The tag line for inspire & enjoy is, ‘Inspiration for an independent life’ so it seemed sensible for my first post to explore what an independent life actually, well, is. Here are a few examples of what it means to me, plus a few questions to get you thinking about living an independent life of your own (an oxymoron perhaps, but you know what I mean).
An Independent life & comparison
I’m 34, not married (though do live with my boyfriend), don’t own a home, have kids** or even a pet (save for Beans, our imaginary cat). To me, ‘lacking’ these things isn’t that big a deal (mostly), but it’s amazing how much of a deal it can be to others. Questions about when we’re going to tick these things off ’the list’ are frequent, though it’s fair to say my closest friends & family know to ask these questions less frequently than in the past! For honesty’s sake, I do want all these things eventually but whilst I get my head around not having the same as others now, justifying my present and future life (along with exact timelines) to others is tiring, boring, repetitive and stressful.
It is SO difficult not to compare your life to those of your friends and the expectations of your family. Sometimes I don’t know if the worries and comparisons are actually mine, or simply the result of other people making me feel I should be worrying! I’m very lucky that my boyfriend has told me often over the years that I shouldn’t care about others opinions, that after all, ‘we’re just two monkeys sitting in a tree flying through space‘ (I think it’s his way of saying our lives are small and just chill the f out). It’s definitely helped reassure me there is no ‘should’ but I still go through ups and downs with my stresses about the future. Let’s just say, I’m still working on being totally, ‘whatever will be, will be’. It’s hard though, isn’t it?
An independent life & work
For me, the biggest way I live my life independently is probably in the way I work; far, far away from big corporate offices. There’s something about the ‘smart’ dressing that makes me wiggle uncomfortably, literally trying to escape from a way of being that feels unnatural to me. Sitting in silence tapping away at a computer 8+ hours/day exhausts and sucks the life out of me in a way nothing else does. Plus, I have never had the ambition to be ‘Head of’ anything, and when you’re not interested in working towards that commonly expected goal, things get stale pretty quick. That’s not to say I haven’t worked with some wonderful people over the years, but the second I walked away from my last desk job 6 years ago, I knew I wouldn’t be back.
I currently work full-time as an ESL teacher, writing on the side and working hard towards going freelance one day sooner rather than later. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. And much as my low income bothers me (*news just in* teaching: not a well-paid profession), I rarely feel stressed in my job. I meet new, interesting people from around the world, have thought-provoking conversations every day, and have the chance to be as creative as I like in class. Plus, I have time around the sides to work on writing and future plans. So that’s how working independently currently looks to me, how about you?
An independent life & consumerism
In January 2015 I consciously made a decision to stop shopping in Primark. It may seem like a small thing but for someone who used to love trawling the high street on a Saturday, it was a pretty big deal not to rely on cheap, cheerful bits to brighten up my wardrobe. Since making this decision, I’ve noticed I really just do not shop as much. I actively hunt around online for independent brands where I feel reassured the product has been made only out of love, rather than due to cheap labour and fast turnarounds. More than ever, consumers are aware that a low cost for us is most likely a high cost for someone else. Personally, I love hearing the stories of indie makers, seeing shots of their work in progress, hearing their struggles and triumphs and genuinely feeling like my money is going to someone who truly deserves it. It’s entirely the reason I started Meet the Makers – to meet and share designer-makers stories. Of course, it’s not possible (yet) for me to shop independent 100% of the time (or even 50% of the time) – my bank balance doesn’t yet comply with this wish, but just crossing Primark off the list, taking my time to shop around for indie makers and the smugness (oh yes) of owning something truly unique is my own, personal start.
An independent life & travel
The world is amazing: go see it! You will never cure the wanderlust once you do start exploring, but having that curiosity and understanding of other people, other cultures, other countries will, guaranteed, help you think bigger, appreciate what you have, and give you a million cool stories to tell and photos to share. And don’t forget, travel doesn’t have to mean even leaving the country. Here in the UK we are surrounded by hills and coastlines and history and cities. Even your own neighbourhood would seem amazing to a first-time visitor. Don’t underestimate where you are now.
A FEW QUESTIONS TO START YOUR INDEPENDENT JOURNEY:
1. What makes me really, truly happy and grateful?
If it’s spending an hour reading a book every day, make time for that. If it’s travelling the world, start researching for that big (or small) trip! If it’s yoga, start a routine, find a studio or check out Adrienne’s videos.
2. What would I do if I wasn’t worried about others judgement?
If you never had to explain your choices to others, what would you do? Write or collage your dream life down into a beautiful notebook. Start thinking about what small things you can do today that will lead to something bigger thing in the future. NB. *Never* compare your life to Instagram (but you knew that already, didn’t you?)
3. Who is my partner in crime?
It could be your partner, best friend or sister, but ask yourself – who would you love to have by your side in your fantastic new independent life? Perhaps you truly want to be independent in the most obvious sense of the word and want to go it alone – excellent. But find someone who can encourage you from the sidelines anyway! We all need someone to listen to our crazy ideas without questioning them.
4. Who do you admire?
This could be a friend, family member or colleague or it could be a stranger from the internet (my favourite). If you’re looking for some new online inspiration, may I recommend a few people to follow for a range of inspiration on life, creativity, travel and happiness: Dani DiPirro; Gretchen Rubin; Freya Dowson, Bri Emery and Jess Lively.
5. Which brands do I want to support?
It may not be indie makers all the way for you, that’s cool. Not all big brands are exploitative evil corporations, most of them are trying their best these days to at least start the process towards being more ethical and environmentally aware. Do some research. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that H&M are well renowned for their sustainability and I shop there fairly happily as a result.
This is only scraping the surface of what I want to say but to save us being here all day I will conclude that: living an independent life is taking your own sweet time to find the things that bring you happiness. Lessen your comparisons to others; take your time making decisions and start coming to terms with who you are. I’d love for you tell me in the comments below or over on Instagram what you think: what is an independent life to you?
** If you’ve been looking for an answer to the ol’ ‘So, when are you having a baby?’ question, please read my friend Laura’s amazing post
Cover photo Jaye Rockett | All others my own