Deciding to Live Frugally

Lately I have been approached with many opportunities to be a “grown up” and move out of the family nest. I have been extremely blessed to have a supportive family that provide for my basic needs (i.e. housing and food). Occasionally, I have had the urge to move out and to be an “adult.” In an individualistic culture as this one, to “mooch” off of family is an irresponsible move.

Numbers-wise, I can do it. I can comfortably have a roommate and live within my means. Since starting graduate school I’ve had to take a hard look at my overall student debt. Something that I have been avoiding for quite sometime. I doubled over looking at that number. Keeping it in perspective, it is not the worst. I stayed in-state and paid for most of my extra semester in college out of pocket. Plus, I was able to have the “college experience” while going to an in-state University. I would not have chosen it any other way. Despite my loans being in forbearance due to student status. I’ve resolved to tackle it all little by little while attending school. Something I should have done during my naive undergraduate days.

After much research and debate, I’ve resolved that I want to be one of those “How I paid $30,000 of student debt in 10 months” sort of peeps. I’ve started budgeting and decided that hey, although I may not “look” like a working adult. My bank account will. For that, I will be okay with.

The Gratitude List

1-1For the month of November I thought it would be appropriate to list all the things that I am grateful for in life. Often times our minds are stuck on what we don’t have and what we want. We frequently forget what we DO have. The sort of things that others pray to have.

People reaching their mid-twenties are pressured by society to “get their stuff together.” Especially if they do not have a family already in the works or a steady job. I know I can speak for our fellow “late bloomers” that God has plans for us that we cannot foresee and the world can not foresee.

Despite knowing that and having officially reached a quarter of a century, I still feel a desperate need for change in my life. For the past few months I have been working on transitioning within my career and going through the process of advancing my educational level. In hopes for a better change.

As you can imagine my mind is going through a semi-stressful time where I frequently examine my life in what I don’t have and what I want to work towards getting. It has become discouraging on the spirit and of the heart. So, in honor of this Thanksgiving month I am choosing to change my perspective, embrace all that I have taken for granted and count my blessings. Below is my gratitude list.

I am thankful for…

  1. Our God: first and foremost, He has given me everything that my selfish self does not deserve.
  2. My family: through thick and thin, they are always there for me.
  3. My mother: she always cares for me more than I care for myself.
  4. My dog: he loves cuddles and always happy to see me after a long day of work. He is my instant mood booster.
  5. My faith communities: Not everyone has a faith group that helps them grow in the faith or is supported on a spiritual level like I have. I am very blessed to be apart of three!
  6. My little siblings: both by blood and not blood-related. They remind me to stay grounded and to be the best person/big sister I can be.
  7. My job: I have been very fortunate to always be employed in the social services fields that I am most interested in advancing in.
  8. My education: I have been very privileged to have been able to pursue and finish a Bachelors, let alone achieving two of them.
  9. Financial support: I am blessed to have my basic needs met without worry.
  10. Means of transportation: I am very lucky to own a new car and to be close to paying it all off
  11. Access to technology: I have a my own laptop and smartphone, I am connected 24hrs a day! Talk about spoiled!

After writing and looking at this list I’ve realized how ungrateful I have become in these last few months. God is probably looking down shaking his head at how thankless I have become. It certainly changes your perspective. I encourage you to create a gratitude list of your own. Share the phenomenon. The joy will spread within your workplace, home and friend’s circle. It can turn a negative environment into a positive one. For gratitude turns what we have into enough.

A Change of Pace

Now that I’ve jumped off the “food logging” train, my posts on this blog have become scarce and far in between. Although my focus is still to become healthier, I choose to no longer be hypervigilant in tracking my consumption. I have tried many forms of food journaling (through blogging and mobile apps) before reaching this decision. Like many things in life I have found that an excess of anything (even if it is good for you) can lead to becoming something bad for you. I became overly obsessed with the amount of sugars found in simple carbs. I worried about the total number of calories consumed in a hearty meal. It was in many ways debilitating and I was no fun at the dinner table with all my calorie and carb talk.

So, I have decided (as of a month ago) to still be aware but to avoid becoming overly conscious of my intake. While still being active at least 3x a week. The scale has admittedly gone up a tad bit, but I figured that as long as I roughly monitor where I am to where I want to be physically I shouldn’t gain as much weight as I have when I was at most stressed.

In other news, I was blessed to have attended this years Singles for Family and Life Conference this past weekend. It’s always a joy to be inspired by all the young devout Catholics of the nation’s CFC-FFL ministry. When at home in Rhode Island I believe that I have done all that I can to be a practicing Catholic until I compare myself to all these inspiring young men and women and I think to myself: “Who am I kidding?” I’m not striving to be a better Catholic. I’m a Catholic on cruise control.

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A group of the most inspiring people I know at the 2014 SFL conference. (NorthEast)

While I have been striving to become healthier, I have slacked in my greater need for the faith. This is something that happens at every cornerstone of our lives. Our goals and priorities change, thus our time and focus shift. God sometimes no longer becomes our #1. Although we may not admit it, our #1 priority shifts to our families, goals, careers, etc…

The ironic thing is that the people and things we hold most dear to our hearts are of this earthly life and thus, temporary. There are several instances where God asks for us to “deny ourselves and take up your cross” (Matthew 16:24). Knowing that following Him it won’t be easy. Leading a Christ-like life is placing God (the only source of permanence) first and everything else last. Seen so readily when Jesus was ministering his discipleship:

He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Placing all our hope and efforts in something so impermanent is setting ourselves up for pain without a firm stronghold.

It was in that conference room, that I realized I have gone complacent. I no longer was striving or humble. I choose with good intention, to become more healthy. Which grew into vain pursuit toward outward beauty. Long story short: I was no longer growing in the faith.

There was a workshop at conference that told us that we are to be disciplined people of God continuously striving towards holiness. However, with the added stress to balance everything (i.e. work-life, family-life, health, social, etc) we get lost in knowing what to juggle and what not to juggle.

Many will tell you that in order to balance life you need to learn how to say “no.” Others will help you discern what to say “no” to. But it will be the faithful that will remind you to seek God first, for the wisdom.

Priorities may shift in your life, but always reserve that #1 spot for God alone. The rest will follow. If not, then it is not part of God’s greater plan for you.

Be a Good Friend to Yourself

So the other week, I attended a morning yoga class. In this session the instructor said something so profound that made me think. She said:

“Imagine if your best friend talked to you like you talk to yourself. Imagine your best friend beating you up with all her negative self talk. Let go of the negative self-talk. A good best friend should lift you up! Not tear you down. Be that for yourself. Be a good best friend to yourself. Stop the negativity.”

I may have paraphrased a bit here, but you get the idea.

Today, I’ve realized how grumpy I am in the morning before a workout or attending mass during the day. Very irritable, snippy, and miserable. Fair warning to all: don’t interact with me until I have done either of those things in the am. I’m not the most pleasant person to be around.

Many people (my former self included) is often like that with coffee, but since that I have tried to change my lifestyle a bit, my new stress relievers have been either in exercising the physical or the spiritual.

The reason is this: prayer, mediation, running, jogging, breathing… all require full attention to the moment. It’s the one time in my day where I am able to turn off the constant chatter in my inner mind. To turn off the negative, critical, over-thinking, self-talk that I give myself every day. I do this when I drive, work, interact, everything. I’d like to believe that I am not alone here. Perhaps you have your own demons to battle with everyday in your inner monologues.

I generally think about the past, all the things I should have said or done. I think about the present, how I should be doing x, y, and z. I think about the future, how it’s not clear and how this frustrates me. The desire to know what lies before me and what direction I am headed is constantly nagging at my brain every single day. It’s exhausting and discouraging. I am my own worst critic and enemy. I am tearing myself down with all the negative self-talk.

The only time I am encouraging to myself is when I force myself to do something challenging. Whether it be to run/jog an extra mile, to motivate myself to attend daily mass (temptation to skip always weighs me down), to do the rosary even if I am tired and ready for bed.

“You only have .50miles to go… that’s easy. You can do it!”

“If you turn back now, you’ll give up. Don’t give up.”

“You really should get up. You made a promise. You will feel better if you go [to mass].”

“Come on, it [the rosary] will be quick. Only 15mins. That’s all, it’s the least you can do. You can do it.”

It is in these moments where the dormant part of me comes out, trying to discipline me to ignore the temptation to be lazy, gluttonous, or what have you.

So when people don’t understand why I NEED to go outside or NEED to go to mass. I say, it’s for my health. It keeps sane. It’s the most natural form of anti-depressant. It’s the one time I have to believe in myself and be kind to myself. To experience that positivity even if it is for an hour or half an hour. To be in the present moment with a radiant God and all His creations…that, my friend, is valuable time that goes beyond measure.

So I encourage everyone to try it out. Even for a brief moment, find a way to be a good friend to yourself.

 

To Beat of Your Own Drum

As of recently, I’ve come to terms and have learnt that it’s OKAY to do something “different.” I was never the type of person that wanted to be “different” or to “stand-out.” To me, that was for reckless people. That was for people that gambled their lives way on the flimsy faith that everything will workout in the end. That wasn’t me. I was the quiet one. The one that fell into the background. The cautious one. I was the rational one. I followed structure and guidelines. I was the one that always had a pre-made blueprint of my life and what I envisioned it to be.

But God had different plans for me. God didn’t want me to follow in the footsteps of others. Do what was the “norm.” Heck, without Him removing those plans in my life, my faith would be far from where it is now. People often talk about this “reckless abandon” when following God. Sometimes in order to follow God, one must be shown that this worldly life we have created for ourselves is unstable and fleeting.

I was under the impression that all these “safeguards” I’ve created for myself would bring me stability and security (i.e. higher education, internships, relationships…). They didn’t. In a blink of an eye, all that I thought that mattered didn’t matter anymore. They have altogether disappeared or phased out of my life completely. I would be completely lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I was devastated. I was negative, miserable, at times angry and frankly really hard to be around.

Reluctantly, I was forced to throw out all guidelines and structure out the window. I had to just figure it all out. To this day, I am still “figuring it all out.” What to do with my life and what God wants of me.

Whenever I am troubled by this uncertainty, I think about how Jesus appears to the disciples.

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, [a]Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

(Matthew 4:18-20)

The fishermen are out in the waters, doing what they do best. Following what they have been taught. Fully knowing that the day was nearly over and a catch would not be made. It was then that Jesus threw out all their preconceived notions. Showing them that what man can teach them is nothing compared to what God and Jesus can teach us. God can defy all those structures that we have placed before us. Throw away all those guidelines that society tells us.

It’s a radical idea and a reckless notion that Jesus presents to them. To leave everything behind and follow him. It makes me wonder, would I have been so bold? Would WE have been so bold? A seemingly ordinary man is telling you to drop everything you have worked hard for. Everything that gives your life security and safety. Your livelihood. It was their faith that moved them to recklessly abandon all that they know is true of this life.

So, I’ve come to terms that although I may not be rich in material things, not abundant in wealth, nor truly secure in anything (cause let’s face it, nothing in this life is permanent or guaranteed). Despite our wavering doubt, the one thing that remains… is God.

I’ve learnt that it’s OKAY to be “different.” The disciples were “different.” They didn’t follow the status quo. They were reckless in abandoning the roles that society has given them. They stood out. Jesus encourages us to stand out. To be bold. Throw out every rational notion that society tells you and become a disciple of God. Don’t merely be a fan or follower of God. Strive to be disciplined enough to abandon worldly things, desires, and ambitions. Be different and march to the beat of your own drum. Not to the beat of everyone around you.