I used to feel bad all the time. If I was doing one thing, I would feel bad that I wasn’t doing another. If I was hanging out with one friend, I would feel bad that that meant that I wasn’t hanging out with a different friend who maybe wanted to hang out. If I was working, I felt bad that I wasn’t relaxing. If I was relaxing, I felt bad that I wasn’t working. You get the point – it wasn’t a fun existence and my mind just would not shut up.
Some of you reading this know that I lived in a Christian hippie community in Switzerland for about 2 years. Those two years were by far the most transformational periods in my life, starting in 2006 when I left university for a semester to go find myself, then in 2008 before I entered the real world, and from 2009-2010 when I made a go of an entrepreneurial endeavour and found marketing. Through it all I made a ton of lifelong friends too.
The best part of my time there was having a mentor that I met with once a week. Greg Laughery is the Director of Swiss L’Abri. He grew up in the Haigh-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the 60s and 70s, so he’s a pretty chill guy. I was lucky to get him as my tutor from the beginning, and every time I’ve gone back I’ve been able to sit with him for an hour or more to catch up on life. We still email semi-regularly and keep in touch, and I get to call him a friend now. I even did one of his book covers.
One day, during our weekly tutorials, we were talking about life. I had finally opened up to him, after a long period of not opening up to anyone about what was going on in my life. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Last night was weird.”
Greg (hands folded, sitting back on his couch): “Why?”
Me: “Well, I was at the bar, and I felt bad that I wasn’t back at Chalet Bellevue hanging out with people. But I’ve also had nights where I’ve been at Bellevue and felt bad about not being at the bar with others.”
Long silence, Greg thinking.
Greg (hands folded, pensive face):
“Man, sometimes you just have to live.”
Boom. That was all it took. I finally felt like someone had given me permission to be me and just live, and not feel bad about making choices and being happy with them. There’s always something else you could be doing, and always way more than you could ever do.
This is a lesson I’m still learning. I’m still learning to say no to things that I shouldn’t say yes to. I’m learning to pass off responsibilities and opportunities to others when I don’t have the bandwidth to take them on. And I’m learning to give myself permission to relax and be happy.
By the way, my friend Rand’s post The Long, Painful Journey to Better Self-Awareness inspired this post. I recommend you read it.
Let’s keep moving forward. Life is fun :-)