By Troy Headrick
I’m incredibly busy right now. (That’s one of the reasons I sometimes don’t publish here as often as I’d like.) I work full-time as the director of a writing center and I help my wife run her small business. On top of all that, I’m a writer and an artist—one who is in the process of restarting his art career after recently selling, almost without even trying, several Prismacolor pencil on paper drawings. As you might guess after reading all this, my biggest challenge is finding a way to do all these things and still eat and sleep.
As luck would have it, I had an important conversation with a very interesting woman—I’ll call her Mathilda—this past weekend. Our conversation began with her telling me about how she’d immigrated from Germany to American several decades ago and about her unconventional views on just about every subject one might think of. It then very quickly morphed into her sharing her thoughts about where so many people go wrong in how they live their lives.
She told me that people can learn a lot by observing animals. Animals, it seems, live very simply and thus intelligently. They prize shelter, sufficient food, and being part of a herd or swarm or gaggle or whatnot. Because they have no concept of what it means to engage in conspicuous consumption, they do not waste or behave frivolously. There was a time when humans were a lot wiser than they are now, a lot more “animal” in other words. Somehow, though, human beings have been seduced by things, like status and the accumulation of things (especially money). These accumulators believe that being wealthy is the key to happiness despite there being lots of evidence to the contrary.
She told me that she is now retired and lives with her American husband who is just as unconventional as she is. (She told me that they met in an ashram in India quite a few years ago.) She said the house they currently live in meets their needs, meaning that it isn’t grand, nor do they have air conditioning because they want to live naturally, as the animals do, so they open their windows and doors to let in the breeze. During the hot parts of the day they nap. During the cool parts they get active. They also produce all their own food and live very intuitively and instinctively. She said they own no TV and that they live as the Spartans did. She stressed, throughout her telling of all this, that these were choices they’d made based on what they value and the kind of people they want to be. Many (or even most) let circumstances dictate how they live and are fairly powerless. My friend, on the other hand, said that she and her husband are consciously in control of their lives.
My conversation with Mathilda revealed to me that I needed to think about how I’ve been living and what my lifestyle is doing to me. I needed to sit down and make a list of my priorities. It occurs that many people today don’t really know who they are, want they want, where they want to go, and thus how to get there. They don’t even know what they value. This is shame. This keeps people from deciding what’s important and what’s not.
In my own case, I want to be a good husband, a just and caring person, and very creative. These are the things that matter to me. How much money do I really need to be a good husband and caring person? Absolutely nothing. And what do I need to be creative? I need time and enough money to keep a stock of art supplies. That means I have to look very critically at how I’ve been living. Am I throwing money away needlessly? Am I wasting my time by watching TV and the like? How many hours per week do I spend staring at my mobile phone and twiddling my thumbs? The answers: yes and too many.
My conversation with Mathilda made me do some self-examination and take stock. What I found was a bit painful. Even though I knew what was important to me, I was not being focused and self-disciplined enough.
What are those things that you most value? What are your priorities? What sort of person do you want to be? What changes is it going to take in how you live for you to become your ideal self? I’d like to hear your thoughts to these extremely important and personal questions.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.
25 thoughts on “Decide Who You Want to Be and How You Want to Live”
Thanks. I’m glad you liked it!
Time is what I value most. It’s the only thing in the world I can’t get more of. And so I only spend my time on what is necessary (like work) and what is good (family or productive hobbies).
Time. So limited. We only understand this fully once we get a little older and can see that we’re not going to be around forever. I sometimes think about all the time I wasted. I have few regrets, though. I always think how could I have been anyone other than the person I was at that time I was wasting time. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
Very interesting read. I get your point, about reshaping the way of life, change.. and you are so true in telling this.
Though it’s a good thing to state that you can change to become your own self..sometimes things are more complicated. Life experiences vary from person to person, so is the fact on trauma, lost, possibilities, chances and opportunities. What is an ideal self? For me this has been completely different compared to everybody and unattainable.
We have a society that matters (everybody is labeled from the outside, placed in different boxes – by age, gender, status, origin) and it’s very difficult to escape from this and create the ideal self. Less is possible, as a compromise; like I will start the Art Academy at age 58 because only last year I discovered I want to become a visual artist in my later life… But is that my ideal self? I don’t think so, you can change things in your personal routines, your interests, but for a large part others decide who you are allowed to be (is my experience over the last forty years). So the value to become yourself or ideal person you want to be, is limited in my opinion.
I totally agree with you. I sometimes feel like I’ve lived multiple lifetimes within this one lifetime. And Troy Headrick! Who is he? There have been so many versions of me. I get obsessed with something, pursue it for years, and then find that I want to take my life in an entirely new direction. I sometimes walk away from things only to come back to them years later. I applaud you for starting art school! Follow your bliss! I don’t think there is an ideal self–for that suggests stagnation and inflexibility. I think, though, that we should look inward more than we do. We need to find out what our values are–I mean the core values that we’ve carried around for a long time. In my case, I have believed in honesty and kindness and respect for all people no matter where they come from or how they live their lives. Holding on to these values will shape what I do with myself and the things I pursue. Thank you so much for your comment. i found it really thought-provoking!
𝚆𝚎𝚕𝚕 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎, 𝚏𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚍! 𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚌𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚖𝚎 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝙸 𝚒𝚝𝚌𝚑.
𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚎𝚡𝚝𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚡𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚗. 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚚𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚙𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚎 𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚞𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚊 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚎𝚡𝚎𝚛𝚌𝚒𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚛𝚎𝚏𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗: 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚡𝚎𝚛𝚌𝚒𝚜𝚎 𝙸 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚖𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚘𝚏 𝚞𝚜 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍.
𝙵𝚘𝚛 𝚖𝚎, 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚜 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐. 𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚒𝚏 𝚗𝚘 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚝𝚑 𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚣𝚎𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚎𝚝. 𝙸𝚝 𝚠𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝙸 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎; 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚟𝚒𝚎𝚠 𝚖𝚎 𝚊𝚜 𝚊 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍, 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚐𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚞𝚗𝚒𝚚𝚞𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢 𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑, 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚕𝚒𝚟𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚖𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎.
I agree. Living authentically is perhaps our greatest mission in life. Otherwise, we’re just going to be carbon copies of each other. Few, though, live true to themselves. Most succumb to the pressures their families, their peers, their communities, and their authority figures place on them. I would say, having gotten to know you a little through these blogs and your comments, that you are well on your way to living an authentic and honorable life. Thank you for the comment!
𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜, 𝚏𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚍! 👏🏻
I always liked simplicity, so I try to have as few as I can. But I don’t think I am close to Mathilda, though. Respect! But I also think her approach is a bit extreme maybe?
Hi, Betul. I hope your trip back home is going well and that you’re enjoying yourself. I often feel something akin to nostalgia when I think back over the time I spent in Turkey.
When it comes to living authentically, I don’t think any of us can make a value judgment about anyone else as long as their way of living doesn’t hurt others. I was a bit surprised when she told me that she and her husband had made a conscious decision not to air condition their home since Texas is a very hot place. Her point was that she felt we’ve become so addicted to the idea of engineering all hardship and discomfort out of life, that we end up living very artificially. And I totally get what she’s saying. We’ve even forgotten that we live in nature and are a part of nature and are subject to its laws. When we’ve become so divorced from nature that we can pollute freely without even thinking about the consequences, there’s something wrong. Her approach, I think, was to reconnect with nature, to experience it, to live with it (not against it) even if that isn’t always easy.
I actually get her point and there have been a lot of times when I wanted to do the same. But then I thought I probably prefer adapting to changes in humanity while not being totally absorbed by it. I have to say, though, they are living my dream life. I just was not sure how applicable it is and if we should disregard progress entirely (well, depending on how you define progress). I really don’t have an answer to these issues and I guess it is whatever works for people. If that is working for them, that is awesome! They will keep living what I have always dreamed of doing:)
Coming on the heels of a spiritual meeting…this post meant so much more than on any other day…very well put…
I’m glad it touched you. I’m curious. What sort of spiritual meeting did you attend? If I’m prying, please just ignore me.
Just a talk on examination of conscience…
I’ll be honest – I can’t imagine living without AC! I trust that they have some kind of heat in winter…
Priorities are being a good, loyal, and true friend – not just to friends, but to family. The people I love deserve the best of myself. I’m working on being more self sufficient, so that if I needed to live on my own, I could. I spend some time in stewardship of the feral cats in my yard. Yes, they are wild, but when they are hurt or in danger from some astonishing large raccoons, I’m the defender with the broom. I don’t want more “stuff” – I’d like a lot less of the accumulated dross that we seem to suck in. I want to be kinder to the Earth – she’s the only one we’ve got. I want to keep working towards being the person that is remembered well.
I always appreciate your thoughtful responses, Liz. To elaborate a little on what went on in the conversation I wrote about, she told me that she has designed her house so that is very open and gets as much breeze as is available. I think her point was something like this: Comfort is not the most important thing in the world. In fact, comfort sometimes separates us from having an authentic experience and interacting with nature and reality. Her deal is to “get back to the basic” even if that means living in a way that many might deem weird. Again, it’s all about choosing for yourself rather than doing the obvious thing.
Thank you. It’s good to k now I’m communicating well.
Even with cross breezes – well, not where I’m at. I’m the one that goes into the museums and wonders how in the name of heaven anyone could cook over a wood stove or fireplace, wrapped in layers upon layers in the Texas heat. I’ve not acclimated at all. At the same time, I don’t like using the AC because it really isn’t kind to the planet. I could, given the right windows and reflectors, see myself living in a cave home, very comfortably.
Thanks to all those who are liking and commenting on my piece.
Very good piece
I’m glad you liked it and thanks for reading and commenting. By the way, I found your blog and became a follower. I did a quick look (I’m at work right now) but will return later to look more closely and deeply.
Thank you! I found yours and from what it seems, I will be reading you.
Quite an interesting post. I have found that I want to be a person who indulges in creative writing more. It is my passion and it is something I believe in so much. Find what drives you from the inside and do you. That is what I feel.
I just want to be a good person, and I think all the good that we do comes back in unexpected ways. We’re all human, frail, frivolous and complex. Our experiences make us unique but connect us in many ways as well. You’re right, life isn’t about accumulating wealth and luxuries, it’s about living well in terms of a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. Beautiful post, keep the ideas flowing 🙂