I live a pretty minimalist life. It’s a great way for me to keep my stress levels very low. People who know me often comment about how calm I am. But I’m only calm because I don’t have anything to stress about. I have purposely built my life the way it is.
But still, sometimes stress does affect me. I can feel it slowly creeping up on me. Then it suddenly gets too much and I want to burn everything down. Don’t worry. I’m not some mad arsonist. When I say I want to burn everything down, I mean I want to get rid of everything in my life. I want to go back to square one.
Square one is such an awesome place. It’s completely empty but at the same time filled with infinite possibilities. From square one, the world is my oyster. From square one, I can move in any direction that takes my fancy.
That’s incredibly liberating.
Stress reduces to zero. It’s like being back in the womb. All safe and sound with my whole (new) life ahead of me.
I nearly quit college
The first time I ever had this feeling of wanting to burn everything down was at the end of my first year of university. I’d failed a crucial exam so could not proceed to year 2 unless I re-sat it and passed. One of my lecturers suggested I start again by choosing a different subject.
The thought of a wasted year was too much. I decided I would go back to my apartment, gather up all my university books and notes, and burn them in the garden. I was really going to do it.
I don’t know what stopped me, but I calmed down a little and talked to some friends. I decided I’d sleep on it and see if I felt better the next day.
Luckily, I woke up refreshed and raring to go. I decided I would revise every day until the date that I could re-sit the exam. In some ways, it was a terrible two months. I went to the small library in the Math department and went over every past paper multiple times. I did that 7 days a week.
The caretaker unlocked the library for me every day. All the other students had gone home for the summer.
I passed the re-sit exam, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I was so proud of myself.
But that wasn’t the end of my stressful feelings. They crept up on me regularly. Eventually, I figured out that these feelings were caused by my feeling overwhelmed. At the times that I had these stressful feelings, I always had too much going on in my life, too much clutter in my home, too many relationship problems, and similar distractions.
I had started reading a bit about minimalism, as it appealed to me on an aesthetic level. I tried it and found that it melted my stress away. I wrote about it earlier this year.
Through trial and error, I figured out that moving more and more distractions helped make me feel calmer and calmer.
After that, my life was pretty stress-free. It still is. People still comment on how relaxed and laid-back I am. They ask for my secret. I tell them to throw everything away. They mostly refuse to believe me.
But still, these stressful feelings do creep up on me once every few years.
And I know the exact reason they do. It’s because I try to do much and start becoming overwhelmed.
One thing that can overwhelm me is my to-do list. When ideas pop into my head, I add them to my to-do list. Sometimes my list gets too long. I look down the list and feel my energy draining away just thinking about all those things “I have” to do.
But here’s the thing – I DON’T have to do them.
I’m the one in charge, not my to-do list. Sometimes it does feel like the list is my boss though. When that happens, I fire my boss. More than once, I’ve deleted my to-do list. Every time I’ve done that, it instantly relaxed me. I don’t know if this works for anyone else. Maybe I’m just weird. People laugh when I tell them. Hell, even I laugh when I tell them. It works though. And that’s the only thing that counts.
I left my job
Once, I left my job without telling anyone. I just walked out and never went back.
I sold everything and ran away
And then there was the time I sold everything and moved to Thailand on a whim. That worked out pretty well, as it’s where I met my wife. 11 years later and we’re still both as happy as the day we met.
See what I mean? Selling everything and moving to a new and strange country meant I was back to square one. The possibilities were infinite. I could do anything and become anyone.
Nowadays, my wife and I travel often, so we’re often spending months in different countries. It’s like a whole series of fresh starts over and over again. I am at my happiest when I have the least amount of possessions.
I don’t think that’s for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.
The stress is slowly creeping back
So, back to the present. I can feel a vague stressful feeling creeping up on me again. I’m pretty sure that the main cause is that I’ve barely traveled anywhere during the last few years.
It’s also because I think I’ve started to plan too much work into my schedule. I started writing here. Then I decided to take it more seriously. Then I decided to take a writing course. Then I decided that starting on Substack would be a good idea. Then I decided to start a print-on-demand side hustle. Then I decided to start a content website. Can you see where this is heading?
One day soon, I’ll want to burn it down. I’ll want to delete everything. I’ll want a new start. I’ll crave to be back at square one.
But maybe, just maybe, I’ve learned some lessons along the way. Maybe I don’t need to go back to square one. Maybe square three is good enough. Maybe I need to backtrack a little now instead of backtracking the whole way later.
I decided to ditch the print-on-demand idea. I did a few hours of research on it. While I could probably make a little money from it, it’s too much work for too little reward. The people that do make money with it upload their designs to multiple platforms and also promote their work across multiple social media platforms.
I detest most social media platforms, so I refuse to get involved with them. I don’t use Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, or any others. Except for Facebook. And I only use that because it’s where most of my friends and family are. Even then, I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone.