Somehow I became part of the rat race. This is how it happened.
I am 6 years old. My teacher asks me what I want to be when I grow up. I look her straight in the eyes and say in very clear voice “rich”. Everyone starts laughing and I really don’t understand why. She looks at me with a specific look in her eye. You know, the look that grown-ups give children. She asks: “Really Floor? And what are you going to do with that money when you are rich?” I don’t understand how it is not more obvious to her. I reply “I am going to feed all the poor people so they become happy again”.
I am 13 years old. The question for the class yearbook is sitting in front of me. What do you want to be when you grow up? I pick up my pen. It is not a hard question for me. I am going to be a journalist and report on all the things that are happening in the world. It seems like the best job in the world to me. I cannot wait to graduate and go to the school for journalism.
I am 18 years old. I have just graduated and have to choose my next steps carefully. I go and visit the school for journalism. At the university in the same city they also offer a degree in business communication. I prefer a scientific degree actually. But becoming a journalist was always my dream. I choose to enroll at the university. I can always apply for positions in journalism after I am done. It is my first big concession.
I am 22 years old and fascinated by economic and business processes. I decide to enroll at another university and get my second master in business administration. I figure this will help me get a better job. To compensate I start volunteering for an NGO in India and take a trip there a couple of times. I keep a blog. I write some of my most powerful pieces that have disappeared into cyberspace. I write the following: “How can a country drive you so crazy and be so inspiring at the same time?”.
I am 26 years old and start working as a management trainee for a big Dutch bank: a major concession. The environment is not good for me. Banking lives up to its reputation. I make concession after concession. I live in Amsterdam, a very expensive city and basically work to afford my expensive clothes, nightlife, diners and apartment. I feel strangely detached from the rest of society, my family and my old friends.
I am 30 years old and want to be with my big love and future baby daddy. He lives back home in the South. I take a job as a strategy consultant, pack up my stuff and leave Amsterdam. I cry when we leave the city lines. It was always my dream to live here. Why the hell am I leaving?
I am 34 years old. I am home. When I visit Amsterdam now, it feels superficial. I think I want a baby but I do not want to focus my whole life on getting pregnant. I decide to be relaxed about it. Let’s see if it is in the cards for us. Around the December holidays I start feeling a bit strange. The meat tastes all wrong, I feel a bit queasy and I have stomach cramps.
I am 35 years old. The Mini is born. The pregnancy was a strange journey. I feel the need to talk about it so I start a blog. I read a lot about minimalism. I am genuinely proud of my body. I take up photography as a hobby and actually make progress. I feel like I am becoming a better version of myself. No. I am becoming myself again. I get promoted when I get back to work. A tempting concession: I have gained authority and a title.
TODAY… I am almost 36 years old.
I have realized I want to live a meaningful life and do things I enjoy to do. But I am also part of the rat race. I want to buy expensive clothes, get a better title and more money to finance my house and my expensive clothes. Wait, what is wrong with this picture?
What if I do it the other way around? Less stuff I do not need. More space for stuff I really enjoy. More time for things I love to do. Switch from the rat race to just enjoying myself. Will this happen overnight? Probably not. I am not going to give up my job, I am not moving to a tiny house and not stop consuming all together. This is my journey and I will make mistakes. I want to be more conscious of the choice I make and what they deliver to me in terms of quality of life. That is minimalism to me.
I am 6 years old again and my teacher asks what I want to be when I grow up. “I just want to be happy”.