Yesterday, I bought a 2016 planner.
I’m a girl of simple needs when it comes to planners these days. It’s nice to have an International Airport Abbreviation list and a Container Yield Table in my calendar planners, but I don’t require it.
A Birthstones & Flowers chart next to a Chinese Animal Year list isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch. Hey, what if I met another dragon and was able to ascertain he was hotheaded, tenacious and mystical, before he had to tell me so? Tinder game changer.
I was sold on the useful features of this planner. After I paid for it and couldn’t look back, I took a look at its meat and potatoes. Boxed monthly calendars with the week beginning on Sunday, nice. Days delineated by military time and unnecessarily enumerated – an all around win for OCD.
Dates arranged top to bottom, East Asian script style, instead of left to write… strange.
But when I flipped to this, my heart stopped.
Saturdays and Sundays were half pages. Only the days of what is commonly known as the working week, as “business days,” had dedicated, full pages.
It felt like finding out Santa wasn’t real. Like something you were conditioned to believe in your whole life, thought to be a truth, was an illusion. A sick joke even.
It was like that, but different. Rather, seeing Saturday share a page with Sunday made me think everything I think I know is kind of like Santa. Illusions we blindly consider reality until we’re shown otherwise.
How did such a thing as this “working week” come into existence? So I have five days that require attention and planning, and two which don’t? I see, these two days are meant for nothing – for rest, for unraveling. This is how you, you society and Gregorian calendar planner manufacturers, think my week should be structured.
I often have these sorts of experiences, where I feel like veils are momentarily lifted. This veil was maybe of the nice white lace sort, with a classic floral design, and probably actually a tablecloth.
When I stood at the check out counter at the stationary shop in Nairobi, Kenya, post-planner purchasing and saw Saturday and Sunday demoted to the same singular page, I felt like a veil, or the tablecloth, was briefly lifted.
I have spent my life seeking perfection. I have followed childhood dreams and passions, but always with ulterior motives. To please the people who invested in me. For acceptance from the people whose opinions I value. To impress the rest of them.
These people whose perceptions I value, whose approval I seek, and this society that’s designed a nice system for it all, have in a sense, created my world and shaped my wants. There are textbook examples of how to find happiness in stability in middle America. There are outliers and textbook examples of how not to, how to navigate alternative paths to contentment by seeking freedoms.
See I want to get paid to travel the world, but just as much so, I want to sit in my new sedan in traffic on a Monday morning, putting on makeup in my rear view and spilling coffee on my white blouse. (I’m not kidding about this. Archetypal grass is greener syndrome. Some days I really just want a self-styled Starbucks concoction of shit and an inner city commute. One time, I had that, and I spilled the coffee on my white blouse because I hit a garbage truck in front of me during bumper-to-bumper traffic as I was putting on my makeup in the rear view. He never pulled over and I still made it to work early. I cracked the bumper on my Corolla. I survived a near-stabbing by mascara wand. And I managed to salvage half a cup of the vanilla demitasse whatever in a grande cup. One of my fonder white-collar commuting moments.)
I want what American society and culture have conditioned me to not just want, but expect, from myself and from this life. I don’t just want to be skinnier. I should be. I don’t just want to start a family one day. I’ll need one. And that five-day, 40-hour workweek? Well, that’s non-negotiable. Carved in stone. Or in print, in my 2016 East Asian With Amenities planner.
Fortunately, this is a theme that’s trending these days – living on your own terms, throwing the template out the window. Tim Ferris and his four-hour-workweek, digital nomads taking their work to beaches in Thailand, around-the-world sabbaticals, yoga Friday’s at the office.
I am not writing so much to encourage a non-linear lifestyle. More so, I am writing to encourage you to remove the lacy tablecloth of a veil from your eyes. Question your wants, but more so, question the motivations behind them. My sister taught me this. (I’m concerned she may be the next Dalai Lama meets Yogi Berra meets Jesus, which is a real problem, because then I’ll have to share her with the rest of the world.)
Anyways, I like to remind myself of this Steve Jobs quote when I find myself inclined to swim with a school of fish:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.
‘Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.’
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
I think we live to satisfy our own wants, but these wants are so greatly and often unknowingly influenced by what we THINK others expect from us or want for us. We strive to become who we think we are supposed to be instead of growing into who we are. Instead, we never really know who we are, and what we really want out of life. That’s all lost to fear, to that rollercoaster of a search for success or happiness with its highs and lows from external validation and Likes and approvals. Learn to recognize when you are doing things for your true self, and when you might be doing them for or because of others.
Learn to recognize what really makes you happy. Ask yourself that damn question and be real with yourself in answering it, and then ask yourself why you are not doing those things now. Or if you can’t now, how you can work towards that place.
What really makes you happy? What brought you the most happiness this past month, year? What did I accomplish or create, what did I do or see, where did I go, and with whom did I talk or spend time with, that brought me the most joy? Go do those things. Pinterest doesn’t count, Chipotle does.
And then when you go about doing everything else, your to-do’s and priorities, even your “hobbies” and how else you spend your time, notice why. Examine the motivation, then examine the fears behind it. Fear is always there, covered under or disguised as motivation.
For me, I’m motivated by attaining perfection. To create a perfect life, to be this perfect version of myself. I want to be perfect because of fear. I fear not being good enough, in the eyes of my family, friends, the opposite sex. When I act driven by that motivation and with that fear, I am never happy, because I will never find the type of approval and contentment I want from others.
This is getting a little self help-y, and a little deep, real quick, so I’ll bring it home. Even if you make no change in your life, bring awareness to it — to the motivations and fears behind the wants and needs that drive every decision. To this structure for living that American society encourages you to stay within. Let go of the expectations you think people and culture have for you, and question why you have certain expectations for yourself in the first place.
Even my Bought In Africa But Using An East Asian Script System 2016 Planner With Many Delightfully Unnecessary Features understands this. Breaks down his boundaries, learns to let go, even a little, and only for one night of the year: