By Bridget Baker
When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina…and a biologist, a window dresser, a fashion stylist, a newspaper columnist, a movie star, and a world traveler. Anything and everything seemed possible. I had no fears or concerns about how any of these dreams would come true. I was in the place of pure, unadulterated desire for more. I had passion, and I wanted to have it all.
As I got older, it became clear that if I chose one dream, I may not be able to choose another. The focus and commitment it took to fulfill on a goal would have my calendar booked, thus having to choose between one dream or another. Some passions rose to the top, others fell away. The illusion I was promised of “having it all” had practical considerations, and I picked a lane and stayed in it.
The path I chose at age nine was to be a professional ballerina. I knew what I wanted, and I had a supportive family to make that goal possible. I was committed, disciplined, and loved it so much that all the pain, heartbreak, and work that came along with it were worth it. I had no other dreams once I chose that one. The pursuit of a dance career left me with little room for much else. I had to grow up quickly, as it’s a highly competitive field, and I wanted to excel.
I had a brief but successful career as a dancer. I loved what I did, but somehow, my life felt unfulfilling. That committed and devoted life felt, at times, sheltered. I missed what it felt like to just play, and have “free time.” The stress and pressure left me feeling emotionally drained, and I felt like this must not be all there was. I longed for more. More of what, I had no idea.
What I didn’t even know I was missing became clear when my dance career ended. Due to injury, I stopped dancing and began to explore the possibilities again. I went to college and each semester tried on a different major. I knew that the decision to stop dancing gave me access to what I wanted; I wanted MORE. I thought having more would give me greater satisfaction. I thought being able to multi-task and work three different jobs while I was going to school would give me even more fulfillment. But at the end of each day, I just felt exhausted. This quest for more left me feeling less than. I would never “get there.” There would always be some new hurdle to overcome. I did not know what it felt like to just be and to be satisfied.
Realizing once again, only this time in adulthood, that having it all may not be about doing everything, I began to pare down. Maybe it was about choosing fewer things and focusing on those. I took a break and just chose to work, to build relationships, and to enjoy my life. A personal growth phase spurred by various workshops, yoga, meditation, and dancing — just for fun — brought me back to myself and made me think about what I wanted.
What was I waiting for? My life was not about the “someday” goals, like when or if I got a degree, or when I made more money, had a relationship, etc …What if this was all there was? What if it did not get any better than this? Could I still be satisfied?
Through focusing on being present in my yoga practice, I learned to soak in the totality of a moment. What may have seemed boring to me before was now a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells, and colors. I just had to hone in, breathe, and be present to all that was around me. I had to be grateful for what I had already accomplished, and to stop looking for more when what I already had in life was pretty fantastic.
Fast forward years later, and the old habits of looking for more crept back in. I wanted to travel more, even if it meant getting into debt. I wanted to learn more, even if I couldn’t afford it. More even meant buying a house I couldn’t afford at a time when zero-down mortgages were available. I thought if I had a bigger house, then I’d be happier. I’d have more room to do more of what I wanted, and that feeling of emptiness that had crept back in would go away. I didn’t feel more abundant and fulfilled though. I felt like I just kept needing more.
I dismantled my life and moved across the country — multiple times — to find out what my life would like if I stripped away all I had created. I lived out of a suitcase and subletted apartments, just to see what I really wanted beyond all of the physical items and the lifestyle I had identified with. What would truly give me meaning?
Now, after minimizing my possessions, I live full-time in a travel trailer with my husband and dog in just 200 square feet. I have pared away all of the furniture, and the physical items that I thought brought me value, and have learned that what brings me so much more is a life focused on less. The saying “less is more” applies here, and I invite you to find out more about yourself by looking at where you could live with less.
Have you accumulated so much stuff that it is getting in the way of who you truly are? Is your clutter hiding dreams you’ve left unfulfilled? Try paring away the non-essentials, to find out more about who you are, so your life can feel fulfilling, no matter how much you have.