Sitting around last night with my husband in our friends’ living room and listening to them talk about the kind of apartment they might want to move to, reminded me about why we chose the place we did when we moved to LA. I’m telling you this because I think our checklist for our apartment was a little different than most people’s and the result of that has been life changing for us.
What was the number one thing we were looking for in our new apartment?
No, it wasn’t famous neighbors or living by the beach like you might think (though we did get lucky and get both of those anyways). It was community. You see, at our last apartment, building community was actually our official job (yes, that’s a thing). So while we did have enough community to make us recognize the value of it, there were a lot of aspects lacking from it that eventually led to our transformation into 85 year old shut-ins. Only we were the kind of 85 year old shut ins who didn’t sit around collecting cat feces or filling out mail in surveys, or whatever it is that normal 85 year old shuts ins do, but we instead filled our time with working 90 hours a week. I know, it was ridiculous. What’s the good of spending all your time sitting around your apartment if you don’t memorize every word to every episode of I Love Lucy?!
So when it came time to choose a place to live in California, our search was immediately narrowed down to an area where we would have enticing reasons to leave the house and people all around us to leave the house with. We chose the crazy world of Venice Beach. Venice is the kind of place that has led many of our Orange Country friends to shudder as they ask us if we actually moved to Venice on purpose or if it was just some sort of crazy mix up at the property management office like you would see happen on a TGIF show or something.
Yes, we moved to Venice Beach on purpose.
It’s where majority of our friends live (and yes, they’re normal and they chose Venice on purpose as well). Venice is the kind of place where you actually see your friends out and about because people walk and ride their bikes everywhere. It’s also the kind of place where all your friends from other parts of town will willingly come to visit you on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a game of volleyball on the beach, to finish it off with a BBQ in your front yard. Most of all, it’s the kind of place where there are boundless amounts of people around our own age with whom we longed to share life with.
I know, I know, it also has drugged out young girls who ask for your underwear on occasion (I do have a soul so I gave her an extra pair), as well as homeless people who use your outdoor shower when you’re asleep or hide their stolen bike collection behind the bushes in your back yard, and then there’s the skateboarders who knock you down while they fly past you yelling, “I don’t stop for tourists!”. Plus, I know some people just wouldn’t be cool with their neighbors sole source of income to be riding around on roller blades while playing an electric guitar and wearing a turban. But all of that is just the charm of Venice and we take the good with the bad. Sure, I’m worried about who’s urine I’m sitting in when I’m chilling on the grass or a bench, or even leaning on the rail at the beach skate park, but I’m wondering the same thing when I’m in those child herpes pits in Burger King playgrounds or swimming in public (cess) pools in fancy neighborhoods!
The point is, we traded in our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a washer/dryer inside our place, a dishwasher, easy parking, 3 pools and 3 hot tubs, and a fitness center… that all cost only a third of what we’re paying now, for a 1 bed/1 bath place with none of those things and the added bonus of drunken passerbyers peeing on our bushes every Saturday night.
But we in no way regret it for a second. Why? Not just because of all the cool stuff I find on walks (see photos below of all the things I’ve found on walks).
But the real reason I never regret my decision is because all the fancy apartments, personal space, and amenities in the world aren’t worth trading in for the incredibly community we get in our current building, where there are neighbors who are forced to get to know one another because of our shared everything, and people who support one another like family because we’re in such close proximity to one another that we can’t help but be involved in each other’s lives.
The trade was beyond worth it.
When our nose is to the grindstone and we’re working at 9pm at night, but our neighbor interrupts us to bring us leftover matzah dessert from his seder dinner and then his roommate gets home from her date so she stops by to fill us all in on it and we end up laughing until midnight instead of working like we would’ve otherwise done, we know it was worth trading in EVEN OUR HOT TUB in Phoenix for this… and that’s saying a lot! And when it’s annoying that we have to ask our neighbors to help us move cars around in order to have a space for a visiting friend to park, we remember how awesome it is that because we interrupted our neighbor, they will most likely contribute a dish to our potluck dinner and end up hanging out with us late into the night around our fire pit. During which time we may find out that she’s having surgery next week and will need some help around the house or she’ll find out that our family is coming to town next week and we may need to borrow some pillows… or Xanax.
What I’m trying to say is that I think we made the right decision and that so many things that felt like sacrifices initially are the same things that have actually turned into blessings. I’m not kidding when I say that one of the major reasons we’ve been able to stay in LA is because of our neighbors. It’s been their support, as well as their hard work to help us find clients out here, that has given us the hope and the ability to stay in this place we love.
Relationships are the choice that wins.
I know everyone has different priorities and trade offs they’re willing to make, which is important because everyone’s definition of an extraordinary life is different and requires different things. However, there is still a principle here that is universal that I want to remind us all of. Just because we’re all used to things being a certain way, having a certain level of ease or comfort, doesn’t mean it’s right or that we’re not insulating ourselves with so much protection that we’re actually preventing ourselves from experiencing something truly beautiful and wonderful rather than just comfortable. Choosing comfort over relationships is a waste of life that will always leave us wanting.
The following are pictures of the things we gave up and sacrifices we made to live here….
(This is a picture of our shredded, detestable, laminate tile in Scottie’s office, otherwise known as our kitchen, otherwise known as our dining room. You can see our full dining room table stacked neatly in the corner).
(This is a picture of our giant bed that I have to jump to get into. When we lived in an apartment that was twice the size of our place now, it was just a regular bed. But after the move every square inch had to become an uber space saver. Now it’s our bed, our guest bed (extra mattress stacked on top of our mattress), AND our storage space (via IKEA bookshelves below) all in one).
The following are pictures of the reasons we gave things up and made the sacrifices we did to live here…
(This is a picture of all our neighbors having dinner in the Sukah we built together in our driveway for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot).
(And this is a picture of us hanging out in our front yard on the pavers that we purchased and laid with the money we achieved through some very fun and unorthodox methods that our property management was not a fan of and shall therefore go unnamed).
(The photo on the left is our neighbor trying to break into her own apartment with the assistance of an untrustworthy ladder and several men who have had too much to drink, after locking the keys inside during Scottie’s birthday party. The photo on the right is my husband and our neighbor who together built a Jewish Christmas tree for our front yard during the holiday season).
(Spontaneous Fantasy Football draft party in our living room).
(This is just after we cleaned out our shared garage for a reality show episode being filmed about our neighbor).
(This is a picture of what happens on the weekends when our friends from all over LA come to visit us in Venice).
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“That’s just life”.
I’ve been hearing that since I was a child.
“But daaaaad, I want a power pad for my Nintendo, LA Gear hi tops, tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, and the Saved by the Bell board game. ”
Without skipping a beat or even looking up from what he was doing, my dad would say, “that’s just life. So go to your room and run in place for a few hours in your Kmart Keds, while listening to the Paula Abdul songs you taped from the radio and making up your own Saved by the Bell trivia from the hours of that stupid show that you have memorized… and consider yourself lucky for having a roof over your head to do all that in.”
“But daaaad, I want a pager, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a hyper color jumpsuit, and AOL instant messaging like ALL my friends have!!”
And again, my dad would smoothly follow that up with, “that’s just life. When I was a kid and we wanted to get a hold of someone we just yelled their name until they yelled back, we wrote on stone tablets that wouldn’t fit in fancy trapper keepers, the only “hyper color” we had were the weird rashes that we got when the McCormick kids touched us, and when we wanted to message someone we left hieroglyphics on the cave walls and didn’t have to keep track of how many of the 130 free hours we’d used from CD’s we got in the mail!
Cue my eye roll, audible groan, and stomping off to slam my bedroom door.
In other words, it didn’t take long for me to learn to translate “that’s just life” to “stop whining and leave me the hell alone”. I got pretty used to that phrase.
So I was pretty surprised to find as an adult that this phrase still evoked a strong emotional response from me.
“But (person who was NOT my dad), I hate getting up every single morning at 5am, driving through traffic to sit behind a desk doing only boring things, driving home, yelling at my husband because I hate this day and every other day, then going to bed without doing a single thing I actually consider important in life, only to get up the next day and the day after that to do the same thing. It feels so meaningless and I feel like life is a gift and I’m totally wasting it. Sure I understand the value of hard work, but isn’t it possible for that hard work to go into something I love or that makes a difference in the world? Surely we are all meant to do different things in different ways since we are all made so differently. Someone else might totally thrive at this job and love using their gifts here but I just don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
“That’s just life”.
Like the many times when I’d heard this as a child, I lost my temper. But unlike the olden days, this time I didn’t just pout and walk away. Instead I narrowed my eyes that had been widened by the shock, and dove in to make my point.
“Yes, but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. It’s not my husband’s life! While I’m getting up in the cold early morning, he’s lying in bed where he’ll sleep until 10am. Then tonight while I’m getting ready to go to bed early, he’ll be getting ready to go out with the college students he’s mentoring to have fun with them. He’s doing something he loves AND he’s making a difference in the world. Why shouldn’t I try for the same things?”
Needless to say, I didn’t hear much more about it from that person after my sort of rude and as some would say, “socially inappropriate”, outburst.
I just don’t believe it.
The thing is that I’ll believe you if you say, “I too wish I could be living differently but I’m too scared to try” or ” sure that sounds awesome but I’m not willing to work hard enough to create that kind of change”. Whatever you say, don’t say “that’s just life”. Because it’s NOT just life. Life doesn’t HAVE to be like that. In fact, I don’t think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! I think we’re supposed to be truly living and reaching for more in life than just basic survival! I believe we should be doing what it takes to live a life of meaning and using all that is in us to do our very best to find out what we’re meant to do in life… and then take the risk, put in the effort, and face the fears that will lead us to our Rare Existence (whether that guide us to a 8-5 office job with a family, or a shot at the silver screen with a pet monkey).
When I’m wanting a bunch of useless stuff, that might not even be good for me (is a hyper color jumpsuit really good for anyone?!), and I’m wanting it just to be cool like my friends or to chat with said cool friends on the new information super highway, I’m fine if my dad or anyone else says “that’s just life”. But when it comes down to what’s really important in life, don’t say “that’s just life” because really, “that’s just a lie”…. and I refuse to believe it.
As a follow up to my post last week about finding value through comparison, here’s a question…
If all your talents and gifts were put on mute, and everything that previously made you feel successful or worthy of praise was put on hold, what would make you feel valuable?
Think about it for awhile and then go enjoy some Christmas cookies before Santa jacks them all. Merry Christmas.
I’ve never been a showy person, at least not in the monetary sense.
Ask all the guys who showed up in their fancy new Pontiac Firebirds (hey, I thought that was cool back then!), to take me on a shopping spree date, and end the night with a spontaneous trip to Disneyland. That was true luxury for me…. and I fled from it as fast as I could each time it was presented. The showy life just wasn’t for me.
No, instead I picked the guy who told his future in-laws that sometimes he considered how nice it might be to be homeless by choice. This is the same guy who thinks the solution to a broken pair of flip flops can be found not in a store with new flip flops, but in his toolbox with a few nails and a hammer. Yep, that’s my husband. And that’s sort of the reason I chose him (although I WOULD prefer to furnish our apartment via IKEA rather than our neighbors’ dumpsters, but I have to pick my battles).
So I’ve always prided myself on not being the keep up with the Joneses sort of person. Because of course, I was better than people who did that! And there it is, the real truth. That even if I didn’t use having money as my measure of comparison, I was still playing the comparison game. I was still priding myself on how much better I was than others, while constantly trying to find flaws with people who I thought were better than me.
And recently I’ve had a slow awakening about just how strong this whole comparison thing is for me.
In fact, it may be just about everything to me. Every way I judge the value of myself, of others, of accomplishments, of my body, of what defines success, and even of what my extraordinary life is. I’ve been slowly becoming aware of how many times I think about how something will affect my “ranking” both before and after I do something.
Is it time to re- decorate my living room already? Well what would so and so think of the style I choose? Not good enough, I better pick something better then.
We just got the coolest clients for a photo shoot, I can’t wait until so and so sees it.
That was an exhausting party but I still have a little energy left so I might as well start cleaning up. I hope so and so sees it so they think I’m so thoughtful and caring.
I feel like wearing this shirt today but I’m going to wear this other one because I think it will make the people I’m going to see today think more of me.
Do you think I’m crazy yet?
You will when I tell you that these were just a few of the many examples of thoughts I’ve had in the last 24 hours!!!! And most of them happened in the last 12! I KNOW I’m crazy, because I’ve driven myself crazy over years of thinking this way.
Even putting up this post has got me worried about how people will view me. I feel like a childish idiot that I’ve let so much of my life be driven by the game of comparison, so of course I don’t want to show that I’m an idiot or else all my hard work to show everyone how much better I am than them will be wasted!
Yes, this is the kind of crazy, circular, and backwards thinking that is my daily life.
I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of wasting so much energy on this. I’m tired of worrying instead of really living. I’m tired of me being the one most guilty of stifling myself. And I’m also just tired because I’m tired! Keeping up with every single person in the world is exhausting!
But the problem is that I don’t know how to LIVE without comparing!
I don’t know how to determine how I feel about people, actions, or things without using my normal measuring stick of “good enough” or ‘better than”. So the thought of having to give up this life long impulse, is terrifying to me.
I feel like I’m giving up my baseline for measuring life. All the rules I knew are out the window. How will I be able to judge the quality or significance of my work if I don’t know whether or not it will make someone else jealous? How will I know if I am good enough to fit in with those around me? And of course there’s the most deeply rooted question that is the reason I struggle with this in the first place… how will I know if I’m valuable?
Of course, to know you’re important/valuable/significant as a person, you gave to know that you’re bringing the world gifts of yourself that are better than what others are bringing right? You know because the masses say so, right?
Wrong. I know it’s wrong, but I’m still a little confused about what is right!
How do I change something this big?
I’ve only known one way to live and now I’m supposed to just throw it out in one giant trip to the trash, and simply pick up a new way of living and a new way of thinking?! I want it to go away, to be able to live a life based on truth, intrinsic value, and all those other good words you hear spiritual gurus throwing around like magical fairy dust, but HOW do I get there is the question? How do I just stop thinking the way I’ve always thought?
I’ll have to let you know if I ever find the answer, because I am definitely going to seek it out.
The truth, is that living for others is the opposite of extraordinary.
The ordinary thing to do is to play the comparison game. I know that if I am only living the life that looks the best when compared to others, then I’m most likely not living the life I’m meant to live. If I’m not being real or honest with who I am and what I deem to be valuable, then how could I expect to be honest about what I’m meant to do with my life? I can’t. I won’t know what I’m destined for as long as I don’t know who I’m really destined to be. So it’s time for me to stop comparing, worrying, and changing and just start living as me and who I’m meant to be.
Wish me luck.
Today I want to address a couple of common misconceptions.
Extraordinary living is not just for artists.
Yep, it’s true. You don’t need to understand Michelangelo’s methods for painting The Sistine Chapel or how to DIY your way out of any death defying situation, to be able to live extraordinarily.
Extraordinary living is not just for entrepreneurs.
Yep, it’s true. You don’t need to be able to break down Google’s methodology or outwit Mark Cuban on Shark Tank to live extraordinarily.
Let’s review our definition for extraordinary living shall we?
“A Rare Existence, or extraordinary living, means to live the life you are meant to live regardless of risk, difficulty, opinion of others, weaknesses, or failures. This involves knowing yourself WELL, pursuing your passions, overcoming your fears, and working hard at all you do.”
See that? Living the life YOU are meant to live! Maybe I should add in “regardless of…. artistic abilities, entrepreneurial visions, how many kids you have, what your income level is, how much freedom you have, if you like eggnog or not, what religion you are, who you voted for, whether or not Modern Family is your favorite TV show, if you are pro Microsoft or pro Apple (OK well maybe this one DOES matter), or what defines the extraordinary lives by others around you”.
As you can see, an extraordinary life is for everyone who chooses to pursue it.
Living extraordinarily means understanding YOU and living the way YOU are meant to live. That’s the extraordinary part. The fact that you don’t choose to live the way everyone around you does. The fact that you understand that you have a purpose to seek out. The fact that you risk what others aren’t willing to risk to uncover and fulfill that purpose. That is a Rare Existence. And that is quite extraordinary.
So please don’t think extraordinary living isn’t for you.
If you find yourself thinking that you’re just not cut out for it, put down that McMuffin you’re eating (or whatever you’re doing) and return to this post to remind you of the truth! Having an extraordinary life IS your choice! It may be hard, it may (will) take years to develop, and you may have to take smaller steps than you like, but don’t surrender to the idea that you’re meant for nothing more than ordinary!
It’s time to let the truth win out!
We all need a little help fighting the lies from time to time so… you’re welcome!
Lie: I’m too boring for an extraordinary life.
Truth: There is no official measure for boring, you are just comparing yourself to people who have completely different roles in life than you do! No matter how boring you may feel, you have the capability to choose to do something extraordinary!
Lie: I have too many kids to pursue anything in life other than a nap.
Truth: See my post, The Extraordinary Family Life, to help you figure this truth out!
Lie: I’m not talented enough to live an extraordinary life.
Truth: Everyone has a unique set of skills/talents/experiences that make them who they are and that give them their purpose. Your talents may be different than others, but you do have some! My post, Discovering Who You Are, will help you figure out how the things about you all come together to help you serve your role in the world!
Lie: I like popular stuff (chocolate, Disneyland, good weather, etc) so I’m too much like everyone else to be extraordinary.
Truth: Popular stuff is popular for a reason! It doesn’t say anything about you if you do like it or don’t like it… it’s just good!
Lie: I don’t understand the answers to the questions in LOST so I must be stupid.
Truth: There were no answers to the questions in LOST so don’t worry about it.
Lie: I’m too focused on putting out daily fires to focus on moving forward.
Truth: See my post, Baby steps.. yes, that’s a real thing, to help you with this one.
Lie: I don’t know what lmao, yolo, or NPH (hint: Doogie) mean so I must be too old fashioned to do anything new.
Truth: So you’ll loose at a game of Scene it: Pop Culture Edition? So what? That doesn’t mean you don’t have other valuable skills that may have nothing to do with new fangled technology, the hottest “it” couple, or the wrong way for men to wear half shirts (IS there a right way really?).
Lie: I don’t know what I’m meant for, so it must be nothing.
Truth: It takes most people quite a while to figure this out. See my post, Don’t Expect to Find the Answers in a Day, for encouragement about this because it’s so worth the effort to figure it out!
Lie: Too many people depend on me so I can’t do anything risky or out of the ordinary.
Truth: People need you to be who you are meant to be, above all else. Not convinced? Read my post, Is Extraordinary Living Selfish.
Out of excuses? Good. Now focus on the identifying and living out the life you were meant to live!
Alright guys, goal setting time is upon us!
Resist the urge to go all hipster/ironic, or emo/anti everything, when it comes to goals. Yes, I know that only capitalistic robots who have been brainwashed by corporate America would even dream of doing something so cliche as setting goals that begin on January 1st (heaven forbid). But stop trying to be unique for just one second so you can realize that, guess what? You need to do it SOMETIME, and since most of us don’t remember the rest of the year, now is a perfect time!
To help you with your 2013 goal setting, I’ve come up with a list of resources to give you some direction!
Goal Setting Resources:
Discovering who you are…
Dreaming about what you want to do…
1. 5: Where Will You Be 5 Years from Today? by Dan Zadra
Setting goals and making a plan…
Rare Existence Posts:
1. Baby Steps… yes that’s a real thing.
1. Your Best Year Yet by Jinny S. Ditzler (I apologize, it’s a little boring, but it’s the only one I know of that gets the job done!)
Rare Existence Posts:
1. John Mayer is a Liar and Peter Pan is a hero
2. Do Epic Shit
3. Remember why it’s worth it
4. Patience Grasshopper
5. You can do it my dear
6. Manifesting your manifest friend
1. The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson *
2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller *
*FYI: Both of these are Christian books, but still very encouraging even if you don’t agree with everything in them.
December is going to fly by, so I want to hear sounds of goal setting screaming from your computers now! Go, go, gadget goals!!!!
Stay connected with Rare Existence posts on Facebook!
I once knew a girl who had a plan.
She had a plan because she had “Manifest Monday’s” with her best friend every week. This day would consist of them getting together and writing their own personal lists of things they wanted to see happen in their lives. Big or small, they’d write the dream down and then write down the steps they needed to take in order to get there. And guess what? Their dreams came true one by one.
There’s power in knowing and defining your dreams.
There’s something magical about writing down the things that make your palms sweat just thinking about them. I’ve heard that goals that are written down are around 80% more likely to come true than goals that are vague and not clearly written down (I’m not completely sure if that percentage is accurate, that’s just what I’ve heard). Once you have your dreams and the steps to get there written down, don’t forget that there’s power in numbers. It’s a big deal when you voice something out loud to someone that seems crazy. Mostly because it means you might actually do it!
Manifesting my Manifest Friend.
I actually wrote this post before I even knew my Manifest Friend who I’d eventually find myself voicing my crazies out loud to. I’m glad I waited to post it until I found her, not only to hide my hypocriteness, but also because now that I do have a wonderful Manifest Friend, I actually understand the significance of the words I wrote about how important it is to find one!
You know those moments when you’re like “I think my chest is collapsing, or wait, maybe the sky is falling…. or whatever it is, everything in me seems to be caving in”? And you know those other moments when you’re like, “I feel like skipping, I think I’m going to skip… maybe I’ll whistle a tune while I’m at it!”. OK, well having a Manifest Friend means that even if I start the day in the first moment, I end up in the second moment by the time we finish our meeting together.
I can’t quite explain this phenomenon. Maybe it’s having someone who relates to my struggles…my manifest friend is an actress/model/musician so she knows the pain of never knowing when your next paycheck is coming, of having to self motivate since there’s no boss to do it for you, and of having your finances be dependent on whether or not people like you, etc. Maybe it’s having someone to be honest with, even when it’s about the things on your “things I’m not so good at and need to fix” list. Maybe it’s having someone to encourage you when they hear about something particularly brave or ambitious that you’re trying to accomplish. Whatever it is, all I know is that every time I leave our little once or twice a month meetings where we discuss our progress on the goals we emailed one another with at the beginning of the month, I’m amazed at how much brighter the world seems and how much smaller my problems feel.
Today is your day.
I know they don’t grow manifest friends on trees, but if you start looking, you might be surprised that you actually do find a ripe one! And I’ll give you super, extra, one-up, flower power, bonus points if you start searching for that person today. I don’t care how you do your manifesting; you can work together on identifying your dreams and the steps towards them (as my Manifest Mondays friend did), or you can just work on holding each other accountable for your specific monthly goals that you’ve identified on your own time (as my Manifest friend and I do). However you do it, just do it.
The steps to take.
1. Define your dreams by writing them down.
2. Write out the steps required to accomplish those dreams.
3. Discuss these with a friend.
4. Rinse and repeat.
Recently I was asked to give advice to other entrepreneurs by my friend who writes Modern Reject so I wanted to share my answer with all of you here as well…
1. Discover the difference between needs and wants.
Constantly re-evaluate what you really need in life versus want. Entrepreneurial life often requires making choices that involve sacrificing your security and comfort, so it’s important to know whether the things you desire are needs that cannot be sacrificed or wants that can be adjusted. Entrepreneurial life requires lots of outside the box thinking, not just in your business, but in your life as well. Everything is a trade. You have to be willing to trade living the way you are comfortable, the way you always thought you’d live, or the way you think you’re “supposed” to live, in order to gain the kind of benefits that others who live the “right” way only dream about.
2. Remember that security doesn’t exist.
Remember that the security we cling to so tightly isn’t real anyways. None of the things that feel like security are actually things that will protect us from the hard stuff, nor are they actual secure. The recent recession and instant loss of so many seemingly “secure” jobs taught us how temporary our security that we fight so hard for really is. Somewhere deep down we know that our securities aren’t really that secure, yet we still fight for them because they are ways for us to feel like we are in control and can keep the things we’re afraid of at bay.
3. Identify and face your fears.
You have to decide how much you want to let yourself be guided by fear. So many people are fear driven and use the excuse that they’re being “wise” or “protecting their family” but really all they’re doing is hindering the capabilities of themselves and their loved ones, as well as putting limits on the amazing kind of life they could share together. Limiting yourself, your loved ones, and your shared life because of your fear will come back to haunt everyone involved. Purging yourself of unnecessary fears and balancing your ability to risk while still using wisdom, will allow you and your family to be their best. And that will always be the most “secure” way to ensure that you will thrive both as individuals and as a family, regardless of what new adventures you embark on in the future.
Good luck in all your entrepreneurial endeavors!
I run my life in lists.
You could also say that another way, lists run my life. Regardless of how you look at it, I enjoy lists and lists enjoy me… and that works for both of us. So when I think about possible options for things to do in and with my life, I list them out.
Things I MIGHT want to do with my life (example list):
Be a waitress
Sea World Orca Whale trainer (my husband doesn’t know it, but this is the REAL reason I wanted to move to CA)
√ Be a mom
Amy Grant Ariel Mermaid (see previous post about this)
√ Finish my master’s degree
√ Learn Spanish
√ Write a book
However there is one thing that tends to be lacking in my most of my lists, besides lists about “my potential pet unicorn names” and “things that me and my pet unicorn would do together”. Those missing elements are creativity and emotion. I know “Amy Grant Ariel Mermaid” may seem creative, but really that was just common sense to me as a child, in reality my imagination can feel limited by lists sometimes. After all, if I expand on one too much, that one line might turn into two lines and mess up my list formatting or even force me to create a new page and then what would I do?! (if you don’t relate to these thoughts then don’t worry, it just means you’re not a nerd).
So how did I solve this creative-less list issue? And how did I open up my imagination to all the possibilities that are up for the taking in my future? I wrote a story about it.
Yes, I actually wrote a story called “My Ideal Life”.
Of course the crazy organizer in me made sure I categorized the different chapters in the story by 5 year marks, but it still was a great exercise in allowing my right brain to take over the dreaming responsibility so that I really could reach for the stars without my left brain rolling it’s eyes in annoyance as it tried to squeeze all of the thought tangents into one line.
I put as much and as little detail into it as I wanted in different parts. I changed some of the beginning parts to be in 2 or 3 year segments instead of 5 (gasp from my left brain!), and I included some of my husband’s dreams to be able to see how our two dream lives intersect and compliment.
Writing my ideal life in story form helped me in ways I didn’t expect at all.
For one, I was surprised at how young it made me feel! I ended up taking my story one 5 year period at a time, all the way into my 70′s, and up until the ? mark I left to indicate my death (I wasn’t planning on going that far, I just got into it!)! I was amazed at how many 5 year periods I could still have left and at how much I might realistically be able to do during the time I still have left! I felt extremely hopeful about how much living I still have to do!
It also helped me see the big picture which is hard to do, especially because my life often feels so fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford rent 3 months from now, let alone what I’ll be doing with my days in 10 years! It’s hard to see big picture and remember that the things that seem like such a huge deal now will not actually be going on for that long or be affecting me that strongly in the next stages of my life. So even if I have 5 or 10 years of struggle, I have so many 5 or 10 year periods left that if those bad years are taking me to the good ones, it will be more than worth it!
Basically I’m saying that not only should you do this, but you should do it without any rules.
Let your right brain truly take over and see what outlandishly unrealistic dreams you can come up with! Because if you only ever dream realistic dreams, or only ever list them out logically, then perhaps you aren’t really dreaming your dreams at all. Perhaps you’re only writing out possibilities, rather than heart felt longings. Give the right brain control and then if you want, lefty over there can take it later and break it into manageable lists and goals. When both sides are free to do what they’re best at without the hindrance of the other, you may be amazed at how big, and yet how possible, some of your dreams can seem!
Do it, write it out.
If you need some help, use this cheat sheet to get going. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds because when you first start out it’s basically just like playing that pre-teen girl game MASH. If an 11 year old can do it, you can!
In 2 years…..
I will live:
I will be doing:
Who will be involved:
What will my days look like:
What will my free time look like:
Those are just some questions to get rolling, but take it wherever you want and make it your own!
In two years I will be writing my successful blog and working on the first draft of my book, in the same apartment I’m in now with my husband and we’ll be….
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Today, Rare Existence is 1 year old!!!
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to keep going last month, so that I could make it to this big day!
In honor of this birthday, I wanted to give you some fun Rare Existence stats and facts:
How many countries have seen it: 65
How many posts have gone up: 53
How many words you’ve read if you’ve read every single one: 40,007
Best things people typed into Google that lead them to Rare Existence (besides the thousands of ways “existence” was misspelled):
- I need to make up some epic shit
- party time prom
- my dear should I do you
- choose your words wisely you never know when you’ll have to eat them
- embrace messy hair
- what do you want people admire you at?
- in los Angeles I know that my dreams will come true
- retarded chihuahua (my favorite one!)
Other websites who have sent the most people to me (thank you!):
Most popular posts:
My Big Demon
A true story about extraordinary living: Kelli Freeman (Part 1 and part 2 were hits!)
Do Epic Shit
My favorite Rare Existence quote:
Time for cake and then gifts… wait what?! You didn’t bring gifts?! Lame guys, lame.
There are no words.
Which is why it’s going to be extra hard to explain what I’m talking about. It’s you. It’s all of you guys. You are incredible. The feedback you gave me after my last post brought me to tears multiple times. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your heart felt responses to my heart felt, mini-break down.
I currently have plans to respond to each and every one of you who took the time to comment or send me messages, but every time I go to do it, I get emotionally overwhelmed all over again! You all put so much of yourselves into your comments that I want to make sure I respond with the amount of thought and energy that you deserve. So please do not be sad you haven’t received a response yet. I’ve heard you, I love you for it, and I will respond.
This will NOT be the end of Rare Existence. As a result of your thoughts, comments, and encouragement, I have received the motivation that I so needed to keep moving forward.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. You guys truly are the extraordinary.
So for all the rambling I do about community and how we’re all here to support one another, blah, blah, blah, I’m going to set an example by asking for some major help from you.
Honestly, I feel ready to quit writing Rare Existence.
Rare Existence makes me feel like a failure. There. I’ve said it. I had pretty high expectations going into this that are not being met. I believed if I built it (with truly quality content), they would come. I thought it would just spread because that’s what stuff does when it’s good. When you see something awesome, you share it to increase your own awesomeness ratings in the eyes of your Facebook friends, right? So either I’m just plain wrong to expect this, or my content isn’t good enough to give people a bump on the awesomeness scale. Either way, I feel like a failure.
This is very, very bad for me since part of my own plans for an extraordinary life involve the growth of Rare Existence. This makes me feel like a failure at my extraordinary life, which in turn makes me not what to write about it anymore, especially on the blog that reminds me of what a failure I am in the first place!
I know the logical thing to do would be to examine my marketing or other issues that could be the real problem before giving up. But of course feeling like a failure is bringing my insecurities to an all time high at the moment so all I’m hearing is “Why bother working on your marketing? You don’t need MORE people to see how bad you are at this”. At the point I’m at, I’m really starting to question whether that is the truth.
So the thing is, I could really use your help right now.
I feel pathetic, desperate, and embarrassed to be asking you for this, but I can’t get it out of my head how much I tell everyone here to be vulnerable with one another- especially when things are going badly, so I feel I must do the same.
What I need from you is your vocal support. If you read and love Rare Existence, I just need you to say “aye” to cast your vote to keep it afloat. Leave a comment here, send me a note… just SOMETHING to show me that you exist on planet earth and that you want to keep reading Rare Existence.
I feel like if I know the problem is not my ability to write things people like to read, but rather my ability to market, then I will have just the amount of hope I need to push through and fix the problem.
If you have constructive criticism…
… about how you think I could grow Rare Existence, get more feedback from readers, etc. I’ll take it. But please remember that I’m fragile right now so be gentle OK? I typically publish all my suggestion comments, but since I’m not feeling super brave at the moment, don’t be offended if I choose to process your suggestions on my own rather than share them with the world while I’m figuring all this out.
To connect with me…
… you can email me at Breanna(at)rareexistence.com, or you can comment here. Thanks for your readership, your support, and your patience while I’m all weepy and weak. Forgive me if I don’t do my usual once a week posting for a little while, I might need some time. Thanks for the grace.
I just finished reading an entire chapter in a book about how success doesn’t make you happy.
Bummer, right? It was written by a very successful man who found himself in misery at the height of his success. He wasn’t saying success is bad, he was just saying that if you haven’t dealt with issues in your life, they will follow you and success will only magnify them. My favorite line was, “you will be the same person, only you’ll have more of everything, and that includes pain.” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis).
So where do I stand with success really and what do I define success as? After all, the point of this blog is to help you and me succeed at pursuing a rare existence, accomplishing our dreams, being extraordinary, and so on. We definitely all have goals here that we’re trying to succeed in.
One of the big questions to ask yourself is, “WHY am I pursuing the specific goals that I am”?
“What is the root behind this goal that I think will make me happy in the end?” Sometimes our intentions are not as pure, or shall we say, as HEALTHY as we think they are.
I’ve said before that it’s very important that you know yourself well as you embark along this journey and that means that you know not only what things you are good at and dream of doing, but also what your deep rooted flaws are that will continually try to trick you into fulfilling them in wrong ways.
We all have these things… deep seated insecurities left over from years of grade school bully torment that leaves you with the desire to prove to the world how awesome and worthy you really are… a negative parent who is constantly asking you for more so you continually try to give more than perfect….crazy jealousy over that perfect older sibling that leaves you always trying to keep up…friends who are obsessed with all things fun, expensive, and seemingly wonderful that drive you to live the same way. We all have our reasons.
Take a second to ask yourself about yours.
For me, success in extraordinary living means…
…freedom. I’m pursuing time freedom, freedom from enslaving factors (debt, addictions, insecurities,etc), emotional freedom, and many other kinds of freedom, so that I am free to choose how I invest my time, energy, and heart so my life will reflect my true values as closely as possible. My desire to be successful in my quest for freedom is driven by my desire to always be the one who gets to decide what’s best for me and my family throughout different seasons in life, and to be able to choose to use all my resources (time, money, talents, etc) to make that happen.
Yes, there are many moral and noble motives in that, but um, can you say CONTROLLING? Just when I think I’ve beaten the control monster in my life, he shows up in the most unexpected places… the places I thought were pure and secure and free from the uglies. Nope.
Now that we’ve taken the time to identify our inner self’s ulterior motive, we have the choice of whether we’ll face it or not. If we decide to deal with our weaknesses and identity issues now, then we’re free to continue to pursue our definitions of an extraordinary life… and now we can do it with true freedom (ironic since my definition IS freedom!). If we choose not to deal with it, then once we obtain the life we seek, we can only expect misery. I know this is true because I’ve learned in the past that when I feed my control monster, the only thing that it spits back out is bad relationships, anger, frustration, and ultimate sadness… and I’m guessing that your uglies are on the same team as mine with the same rule book, so you’ll probably get the same results.
So our success will only be true success if we deal with our personal issues before achieving it.
Otherwise our success will only make our problems worse, just like Rob told us. I hate when people say sucky things and then are right.
Those hours upon hours of watching Disney cartoons as a child taught me a lot.
I know the importance of contentment. I know what happens when someone wants more and more power, more and more money, and more and more land… they become the bad guy with their own scary theme song and they end up getting featured at Disneyland’s Halloween show. Oh yeah, they also end up either trapped inside a magic lamp or turning all shrivelly and seaweed-ish. If they’re REALLY greedy, they get thrown off a cliff or the roof of a castle. So yes, I know that you’re supposed to be content and happy wearing the same princess dress every day and wandering around singing in nature with happy little creatures all around you without any conflict, goals, or cares in the world. Life doesn’t get any better than that right?
Well have you ever seen the “modern fairy tales that people write nowadays?
Sometimes Cinderella is slaving away for her 401K instead of for an evil stepmother, sometimes the 7 dwarfs never meet Snow White because there was a cave in at the mine, and sometimes Aladdin gets shot up in the ghetto before making it to the palace where Jasmine is. I think the moral of those stories is that being content with your position in life as the pretty girl who wanders around singing is not always the best way to go. Some of the more modern Disney movies even, have Princesses who seek adventure, do the courageous thing, and strive for more out of life. The moral of modern fairy tales and modern Disney: Sometimes it’s OK to push harder and fight to improve the quality of life for yourself and those around you.
(Just for fun, here are some photos from the “Fallen Princess” photo series by Dina Goldstein)
So there’s the balance.
Don’t become a greedy bad guy (or else the animators will make you ugly and you will face ultimate doom… except for your once a year appearance at Disneyland) and don’t become satisfied with a sucky, boring life (because there’s very little chance that your fairy godmother or magic genie is coming to save you).
That’s the lesson we learn from animated Disney characters: if you balance contentment with hard work and persistence then you will live happily ever after. The End.
What I wanted to be when I grew up…
Age 4: A Mermaid. “Amy Grant-Ariel- Mermaid” to be exact. Yes, you heard that right. My cousin and I had an Amy Grant fan club too – so embarrassing. I think we only had one fan club meeting and we ate brownies. The rest of the time I mostly just swam with my feet locked together like a fin and spent my time trying to convince my cousin that I was the REAL Amy Grant- Ariel- Mermaid and she was just my twin. She bought it- sorry Bethany.
Age 6: A better version of April O’Neil. I wanted to hang out with the Ninja Turtles like April, only I’d be better because I could fly. I day dreamed of flying around in the sky in my black skorts and hi-top sneakers, while singing, high above my school playground at recess where all the kids could see and wish they were as cool as me. At that exact moment, my good buddy Michelangelo would kick spin onto the playground and hand out free pizza to everyone before fighting off the bad guys that arrived to get free pizza. I was the coolest kid in the world… in my 6 year old mind.
Age 8: A pet groomer. As you can see, I was growing up and my dreams were a little more realistic. More so than my little brother Paul’s, who’s ultimate career dreams were to be either an elevator operator or a car valet, only he wouldn’t make people pay because he’d just do them to be nice. I was way more practical than that. Until that is, my mom told me that I’d spend my days picking poop off poodles butts and I yelled at her “you ALWAYS crush my dreams!!!” before running to my room crying, where I decided I didn’t really want to do that anyways.
Age 10: Sea World trainer. Free Willy made a pretty big impact on me. Even after I saw the movie “Orca” where killer whales are actually killing, I was still on board. I thought I could change them. This dream never faded, I still want to do it. So all of you “The Cove” lovers out there, just accept it- I’m a bad person.
Age 11-15: A famous singer. I WILL be discovered while singing in my car one day. You’ll see.
Age 16: A social worker for foster kids. Until that is I was sobbing so incredibly hard (and loud) through the entire first half of the movie, The Sixth Sense, that my boyfriend at the time had to drag my out of the theater wailing. Yep, The Sixth Sense, a completely not at all sad movie, during which I couldn’t stop being sad because that poor little boy was scared all the time! I remember collecting my composure outside the theater when my boyfriend said, “um, maybe you shouldn’t be a social worker, you MIGHT not be able to handle it”.
Age 19: Film Soundtrack Producer: This was my answer to the question, “if you could have any job in the world…” This dream still lived on in my heart until I moved to LA and saw how sucky some of the jobs in the film industry really are. Especially if I end up having to spend my days picking out music for the Wiggles or something like that. Call me disillusioned.
Age 20: No idea. I loved when we’d go around my Family and Human Development classes at ASU and ask what everyone wanted to do when they graduated and all you’d get was, “I don’t know”, ” I don’t know”, “I don’t know”. I thought that was probably a bad sign.
Age 23: Still no idea. I was getting my Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling, but I knew I didn’t want to be a typical counselor sitting in an office. Go figure.
Age 25: A photographer. I’d tried my hand at real world jobs and then went, wait this sucks. I want a pretend job like my husband (who was a photographer)!
Age 27: A writer. Thus Rare Existence was born.
Age 29 (now): It’s complicated. What I want to do with my life has less to do with what it is that I do specifically and more to do with how it supports the rest of my life.
Not necessarily money wise (but duh, that’s important), but more values wise. I’ve been investing my time into figuring out what is important to me in the rest of my life so that when I find a job that supports that well, I’ll know it! I’ve also been investing energy into some personal growth issues that I feel will better open me up to being the person I need to be in order to do the things I need and want to do in life.
After investing my time into working through those sorts of issues, I now know I want a job that I enjoy well enough that will allow me to have the flexibility I need to make whatever decision I deem is best for my family.
Freedom (time, financial, geographical, etc, etc) is key. If my husband and I decide to take a year to sail around the world with our family to teach our kids that way, right on- we want to be able to do it. If the public school system turns into a brainwashing, 1984-esque military camp and homeschooling is the only way around that, right on- we want to have the ability to do that! I know I can’t control everything, but the goal I want to work towards is to do my best to never be in a position where I don’t have the freedom to choose what I know is right for my family. P.S. having “freedom for my family” means my husband has to have freedom as well so becoming a Real Housewife of Orange County is sadly out of the question for me.
So now I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to start investing into the actual logistics of this mystical career that will provide me and my family with the values I’m craving for us.
Right now it looks like photography will always be a part of that, but I feel like there will probably be more to it in the end because I know I have the desire in me to do more than just give people with lasting memories through photos (not that it’s not important, I just want to use my talents in other ways as well). I want to help people learn. I prefer to help them learn through artistic and beautiful means, like how a fantastic movie, book, or song can make you think in ways that causes you to change your life. How that will play out exactly is still unknown. Will I do all those things for money? Not necessarily, maybe I’ll find a job that provides enough through working a little so that I can do the rest of these things just because I enjoy it (taking notes off my brother who now is an elevator operator and car valet for free). I don’t believe a career necessarily has to be what dictates how I spend my time. In fact I prefer that it doesn’t because as soon as something becomes a “have to” for me, I tend to resent it immediately!
Basically there are two options for me, and both include providing a life of freedom for my family.
One, I just find an incredibly flexible job(s) that provides freedom for my family, that I also really love and feel like I’m “meant to do”. Two, I could just find a job(s) that I enjoy somewhat that provides the most amount of money for the least amount of work so that I’m free to spend the rest of my time doing what I need to with my family and whatever else it is that I’m “meant to do”. Asking for too much? We’ll see. The benefits to this would be so great that I’m willing to try it before giving up on it! By the way, I know that drug dealing sounds like the best solution to this, but that is definitely off the table for me. Stripping? Off the table. Any sort of illegal activity that could result in either stabbings, sex for money, or a warrant for my arrest… off the table. If I have to carry a concealed weapon on me at all times in order to perform my job… so far off the table, I can’t even see the table anymore. Writing is definitely still on the table. Teaching, speaking, life coaching, etc., etc. are all on the table for discussion. It’s just one step at a time and exploring different aspects until I find my fit! But as long as whatever it is includes a life of freedom for me and my family, then I’m in!
Your turn! What did you want to be when you grew up and what are you looking forward to doing with your life in the future?
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