I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways that I’ve changed and about the types of things that have captured my attention since I graduated university in 2014. I’m still myself, but how I spend my time is vastly different (school vs. work obviously) and so are the types of things that I’m interested in.
So I thought that I would talk a little about what’s keeping me busy these days.
I won’t lie; I have always been lucky enough to have a good metabolism and a very average body type for someone of my height. In high school and college I could eat whatever kinds of junk foods I wanted and it never seemed to hit me at all. I was moving around enough between classes and work that I got my step count in to balance out my unhealthy diet. Then, about a year after I graduated, I weighed myself for the first time in a while and saw that my post-grad sedentary lifestyle had caused me to gain ten pounds. In just one year. I realized that I needed to make some changes to my diet immediately or it would become a trend.
I still eat junk food sometimes and my relationship with sugar is an ongoing one that I’m trying to break, but for the most part I’m in better shape. I attribute a lot of that to meal prepping. I cook every Sunday for the work week and that really helps me to avoid binging on anything that isn’t good for me or from having to buy lunch. I’ve also cut back the number of times I go out for happy hours and/or drinks. Partially because it saves me money, but it also prevents me from drinking my calories or eating greasy bar food.
But more than just the lifestyle changes I had to make, I’ve also become really interested in nutrition in general. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries and read a few books on the subject purely for fun. I don’t believe there’s any one-size-fits-all diet, or one perfect fitness routine, but what I’m learning about nutrition is helping to change my relationship with food and getting me to think things through when I’m making choices for myself. And that’s something I never would have done just a few years ago.
2. Personal Finance
I have always been a saver. Outside of my student loans, I’ve never had any debt. But until recently I only thought of my finances as an input/output relationship. I paid my bills and my loans and then sat on the tiny little bit of leftover money while anxiously waiting for the next paycheck to come in. I never thought about investments or retirement accounts. I had some savings, but no dedicated Emergency Fund. I had no idea how to build a budget or what a side hustle was and I if anything had happened to me or to my job, I would have had no way to cover my expenses.
I’m not a financial expert and there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but I am so much more financially literate now than I was two years ago when I was living paycheck to paycheck. And the more financially literate I become, the more fascinated I become with the subject in general. I’ve even written two guest posts for The Financial Diet, an online publication dedicated to destigmatizing finance and educating the average millennial.
I know paying off my loans is going to be an uphill battle, but I feel so much more comfortable with them now that I actually understand debt and the financial world in general. Destigmatizing the subject and allowing myself to learn more about it has changed everything for me. So if I could turn back the clock and teach my past self all the tips I’ve picked up in the last few years, I would do it in a heartbeat.
I’m definitely not a “minimalist” in the way that most people think. I don’t have pristine white walls or rooms devoid of furniture. I don’t even have house plants because I inherited my mother’s bad luck with them. But sustainability and frugality have always been a part of my life and adopting a minimalist mindset really compliments those two things. So it’s something that I’ve started to ease into over the last couple of years. I still buy things, but I’m much more intentional about it when I do.
I stopped walking the aisles of used bookstores and focused on buying only the books I really want to re-read or that are written by authors I know and trust. I stopped buying new clothes and focused on curating a wardrobe of stuff I actually like by purging my closet and making a shopping list. I changed my grocery shopping style from an aimless wandering down the aisles to a dedicated plan for meal prepping.
I only buy things I really like or that I have a distinct need for now. And that means that I can both spend money to invest in quality items and be sure that I will keep them long enough to really enjoy them. It’s not been an overnight process by any means and I haven’t really purged that much of my stuff the way most minimalists do. But I’ve significantly cut back on bringing in any new stuff and that’s a mindset that’s become very important to me lately.
4. Diversified Reading
I started my annual 52 Book Challenge in 2011 when I realized that my obsession with fanfiction (reading and writing it) had cut into all the time I used to spend reading. Until about three years ago though, I never cared about what types of books I was reading as long as I was finishing a book. Now that I’ve gotten back into reading regularly, I’m trying to diversify.
In 2016 I started reading more non-fiction books. Just a few at a time, but enough to get me into the habit. Then last year I added on books by Authors of Color and by Non-Americans. I’ve continued to do all three of those things, but also challenged myself to read more LGBTQ themed books this year, too.
I still read only books I’m interested in (I’ve never forced myself to read something), but instead of shopping just the science fiction and fantasy section of the library, I’m taking in all that the collection has to offer. Especially now that I’m out of school, diversified reading is one of the best forms of education left to me and it’s very important to me that I take full advantage of that.
So that’s where my mind has been over the last couple years. What sorts of things are you into? Let me know down in the comments!