Why I Need Help Being Mindful

I’ve always been a pretty self-sufficient person. I am fiercely independent – both as a woman and a stubborn child. I believe in this idea of self-responsibility – that us alone could truly understand our own happiness, and design our lives in a way that could help us achieve it. I love to travel alone, not only because it pushed me out of my comfort zone but because it was the ultimate exercise in such responsibility.

And for the most part, I’ve absolutely loved it. I’ve been able to experience so many amazing things while I travel, meet amazing people. I’ve learned a lot about myself as well. I know my limitations, I know how to recognize what I like and what I don’t like. I’m better at giving myself time to myself and appreciate this life to the fullest.

But I’ll be first to admit, it’s hard to do this alone.

Giving oneself so much time to oneself and trying to connect with oneself so indiscriminately can be scary and difficult. It can be selfish and self-indulgent; playing into the cliche that millennials don’t understand the responsibilities it takes to be an adult. In fact, in quitting my job ten months ago to travel and freelance, it felt like the ultimate act in millennial foolishness. But in actuality, for me, it was the ultimate act in self-care.

After spending my whole life in school, university, internships and full-time work, I realised I had never given myself a break. Consumed with just trying to keep up with the rat race and eyes just on the career path ahead of me, I hadn’t taken a moment to check in with myself and see if this was what I actually wanted to do. So I decided to tip the scales completely and prioritise life over work. And it’s been amazing to finally let myself lead my journey and not the expectations of the conventional path.

It’s been difficult to shirk the weight of expectation and remember to be mindful.

If it was easy, it wouldn’t seem like such a unicorn thing to do. Conventions are conventional for a reason – they’ve been indoctrinated into our schooling, into the way we think, the way society thinks. To go against the grain in such a dramatic fashion means changing how we see everything – from the notion of work to the meaning of success.

Without a clearly mapped-out career path, it can be intimidating to keep going. Even without a clearly structured 9-5 day can leave the days so open with opportunities that you can often feel crippled with the choice of what to do, where to go, what to eat.

Forging a path that seems so untrodden and misunderstood can feel very lonely. You can’t help but feel the FOMO of what everyone else is doing or the self-doubt that you’re the one in the wrong.

More than that, we are accustomed for mindfulness to be an after-thought.

It is something we squeezed into our day rather than let it define you. With all this extra time left to be mindful, it’s difficult to notice when I’m actually being active in it. To be honest, I’d let my commitment to mindfulness be covered in the decision to live this lifestyle but wasn’t making any active steps, day-to-day to actually practice it.

Mindfulness is still a practice and is all the more important when we can easily be distracted by the excitement of being in another country, of living a new lifestyle or just life in general.

Remembering that integrating mindfulness isn’t as easy as taking one bold action to put ourselves first, but a constant habit in taking time for ourselves isn’t automatic. Like with building any habit, it takes practice and maybe some external motivation. It helps to have someone else hold you accountable, to hear you out on the other side.

It’s ok to ask for help to help yourself.

Taking this step to try and put mindfulness first and in doing so, leaving myself so much time to think was such a shock to the system. I didn’t know how to handle my own thoughts at full volume, 24/7 for the first time. I went back and forth so much, I would drive myself crazy. And all I could think was that this was not how it was supposed to be.

So I had turned to Marjolaine and her guidance. Rather than shying away from all my thoughts, it was about letting them bounce off another person so that they might somehow formulate into a congruent thought. I could acknowledge the fact that I hadn’t automatically become a mindful person just because I took one step to change how I worked; there was still a lot more to work on.

And it was nice to know that this struggle wasn’t singular; that I didn’t have to bear all the responsibility of changing my whole life by myself; that I wasn’t completely alone in this.

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