by Caro Spinette

Traveling or Settling?

Traveling or Settling?

 

Okay. I feel slightly lost in my own choices.

 

Let’s start this by admitting that, yes, I do want it all.

 

That seeing friends conquer goals that didn’t have a place on my map makes me ponder about my sudden envy of those goals which, let’s face it, are mostly statutory.

I’m a hand-to-mouth kind of person, with three main passions to feed:

  • A passion for traveling
  • A pride for my home
  • A total weakness for good wine

Therefore, my motivation to work revolves around:

  • My next trip
  • My next home improvement
  • My next wine order

Those are the things I enjoy the most and feed with any earning and opportunity.

home-campervan

 

So why is it that when I hear of friends buying a house, I feel like I’m missing out?

 

I could do like most people and simply SAVE money instead of burning it in life’s various pleasures, hoping that one day I’d squirrelled away enough to present a non-laughable mortgage deposit. I could. But that would mean saying no to seeing the world. At least temporarily.

 

This little inner debate has now been going on for a while (it tends to increase in the absence of long-haul trips to look forward to), but the pattern is always the same:

  1. Shall I sort my shit out?
  2. Oh, I have enough money in my savings
  3. My hard work deserves to be rewarded by some wine
  4. My hard work deserves to be rewarded by some awesome shit for the house.
  5. Let’s book an amazing trip to the other side of the world
  6. (whilst on the trip) Fuck it, you only live once, let’s do EVERYTHING we want even though it implies drying out my saving account.

 

carpe-vinum

I’ve been chatting this thing over with several house-owning close friends of mine and, surprisingly, a majority of them told me to carry on investing in adventures rather than estate.

 

To a stronger degree, what keeps popping in my mind is the street-interview (below) by the awesome Ryan Jon on the subject, ending on the words of an older lady who says that, if back in her days traveling had been this easy, she would not have hesitated one second between the house and the travels – she would have gone to see the world.

 

Where does this put me? It leaves me right at the middle of this nagging debate of mine, with the silent hope that my first-ever lottery ticket will be a winning one, tomorrow.

 

I guess you can call that my first step towards this whole house-owning business. Right?

break-free

 

Serotonin – Time to say goodbye?

Serotonin – Time to say goodbye?

 

This could easily be a heavy post, except I don’t want it to be.

A year or so ago, in an attempt to deal with the grief of unexpectedly losing one of my oldest friends, I focused my mind onto meditation. But after endless months of tears and self-destructive thoughts, I felt my last resort was to get some medical support.

This is a journey in the fascinating world of antidepressants.

Happy-Pills

March to November 2016 – First Steps

 

Being put on the common antidepressant known as Citalopram was probably one of the best thing that could have happened to me. After a few challenging days, it helped me rid myself of all the noise in my head, and opened my eyes onto the world of possibilities that was right there in front of me.

It gave me the strength to grab those opportunities and face a wall of fear I would normally avoid at all cost.

It made me not give a shit about a lot of unnecessary things. It made me GROW.

actually-I-can

November 2016 to April 2017 – Step Backward

 

After feeling like a superhero who could get anything done, I eventually burnt out and fell off my top of the world to find myself back at the bottom, but under a set of new, passionless rules. With no more shit to give, my mojo was slowly slipping off my fingers and soul, replacing the thirst for knowledge into a dull exercise of counting the days until I would feel again.

Four sparkless months went by.

dead candle

April 2017 – Wake up

 

Traveling has always been my saviour. So it is no surprise that at the end of two amazing weeks wandering around Thailand, I realised that I had missed three doses of Citalopram in a row. To give you an example, the last time that had happened was last July, in Mauritius, where I ended up spending three days building a plan on how to throw myself in the ocean in the middle of the night – until I realised what the fuck was happening [I swear it was actually funny afterwards].

I-m-fine-tee

Coming back home, I quietly decided to give it a go. After 5 days without, I could feel things again – passion and grief – like those guys had been put in a cryogenic tank, waiting for me to be ready. The urge to write came with it, something I hadn’t felt in absolute ages. All those resurfacing sensations made me realise how disconnected from myself I had been for the past 6 months, and how much I actually wanted to give this thing a shot indeed.

 

May 2017 – Consequences

 

Although the first few days were a happy revelation of “I can do this”, I’ve also had to deal with whirlwinds of thoughts and feelings, as well as live with a constant migraine for the past 10 days. Getting up in the morning is an actual mission, not because I don’t feel like it, but because my whole body is in a traumatic state of reshuffling everything again – a big “what the hell are you doing to us” that my mind and body scream at me.

All. Day. Long.

Mindfuck

My dreams are equally fucked up. Last night, Dan, our friends Graham and Linnea, and myself were in a canoe trying to paddle up a strong river until, all of a sudden, we became the flippin’ canoe itself, gasping for air in muddy waters. Other recurring themes involve fire-coloured skies, lost lands and conflicts with both friends and indigenous people. A massive headfuck that Freud would have a good laugh decoding.

I lose my shit a lot. I snap. One second I can’t take it, the next I laugh. One moment I’m thinking of leaving it all behind, the next I remember it’s just my brain fucking up with me.

breathe

What now?

 

For the first time in my life, I’m choosing to give myself the time. Because I know deep down that this mountain can be climbed, one breath at a time. As long as I keep in mind that I am not my thoughts and remember to breathe, eventually, I should be okay.

Sure, it would be much easier for everyone if I got back on the drug, but I need to do this.

 

Because, for once, this is about me and no one else.

 

Wish me luck.

long-road

 

I want more, says the voice.

I want more, says the voice.

 

Ever found yourself in that state where the voice in your head, your voice, keeps on repeating: “I want more out of life.”

 

Of course you have.

 

Some might say that this is all linked to a logical state of holiday blues following the amazing two weeks I’ve just spent traveling around Thailand – sure, I hear you. But I also know that I’m at my best when traveling (read: exploring, backpacking, pushing my own boundaries in a foreign countries – resorts and all inclusive being a soul-killer to me), that it helps me put my mind back in the right place and remember what truly matters to me.

See, my worst enemy is routine. It’s a filthy one that likes to pretend it’s your friend, by smothering you in a comfort zone that turns you blind and deaf to the yearnings inside, turning the temporary into permanent – one guaranteeing each time to make me slowly simmer inside until I emotionally explode.

slow-motion picture of a bubble being burst

I’ve known for years that I’m not shaped for sedentary life, yet I find myself investing more into it on a regular basis – either through home improvement-related activities, or through numbing the wild voice inside by drinking myself happy.

I’m torn between this beautiful and comfortable thing called Home, and an inner fire to explore, meet, learn, feel.

home-tent-view

“I want more out of life” – so, let’s hear what the voice is saying to me this time.

It says it doesn’t want to get back to the unhealthy, oversleeping, passionless, and numb version of myself that took over for half a year, before I set foot on foreign land three weeks ago. It says that’s not me. That I shouldn’t let the light and the fire die again. Because, fuck it, my time’s counted (and so is yours, by the way).

Beyond the panicky “sell it all, pack your shit and go”, it says: “never cease working on being a better version of yourself” – in what you are, and in what you do. Because that’s the only sane movement that will get you where you want to be.

 

travel

 

So where is it I want to be?

In a place where I take better care of myself and my dreams, where my priorities guide my decisions – redefining my priorities so they reflect who I am and where I want to be… hang on, going round in circle here.

I moved my work to freelancing with the aim of giving myself the possibility of working from anywhere in the world (providing there’s a decent wifi connection). It’s been just over a year now, one where I’ve had to find my balance and, although I’m not quite there yet, I’ve experienced enough self-sabotaging through that year to realise that I needn’t wait until I’ve totally found my feet to stir my work life in the direction I need it to go.

So let’s start this new journey with some official rules.

The work rules I need to follow to keep the flexibility and fire I yearn for are:

  • Take work that can be done from anywhere in the world;
  • Take that flexibility, don’t let it go to waste;
  • Take work that brings you financial stability;
  • Take work you feel passionate about;
  • Take the skills you enjoy to the next level.
Let’s start with that.

you go girl

Meditation. Claiming your right to not give a shit.

Meditation. Claiming your right to not give a shit.

Last week marked the beginning of my 3rd month as a meditation and mindfulness student.
And although two months is definitely not long enough for me to be able to lecture you on the life-changing benefits of meditation, it is a long enough time for me to tell you how much it’s fucked me up. Oooh yes.

To me, meditation used to be associated to the 4 following things:

  • Vegans
  • Hippies
  • Denial
  • My ex’s existential crisis after we broke up

The mere mention of meditation would make me cringe instantly and have me nodding politely until the one way conversation was over. Basically the same reaction as if a teenager started talking to me about witchcraft.

Last year, I was head down busy with the build of my startup, dedicating my whole time, brain, energy, soul to making shit happen. I felt powerful and super kickarse, yet I could feel my wings slowly burning and my doubts gradually creeping. Having relentlessly chased a dream to “be someone“, I ended up barely recognising the person staring back in the mirror.

Eventually, things unexpectedly turned upside down. I lost a friend and, with that, my faith in life. Nothing made sense anymore. At all. And I had/have never felt this empty and cheated – by the world, by life, by myself – in my whole existence.

Sunset on a pebble beach
One day, Dan asked me what I wished for Christmas. “A better life” I muttered, smothered in a blanket of tears and disbelief I had rarely left for the past three months. Regardless, Dan kept asking, and his perseverance triggered a vague something that eventually turned into an idea:
“About that Christmas present. How about a better life balance?”

He stared, incredulous.

“I’m serious.”, I said.

A few weeks of research later and, on Christmas Day, Dan gifted me the following:

  • A book, Mindfulness Meditation which, so far, is a long-term eye opener. I reached the part where the actual meditation begins a few weeks ago, but am so scared of not being up to it and giving up that I keep delaying it. Moron. So, more on the book once I’ve actually started the exercise.
  • And an app, Headspace, a modern-life-friendly way to get into meditation (hell, it’s an app!), which was strongly recommended to Dan by a friend of his – a highly creative and talented person who suffers from anxiety. The app takes you through the foundations of meditation before letting you choose your own areas of focus: creativity, productivity, relationships, sleep, stress, etc. After completing the foundation course, I chose to delve into the self-esteem package, which I am now one week in.

Artwork depicting flows and balance of meditation, yoga and mindfulness.

Here is what I’ve learnt so far about meditation:

No matter how hard you might think it is, it is in fact much harder. Sorry.

 

I’m not even talking about the thoughts buzzing like raging hornets in your head – that’s the somewhat-amusing-but-actually-frustrating part. What I didn’t know is that meditation has the power to turn you into a temporary but complete wreck. The foundation part left me in such a state that I had to come up with an analogy to explain it to my friends:

You have a house. It looks sturdy on the outside but is a total wreck inside: the foundations are porous and threatening to make it all fall apart at any time. So you get on with the heavy work before it all crumbles: the walls get ripped, the foundations removed.

Now, anyone familiar with Grand Design knows that when someone attempts to lay new foundations, it automatically rains – making it a loooong and tough process for the concrete to set. That’s exactly what my brain felt like, and it left me feeling like such a freak that I got close to contacting the therapists behind the app, just to check if the “side effects” were normal.

 

Quote from Alice in Wonderland about madness.

You thought meditation was a happy hippy game? So did I, and oh-my-goodness was I wrong. In all honesty, if death hadn’t been part of the equation, I would have probably given up by now – because yes, it is fucking tough. And maybe that’s why it’s an aspect of it people don’t talk about: if I had known how difficult it would be to rewire my brain, I would have probably never started this journey in the first place.

But I’m now in for the long run and, whatever I said at the very beginning, after more than 2 intense months of it, I can already feel that it’s changed my life and the way I look at the world. It opened my eyes on the fact that I am not my thoughts and I am not my feelings, that it is actually possible and okay to not think or feel – something I would have regarded as a denial of my rights only a year ago.

drawing of buddha with caption "let that shit go"

Instead, it empowered me with a whole new right:

The right to not give a shit.

About things that don’t matter to me. About having to say no. Giving me the right to not feel guilty about ridding myself of the poisonous elements in my life. The right to make space for the things that matter. To stop desperately seeking outside validation and to finally, after all these years, pursue my own fulfillment and have the courage to live my life the way I want.

By far the best Christmas present I ever received.

Dan and me in Ubud market, Bali

The Butterfly Effect of Confidence

The Butterfly Effect of Confidence

 

Once upon a time, there was a butterfly, somewhere in the world.
And whatever the fuck that butterfly did that day, it provoked a chain reaction of shitty events. Thanks for your input, butterfly.

The consequence? A tsunami of self-doubt.

Crushed confidence carefully paired with thoughts along the lines of “how did I get this whole life thing so wrong?”, a dish I would eat on a daily basis. Add a touch of strong karma belief, and you’ll find yourself stuck in a not-so-helpful logic of “I deserve all of this”.

butterfly brain

You got it, the past few months have acted as a life slap in the face. A slap that took its toll in terms of self-belief, but that also shook me enough to make me grab that chain reaction by the balls and make it go where I want to.

My way.

 

1. By taking risks

Paradoxically, I’ve decided to get my confidence back by stepping out of my comfort zone, doing what I’m naturally good at. It might sound basic, but the following logic is actually a massive revelation to me:

Do something you’re good at  ->  Feel valued  ->  Build confidence.

Dead fish

 

 

2. Having imperfect heroes

Social media platforms are great fun, but they also make the vicious circle of comparison so much more dangerous. You fall into the trap because you feel shit about your life/yourself, and you come out of it feeling even shitter.

Why do we do it to ourselves? I don’t know. But it is a useless habit that I’m working on killing, by focusing on what I do have and replacing my old “heroes”.

One of my new heroes is Tobias Van Schneider – I have a lot of time for the guy. I love reading his newsletters, blog posts, etc., and find his personal journey quite inspiring. But the thing I like the most about him is that he’s openly imperfect.

Tobias Van Schneider, my imperfect hero

Tobias Van Schneider – Photo credit: Dale Pimentel, urbanbeardsman.com

 

 

Sure, it came as a bit of a shock at first. How can such an influential online writer publish a post with SO MANY TYPOS?? The latest one was so obviously unedited that it felt like a provocation, which made me look at it from another angle and realise:

The sooner I accept my heroes’ imperfections, the sooner I will accept mine.

Nb: this process is more manageable if your hero doesn’t have a “my perfect life” type Instagram account.

 

3. Listening to my sister

My sister always says, “if you don’t compliment yourself, no one will”.sister
Guess what? Girlfriend’s right: why would we wait for external validation to start feeling good about ourselves? If, like me, you are guilty of such life wasting behaviour, just ask yourself:

Did Beyoncé get where she is by believing she wasn’t good enough?

You know the answer.

You’re good at something? Don’t apologise about it: HONE it. And listen to my sister: always make sure the first person to know about how awesome you are is YOU.

 

4. Realising that, actually, I’m doing great

Despite what a part of my brain believes, putting pressure on myself will not get me there quicker. Neither will it help me feel better.

Here is the thing: what I’m trying to build at the moment feels as challenging as climbing Mount Everest. Only no one, including myself, would expect me to climb Everest in one go. If I were to climb Everest, I would take the time to stop and look. Look at the distance I have climbed, embrace that newly acquired perspective and let the sense of achievement fill me with pride.

If I do just that, right here, right now, I’ll realise one thing: I’m doing great.

 

Everest

Everest – www.cntraveler.com

 

To go with all this, I make sure that I surround myself with people that lift me up. People that bring an atmosphere of support and positivity, that leave me feeling energised and inspired. Because nobody’s expecting me to climb Everest on my own, so why should I?

So here is to the people who bring unconditional love, support and kickarse vibes to my life:

THANK YOU,

YOU ROCK.

 

heart rain

http://borzui.tumblr.com/

 

How death taught me a valuable life lesson.

How do I make this stop?

I seem to have hit that phase of life where people drop like flies. I was definitely not expecting that for another ten years. Can I not just go back to the “WE’RE ENGAAAAGED!!” phase, as irritating as it was?

engaged
It feels like only yesterday I was lecturing friends about Life and Death: “Show me thy grief and I shall cure thee with my wisdom”. Because you know, as a creative, my innate gift was naturally extended to a deep understanding of the universe. That exclusive access to invisible layers of reality only us lot can enjoy.

Then my life changed. A lot.

 

Sunday 6th September 2015: the day I realised I had acted like a complete douche all my life. The day I learnt I knew nothing.

The most unsettling slap I ever took. The most beneficial one too.

Lapin

This guy.

Death taught me a lesson I vaguely knew but didn’t care enough to study. And realising that really sucked.

But despite all the pain, panic and regrets I’ve been dragging since that day, the penny has finally dropped, and seeing the world with brand new (red puffy) eyes has had a major positive impact on my life:

I realised that people -myself included- aren’t immortal.

[I KNOW, RIIIGHT??!!]

Here is what I’ve done so far with this ground-breaking discovery:

  • I make sure I reply to my mum’s emails within 48h
  • I make more time for the people I love
  • I cut down my hours as a startup director by half and spend the other half on fulfilling personal projects
  • I make more time for reading and writing (followed Tobias van Schneiders advice & wrote my Big List)
  • I learn to let go.
  • I have slowed the fuck down and am taking better care of myself.

let go

Death made me stop and realise that I had taken a path that had nothing to do with me. Sure, I learnt a hell of a lot along that path, but it was time to accept the bigger lesson and get back to the road I belonged. Steering the wheel demanded me to grow a bigger pair, but all efforts were for the worthy cause of ridding myself of regrets [work in progress].

So goodbye, Death, you’ve been a brutal but efficient teacher. Let’s not rush into the next class.

Hello, Life, I’m ready to listen.

I do like the sound of the words “I have a startup”. It catches people’s interest pretty much instantly. You can see in their eyes the growing spark of envyand curiosity, that same spark that grows in my eyes whenever I listen to the tales of my freelancer friends.

Just like the idea of freelance work is associated in my head with hooking a Macbook to the wifi of a cool cafe in Ubud, the idea of startup work has been glamorised over the years by, well, Google. When one hears the word “startup”, one’s brain instantly travels to a fantasy world full of hammocks, freebies, awesome open plan office spaces and, obviously, a room dedicated to table tennis and Xbox. Obviously.

no hammocks in my startup

Conference call in 5, guys!

My startup life reveals no sign of such glamour.

Jealous? Of course! But then again, it brutally opened my eyes on a reality that Google has done a brilliant job at flying away from. Here I need to lay flat some factual pieces of my startup life.

FACT 1 – EVERY DAY IS A SCHOOL DAY

One of my favourite things in life is to LEARN. It is pretty much the one thing that keeps me sane and prevents me from getting dead bored.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was the laziest bastard at school: one of those annoying students that would do their work casually at the last minute and still nail it just above the average mark. Which was great but also turned out to be a bit of a curse – let’s keep that one for another time.

britney

Since I’ve been in employment, I’ve felt the need to master whatever skill or subject I was involved in at the time. Until there was nothing left to learn, at which point I would get bored and simply move on. This is where freelance and startup work tick a massive box in my head: you never stop learning.

I’m fed up with always having to look for answers and things I don’t know about. I’m aways having to learn new systems“, was the confession of a fellow startup worker a few months ago. I was staggered: “why??” I asked, in disbelief. It made me sad. To me, if there ever was a “pros” to outweigh the “cons” of startup work, learning had to be it. I didn’t understand. Sure, being faced pretty much every day with a problem that surpasses one’s understanding can be pretty daunting at times, but the reward is only greater: new skill, new experience and sense of achievement.

victory brad

This is obviously not everybody’s idea of fun and is one that requires a lot of passion, patience and perseverance. I’m not gonna lie, it is exhausting, and my friend’s words were the simple and logical result of that exhaustion (last time I checked, he was still knackered). But surprisingly, it’s that very same unpredictable (knackering) nature that keeps me fired up -sometimes super stressed out and pissed off too- and pushes me to carry on and move forward. For the best way to move forward is to go one step at a time!

I mean, even the founders of Google must have gone through some shit times before being able to enjoy the perks of a super stylish (hipsterish) office, right?

Well, I fucking hope so.

Otherwise I give up.

Next – Fact 2: Never give up.

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