Finding Purpose: Ikigai, The Japanese Concept Of A Life Well Lived

Not too long ago I was speaking with a friend about her decision to make a career switch. She’s a baker, like me, but is thinking about getting into the user interface side of the tech industry. We’re the same personality type on the Myers-Briggs so I can see her doing that type of work well. While we were on the topic, she sent me a link to an article about finding your Ikigai, a Japanese term that translates to finding your life’s purpose. And what’s more, there’s a practical guide to finding out what this is for you! I was hooked. But first, let me tell you a little about why this was so exciting for me to read about.

The Drift

Drifting through life listlessly was something that I knew all too well. I had drifted through my teens, twenties and through most of my thirties before I got a sense of how I wanted to live my life and the direction I wanted to take it in. This article, for me, was just frosting on the cupcake (thanks Sarah). A logical way to organize your passions is just the type of thing I’m passionate about and partly what this blog is about for me. But it took a lot of drifting for me to get to this point of self discovery.

The drift first started for me when I was in childhood still. My family had broke apart in what felt like one fell swoop and from that point on I had lost the support and foundation I had previously felt from my family. I was on my own from a very early age and it seemed that I was failing every test that life was throwing my way. It was a strange journey.

I remember looking at pornography as early as eight-years old, drinking when I was thirteen. Skipping school and falling in with the “wrong crowd” when I was in middle school and later, moving from sketchy apartment to unstable living situation until my late twenties. This was something that I attribute to not having many, if any stable role models growing up, showing me how to live a sustainable life. Just me, floating from uncertain situation to uncertain situation.

Role Models Matter

I’ve said before on this blog, my role models were living life like Jim Morrison, so I lived like him. And we all know how that story ended. But I studied Jim none-the-less, to find a sense of belonging as well as trying to have a good time while doing it. But as Modest mouse so aptly put it, the good times were indeed killing me.

I was drinking too much and avoiding all the relationships in my life, including the one with myself. It was a lonely place to be. I continued down this path until my early thirties, when things began to shift for me. But before that, I had literally no healthy role models to speak of and nothing to aspire to.

I kept shifting career focus in my schooling and it took me almost sixteen years to get my bachelors degree from start to finish! I changed my major twice and racking up close to 100k in debt in student loans and credit cards. This was a terrifying place to be. And all the while, no one thought to step in and intervein on my behalf. I understand that I was an adult, but I was also left to raise myself from the age of eight. Any guidance would have been helpful.

But unfortunately I was also the type of person who would scoff at the idea that I needed guidance. Mostly because I was taught that it was a sign of weakness to need somebody else’s help. This was the opposite of a healthy, well adjusted way of moving through life. I go into this some in my post on “Isolation and Being a Man“, about the unhealthy lessons I was taught on having to do it all on my own. Which is impossible, but that part of the lesson was left out of my schooling.

The Outcome

The outcome wasn’t good. I was left almost completely on my own save for a handful of supports, who thank God for them or things could have been really terrible for me. But I was still very much on my own, without any idea on how to move forward in my life.

My career was stagnant and I had little direction on where to go to do what I wanted while changing my life’s trajectory. I had some ideas on what I liked to do, but no idea how to shape that into something that I could make money from doing. This is the point where I needed to come up with a plan to make things happen for myself.

The Plan

This is where and when I started to take control of my situation by looking at what my strengths are and finding out what I liked and disliked. Luckily for me, I love it when a plan comes together : ) My MBPT is INTJ, so I’m a big picture person. This fits in beautifully with the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which in its most fundamental elements is; what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and something you can get paid for. Where all of these elements come together, this place is known as your Ikigai.

So my plan then became to look at my strengths and likes and then put them together to come up with a way to make them my focus and passion. And hopefully I’ll help some people along the way. So I began looking at the elements that come together that make me, me.

The Elements

I’ve always known that I like to organize things. Whether it’s a spice cabinet or my budget, I enjoy bringing different components together to be functional and coincide in harmony. I believe this is why bullet journaling is so appealing to me. It’s a place to organize thoughts and ideas while adding your own character to the process.

I also enjoy the different elements that come together that make a house, a home. I enjoy burning candles and the ambiance of a dimly lighted room. I enjoy engaging the senses through essential oil diffusers and softly playing music in the background. Being in the kitchen cooking meals is another source of enjoyment for me. The smells and heat from the range, smoker and oven, foods fermenting on the counter in colorful jars. The small things that come together to create a cozy environment.

Our shared green space is also something that’s been a resource for me. From some of my oldest memories of chanterelle picking with my uncle in the verdant mountains of Vermont, to hiking Killington on the Appalachian Trail a few years back, preserving these spaces is important to me. The fresh air and the scenery alone are well worth it, not to mention the environmental benefits keeping these spaces healthy brings.

And finally, bringing family and friends together in a sustainable way. A way where we can enjoy each others company in a non-judgmental, caring and kind way. Where we can enjoy and take comfort in the support and love we provide for one another. These are the things I love.

I also find refuge in writing. When I’m in the middle of putting a piece together, or come up with a fresh idea to write about, there’s a feeling of novelty, a sense of a new beginning. And being able to clearly communicate to others, be heard and hear others, is also something that’s very dear to me. Giving voice to the voiceless. Oh, and building things : )

Bringing It Together

Now that I have a good idea of what the elements of my personality are and most importantly, what brings me a sense of joy, I can use these as a jumping off point, into my Ikigai.

As an example of how my interests intersect my career path, I’m currently work in a family shelter. A sort of holding place for families experiencing homelessness. Although the circumstances are definitely sad, the attitudes are generally upbeat and surprisingly positive.

One of the ways I’ve been finding fulfillment at the shelter is by going through each area in the building, finding a new section of the shelter that needs a little TLC, and then organize and clean the crap out of these spaces.

A few weeks ago I started cleaning and organizing the pantry and kitchen storage in the shelter. If you’ve read my post on rotating your food stores, you’ll know I’ve already done a version of this in my own home. There’s a certain satisfying feeling I get when I look in my fridge and cabinets and see all my foods neatly organized as though they were shelves in a grocery. This probably hits me in a most primal place of food security, survival.

The Ikigai for me here is; I love to organize things, and especially food, the families needed a kitchen that was functional and well stocked with fresh foods, and I was getting paid for it. But watching the families gather in the kitchen and use the items I recently stocked was a rewarding feeling and the drive behind wanting to organize and clean. Watching them find joy in my work.

Living in a shelter, I can only imagine the amount of insecurity they are experiencing. So having enough food to fill this basic need must be a huge burden lifted from their day to day concerns. One more thing I’m able to help them with while also experiencing a sense of joy in the task.

And what’s more is, I was offered a full time position at the shelter helping to coordinate resources for the staff and families in helping find them permanent homes. So my love of organizing helped to show my dedication to the tasks that I take on, enough to be seen as indispensable. And all this by following where my interests lay.

Doing it For Yourself

When I was drifting, I didn’t have a focus, an anchor point. So I drifted from person to person, looking to be validated externally by what their expectations of me were. As a result, I wasn’t really living a life that was true to what I wanted, or what I even liked. This was no bueno, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean that all of my previous experiences where negative ones, or something to be dismissed.

For example, I’m a baker by trade now and have worked in a variety of different capacities over the years. From bread baker to pastry chef, I’ve made a lot of baked goods. All of these past experiences have not only given me a great deal of appreciation for cooking and a zest for eating, it’s also given me the chance to work with some of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. Such is the case with my current employer. Without their guidance and wisdom, I wouldn’t have made the choices and gained the experience to make me more of the best version of myself. And I will forever be grateful for their guidance.

What this means is, even if you’re not in your dream job right now, which I imagine is the case for most of us, find what you do like about the job you’re doing now. What are the aspects or tasks you have now that spark a little bit of creativity? What are the areas that bring you a sense of satisfaction when you complete them? Find these tasks and see where you can take them. Here is the starting point to finding your Ikigai.

I hope this has been helpful in some way. If you’ve found yourself in a place where you aren’t enjoying the different aspects of your job, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper. Who knows what you’ll pull out. And maybe in the process, you just may find your calling. Peace, and thank for reading : )

Image Credits: “Ikigai- Japanese concept meaning ‘A reason for being’” by Mikel Agirregabiria Agirre is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

A More Sustainable Home: 7 Tips and Tricks to Help Keep Your Space a Little Greener

“More recently I’ve adopted the more sustainable elements of the culture.”

In the Beginning it Was Drugs & Music Over Sustainability

My desire to live a greener, more sustainable life style probably started when I was in high school. It was the mid-nineties and hippy culture was re-emerging as the popular subculture. Though in the 90’s I feel it was more about the drugs and music than it was about free love. Or sustainability for that matter. Though I remember buying hemp pancake mix at a head shop in Cambridge Mass.

I remember one summer I went to a Phish festival up in Maine with a few friends of mine. The Lemon Wheel in ’98. We chose a spot to camp but unfortunately it was a few spots over from a tent that was selling nitrous balloons. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t played the same 5 or so funk songs on repeat the entire weekend. I never heard “Brick House” so many times in a three day period, nor do I ever want to again 😀

As time passed, I changed in a lot of ways. But I always held onto some of that culture in my personality. I traded the drugs for coffee and now it’s most recent iteration tea. But I still bust out the Dead every once and a while and Phish as well.

7 More Sustainable Home Practices

More recently I’ve adopted the more sustainable elements of the culture. Recycling and buying sustainable goods that will last longer than their plastic counterparts being among them. Also making sure the items I’m buying have a shorter decomposition rate after they’ve run out their usefulness. So it wasn’t long before I started looking around my house to find ways of making the process of keeping to these tenants a little easier.

A Recycling For Every Room

One of the things I’ve started doing is keeping a recycling bag next to the rubbish barrels in all rooms. I started thinking about it while I was in the bathroom taking a shower. I reached for the face wash or the soap when I looked at the empty bottle of shampoo that had been sitting in the shower caddy for I don’t know how many weeks. My intention was to recycle it. But that meant going downstairs to the kitchen where the recycling is kept. And by the time I got dressed, I’d forgotten to go back into the bathroom to bring the bottle downstairs to be recycled.

So I put a paper bag next to the rubbish in my room and since I’ve found that my recycling fills up much faster than the garbage barrel does. Thinking about it now makes me a little sad. To think about all the things I could have been recycling that went to the trash previously. But it’s been nice feeling that I’m not just tossing things in the garbage that could go to recycling. Because I was too busy to go downstairs.

What Am I Wearing

Second, I’ve been paying closer attention to the fabrics that I’ve been keeping around my house. Instead of fabrics made from synthetic materials, I’ve been buying either 100% wool or cotton. And hopefully, slowly replace what I have that’s made from polyester. If you’ve read my post on taking care of your needs for clothing, you’ll know that I shop pretty regularly at thrift stores. So my selection is a little limited on what I’m able to buy that’s made from natural fibers.

This post on micro fiber pollution from Friend of the Earth, says that materials such as polyester, rayon and acrylic are a few of the fabrics that are made from plastics. According to the article one of the main issues with these fabrics is when they’re washed, they release microfibers into the water supply. The fibers are then consumed by sea animals in the food chain. The plastics absorb toxic chemicals from the environment, so who knows what they would do to our bodies. And for me, knowing that my clothing will turn to compost either during, or not long after I’m gone brings me a sense of ease. Knowing that the clothes I bought that are made from plastics will be sitting in landfills for decades makes me a bit uneasy.

How are You Washing Yourself and the Things You Own?

Speaking of laundry, the third thing on my sustainable list is making your own soaps. I’ve made soaps in the past using castile soap. Castile soap is a blend of oils and potassium hydroxide (lye), and can be mixed with various other common household ingredients to create household cleaners. Anything from body wash to all purpose cleaners can be made on the cheap from castile. By adding some essential oils to the mix, you can customize your new cleaners to suit your own personal tastes. Putting your own touch on the ways you clean yourself and your space.

The best part is, that the ingredients found in castile soap are all natural and have been used for centuries. So there’s no surprises when you pick up a bottle to clean surfaces that you prepare your food on. Or for use in the shower and sinks. Areas that you come in close contact with and use the most. This blog post on Live Simply by Kristin Marr, shows you how to craft your own household cleaners using castile soap.

As well as saving money, you can also cut back on the amount of plastic you’re buying by picking up a few reusable glass bottles to hold your new cleaners in. A quick google search will yield multiple results for spray bottles or dispensers for both hand soap and shampoo. Whatever your container needs may be, you’re likely to find it with ease.

Upgrade Your Hangers

My fourth idea is to replace the plastic hangers in your closet with wooden ones. Plastic hangers tend to break and need replacing more often than wooden ones do. And by replacing and recycling your old plastic hangers with wooden ones, your using a more sustainable material that will not only be functional a lot longer than their plastic counter parts, but look better as well.

Wear Your Clothes More Than Once

Fifth on the list is, I’ve been wearing some of my clothes more than once. Pants mostly and some pajamas, sweatshirts and bandanas (I wear a lot of bandanas.) By wearing some of the same clothes over again before washing, I have fewer clothes to wash which means the time between loads is longer. This saves on soap and water use and not to mention frees up some time you could be doing something else with. Also it helps to make your clothing last a little longer. Which means more money in your pocket.

Burning Beeswax

Sixth, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before I burn a lot of candles. I’m burning three as I’m typing this article! I haven’t made the switch yet, but beeswax candles are considered carbon neutral according to this article from alive. Candles are usually made from paraffin wax, which is a byproduct of crude oil. This means you’re releasing Co2 from oil production into the atmosphere when you burn paraffin candles.

The carbon in beeswax has been sequestered so recently from the environment, that it’s considered neutral. Plus, beeswax has the added bonus of releasing negative ions into the atmosphere. These ions purify the air of allergens and pollutants.

As I’ve said above, I’ve been in the habit of burning candles at night. The candles I burn now are made of coconut or soy wax. Either when I’m in my room unwinding from the day or cooking dinner at night. I feel they set a relaxing tone with their ambient lighting which gives everything a softer feel. It’s also something to look forward to. Coming home to a place that has spa vibes, cozy. When I’m having a tough day I can think about my self-care Sundays (Mondays now) and it brings that same sense of ease and calm. So burning bees wax candles brings some sustainable elements to your self-care routine.

Number One Not Number Two

The seventh one may make some a little squeamish but I’ve gotten in the habit of not flushing the toilet after going number one. I drink a lot of water and tea through the course of the day. So the amount of times I use the facilities is pretty high. Only flushing after a number two helps to reduce the amount of water that is being flushed into the wastewater treatment system.

The benefits are that you use less water. Which translates to a lower water bill and on the other end there is less waste to process. This saves on energy and resources.

Speaking of water, most people know this tip, but washing your clothes using cool water instead of warm helps to conserve energy that would otherwise go to heating your wash water. Which means you’ll save on your electric bill as well.

Cleaning Up

I hope some of these sustainable suggestions have been useful in some way. It won’t be easy, but together we can change the course of our collected future, one small change at a time. If you have any suggestions or tips you use regularly to help keep your home a little greener, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading 🙂 peace.

Updated: 7/31/22

Self-Image: How Taking Care of Our Basic Needs for Clothes Can Help Reverse the Ways We’ve Been Neglected by Caregivers and Ourselves

“Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without” by AlyssssylA is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-image lately and how it relates to clothing. My caregivers put a lot of emphasis on body image and our outward appearance. This sent me the message that I needed to look attractive to be loved or even liked. This was especially apparent regarding the subject of clothing.

How You Look on the Outside is Not Who You Are

About two weeks ago I got it in me that I wanted to throw away two sweatshirts that I’ve been holding on to for almost two decades. I had just bought a pair of hiking boots for the winter weather we’ve finally got up in the Northeastern part of the States. And I was thinking about what else I needed to replace. I had just bought some wool socks and work shirts, so I thought I’d throw out the sweatshirts, a few other items and that would be that.

Sentimental Attachments

So I gathered the sweatshirts first. There were two. One was from a private school I never went to and the second was from a Pawsocks game I saw in 2004. They had sentimental value for certain. The private school, a cross-country club sweatshirt I got from a good friend when we used to work at a Mexican takeout place together, that was located next to a screen printing shop. He had traded a couple of burritos for the sweatshirts and gave one to me. We were counterfeit brothers in sweatshirts from a school we never went to. Nor could afford.

The second was from a Pawsocks game I went to that reminded me of my childhood. When my family would all go to Red Socks games together. When I took the sweatshirts out to examine them, they had so many holes in them that they were literally falling apart in my hands. I was sad at first. It felt as though my memories were directly connected with the condition I kept these particular sweatshirts in.

The good times I had with my friend, riding longboards around the city while drinking 22’s. Or the time I spent helping to paint my niece’s bedroom before she came home from the hospital. If I let go of these memory’s physical counterpart, the entire package may be lost. And worse yet, they were falling apart on their own. Which meant it was only a matter of time before I lost everything.

I thought about keeping them, but I felt like I was being held back by gripping these memories too tightly. I felt stagnant. As though I was refusing to leave that part of my past. And they were good times and memories for sure. But there was also a lot of fear, anxiety and insecurity. Fear because I don’t want to go back to that time or way of being now and. In fact many of the people I made those memories with I don’t even speak with anymore.

Letting Go of the Past

So there I was in front of my dresser, holding two sweatshirts that had been past their prime for 14 plus years and riddled with so many holes they were barely discernible as garments. And with those who my memories were tied to I no longer spoke with. The absurdity of the situation finally made sense to me. I got a few bags, thanked the sweatshirts for their service in Mari Kondo fashion and began the process of sorting through my clothing, tossing what I no longer needed.

The more I sorted, the greater my realization that most of the clothes I owned resembled the original two articles of clothing I had finally mustered the nerve to toss. I was holding on to pairs of socks that had sizeable holes in them. One long sleeve tee that was in worse condition than the two sweatshirts, if that was even possible. And dozens of other articles that I kept for no other reason than I felt that’s what I deserved.

The Realization

I had been living with the discomfort of not having my basic needs for clothing met for so long, due to the neglect I experienced around not being taught the most basic life skills, coupled with my family’s inability to discern self-worth apart from the things they buy, that I had become the embodiment of my family’s polar opposite while staying loyal to the legacy of neglect I learned from my care-givers by dressing like a hobo. If No Labels Living had a thesis, this would be it.

So with this new knowledge, and about half my clothes that were headed for the garbage and the few pieces that were in good enough condition to be donated, I made a plan to get some new clothes.

I made a list of what I needed and set aside some money that wasn’t in the budget. Because if not having enough clothes to wear isn’t an emergency I’m not sure what is. And struck off to the local thrift shop to get some new threads. I’ve since replaced a good portion of my clothing. But the more I focused on this mindset of letting my basic needs be left unattended as a form of neglect, I started noticing it in other aspects of my life.

Neglect in the Rest of the House

My pantry for example. I have dried beans and pasta, some teas and a few other items that have been there for up to 5 years! I had been treating my pantry as you would curate pieces for a museum. Not a place to make meals from. And the shower caddy in my bathroom was so old that it had rusted around the edges. The reason I even thought to check was because I had boughten four new towels and wash clothes to replace the two towels and plastic luffa I had been clinging to for the past four years. Things I never liked all that much to begin with!

And what held it all together was a feeling of self pity. Also empathy for inanimate objects and feeling as though I somehow deserved to live a life filled with discomfort. While also feeling unworthy of something better. What I realized was that my caregivers had been living life the same ways I had been living. And I felt as though I were judging them as inferior just for wanting something better than how I was taught to take care of my needs. As though I was betraying them for feeling like there was something more than what I had been taught. I was afraid to let go of these things and lessons because letting go meant losing one more thing in a life’s time worth of loss and feeling neglected.

Curating Things That Will Last

My family also has a legacy of poor boundaries. So discerning who was feeling what was a confusing endeavor. But I’ve since made plans to begin replacing all the things I’ve been neglecting in my life. Keeping in mind that I want items that will last and are made sustainably. If you haven’t visited Buy Me Once, check them out. Their mission is to connect people with items that will last a lifetime. For example I’m looking into buying alpaca throw blankets and sweaters. Because when treated with care, they not only keep you warm but could be handed down to the next generation.

I’ve also been shopping for clothes at thrift shops instead of buying them new and saving a ton of money to boot. At my local Savers I spent 90$ for two pairs of jeans and eight shirts that would have cost me around 400$ retail. And I’m also recycling at the same time as taking care of myself. That’s a win in my book.

And knowing that I’m comfortable in my own clothes gives me a new healthy self-image. One based on my values. I can replace the things that aren’t working in my life and that feeling is empowering. Also a source of confidence. Knowing that I care enough about my self-image, by taking care of myself has been a real resource for my emotional well being. I’m worth my time and the effort it takes to make my life better. I’m worth being a part of my own life. And it all started from tossing a couple of old sweatshirts : )

Healthier Self-Image Leads to a Healthier You

Neglecting our self-image can take a lot of forms. Clothing being only one. Next time you’re cleaning or doing laundry, take a look around at the items you’ve collected. Are there some that you don’t like but put up with? Is there a particular towel or set of sheets you dread using? Ask yourself why are you holding on to these. Especially if they cost less than 20$ or 30$ dollars to replace. Is the discomfort and disease worth putting up with for something that could be replaced so easily? Why or why not? And stay curious. It doesn’t help to be forceful or judgmental. And be kind to yourself while you listen.

I hope this has been of some use. I know it’s not easy making changes, especially those that take some self introspection. Or that are connected with our basic needs. But making these changes can be an incredible source of strength and lead to healthier self-image. So take heart, and know you are not alone and be strong! Peace, and thanks for reading :]

Image Credits: “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without” by AlyssssylA is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 7/31/22

Self Care: Taking Care of Your Professional Needs

Being professional. For some, careers come naturally. From an early age, some may know what they want to do and pursue that interest in a professional setting. Others may take a little longer to find where their passions lay. Maybe they read an article that sparked their interest and with it, a desire to understand and learn more. Others may have admired a role model or someone who exemplified the spirit of who they want to become. Others may not have been so lucky.

Finding Your Barings

If you were like me you had no idea what you wanted to do as a professional and no one around to tell you how important it is to find fulfilling work. I was talking to a friend recently and she summed up what it was like for both of us growing up. She said she had no problem going the traditional college route, but there was a turnoff on the career path that wasn’t clearly marked. Showing her how to convert what is interesting to her and to borrow a sentiment from Marie Condo, what “sparks joy” into a fulfilling and professional career.

This isn’t a new story for sure. That’s why popular phrases such as, “that’s why it’s called work” or something another friend of mine’s wife said to him, “you act as though your the first person to not enjoy their job” are prevalent. These may be true statements and there are aspects of every job that may be less than palatable for those doing them. But what about finding meaning in the work we’re doing. Or at least getting behind the values or moral compass of the company we work for. Shouldn’t that make our work, regardless of how tedious some tasks may be, more fulfilling?

Know Your Values

I would argue yes. And to use an extreme example to illustrate my point, if I worked for a company that was knowingly destroying the environment I would feel less satisfied than if I worked at a place where all our single use disposables were compostable. Now we all have our own standards by which we judge fulfillment, but there is a common thread. And that is a sense of joy and even pride in our contribution to something larger.

If we’re left in the category of, I don’t know what I want to do and I don’t know how to get there, then there are a few things you can do to help find your path. For starters we can ask ourselves what our values are. There are tests out there that can help with this aspect.

You Want Me to Take a Test?!

Carl Jung’s personality type test is a good place to begin. It starts by breaking down your tendencies and illustrates the patterns you are most likely to fall into by placing you in four of eight possibilities. If you’re not familiar with them they are, introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuition, feeling/thinking and judgement/perception. There are 16 possible combinations and it’s best to not read them until after you take the test. There are a number of places online where you can take the test and for free as well.

Then there’s the enneagram test. This test shows you which archetype you most resemble. Some examples of archetypes you could be classified as are, lover, thinker, leader, reformer… There are also free resources online for this test as well. I’m not as familiar with this one but it seems to help some people so it’s worth looking into if you’re starting from scratch.

These tests can be helpful to finding your values but they are just aids for self discovery. These test methods have devoted followers and can be somewhat polarizing. Don’t forget that no one test should be able to define who you are or your values. It’s worth remembering that even though you may fall into a certain personality type that you very much connect with, in some way you are all aspects of each type.

It’s Not All About the Money, But It’s Nice to Know How Much to Ask For

Now let’s say you have a career you are passionate about and find joy and fulfillment from. Do you know how much you should be compensated for the work you do? Often times people don’t know what they should be asking for when it comes to pay and benefits. Or that this area is even negotiable.

It took me a long time to understand that the experience I have is worth something to my employer. I was always taught that I should just be grateful that I have a job and to work as hard as possible. Sacrificing myself and time for the people I worked for regardless of how they treated me. I was taught that loyalty was most important and self sacrifice was a given.

This type of dedication isn’t inherently bad. There’s a lot to be said for someone’s character who holds these values close. It’s when these values are taken for granted and expected as given while being taken advantage of by either abuse of time or compensation. If you don’t know how you should be compensated there’s a good chance that your employer does and may be willing to take advantage of your ignorance.

That being said there are a lot of fair employers out there. But it’s best to be prepared and not leave something this valuable up to chance. And even with a fair employer, I’ve worked many a place where someone held some resentment for the sacrifices they weren’t asked to make because of the unfair standard they held themselves up against.

Legacy of Secrecy: When Your Role Models Don’t Role Model well

In my family, money wasn’t just not talked about, it was treated as a secret so volatile, that the mere mention of the subject set everybody in the room on edge. This was a topic that was downright feared in most people’s families from the generations of the 70’s and prior. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but it got in the way of my family building trusting bonds that would be able to withstand difficult times.

My advice, if you’re coming from a similar background is, to talk openly and often about your financial situation. Now this doesn’t mean telling everybody your checking account number, but talking about promotions, pay scale, debt and other broad strokes of your financial situation shouldn’t be grounds for being ostracized from your family unit.

For starters, being open with your pay to others is a good way to gage what your cohort is making. It also acts as a way to keep employers honest. If everybody has an idea of what everybody else is making, then those who don’t know their monetary value will be less likely to be taken advantage of.

These situations are all too common and can be avoided by setting healthy work boundaries. Unfortunately this isn’t often talked about and something not everyone is taught to do. There are websites such as Salary.com and PayScale, where you can determine what your rate of pay should be. And hopefully avoid situations like these altogether. Or try reaching out to a friend and asking their opinion who is in a similar situation.

Take a Breather, You’ve Earned It

And don’t forget to take some time to yourself. Take a long weekend, go visit a friend or a place you enjoy. Or discover a new city. Take in the sights and enjoying a relaxing dinner. Don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labor and develop your personal likes and interests. No matter how much fulfillment you get from your work, if you don’t balance it with some time to yourself you can become drained and one dimensional.

Hopefully, with the right attitude and drive, you will be doing the work that brings you joy and you will be compensated fairly for your time and experience. Also setting healthy boundaries for yourself by being honest with how much you are able to give, and when to take time for yourself. Just remember, it’s possible and don’t give up. Peace and thanks for reading : )

“Notabli Offices” by brettchalupa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 2/13/2022

Self-Care Physical: Read the Labels, No New Clothes Well Maybe

Self-care and clothing runs deep in my upbringing in relation to my perceived elf image. As I’m sure is the case for most people. So off and on I get the urge to go shopping for something new. Now a days I mostly I get candles or a new type of soap instead of clothing. But I always feel a bit weird walking into a store that’s trying to sell an image. The sleek lines and the bass driven rhythmic thumping of music. The smell of slick cologne or perfume laying heavy in a thick haze across the open concept display rooms. It doesn’t feel natural

Don’t get me wrong it’s nice to go into one of these stores once and a while to get the experience. But for me anyways, it only lasts so long before the fatigue sets in. If you’ve read my Mission Statement you’ll know where I’m coming from when I say I’m slightly nostalgic for this experience in a borderline unhealthy way.

What’s in Your Wardrobe?

This got me thinking about the clothes that I do own. Most very plain with only a few pieces that have some sort of writing or brand name blazoned across the front or back. I have a shirt that sports the name of the city I live in, one with the name of a place I went to while on vacation and a few others for sure. Oh, the “MT. WASHINGTON 6,288′” shirt I got when I climbed Mt. Washington. But most of the clothes I own have little to no visible brand name affiliations. What can I say, I like plain clothing.

Recently on my way back from an appointment in a neighboring city I stopped into a thrift shop. The shop supports a sober living community and I stopped in to look at some clothing while waiting for my train home. I bought a pair of jeans that would have cost 70+ dollars retail and a sweater equally as expensive for about twenty dollars.

I felt good afterwards. Not contributing to the cost of generating new clothing and feeling as though I helped in some small way, the mission of keeping alcoholics sober. Not to mention I saved a bunch of money to boot!

Also I realized that I hadn’t shopped for second hand clothing since high school. This seemed strange because one of my life goals is to live as zero waste as possible. Shopping second hand just seemed like such a no-brainer that I’m surprised I haven’t started doing it much sooner.

So my question is, what if instead of every time we need a new piece of clothing, we don’t go to stores that supporting big, name-brand clothing companies. But instead, why not buy from one another in the form of thrift markets or online used clothing markets like Ebay, Poshmark or Swap?

Or how about going out to a good old-fashion yard sale. This builds community by connecting individuals whom are trying to express a facet of their personality, while also repurposing old clothing that would have gone to a landfill. And the need to purchase new clothing would perpetuate the unhealthy cycle of consuming for the sake of keeping up appearances. So it’s a way to recycle and break some of the fast fashion trend.

Thrifting, It’s Not Just For Clothing

But thrift stores aren’t only relegated to the buying and selling of clothing. Another versatile use for thrifting is sustainably gifting. This past Christmas I was thinking about going to various thrift stores and buying people convenience kits. Something that would be useful for the everyday and practical, while maintaining a sense of the person’s style.

Like in one kit for my stepmother I may buy a travel coffee mug, water bottle, cloth bag, a pair of sunglasses, a book and a pair of gloves if I’m giving it in the winter. Or something summer related for a summer gifting.

With seemingly unlimited options the list is only limited to the stuff that people have donated. Not by a season or a product line. I know from my own experience that I’ve donated thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff over my lifetime. Odds are someone found a good home for the things I traded in. And that’s a nice way to think about it because I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that sometimes I get a little sentimental over inanimate objects.

I’m also a big fan of upcycling clothing. Like old tee-shirts into bandanas (some self disclosure: I wear a lot of bandanas). There was a period in high school when I made my own patchwork corduroy pants that had 36″ cuffs. Asides from them being comically big on me, it brought me such a sense of joy and accomplishment from making something that I wore every day. It helped that I was a dirty hippie and often wore articles of clothing over and over without a wash 😀

Self expression is about finding what it is about you that makes you shine. If it’s clothing, why wouldn’t you want something that had your name written all over it instead of some designer you don’t know. Also who’s making mounds of cash off people trying to buy acceptance at any price. In some cases, harming the environment.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t buy the clothing we like new, but let’s make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons. Let’s try to get back to what matters, connections and curating something that makes you more you 🙂 Peace, and thanks for reading.

Updated: 2/3/22

Me in High-School
Evidence of my bandana wearing hippie ways in my early years. Me (on the left) with my then girlfriend and friends on the front page of our town paper complaining about how strict the school was that year 🙂
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