It can be a moment to take a deep breath, to fill your cup, to realign your life so that everything fits again.
Or, it can be halting. A frozen image, a standstill, inertia.
There are times when we take a pause intentionally, times when life forces us to pause, and times where pause is simply inevitable. No matter what, there is endless opportunity for growth when things appear to be static.
Minimalists talk a lot about values. But what do you do when your values conflict? What happens when you need to pause progress in one area that you value in order to benefit another?
You grow, and you change, and you’re better for it.
Having it All at Once
When I decided to change my career trajectory and pursue a life that I was passionate about, I took a flailing leap into the dark. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out, but at the time, it didn’t really matter. The one thing I did know was that I was walking toward something meaningful.
Luckily, it was the right move—I loved my new career as a band director, and felt motivated to continue learning and growing. After teaching for a couple of years, I spent an intensive year finishing my master’s degree and acting as a graduate teaching assistant. It was tough, but I loved every minute of it.
Or, more accurately, half of me loved every minute of it.
In the mean time, I had become a new mother. Before that intensive year of work, I spent the first year of my daughter’s life at home—watching her grow, never getting enough sleep, being there for the milestone moments, working through the frustration and loneliness of stay-at-home motherhood, and loving something as I never had before.
I felt it was important to be with her during her first year, but when the opportunity to finish my degree and gain invaluable experience came around, I didn’t hesitate—of course I could balance the two. A happy mom is a good mom.
It was a whirlwind of a year—I was a full time graduate student, a part time teaching assistant, and a full time mom. The night before I started the fall semester, my husband found out that he was being transferred 1,200 miles away for work. Suddenly, I was balancing weaning and Saturday football games, daycare pick up and evening rehearsals, sleep training and studying—it seemed insurmountable.
It took a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, and incredibly supportive family members and friends to make it through, but I’m so glad that it happened for two reasons: 1) it taught me that I can do seemingly insurmountable things, 2) it gave me perspective on whether “having it all” is the right approach.
One of my favorite quotes is by Oprah Winfrey: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
Value vs. Value
One of the biggest minimalist buzzwords is “values.” We’re encouraged to define our values, to live in alignment with our values, to purge items and activities that don’t bring value into our lives.
I’m in full support of living a life in accordance with our values. However, the big elephant in the room is what to do when one of your values conflicts with another.
Here’s one that modern mothers will recognize: You identify strongly with your successful and motivating career, but you feel that you sacrifice your values when it prevents you from spending meaningful time with your children. Or, you love being the one who gets to raise and experience your children each day, but you feel that you sacrificed your values when you gave up a part of the identity that helped define your life’s mission.
Family versus career is just one potential conflict of values. If you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, it may not be feasible to quit your job, pack everyone up, and pursue your dream of full-time travel. If you’re a working parent, this may not be the season to tack on a full time Ph.D. program. At times, it can seem like minimalism advocates throwing caution to the wind and jumping in to your dreams headfirst—this is actually the opposite of the intentionality that minimalism is all about. An intentional life requires sacrifice, planning, and hard work.
Learning to Be Okay in The Right Now
Admittedly, having any decision at all is a matter of privilege. It’s a privilege to have the freedom to pursue your passions, as well as to decide to put them on hold. Understanding the nature of the decision doesn’t always make the consequences easier to deal with, it just makes them easier to appreciate.
That being said, how do we cope when we’ve made a decision that enriches one of our values at the expense of another?
1. Find the elusive balance.
If you can manage to balance your goals and time in a manner that is positive for all of your values, you’ve hit the jackpot. Maybe the answer is working part-time so that you can spend more time with your family, moonlighting to avoid losing the security of your 9-5, or taking just one class at a time toward that new career. Where balance is an option, it’s usually a good choice.
2. Stay involved.
Just because one of your dreams or values is on hold at the moment doesn’t mean that you’ve given it up. Stay as involved as you can until the right moment to move forward arrives. Volunteering, becoming involved in the community, helping out a friend—these are small but meaningful ways to continue to prioritize goals that can’t be the priority right now.
3. Remember your why.
The decision to sacrifice is never made lightly. If you’ve decided to put something on hold that means a lot to you, chances are the thing you’ve chosen is that much more meaningful. Write down the reasons and refer to this list when you’re feeling discouraged about putting other dreams on hold.
Finally, remember that to everything there is a season. My goals and priorities now are much different now than they were when I was 20, and I imagine they will be vastly different when I’m 40. Life is not static, and a pause is not permanent. Making peace with the life path that you’ve chosen in this season isn’t settling—it’s liberating.
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