (although that was a concern) but because I literally didn’t know what it would look like if I just wrote for myself.
Azalea listened to this and let me ramble about all the different thoughts and ideas that had come up on my trip. Ideas for book #2, ideas for ways to make money (because writing books isn’t a get rich quick scheme), and thoughts about where I could travel to or live next. One of Azalea’s many gifts is making people feel seen and heard, so she listened and made me feel seen and heard. And then she gave me a different challenge. “Try not to make any big decisions for the next two weeks.” This also made me uncomfortable.
The reason those questions/challenges felt difficult was because I knew they would require me to sit with myself. To exercise the muscle I’ve been working on for the past five-and-a-half years: the one that usually twitches, reacts impulsively and wants to solve problems right away. I knew I would essentially have to do nothing, which felt impossible. There was external pressure to do more, more, more and to capitalize on the success of The Year of Less. There was also pressure to keep up with everything else I’d been doing before the book came out. And then there was the pressure I was putting on myself. How could I opt out for two weeks!?
Fortunately, jet lag forced me to slow down and take care of myself. It took a full week for me to properly recover and get a good night of sleep, so the first of those two weeks off was easy. After that, I realized I wasn’t feeling any clearer about what I was supposed to do next. I tried to write but couldn’t finish so much as a paragraph. I talked about things with friends but never found solutions. I needed some real space. So, I combined Saima + Azalea’s challenges and decided not to blog/post to Instagram/make any big decisions for two more weeks.
I committed to that idea on June 18th. As you can see from the date of this post, it’s been almost a month—and I still don’t feel ready to “return”. The same way opting out of buying stuff for two years taught me a lot about myself as a consumer, temporarily opting out of publishing content is giving me time to think about myself as a creator. Having that space has also allowed an incredible number of ideas to surface—some I had never thought of before, others I had pushed off for various reasons. They aren’t all good. But my home + my phone are cluttered with notes, and that feels like a step in the right direction.
So, at the moment, I think this is going to be the only blog post I publish this summer. I wanted to say hi + thanks to those of you who have reached out, as well as share a little bit of what I’ve been up to. :)
First of all, my trip to the UK was even better than I could have imagined. I visited England (it felt like home), Scotland and Ireland (rented a car and did a road trip!). The weather was unbelievable. Honestly, it felt like the sunshine followed me wherever I went. (If you’re not on Instagram, just pop over and see all the blue sky in my pictures. It was unreal.) And the amount of beauty and history I took in was overwhelming. But the best part of my trip—and most trips—was the people. I’m so grateful to everyone who made time for me and helped me have the best experience possible. You all know who you are, and I can’t wait to see you again.
Since coming home, I’ve been soaking up all the beauty in Squamish and thinking about something that’s been on my mind since I was in the UK: what if I didn’t have a home base? How could I take what I know about myself and combine it into an experience where I travel (slowly) full-time? Could I be a citizen of the world? I made one big decision and decided the answer is: it’s worth trying. People keep asking where I’m moving to next or what I’m going to do, and I have been avoiding the questions. I’m not trying to be vague or rude, I just don’t have the answers yet. All I know is that I will be leaving Squamish sometime in 2018 and heading out into the world.
(To go along with this, I have started the process of decluttering/selling my belongings.)
Another thing I don’t have answers about yet is what’s next for me work-wise—at least in terms of big projects. In late-June, I finished an optional proposal for book #2 and there are still a lot of question marks around how my publisher wants to move forward. The Year of Less has sold more than 47,000 copies (print, ebook + audiobook) around the world, which is unbelievable and has truly exceeded even my wildest dreams. But that still doesn’t mean anyone will want your next book idea. As I’ve been waiting to hear, my anxiety has been ultra-high, but I’ve been trying to accept that I can’t control what happens on this front.
So, on the topic of work I can control, I do have some fun news. I’m currently revising Mindful Budgeting and finally creating what so many of you have asked for: an evergreen planner so you can start using it anytime of the year! It feels amazing to be refreshing the content so it represents what I know today (compared to when I first launched it in 2015). If everything goes as planned, it should be available by the end of the summer.
I also started doing a content audit, where I’m going through every single one of the posts on this site and updating them in some way or simply deleting them. I started with more than 550 posts and currently have just 404—and I’ve only gone from 2011 through to mid-2014! I’ve made sure that anyone who is new to the site could still go back, read from the beginning and understand exactly how I got to where I am today. Nothing about my story is missing. I’m just clearing out all the posts that don’t add to it or help people. (This feels good, especially when you think about how much changes from age 25 to age 33!)
And on that note: I quietly celebrated my 33rd birthday on July 7th. :)
There’s so much more I could say and share, but this post is already way longer than I intended—and I really want to honour my original idea for it, which was to talk about the value of living through (and not always publicly sharing) the messiness of life. I still don’t know exactly why I was sad at the end of my trip. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I’d been living on the edge of my comfort zone all year—mostly with work, but also with some of my travels. But I’m not going to force myself to find the answer. Instead, I’m giving myself some grace and accepting the fact that we simply can’t be happy all the time (even on vacation).
However, in saying that, I’ve also had a number of conversations with friends since I’ve been home, and I can’t help but notice that a similar theme keeps coming up over and over again. Those of us who have been publicly documenting our life/work/progress for many years are feeling like something has to change. Either we need to take more time off for ourselves, change the way/amount/frequency we share, or quit certain projects altogether. Because it’s starting to feel like it’s all becoming a bit too much, and that it would be nice to live a little more—and perhaps share a little less (or just share in a different way).
What does that mean for me? I still don’t know! Hence wanting to take more time off this summer, so I can keep thinking about this. So far, I can tell you that it’s still “scary” to think about disappearing for a few months. But it feels so much better than pressuring myself to stick to my old schedule or write insightful content. As I said in an interview with my friend Fiona, I don’t want to have all the answers right now. I just want to be honest. And if I’m honest, creating space for myself for the past month has felt like such a gift. I’ve cooked a ton of healthy food. Gone for lots of walks. Read a handful of books and listened to countless podcasts. And I’ve been writing for myself—and not sharing it with anyone. This space is where new insight/ideas have started to flourish. It’s costing me money and time to give it to myself, but putting pressure on myself would’ve cost me more.
The one thought I do want to share right now is more of a note for all content creators: we have an immense responsibility. There is so much “noise” online right now (and so much content, in general). The book has made me realize that the things we share can and will have an impact, and we are so lucky to be taking up any amount of time our audience is willing to give us. I want to take that seriously. I took book #1 seriously, in that I knew exactly what my intention was and the message I wanted people to take from it—and based on responses, I feel like I did my job. I want to bring that same intentionality into everything I do. That might mean I share less content for a while, but I’m hoping that will result in sharing better content later.
As for my personal life: I’m going to keep some of that to myself for a while, too. Because even though this year has been filled with some amazing events and milestones so far, it’s also been really mentally taxing. Penny recently wrote a post that took the scrambled thoughts I’ve had about this out of my mind and put them in the right order. She said: “When you are really in the midst of making progress, it is all-consuming. It is stressful, of course, but it is exhilarating. And it is virtually impossible to stop the process long enough to reflect on what is happening, let alone write or even call home about it. We don’t write in the mess. We live it.”
I don’t think I am a mess right now, but I am definitely making progress. Life is changing. Work is changing. Home is changing. Each one of those things is changing in a really big way, so combined it feels absolutely massive—and I’m not ready to share it all yet. I’m going to keep living through it, and talking it out with my closest friends/family, until I get a little clearer and find my way back to myself (or perhaps my new self). What I can tell you right now is that I don’t think I’ve cried since I’ve been home. In fact, for the past week, I’ve been putting headphones in, cranking up music, and dancing around my kitchen a couple times a day.
One of the last things Saima said to me in London was, “I don’t think your pain is a bad thing. I think it’s showing you that something you’re doing isn’t working.” Those two short sentences instantly calmed my anxiety and quite literally felt like they brought me back down to earth. It was like a reminder that I didn’t need to be sad about being sad (aka slip into depression). It was just time to pay attention and make some changes.
It’s a good thing I have lots of experience doing that. :)
I’ll be back September 4th, friends!
Subscribe now and I will talk to you then, xo