My Journey

INTRODUCTION

I’ve enjoyed simple living for the past twenty or so years, and while I did not know that how I was living my life all those many years ago had a name (Voluntary Simplicity), I knew that it was a life choice that was different from the people around me. I also knew that I loved the freedom of living simply and that I was fortunate to be able to live how I wanted, regardless of the societal, economic and cultural values attempting to pull me in the opposite direction.

Now, before I continue, let me state that living a simple lifestyle hasn’t always been easy. There were many moments, especially in the beginning, where I questioned my own values, motivations and intentions.

Why should I be any different than everyone else!?” “Why can I not just go with the flow!?” “Why am I not NORMAL!?

These were thoughts that I had to struggle with at times, especially when work wasn’t coming in and my bills were piling up, or when there wasn’t any money coming into buy a small amount of food. Thankfully, it never got to the starving artist point as I kept on pushing forward, making things work for me until those thoughts vanished completely. It also helped that I was, and still am, a single person with no dependents, This made it easier for me to pursue my life choices without impacting the lives of others.

So, how did I fall into living a simple life? Three events transpired to make me see “the light”.

First off, let me begin by stating that since the age of 14 all I wanted to do was be a working musician and play my guitar. Life however had other plans for me, that is until I took back control of my life later on. More on that though in another post.

THREE THINGS

The first major event was when I was laid off from a “Joe” job that I hated, but did for five years because “that’s what people do” to exist. This was in 1992 and it was one of the BEST days of my life! It was a Friday and I just got back from lunch when I got a call to drop by the controller’s office. When I walked into his office, I could instantly tell that something was up and that it wasn’t good. The controller motioned for me to sit down, and as I did he handed me the proverbial pink slip along with an envelope containing a check for my 4%. Then he shrugged his shoulders…(said in the voice of the school teacher on all those great Charlie Brown animated TV specials)

“Sorry Lyle, times are tough and blah, blah, blah. We need to lay you off effective immediately and blah, blah, blah.”

It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I had a smile from ear to ear, which I’m sure confused the heck out of the controller. I jumped out of my chair, reached for his hand, shook it vigorously and said “thank you!” Then I was out the door feeling happier than I had been in a long, long time. I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to complete the day, but I didn’t care. I hurried to my desk, threw what little personal belongings I had into a bag and was out the door within five minutes.

That weekend, which started early, was a wonderful two and a half days of total freedom and I was on cloud 9…until Monday morning. Surprisingly, and this has happened to me on more than one occasion, when I woke up Monday morning, with no work to get to and no routine to follow, I felt quite depressed. The first time this happened to me, I couldn’t understand why. “Shouldn’t I be happy!? “Isn’t this what I have been wanting for a long time!?”

Eventually I worked it out that it wasn’t the job that I was missing, but the people I connected with on a daily basis and the routine. Once I realized this, I was able to accept my “disruption” with a “this will pass” attitude and sure enough, a day or two later, I was feeling great!

Normally, I would have taken a week or two off then begin looking for yet another dead-end job to continue the cycle. But not this time. Something in me snapped and I vowed never to work another 9 to 5 job again! Which I am happy to say, with the exception of a much needed job in 1998 for a few months, I have been able to stick to. Thankfully I had no debt to worry about and my rent was super cheap so it wasn’t all that difficult to make ends meet. I was also doing an undergraduate university degree at the time in Sociology, but tuition was ridiculously inexpensive and not an issue.

I had gotten a part-time job, and more importantly, fun job at a local video store just down the street from my place and it was enough of an income to take care of my financial needs. I also loved the interaction I had with customers and getting to watch movies all day wasn’t a bad thing either. I was 32 at the time and while some saw this “career choice” as unfitting for a guy my age, I could care less! I loved the flexibility that a part time job offered me along with the stress-free environment of that particular job. I worked there until 1999 when it sadly closed “thanks” to Blockbuster and Videotron opening up video stores close by.

In 1995, I also began picking up TA and RA (Teacher’s Assistant and Research Assistant) work as I began graduate studies in Sociology. This not only helped to supplement my income, but I was having a great time and really enjoyed what I was doing. AND I was getting paid to do work that I ENJOYED!! I truly thought I had found my “bliss” (Joseph Campbell).

LIFE CHANGES

In 1998, my mother passed away at the age of 86 from natural causes, followed by the passing of a favorite uncle a year later. These two occurrences sparked another wave of personal growth and reflection which I hold onto to this day. Without going into too much detail, I began to wonder if both my mother and my uncle had died satisfied with what there lives had become. My uncle for example, always wanted to be a musician and had the skill to do so, both as a singer and a guitar player. However, he gave up that dream when he married young and had to provide for his wife and soon to be four children. He of course did what he felt he needed to do and I never heard him complain. But I couldn’t help but wonder after he passed, if he regretted not going the distance. Not following that dream. Not finding his bliss.

I thought the same when my mom passed away as well. She never talked about the dreams or ambitions of her youth as she raised me as a single parent, but I often wondered if she too had unfulfilled expectations, dreams that she had to abandon for whatever reason.

Had I done the same? For years I had thought about music on and off and while I still loved playing, it took a definite backseat to Sociology. My school work had become my priority and I thought I was on the right track. It was after my uncle’s funereal that I decided to reclaim my bliss. And with that decision I began to once again get serious about my musical abilities and my future. I finished what I needed to at school and once that was done, I never looked back. Now some might think that all the years, time and money I spent at university was just a waste. But I think differently. I enjoyed my time there and I made some close, life long friends, and for those reasons alone, it was worth it.

GETTING THERE

My decision to get back to music I feel, could not have been done had I not been blessed with the notion of living simply. If I needed the prestige of a tenured track teaching position, if I was consumed with wanting the best and latest of anything and everything, if I felt the desire to have just as much or more than my peers and neighbors, then I would not have found my love for teaching children and adults how to play guitar. Had I not been living a simple life, I would have been aghast at the fact that I only made a little over $14,000.00 last year…and that was a GOOD year!! Without embracing simple living, I most likely would be doing quite well financially, loaded with debt and wondering why, at the pinnacle of my success, was I so “freakin’ miserable!?”

The third life-changing moment came when I was flipping through TV channels one day and came upon the last five minutes of a PBS show, which I never got the name of, that talked about enjoying the fruits of living a simple life through the embrace of a slow, but developing movement called Voluntary Simplicity. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down the unfamiliar term. Then with the help of Google, I began to unravel this mysterious lifestyle that a marginal few at the time had adopted. I came across some books and a few websites and quickly fell in love with living life simply.

ALREADY THERE

A few days later I happen to mention this new ideal and how I was excited about it to a close friend. He looked at me and said “Lyle! You’re describing YOUR life! This is EXACTLY how you’re living!

I was floored…he was right! I had been living this way for so long that I didn’t recognize it in the terms and explanations I had been reading about (I’m slow that way at times!).

I began re-reading all that I had previously read and YES, it WAS me…it was MY LIFE they were living and writing about, with a few exceptions of course. The cool thing was realizing that I wasn’t alone! I wasn’t a weirdo for not wanting a CD player opting instead to be happy with my vinyl collection and turntable that I had since I was 16. I wasn’t strange for not wanting to work a typical 9 to 5 job so I could impulse buy and rack a up a large credit balance. I wasn’t deranged for not wanting to own a car instead of opting for a bicycle and walking. And I wasn’t cookoo for buying my clothes used from a second-hand shop instead of buying the same clothes off the rack at some big box store for ten times the amount. I was just me, living my life how I wanted to and happily doing so.

STILL THERE

Fast forward to the present and I have been teaching guitar as a profession for about six years now. I also do some web-design work as well as perform with a variety of bands and musicians. I am also the creator and editor of a very popular online magazine devoted to Jazz Guitar and I help people with their computers when they have technical issues. At 52, I am happy and satisfied with the way things are going. Sure, I could always use a few more students, and yes, maybe the rent is sometimes a little late. But I get past that because my needs are few and I am grateful that I have the freedom and time to live my life according to how I feel, rather than how others think I should feel.

THAT’S IT FOR NOW

Well folks, there’s my story. There’s a lot more that has happened in between the time frame I mention, but that may come out in future posts.

Does any of the above ring a bell in your life? Have you found, or are you looking for your own bliss? Please feel free to comment on how you have gone about your journey and how you feel about simple living, I’d love to hear from you.

Lyle



27 Responses to My Journey

  1. Patti Winker says:

    Thank you, Lyle, for sharing your journey. I think many of us are, or have been, on a similar journey, but maybe didn’t realize it. When I was working my 9 to 5 jobs, feeling miserable and stuck, that was a journey. When I finally realized I had to leave NO MATTER WHAT, it was the best day ever. Now, I have the freedom to write and earn a living. I also have the freedom to pick jobs I want since I don’t have to look at the income first and foremost. I also had the freedom to realize that working from home (freelance writing) wasn’t enough for me – I needed more contact with the outside world. So, I took a wonderful part time job and am having a great time. All this is possible because I don’t spend money of stuff I don’t need – fancy house, car, clothes, etc. It’s a great journey! Thanks again, Lyle.

    • admin says:

      I couldn’t have said it better myself Patti. And I totally understand your need for contact. I too feel the same way from time to time, which is why I visit my two favorite cafe’s a few times a week. It’s the presence of other bodies and conversation, even if not directed at me, that makes me feel connected to my neighborhood and those around me, even if they don’t know who I am! Glad to read that you have found a most important balance…hmmm…maybe you should do a guest post on this topic!? I think it would ROCK!!

      Lyle

  2. Chris K. says:

    What a wonderful journey it has been Lyle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how you got to living a simple life and I hope to achieve that same level of peace and contentment one of these years…lol…thanks for sharing with us all and please don’t stop now.

    Chris

    • Lyle says:

      Hey Chris and thanks so much for your great comment! If simple living is the quest, the journey will come when you’re ready. I hope you find the peace and contentment you deserve. All the best and thanks fro dropping by :)

      Lyle

  3. Oh wow. Lyle, I have been feeling so uninspired and demotivated lately, and questioning my choice to quit my job and embark on this freelance road (which is pretty tough sometimes). I think the universe conspired to direct me to your website (after reading your comments on my website!) to help give me a boost of inspiration.

    I loved reading your story. It makes me realise that it can be done! I’ve never heard of voluntary simplicity but must google it! Lol.

    I think as human beings, we actually find more contentment in a simple life with less debt, material goods and a ‘lighter’ way of living. All the fancy cars, houses, designer clothing, gadgets, debt, debt and more debt actually bogs us down. While we need a place to live, a car to drive (for most of us) and clothes to wear, food to eat, etc., we can do with less in life. Our society has just become so hard-wired to achieve all these status symbols.

    Thank you for bringing back my inspiration!

    • Lyle says:

      Hi Deevra and thanks for dropping by :)

      It’s funny because your guest post on Think Simple Now inspired me as well :)

      I can totally understand your doubting your choice to quit your job but keep at it. Going against the grain is always difficult and is fraught with doubt, questions and more questions. But that tells me that you are doing something right! Doing what you feel in your heart is always hard to do. If it was easy to live your life your way, everyone would be doing it! Remember, you’re going uphill against a lifetime of normative social instruction to do the opposite. This is why it is hard. This is why you question. But this is also why you’ll live your life with greater honesty than those who follow what everyone else is doing. In short Deevra…YOU CAN DO IT…AND WILL DO IT!

      Let me know what you think of Voluntary Simplicity.

      Take care Deevra and all the best.

      Lyle

  4. TheNewTBL says:

    This is very inspiring! I recently quit my 9 to 5 job and I hope that I never have to go back to that lifestyle. Sitting for 9 hours a day, in a cubicle, under unnatural lighting, with lack of fresh air, was really wearing on my health. With a simple lifestyle, I was able to leave that atmosphere and I feel so much healthier because of it. I really don’t think that a 40 hour per week job is ‘sustainable’ for most people. You can read my journey here: http://peopleprofitpursuit.blogspot.com/

    • Lyle says:

      Hey TheNewTBL and thanks for dropping by :)

      You’re of course preaching to the choir my friend!! Glad to read that you have embraced the simple lifestyle and was able to get out of cubicle! I will check out your blog after I click out of here :)

      Take care and all the best.

      Lyle

  5. I’ve never had a Monday-Friday, 9 to 5 job, and I never will! (I’m 37.)

    I have had jobs outside the home in the past, and they extinguished the little flame in me. They literally did. The only outside-of-the-home job I have enjoyed is teaching (French, in private schools), but as you know that’s not something that makes people rich. Who cares: when your job makes you happy you don’t really need luxury.

    My main source of income nowadays is my home-based business translation… I feel that gives me the best of both worlds.

    I have other projects that I am super enthusiastic about… none of them holds a high-pay promise. It’s just not the way I roll.

    Sometimes I wonder where I would be had I chosen the mainstream path, in terms of status, money, etc. But I LOVE my life, I am happy, relaxed, creative, close to my kids… so why do I even wonder?

    • Lyle says:

      “Sometimes I wonder where I would be had I chosen the mainstream path, in terms of status, money, etc….” – probably miserable!

      You have successfully followed your own path and it shows in your excitement for what you do and how you LOVE your life! THAT feeling beats a regular pay check any day and that’s a luxury that many, many folk don’t have! Congrats :)

      Take care and keep on loving your life. All the best.

      Lyle

  6. Lois says:

    Lyle, I am finally finding a little time to read through your blog further. I enjoyed your story of how you found your lifestyle and laughed at how you accepted your pink slip news. I was on track to have a high powered career early on, then I found myself expecting my first child. That changed everything. I didn’t want anyone else raising my children and decided to stop the race and stay home. I have never regretted that decision. I found plenty of work I could do from home and was flexible enough to allow me to work the hours that fit my family best. I did struggle with what others would think if they learned I hadn’t “succeeded” but in time I realized it didn’t matter what others thought, I was happier and liked the lack of stress the simple life gave me and my family.

    • Lyle says:

      Hi Lois and thanks for your kind words :)

      It’s funny…we are all taught to be individuals and to always be ourselves, yet when we actually do what we feel is right for us, a large part of society see’s this as going against the grain and not rising up to your “full potential”. But in the eyes of your family and your soul, you HAVE reached your full potential and that is all the success you need. Good for you for doing what you felt was right for you and your family :)

      Take care and all the best.

      Lyle

  7. I loved reading your story Lyle and I’m so glad that you managed to get back into music. To not be worried or stressed is truly something to aspire to. I’m not quite there yet but probably half way. I remember in my last job how desperate I was to get out but I just couldn’t leave because I was worried about what my boss and co-workers would think of me. How would I ever manage without the good money I was earning particularly because the hubby and I have a lot of debt? When I had my daughter, I took a year’s planned maternity leave (I’d manage to save up to see me through the year). It was enough to make me realise I was NOT going back there. We’ve paid off more debt now than ever despite us earning around half the salary of what my hubby and I made a few years ago. It’s through living simply that this can be done!

    • Lyle says:

      Hi debtfreeoneday and great to “see” you again :)

      Thank you for your support and encouragement!!

      I know only too well the frustration and despair you must have felt at your last job. Thank God for the birth of your daughter :)

      I decided long ago to not worry or stress out about how others viewed me and to try and have my life as my own. It has worked so far – knock on wood!

      That being said, it hasn’t been easy, especially int eh early years of my simplicity journey, but I was able to roll with the punches and knew that I DID NOT ever want to go back to where I was. Life is now on an even keel and I am very happy!

      Simple living I realize is not for everybody, but for those who embrace the simple lifestyle, there’s a freedom and liberation that makes thew saving, scrimping and “sacrificing” so worth it!

      Take care debtfreeoneday and all the best to you and yours.

      Lyle

  8. Kate says:

    Good post! I’ve pretty much gone my way in life. I stayed home with my kids while many mothers worked for the extras. I like time alone. I write, I read and I suppose you could say I’m a minimalist etc. I dress for style, though, and I enjoy it. By the way, Montreal was fun to visit during the 80′s and later, during the 90′s, I enjoyed Quebec City. Overall, the French there were very hospitable.

    • Lyle says:

      Hi Kate and thanks for dropping by :)

      Glad to read that you have also chosen the path less traveled and that you are still a sharp dresser :)

      Also good to read that you enjoyed Montreal. It is truly a great city and I am glad to call it home.

      Take care and all the best.

      Lyle

  9. Talfryn says:

    Hi Lyle

    I find much to relate to in your story. Seven years agoI made a decision to leave Johannesburg where I ran a non-profit organization with funding in the millions because I could not stand the fighting and power struggles in the organization. I moved to Cape Town which had always attracted me because of the natural beauty of mountains, ocean and biodiversity. My life has been trending towards living more and more simply,with less and less stuff.I let go of my car two years ago and now get around by bicycle, and for longer distances on a 150cc Chinese motorcycle.I love that my life is designed for simplicity, and I’m able to walk or cycle to work, shops, meetings and the occasional movie. No more long, costly commutes, car financing, insurance and repair bills!
    I stay in a tiny attic room with my cat, but we are both happy here. My rent is low and she is able to climb down to the garden and go out at night to do cat stuff.
    I do have a 40-hour a week job that I’m leaving soon. I’ve been working at a rehab and I’ve learnt a lot but its time to create my own job where I can be of more service to people and the planet. Besides you know the joke about the rehab industry; “Everyone is very sick here, you know, and the clients also need help!”
    I have attempted more extreme versions of living simply: a small wooden hut in a garden with solar power, solar cooking, rainwater tanks etc. However I always experienced problems with security of tenure. This was frustrating because I would invest a lot in the food garden, building up the soil, putting in water infrastructure only to have the landlords not keep their agreements. Then I would have to move and find homes for pigs, chickens and farm stuff. I have realised that most people really don’t understand the urge to live a simple life, and they treat you like a bergie (people, originally run-away slaves, who live in the mountains (berge) around Cape Town or on the street).
    I guess in a sense people chosing to live simply are run-away slaves!
    In the long term I’m talking to others who want to buy land so we can “simply live” together.
    Thanks for the inspiring post Lyle!

    • Lyle says:

      Hi Talfryn and thank you so much for sharing your way towards living a simple life. It’s not easy, but sooooo worth it in the end. I hope you find those people who share the same urge to live simply as you do.

      Take care Talfryn and I look forward to hearing from you again if you so choose to say “hello”.

      All the best.

      Lyle

  10. This is very inspiring Lyle. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  11. [...] Lyle lived as a minimalist before he stumbled on the minimalist blogs. He hated 9-5 jobs and explains what led him to create his own work schedule doing what he loves instead. [...]

  12. Lindsay says:

    Lyle, I loved this! It was so well written, and I can relate to so much of what you’ve said. I kept going back and re-reading bits, just to check I read it right and wasn’t forming assumptions and seeing what I wanted to see (I wasn’t)! You’ve described a lot of the emotions I’ve felt myself on my own journey. Blogging has been great for me to realise that there are so many other people out there who get what we do, and do it too. I’ve met many great people in the community where I live, but I live in a very affluent area (in a old, crummy apartment block in a tiny flat) and there’s so many more people who buy expensive shoes and cars and clothes and just shop shop shop… It’s really nice to connect with others who “get” this way of living : )

    • Lyle says:

      Hey Lindsay and thanks for dropping by :)

      Also, thanks for such a wonderful and insightful comment. We are, as they say, on the same page :)

      It’s nice to meet you and take care.

      All the best.

      Lyle

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