It’s actually much simpler than we think.
I wake up every morning feeling well-rested and full of inner calm. I joyfully get out of bed. I feel centered. Balanced.
Some days are better than others, but deep down I feel stable. I have shaped the life I was craving. It has been a long process, requiring tons of self-awareness and questioning. It has sometimes been painful. I even felt completely lost from time to time.
I wanted to live according to the person I am, the person I am creating day after day. That’s what brings me real joy every day. Taking the necessary steps to achieve what I want, to go where I want to go, and to do what I want to do.
This is how I found my way towards true, daily joy.
I lived with my eyes shut
We grow up on autopilot. The adults around us organize and structure our lives. We have nothing to do but follow the rules. It is sometimes frustrating when your desires are not in tune with the rules, but at least it is peaceful. You don’t have to think.
You go to school because you have to. You put up with long class days that sometimes make you want to stay in bed in the morning. You work hard at this internship that doesn’t put sparks in your eyes. And then you probably get your first day job.
That’s where I stopped. I was offered a well-paid, secure job in a great team. But after two months, I quit. I couldn’t stand having to follow a pre-set rhythm. Having to go to the same place every day, from 9 to 7, working for someone else’s goals in exchange for money.
That day, I got my time back. My days. My weeks. I thought it would be incredible.
It wasn’t. I felt completely lost.
What the hell was I supposed to do with all this time?
I had been working as a freelance writer for 3 years in parallel with my studies. I thought I could develop this. It wasn’t a bad idea in itself. But after years of following the schedule dictated by other people, I had no idea how I was supposed to structure whole days of freedom.
I felt terrible. Stuck in my 18m2 apartment in Paris. I was trying to focus on my gigs on my tiny desk, and I couldn’t do it. I was working at most 2 hours a day before getting overwhelmed by the terrible feeling that I was wasting my precious time. I felt like I was getting nowhere.
After returning to the south of France, near my parents, I even took a job as a waitress in a restaurant because at least it would structure my time, and I wouldn’t have to stare at my computer screen for days on end. Spoiler alert: I quit. I missed writing too much, and paradoxically, my freedom too. Human beings always want the opposite of what they have.
After 6 months, when I got tired of being a mess, I took matters into my own hands. That’s when I started to wake up.
All that was needed was honesty towards myself
We are told that our life should look like this and that. So we grow up thinking that this is the only way to live. Get a day job, go out at night or watch Netflix, find a partner, and enjoy your life 3 weeks a year on vacation. Period.
It seemed anything but attractive to me. That’s why it was so hard for me to get used to it.
I could feel deeply that I wanted something else out of my life. But I tried to tame this independent beast that I could feel inside me because I thought it would lead me nowhere. Everybody live a certain way, maybe it’s because it actually makes sense!
When I couldn’t play pretend anymore, I sat down with myself, quietly, and listened to what I really wanted out of my life. That is, how I wanted to fill my days. Because as Annie Dillard put it so well,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
That’s where I found the answer. The path towards daily bliss and true joy. I discovered what I wanted out of my life, and I shaped my days to do that full time. I was not enjoying my life on weekends and vacations only anymore.
I wanted to love every day of my life.
Being happy to wake up in the morning is priceless
I am now a digital nomad. I woke up this morning in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and after reading a little and doing some laundry by hand, I got dressed, put on my shoes, and went for an hour’s walk on the beach. I felt very grateful.
Then I went home, did a few things that needed to be done, had lunch, and now I’m doing my dream job: being a writer.
In the evening, I meet friends, go for another walk alone, or read, depending on my mood, whatever seems to be a good use of my time at the moment.
I am no longer addicted to my phone. I practice daily self-awareness and mindfulness. I lead a healthy lifestyle, most of the time: I focus on getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising daily or almost, and feeding my body well.
I live a simple life, doing what I love to do, halfway around the world.
I have asked myself the question: “What do you really, sincerely, deeply want out of your days?”. And I’ve found a way to do it full time.
It didn’t happen in a snap of the fingers. It took a lot of trial and error and trying again and again to achieve this result. I felt lost many times. I wondered if I was going to end up at a dead-end a thousand times. I have experimented with hundreds of different ways to structure my days.
But what made it work in the end was that I was constantly listening to the reactions of my body and mind. I paid attention to what I was feeling. I was very self-aware and I mixed things up as many times as needed to finally feel comfortable and balanced.
It’s still a work in progress. Because life is a flow, things change, and you have to surf the waves that come to you, not get stuck and overwhelmed by them. Life is change.
So listen to your deepest feelings, drop the “must” and the “have to”, and shape your daily life. Yours and yours alone.