In the summer of 1999, I was in a tent near the Atlantic Ocean, hazy from a hangover, thinking about going back to school, and reading Buddhist Dharma.
I’d been working for a few years as a vegetarian cook, rewarding emotionally but not contributing to a retirement fund. The brochure beside me was from an IT college and on the cover was the tagline go forward. I was reading Chögyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior and on page 62 was “But when we look back to the cocoon and see the suffering that takes place in the world of the coward, that inspires us to go forward in our journey of warriorship” (emphasis mine). I looked at the brochure. I looked at the book. That made up my mind: I was going back to school. True story.
It’s now 2014. I work for a large software company on the West Coast and earlier this year I started feeling restless. Increasingly, the people I wanted to follow on social media were those who had chosen to leave mainstream careers and thrive in minimized environments and schedules.
In June, I woke up from a nap thinking of the time when my university English prof told a TA that my writing was very good. But now it’s 30 years later and I’ve long ago shelved my young dream to publish a novel. Any writing other than emails is limited to journaling while on vacation or during infrequent days of personal stress.
I got out my box of journals and started reading them. I didn’t get far before realizing that I’ve been writing the same thing over and over again:
I want to work less. I want more personal time for meditation, study, and creativity. I want balance.
I texted “8th work anniversary today. feeling unsettled” to MF and he replied “Why unsettled? I thought you made peace with your corporate job.” Talk about a heart-stopping, ice-water-on-the-face text.
Because of previous Iow-paying jobs, I am grateful for my current situation. It has enabled me to get out of debt and to end an unhealthy relationship. And it has given me the opportunity to learn two life lessons: 1) I deserve this job and 2) I can find balance. I learned lesson #1, but, as my journals prove, have obviously not made a breakthrough on #2. New lesson: walking away without learning what I thought was the lesson.
I want time before I get much older for Buddhist practice and study, for something creative like writing, for being of benefit with environmental and social causes, for being a larger presence in my small family. In July, I had an epiphany-like idea for how to fulfill all that and I now plan to do it by autumn 2016. But I don’t think I could return to the simpler living that the plan requires without the confidence and experience I gained through a corporate job.
Now begins my next stage. How I move back home, give back to the world, and get back to writing. Back is the new forward.
IT= Information Technology
Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa
MF = manfriend
TA = Teaching Assistant
A few blogs on minimalism and simple living: