I Drank The Self-Improvement Kool-Aid

Over the past two years, I read both of the Marie Kondo books, I listened to hours of The Dave Ramsey Show, and I followed every spoken/written word of The Minimalists. I even went to a Tiny House show at my local convention center.

The Minimalists

I found myself overwhelmed with “stuff” in 2014 when one of my grandmothers died and the other one left her house permanently to move into a nursing home.

After one garage sale and dozens of trips to the thrift store/Salvation Army to donate my “stuff”, I felt like I had more control over my household. My husband had already been a minimalist and his way had rubbed off on me. But I came from a hoarder mother, a lovely woman who is a packrat to the umpth degree.

I have been dissatisified with my career and place of work since 2014, and no amount of Dave Ramsey books read along with my husband or purging of my closet Kondo-style could spark the joy within me. Hell, even weekly weekend trips to the lake to camp in my parents’ RV was just a Band-Aid to the hurt within. While bawling at an Applebee’s one night into my merlot, my husband suggested I go back to school. I nearly cussed him out until he clarified what kind of school, law school.

I enrolled and was accepted in August of 2016 into my 1L year of law school. Three classes a week at night after work has become quite the balancing act. Lest we forget I have a kindergartener, two stepkids, and a household to run (I take care of all the pets, all the time).

But somehow, I’m surviving! It’s all about time management; carving out time for study, compartmentalizing time with friends & family too. I made the Dean’s List my first semester and was inducted into the law school’s Honor Society. All of my professors have told me they believe I have what it takes to pass the bar exam on the first try.

What law school has really taught me, so far, isn’t just torts, civil procedure, and legal writing. I’ve also learned how to improve my mind and my outlook on life. I’ve been a yogi since 1999, and I gave up teaching nighttime yoga classes at the local gym to start law school.

While I’ve been sitting on my ass studying, it makes me long for the rubbery smell of the yoga mat and the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of a run on the track. I have not neglected these close friends because time management allows me to schedule it in using the appropriate discipline.

Exercise aside, the self-improvement aspect that law school has manifested within me is the ability to talk to people, to listen better, to have more confidence, and to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I will not always be doomed to walk down the halls of an asbestos-filled (I’m assuming) rickety government building to a career that has betrayed me while I’ve outgrown it.

Aside from studying daily for law school courses, I’ve also taken up reading again for pleasure, which was something I did not have time to do my first semester. I’ve gone through a bunch of John Grisham paperbacks and other books that have been collecting dust in my house. Since I’m a reformed hoarder myself (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), I have looked at the myriad of books I’ve amassed from the thrift store and asked myself the qualifying question: “Does this book add value to my life?”-The Minimalists. Sometimes I ask it the Marie Kondo question: “Does this spark joy?”

I have purged so many books by leaving them at the RV Park’s revolving library and by trying to resell them at 2nd & Charles. There are some books I just ain’t gonna read. Mostly, I have a lot of reference books and nonfiction too, especially yoga-related ones. I have purged a third of my yoga books, kept my favorites on my nightstand, and the other 3rd are upstairs on the bookshelf still.

I did the unthinkable by befriending a law professor. We got to know each other so well in fact, that he gifted me all of his bar-prep books (a HUGE stack of them) and a bar-prep board game as well. I also inherited all of my husband’s old law books (he’s an attorney too), some of which are very outdated but how much does the law really change? I have just accepted the fact that my house will be overflowing with legal books and bar-prep manuals for the next 4 years. Le sigh!

Despite purging books, I have also accepted the fact that I am a DVD junkie. Heck, ya gotta collect something! We have a closet of DVDs, and we actually still watch 95% of them on rotation. They are not collecting dust or wasting space; my family loves movies. If I ever get a tiny house, I will have a storage shed just for movies (and some of my CDs too). And no, I don’t want to put them in the cloud. My son and I like to read the boxes and prioritize them in the order we are going to watch them. Plus I loan out movies to my family and friends.

Marie Kondo

Next, I have pared down my closet so much in the past two years, it’s like I am finally starting to get a capsule wardrobe. I stick with classic pieces in black, gray, navy, white, and occasionally red. I am loyal to brands that fit well and last for decades like LL Bean, Lululemon (more on them later), and Lilly Pullitzer. My law school classmates and I once discussed how we have culled a “uniform” to one day wear once we practice law. I’m trying to evolve my uniform now to wear to the job that I’m hanging onto as sort of a paid internship (it sounds better in my head). If something is ugly, I purge it. If it’s too boob-tight, it gets tossed too. My household has a rotating purge box designated for charity donation.

My mom has gotten better lately and is no longer a hoarder; I’d like to think some of my minimalism has rubbed off on her. My dad has never struck me as a pack-rat, which raises the question, Are men just natural-born minimalists? My son deviates from that mold because his room is a constant wreck, overflowing with plastic toys, books, mismatched socks, and costumes. But I learned from The Minimalists that you cannot convert someone to the lifestyle, nor can you purge his/her possessions because that is just plain immoral.

I am praying my dream comes true soon, which is that my husband gets a better paying attorney job that would enable me to quit my day job. Then I can focus on running my household into minimalist shape while being the mom I want to be, and picking up an extra law class. I realize that I cannot will this dream to happen, but the hope of it is keeping my motivation running. I no longer want to be another faceless cog in the wheel of a machine that has destroyed the very kefi (Greek word for joy) of my soul. I long for a simpler life, a life focused on family, academia, and friends.

LULU-Logo-1

Along my intellectual journey,I heard about one of my favorite brands, Lululemon, and what they do to their employees. My first experience with Lululemon was being in Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 wondering why all the rich students were wearing nice clothes and using pretty yoga mats with the Omega Ω symbol on them. By the time I could actually afford to shop there, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the staff was and that I got a Yoga-Teacher discount! Even on clearance! Years later, I’m still using their invincible mats and wearing the same pieces of clothing I bought on day 1. My husband last week read me a Facebook article about Lululemon, which explained how the staff is encouraged to “clear” out negative emotions (much like Scientologists are audited). Lululemoners are required to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for the pseudo-libertarian philosophies therein on self-improvement. They have sweat-dates where they get to attend workout classes with their coworkers, and their ambitions are fostered, not shut down (like when you work for the government—me).

Last week alone, two of my good friends moved away; one got a job at a prestigious law firm two hours south, and the other was a coworker who was promoted across the state. This left a hole which I soon healed with detachment. I have moved on using the Lululemon method: I talked about my feelings, I worked out, and I started reading “Atlas Shrugged.” Seriously, I bought it yesterday.

So in tying this article together, the point is that I am constantly in a state of self-improvement. I drank the Kool-Aid and am invested in myself. My dreams aren’t met yet, but I’m working on them as a work in progress. My social life is pretty great, hanging out with like-minded law students/people in the legal profession. I still get to see my sorority sisters from college, and I have a cool role in my church. I’m the greeter at the door, but it feels like I’m a bouncer so it’s fun.

If you need anything from me, I will be memorizing laws, reading Randian philosophies and working on my Warrior 2 out in the woods of the RV park. Who is John Galt?

Ayn Rand lululemon bag

__________________________________________________________________The Minimalists

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time…A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.”—Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

 

Catch me on Instagram @yogalawgothygram and Tweet me @marissamacabre

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