Categories
authenticity mental health sobriety

The 4C’s- and I’m Not Talking About Diamonds

The beautiful thing about life is we have the ability to choose how we want to live it. Whether you realize it or not, you are completely in charge of the decisions you make.

There are many aspects of my life which are unconventional, and perhaps even misunderstood by others. As I tossed and turned in bed last night, thinking about a brief conversation I had about going car-free, I pulled out my phone and started to take notes.

Reflecting on what is “expected” versus living a life that best suits my values has elevated an immense amount of stress and anxiety, not to mention has bonded me even tighter with others who feel the same. From living minimally to standing firm in my choices, my life has completely changed for the better since embracing a few principles.

I used to do a lot of work with diamond companies and jewelry designers, so the 4C’s are something I used to write about often. I may not be a woman who dreams of the day she will get an engagement ring (I gave back a 1.51 princess cut diamond in 2008 when I decided to move to San Francisco), but my own 4C’s of life quality- instead of diamond quality- are important details that shape my life today.

Car-Free

“Car-free has gone from something where it’s for people that can’t afford a car to people who can afford not to have a car,” Ryan Johnson, founder of Culdesac, told me. As the first car-free neighborhood in the United States, Ryan is starting with Tempe, an area of Arizona which relies heavily on driving. Created to encourage residents to walk, enjoy experiences in their community, and connect with one another, Culdesac is a concept I’ve been living for the past six years- even though there are cars all around me.

Making a conscious choice not to drive came easily after spending the past six years living in New York and Boston. I loved walking the city, taking pictures wherever I went, and embracing the sights all around me. Public transportation is something I began to enjoy- not dread. Whether it was looking out the window in a cab, reading on the train, or listening to music while I waited for the bus, I used my time well as I commuted, a drastic difference from sitting in traffic and feeling my blood boil.

I’m sure one day I will drive again, but for now, I can afford not to- and I’m a lot healthier, more eco-conscious, and financially responsible as a result. I wonder how much money I spent on gas in the past, driving aimlessly to alleviate my anxiety. Today, I opt to walk to cure stress- and it works a whole lot better.

Clutter-Free

I used to love “stuff.” My closets were filled to the max, I pushed things under the bed, and I forgot what I even owned. This of all changed when I left NYC in 2016, moved back to Michigan for the summer, and later took a one-way flight to Boston (when this blog began!) with three bags. Everything I needed was transportable via car (Uber, specifically), making my move a piece of cake.

I started over completely when I moved back to Michigan this past October, now living in a townhouse with my cat. With an empty apartment and a few bags full of clothes, my mom and I set out to decorate my place with a minimalist aesthetic with functional details.

Everything has a place and purpose- with the clean colors and pops of red, green, and gold sprinkled throughout the house, I can easily move something from one room to the other and it fits in anywhere. I don’t own anything for the sake of owning it, and my closet only consists of items I wear.

Cocktail-Free

I first got sober in 2011- but didn’t stay that way. Apparently, I hadn’t had enough “yets;” those destructive and life-shattering events which make people say “I need to stop.” You see, even though my mental health was deteriorating and my relationships, finances, and dignity suffered, I hadn’t been through enough.

It’s a pretty twisted way to think about it- who wants to keep drinking just so they can experience the hospital multiple times, months in detoxes, far-off rehabs, or living with 20 other sober people? Well, I’ve officially done it all. That’s the thing about addiction- you never think these things will happen to you. The voices in your head tell you you’re okay; that nothing bad could happen.

Well, it did- and it all made me so much more appreciative of everything I have today. Would I go have a drink to “fit in” or shut someone up as I did nine (or even three) years ago ago? Absolutely not. I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty with people I just meet, dates, or acquaintances, but if they want the truth, I’m happy to share what it was like to physically detox for weeks, not be able to eat or walk, and be stuck in a hospital.

I’m good on the cocktails, thanks, but feel free. My own sobriety isn’t something I would ever want to push on someone else- but it’s a choice that has given me the opportunity for a brand new and much better life.

Child-Free

I’m not here to offend anyone who is a parent- but making the decision not to have children is a big part of my life. At 35, it’s important for me to be transparent with others about my wishes.

Having a family is expected for people. Nevertheless, the idea of family gives me anxiety. I love my mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I don’t know if I am fit to step outside of myself and care for another human. I’m a lot to take care of. I would never want to neglect or affect someone else because of my own preoccupation- which is also why I’ve been single for half a decade.

Call me selfish, but I call it self aware.

Children give people a sense of purpose, and it’s wonderful to see friends of mine parent some amazing human beings. I look up to them, but instead of being a parent myself, I see myself as a mentor or teacher, not a mother. Writing alone gives me a sense of purpose. I share some of my most personal and intimate details of my life, so I would say that’s a little bit of a sacrifice, right?

Opening up to people about my mental health, life choices, sobriety, and self-acceptance helps me to better understand myself as well as benefiting others through my own experiences. If there is one life I can touch, my writing here has served its purpose.

Finding peace, purpose, and passion may not lie in what the world tells you is best for you- that’s something you need to find within yourself.

Categories
conscious living minimalism

A Car-Free Life: Reducing My Own Carbon Footprint

One of the things that deterred me from moving back to Michigan from the East Coast was the need for a car. It seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, one of the reasons I specifically chose to move to Boston back in 2016 because of its walkability, T system, and ease of a daily commute.

I became extremely attached to the concept of not being attached to my material possessions back in 2016 as well, especially after spending over two years in New York City.

While talking to a friend who worked for an automotive company, he told me something pretty disheartening- that it is “strongly implied” at work that “only poor people” take BATA Transit Official (and they don’t count). 😳

BATA is our public transit system, and I was surprised to learn how helpful and nice it was when I came back to Michigan. The drivers were friendly, the schedules were consistent, and it took you pretty much anywhere you needed to go.

But hold up.

Yes, all walks of life take public transportation. I’ve taken the bus here and I’ve seen all kinds of people- tourists, storytellers, students, and sweet elderly people.

As a person who exclusively took the bus and train while living in San Francisco, NYC, Chicago, and Boston, it’s hard for me to go back to the pain of a car- especially going six years without one. Don’t get me wrong, I adored my Mini Cooper (my mother still has two, depending on the season), but every time something went wrong, I felt sick. With every check engine alert or knick on the door, I felt trapped by my material item.

Since selling Mini and moving to New York City in 2014, I’ve chosen not to drive.

I have walked over five miles a day for as long as I can remember (usually 10 or more on many days!), utilized a bike, and used my time in Uber or public transportation to write. After becoming much more conscious and mindful, I’ve embraced the time I can simply sit still and relax while going from point A to point B.

The “poor people” statement makes me sick to my stomach. Really. Could we please focus more on love and understanding instead of labels and judgment in this new decade?

That said, I don’t have a use for a car at the moment. I may in the future, but not now- and it’s somewhat of a political statement to avoid driving with the current state of our environment. I understand it’s necessary for many people to drive- to get to work, take their kids to school, or to travel on weekends. I’m fortunate to live in town and have the option to walk everywhere I need to go, use the bus, or take Uber if I can’t get there. My cat’s food and litter is delivered. I can even order groceries if I want to.

After six years in the city, it’s not easy to transition to a small town with a very limited view of the world. I can only hope to continue to connect with likeminded individuals who aren’t so quick to judge.

More love in 2020, please. For now, I’m grateful Traverse City has BATA- and good friends who don’t value others based on what they own.