Everyone’s journey in life is different. Over the next few weeks my friend Janelle and I are going to begin sharing our own journeys towards simple, sustainable and meaningful lives. We both have different backgrounds and very different journeys, mine includes chronic illness and her journey doesn’t.
We hope that by sharing our stories we’ll be able to inspire you to see how your journey has been and the potential paths you can take going forward. Together, we hope to create a community of people who are moving towards simple, sustainable, and meaningful lives in their own ways. Over time we’ll encourage you, our readers, to share your stories as well.
On to my story so far…
In the beginning
From a young age I have been taught the value of living a life that is considerate of what we actually need rather than our wants. This was mainly due to the fact that we grew up with little income. My parents divorced when I was young and we lived a life of commuting between two families. Even within these two families (both of which had little cash available) there were differences in the way things and experiences were valued.
My mum always made sure we had what we needed but we didn’t have an excess of things and had to pass up on several opportunities for trips due to cost. Christmas and other special occasions were about spending time together and enjoying meals and experiences, not about gifts and material items.
In contrast, at my dad’s house (with a new step family), we often got large amounts of ‘things’. These were usually cheap items which meant the quality wasn’t the best. We had limited family experiences because both my dad and step-mum worked long hours and we hardly ever saw them. However, dad did make an effort to take us to the zoo at least a few times a year, and to the Show (the local agricultural show in town) every year.
I learnt from my childhood that I prefer quality experiences and items over large volumes. I learnt that I am passionate about the environment (multiple trips to parks with my mum) and our wildlife (the zoo trips with dad).
Formal education and joining the workforce
Throughout school and university I tend to focus on environment and sustainability related activities, as well as those that helped other people. This led to several jobs ranging from counting algae and seedlings, conservation activities such as planting and weeding, conducting energy and greenhouse gas emission audits, and writing sustainability plans and reports. My most recent roles have been based in local government managing both internal sustainability updates and community based education around the topic. As you can see,I have a strong passion for living sustainably.
Although I was passionate about the topic and doing all that I could in the community and workplace situation, I still felt I could improve at home myself. If we’re being honest, my husband (who has been part of my life now for over 11 years) is not as passionate about sustainability as I am. He has his own passions and I was trying to do my best to compromise when these clashed. I still felt inadequate, mainly due to our busy lifestyles meaning that we didn’t have the time or energy to do things the way I would prefer.
Chronic Illness Strikes
Almost 16 months ago I had a life altering experience that I am still learning to live with, I suddenly was struck down by several chronic illnesses that cause constant pain and exhaustion and that, to date, has meant I’ve been unable to work or do much of anything else. I talk a lot about my life with chronic illness so I’m not going to repeat it all here. What I do want to say here though is that my life has definitely had to slow down!
I would love to be able to say I voluntarily decided to take action and move towards the life I want but I don’t know if I can. At least not for the first few steps. Due to having such limited energy and ability before pain levels rise I had to start to simplify our life. I guess I had a choice to just do nothing and let the illness take over or make a change that allowed me to live a reasonable life with my illness, so in some ways I did voluntarily change.
I have begun decluttering our house to make it easier for me to keep clean, determining what I really value so that I can allocate my limited energy to doing things that fit those values, and learning to prioritise and say no to things that don’t fit into my values.
Right now I’m clarifying how I can live with the values I have identified (I shared these here) and still decluttering and simplifying our house and my life. I’m questioning every action I take to determine whether it actually helps me move towards making my life as meaningful as possible.
In future posts we’ll talk about what we mean by a simple, sustainable, meaningful life and how you can identify and work towards your own version of that.