This entry is written by a good friend of mine who is always excellent for meaningful conversations about life, simplicity, happiness, and friendship. I hope Cara continues to offer her voice and insights to my blog. I fully support her thoughts and appreciate her contribution to this dialogue on simplicity.
The Burden of Choice
It’s the era of choice. Never in history have young people had the opportunity and burden of so many choices. I know, I’m living it. In my late twenties, I am facing a seemingly infinite number of possibilities. I quit grad school and am now starting two online companies. I can choose to do pretty much whatever I feel like doing. With advancements in technology, I can try to have a family anytime I’d like in the next 10-20 years. I can communicate with anyone who has a phone, or a computer, whenever, and wherever I’d like to over my new 3G network. I can even download the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy wherever and whenever I want to or figure out the answer to why cats purr online in a split second on my morning walk in the woods. With so many choices, I must admit that I frequently find myself lost, spinning off, like a zombie to who knows where. I constantly need to reconnect to the place within me that provides me with a sense of direction.
To be honest, I wish I had fewer choices. Because now, I have to set boundaries on a continual basis. I know, it sounds so ungrateful, but setting boundaries is work. It demands of us a certain higher level of consciousness. We have to be intentional. We are not swayed or corralled by social or cultural norms, or limits of technology, but now the world is wide open for our taking, and technology has created an environment with few to no boundaries.
It’s no wonder so many of us are scrambling to simplify. Personally, it’s my way of staying sane. I simplify to create boundaries and stay more closely connected to my values, to my intentions. It’s the only way I feel grounded.
It’s all too easy to receive a phone call on a walk with my friend, or aimlessly flip channels when I’m tired, or listen to a constant stream of music in the car, or watch the ads that play at the gas station or in the taxi cab. None of these activities in themselves are inherently bad, it’s just that, without mindfulness, without intention they can occupy too much space in my life, and leave me feeling like a zombie.
I find that my day is full of an infinite number of moments that challenge me to ask what is it I want and to always be an active participant in my life.
Last year, I got rid of my cable subscription, and now I only have Netflix, and the Internet. The effort it takes for me to put a disc in, or search for a show online, or pay 1.99 per show on iTunes, is just enough effort to force me to think “Do I really want this?”. I have to connect, in that split second with my intention for the moment.
I leave my phone at home when I go for a walk. It’s my time to walk, not to talk.
I only respond to phone calls, when I feel like it. I don’t enjoy being always “on call” whether by phone or email. Contrary to popular belief, I am not always available to anyone at any moment. I moved from the middle of Silicon Valley to the outskirts to connect more to the mountains, the trees, and the wildlife around me. I even have a sign that hangs on my mailbox to tell neighbors, that while I work at home, I’m not always available. It is there between 8 am and 6 pm every weekday and even on weekends, if I feel like being to myself.
So, our generation is being taught a huge lesson about boundaries. We have to become master boundary creators. With so much available, and so many choices, we have to set our own boundaries and hold firm to them, so as not to be overwhelmed. It is my hope that we can learn to live within the freedoms that we have in a way that we all feel safe and prosperous. It is my hope that this challenge will raise our awareness and demand of us to live a more mindful and value-driven life.
Written by Cara Rosaen
Constant student of this life
Entrepreneur, founder of Bookin’ Good, an eco-friendly online bookstore