Enough: Limits Can Be Expansive

I've always been a bit of a more-is-more addict. In high school, perhaps driven by the need to impress college admissions officers or just the enthusiastic, inquisitive part of my personality, there was always one more activity I wanted to do. The French club, the Environmental Club, Drama club, Chorus, Key Club. I was on the swim team, the soccer team and even tried track for a while (although thank goodness that didn't work out as my posture problems later in life feasibly could have been worse). It's good to try things: you make friends and get to know your likes and dislikes and hone in on what you're good at.

There's definitely an argument in life for pushing yourself and trying things. But when to say when? When is it time to decide that you are enough already?

When I think back on times in my life when I've been the happiest, it's when I've scaled back. I fought the urge to dive in head first when I joined my university's daily newspaper. I wanted to strike a balance at university that I didn't have in high school. So I sat it out my freshman year and then sophomore year I started devoting one day a week to writing a news story and eventually did one copy editing slot a week as well. But I knew I wasn't interested in becoming an editor.

I studied a lot at university, but I also knew that going out on the weekends with my friends, going to concerts and just hanging out in our dorm rooms was essential to having the whole experience. I remember thinking: I want to enjoy this time.

Any kind of limit on what you do, what you own or how much you work can seem just that – limiting. But paradoxically, I'm discovering that when I reduce my focus, I am actually able to grow on a personal level that is impossible when I'm stretched too thinly. Learning and understanding become deeper, more fulfilling and expansive. What's more, honing in on the things that you really love means that challenging yourself is more rewarding. Being content with who you are and what you are about gives you the freedom to say: I don't need this extra distraction.

There are so many things in life I enjoy and peak my interest. We'll be going to a wedding in Italy next year and I'd love to take a beginning Italian class so I can actually speak to people. But when I actually did some research on the time commitment involved I had to consider my priorities right now. There are (sadly) limitations on my time and energy. And I've done that sort of thing before – life drawing classes in New York, French lessons in London, and tap dancing in both cities. It's not as if I've lived a deprived cultural life.

These days I'm focusing on writing and activities I feel are essential – reading (as a necessary part of writing, I think), exercise that works my mind as well as my body and relationships that sustain me. I am done with thinking that the things I'm good at and enjoy aren't enough. Because having enough and being enough is a state of mind.

This post is part of the Self-Discovery Word by Word series started by Ashley at Nourishing the Soul. To find out more and learn how to get involved yourself, read Miss Mary Max's kick off post for September here.

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  1. I love this! A fantastic reminder about the opening of possibilty when we let go!

  2. Thanks! Letting go can be hard -- I guess it's about accepting that we can't do everything that's we'd like.

  3. What a fantastic post! I have the same "more is more" mentality which often leads to... less. Less happiness. More stress. PS - I got a tutor before my honeymoon to Italy and got nothing out of it when I eventually burnt out and forgot all those random nouns/verbs/conjugation. I was considering taking up Japanese lessons before our - hopefully- trip next year. But yeah, it's not the most important way to spend our time. Getting your priorities straight is so key!

  4. @Elina - thank you! The language thing is interesting - one thing that's helped me is I've found that learning a few key words (hi, bye, thanks, please etc.) goes a long way. People like the fact that even if you aren't speaking their language at least you're trying. And if you don't have time before you go, you can always ask a local to teach you when you're buying your first meal or coffee. But as you've pointed out trying to learn a whole language for one specific trip is just too much (especially while you're planning a wedding!).


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