Health Magazine

to Simplify

By Melissa Boles @_mboles

I have a long term love affair with busy.

I tend to work best when backed up against a deadline, often writing several pages of a paper or putting the final touches on a project or presentation just moments before my professor or supervisor expects it to be in their inbox.  “I work best when I’m busy,” has been my mantra for a long time; my excuse, if you will, for not being productive in certain cases.  “I didn’t have enough to do, so I put off the big project until the end.”  It’s a no-win situation – sure, the project always gets done, and it’s always excellent, but I have a better chance of getting more work if I show people my work ethic and abilities up front instead of way down the line.

I have learned this the hard way in graduate school.  These last two years have been a mix of good and bad, busy and slow, amazing and terrible.  I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve grown a lot.  And more than anything, I’ve discovered that I want to be more productive, to better showcase my talents, and to live a simpler life.  A beautiful life.

Last night, I had dinner with one of my favorite men.  We talked about our program, our lives, and what’s coming next.  Even after the plates were cleared and the bill was paid, we sat at that table swapping stories, and when I finally got up to use the restroom, I noticed that two hours had passed.  I was impressed we had talked that long, but also not surprised.  We both needed to just sit and talk to one another.

I’ve had several conversations like this over the past several weeks.  I graduate in 8 days.  I leave North Carolina on the 17th.  I’m starting to say my goodbyes, and every conversation seems to be both of us letting our guard down and just letting it all go.  Every frustration, bad memory, health issue, class issue…it all just comes loose on the table.  And it’s good, so good.  And I wish it would happen more.

For me, simplifying my life isn’t just about the fact that I’m getting rid of lots of my things in order to trek back across the US.  It’s about simplifying what I eat (which is not easy), simplifying how I handle life and education (I can’t be the kind of person that finishes everything at the last second if I’m going to be successful at a PhD), simplifying how I handle my job, and simplifying my relationships.  My friend and I talked about this last night – I don’t need to have 25 friends, I need to have friends that respect me and who I want to be.  Even if that means 1 or 2 people.  And I need to cherish and help nourish those relationships, or they’ll never be the kind of relationships I need (or they need).

Finishing my degree in just a few days has me thinking a lot about how far I’ve come in the last few years, and a lot about where I’m going.  And though I don’t have a position lined up yet, I do know this – no matter where I end up, I want to live a more simple life.  One filled with less concerns about deadlines and paychecks, and more time spent with family and friends and meeting amazing people.  A simple life, for me, doesn’t mean living in a tiny house and owning very little (at least not right now) – it means honoring the things that are important to me, and not letting myself get bogged down in a mess of comparison and struggle.

There is a part of me that wishes I had known this earlier.  That Emily Ley‘s “I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection” was something I understood and wanted to live by at the beginning of this journey.  But the other part of me knows that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been through the last two years.  If I hadn’t struggled and fought and come out of this stronger than when I came in.  I know I wouldn’t be ready to live a simple life and focus on important things if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to be someone I’m not.  And as hard as that has been, I’m grateful for it, for it brought me here.


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