Minimalist Monday: Failing Forward

I’ve fallen off the wagon. In the past 13 months I have been so strung out and exhausted from graduate school that I have lost touch with my minimalist side.

Our budget is out of control. Real talk: somehow 2 people have managed to spend around $4000 a month for a year. That’s way more than we have brought in, considering it’s been 13 months since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Our savings are in shambles. And my self esteem is in the toilet. How did I let this happen? Why did we just spend $120 at Target. Did I really need that moped? HOW DID WE SPEND OVER $1000 ON FOOD THIS MONTH!?

The clutter is piling up. I look at the mess in the kitchen and try to pretend it isn’t there. The “junk cabinet” is at a horrifying level. The fiance made a joke the other day that my “Chinese element is cardboard” as the Amazon purchases roll in. Stupid stress shopping.

As I beat myself up over how far I’ve drifted from my ideals, I remember the ideals that my new principal (I finished my master’s and got a teaching job by the way!) ingrained in us: “fail early and fail often.” My minimalist journey is still fairly young. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. Fail forward. I can’t let the mistakes I’ve made paralyze me. Instead I will keep them in mind as I get myself back on track. Keep moving forward.

Vacation: Going with the Flow

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday. It was the last day of my long weekend in Santa Barbara. The trip was definitely an exercise in going with the flow and a demonstration of best laid plans going awry.

The original plan was to drive up Friday night, crash at my friend’s place, go camping Saturday night, and spend Sunday night at a hotel, returning Monday.

Well the first plan change came after work Friday. Although I only work 15 minutes from my apartment, a series of unfortunate accidents (two. two car accidents) strategically placed on the drive home turned the commute into [Google Maps estimated] about an hour. My carpool decided that the two breweries also strategically placed on the drive home were a better place to spend our time than the car. So we didn’t make it home until 8 pm at which point I was substantially inebriated.

So we decided to leave Saturday around noon. Since LA sucks, we  didn’t get to my friend’s until 5:30 pm. At this point it was a bit too late to head out camping so we opted to spend then night then hike the next day. Sunday we went on a “hike.” My friend and his roommate (engineering graduate students, who are notoriously poor communicators) took us on this “hike” which turned out to be “summiting a 3258′ mountain with 500 mL of water.” The views were incredible and at the peak we were actually above the clouds. So we ended up being too tired to even find a hotel and ended up spending the night at my friend’s once again.

Overall, a great trip. Definitely not what I had planned, but hey, what in life goes exactly according to plan?


Photos from our hike:


Inside the clouds


Our shadows on the top of the clouds. The sunshine was behind us and made a rainbow around our shadow.


Top of the clouds!


Watching the clouds roll away. We climbed up the ridge to get to the top.



Views along the way:

IMG_0501[1] IMG_0508[1]IMG_0505[1] IMG_0510[1]

This is not my passion

If you didn’t know already, I work as a quality control analyst at a pharmaceutical company. When I was earning my chemistry degree, I knew I never wanted to work in industry. Specifically, I knew I never wanted to work in pharmaceuticals. More specifically I never wanted to work in quality control. And yet somehow I ended up here.

That somehow was this: as an undergrad in 2009, the ice cream shop I was working at went out of business. Well being a poor college student trying to put myself through school, I needed something. My professor sent my resume to this pharmaceutical company that was seeking interns. I got the internship, and worked 10-12 hours during the week and 40 hours during holiday breaks. After I graduated I had $200 to my name and $30K in student loan debt and I was starting graduate school. So I continued at the company as an hourly part-time employee while trying to balance graduate classes.

A month in, I dropped out of grad school. I was pursuing a 1-year intensive teaching credential/M.Ed. program that was going to require me to commit my daytime hours to student teaching, a schedule conflict with my paid employment. I needed money. I had no other way to make rent. And quite frankly I was burnt out on school. As an undergrad I had forfeited all of my breaks, Spring Break, Summer Break, Christmas Break, everything to research and internships in order to make enough money to pay for rent and gas and to get some experience. I needed a break from having every minute of my day dedicated to working and studying.

So my company offered me a full-time job. Benefits, 401K, the whole deal. For a while it was great. I had enough money to make all of those purchases I had put off. A car to replace my gas guzzling monster that was on its last leg. An iPod. A haircut. A full tank of gas. Food that wasn’t from a can. My body healed. I dropped 15 lbs. I cut out coffee and energy drinks. I reduced my drinking by 80%. I got massages twice a month to finally work out all of those knots I had acquired over four years of tediously maintaining school/work/life balance. I started taking yoga classes once a week. My head cleared, and my life slowed waaaaay down.

And then after a year things weren’t so shiny. Office politics became more visible. All of the other departments hired while we downsized. The expansion of the rest of the company increased our workloads. And my projects became tedious. Every misstep, every failure meant a pile of paperwork. If anyone has worked in quality, you know it’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Dozens of volumetric flasks (pictured above) kept me company. My desire to teach resurfaced. I found it harder to relate to my peers in industry when my heart was in academia.

So in 3 months and 2 days, I’m leaving my job. Tristan and I are going to Idaho for a week to enjoy the company of family, friends, and the Sawtooth Mountains. And then I am going to graduate school.

Not Your Only Shot

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

This Isn’t Your Last Chance


Weddings are the bane of minimalism. They demand so much excess and extraneous STUFF, centerpieces, perfect venue, perfect overpriced cake, expensive food for everyone that doesn’t even taste great. It’s a recipe for a party that costs as much as a car. Actually more than my car. I read this fabulous post over at A Practical Wedding that addressed some of the pressures surrounding weddings. It points out that much of the pressure of having everything perfect comes from this idea that this is your only chance to wear a poofy dress, have cutesy centerpieces, get those lovely artistic photos, and whatever. But in reality it’s only your one chance if you decide never to have fun outside your wedding. It’s like trying to cram a lifetime of experiences into one day, like it’s the last day of your life or something. So let’s cut weddings some slack. The theme is marriage. You can have a cowboy party whenever you want. If we change our mindset in this way, we don’t have to stress over the details, and the wedding becomes fun 🙂


Friday Rant: Registries

I’m thinking of doing a Friday Rant series. Seeing as I pretty much detest everything related to the Wedding Industrial Complex, I’ve got lots of ammunition. So in honor of today’s post on “I Just Want It To Be Perfect,” I will be ranting about wedding registries.

First, I think wedding registries are outdated. Sure it made sense to register for housewares 60 years ago when people were moving straight from the family home/university dorms/bachelor pad into cohabitation and a shiny new unfurnished house. But please tell me, when was the last time you went to a wedding for people who had never lived on their own. Regardless of whether you have been “living in sin” or not, chances are the parties being wed already have homes with blenders and wine glasses and towels and bedsheets. Why on earth would you need MORE of these things?

So I definitely prefer the idea of a honeymoon fund instead of gifts. Rather than cluttering up the newlywed’s most likely small apartment, why not contribute a lasting memory they might otherwise been unable to afford? Or contributing to saving for a down payment on a house? That’s something practical! I hate giving/receiving gifts where you’re all like, “Oh wow… uh… thanks!” and pretend excited because then everyone just feels crappy. Or writing fake enthusiastic thank you cards. Cash is never a bad gift. Ever. It doesn’t show thoughtlessness, it shows you actually care about what the recipient would want. And you’re not cluttering up their life with unneeded “gifts” they feel like they can’t get rid of without offending you.

As for those detractors of things like Honeyfund or cash gifts (see the God-awful The Knot Etiquette boards), y’all can just f*ck off. If you’re hell-bent on giving a gift out of propriety rather than from a place of caring and unconditional love for your friend/family member/tribal deity/whatever then just DON’T BOTHER. I would rather have nothing than a resentful “I did it because I had to” gift.

Besides, Emily Post doesn’t give a sh*t.

Children or No Children: A Deal Breaker?

housewife [derogation]

When you are considering spending the rest of your life with someone, all of the pre-engagement literature says the same thing. Make a list of relationship deal breakers. Ask your partner this list of questions. The subject of whether or not to have kids will be on both of these lists and it will be a big one.

Growing up I always assumed my life would go like this: go to college, get science degree, become a medical professional, find a nice man, get married, move to a big house in the suburbs, have kids, raise kids, maybe be a stay at home mom. I never thought much of it. That’s how life was supposed to go. So when Tristan and I started discussing marriage the kids conversation naturally happened. I assumed I wanted two kids. He told me he would possibly want kids someday.

Then after a while the truth came out.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted kids. He always pictured his future with his wife and a couple of dogs, having outdoor adventures and traveling the world. Maybe someday he would want to have kids but he couldn’t picture himself with them. And not once did I ever consider moving on because of this. Tristan is 100% my soulmate. I have never in my life met someone I could be so completely honest and happy with. Someone who was like a mirror into my own soul and gives me more insight into my personality than I had ever had. Would I really throw all of that away over some hypothetical future person that I wasn’t even sure I wanted?

Within 24 hours of this revelation, I found myself relieved. I had always felt trapped by this idea that I had to have a certain lifestyle and that lifestyle was a prestigious career and a house in the suburbs with two kids and a dog. I had never considered the idea that I have a choice. I can write my own story, and it doesn’t have to be dictated by society. I am not a vehicle through which society projects its expectations. I am not a puppet on a string doing what someone else wants me to.

Honestly, Tristan’s visualization of his life sounded pretty awesome to me. So now I think I might not want children, or at least none of my own. But that is a story for another day.