What Is the Minimum That You Want from Yourself?
In the past, I would have laughed at the thought of having just the minimum of myself. I wanted everything. Where that led me was to a life of hopelessness and despair, chasing after worldly possessions that had controlled my life.
As I aged and reflected, I came to find that chasing after these worldly possessions was not the proper life that was set out for me. If I put my wants at the forefront of my life, I would be left with nothing. Not even myself.
So as time progressed, I started chiseling away at my wants. I started to control my urges, my thoughts, my desires. Then I tamed them.
I truly wanted to know what was the absolute minimum I could live on, while still being happy. Actually, I can’t say while still being happy, because I was a toxic mess prior. Let me rephrase. I wanted to know if I could be happy with an absolute bare minimum type of lifestyle.
So I set out on a course to try to achieve that.
Achieve it, I did.
I had concocted a lifestyle where all I had paid for in any given month was the rent on my home, my electricity bill, my phone bills, my dental insurance, transportation through the use of public services, food at the grocery store as opposed to restaurants, half a pack of cigarettes a day and maybe a hundred dollars set aside for entertainment, which may have resulted in a drink or two out with a few meals.
The rest of my money, I just stuck into savings and investments. I just wanted to see… Was it possible to be happy by living on the bare minimum? By just having the necessities? By not chasing after the bigger dreams?
Surprisingly, it was. It was possible to be happy with nothing.
But that happiness… Did it last long?
It didn’t. However, that wasn’t because I wasn’t able to go out and spend money to enjoy myself. It was because I had not made the proper shifts in my philosophy yet. To wake up each morning and to think of for what I was grateful for. To stop living in the past or the future. To start living in the now. To get regular exercise and a healthy amount of sleep. To eat healthy foods. To stay away from toxic people. And to volunteer and help others.
Once I started to do these things as well, I started to gradually enter into a state of true happiness. It felt kind of like I was floating on cloud nine. Not a single thing could go wrong. All I did was go to work and write away.
Then, one day earlier this year, the news came. News that had shook up my life. My mom had wanted to come and visit. When I asked her when she was planning on leaving, she said never.
I tried to stay calm, but inside I was panicking. I wanted to act like nothing was wrong, but I knew this would be an event that was to forever change my life. My mom hit that age, above sixty, where employers would deem her to be useless. That age where she would never be able to find employment again. However, just a few years before she would qualify for social security benefits.
So, it was up to me to take on a responsibility that I never wanted. A responsibility that came out of the blue. Something that I didn’t want to do.
But I was on top of the world mentally, I could handle this, right? Right? Right?
That’s what I thought, at least. I tried to play it cool. I tried to act like everything was fine. But I couldn’t. Once she entered the doors to my home, the doors broke down and shattered with negativity. The negativity oozed out of her and covered every single inch of my small 700 sq. ft one bedroom apartment. Then it burst. It splattered everywhere.
The first week went by, I still maintained composure. By week three, I didn’t know what to do. I was in panic, hiding from home, staying at my friend’s places, escaping the turmoil at home.
Home became a place I dreaded. A place I no longer wanted to return. I hid at work. Even at work, my boss had asked me what was wrong. Signs of distress showed throughout everything I did. I found sanctuary at work.
Who in the world finds sanctuary at work?
But hiding at work was not enough. I needed a plan. A plan to get my mother out of my home.
Was I to make her a dating site? Was I to help her find a husband? What was I to do?
I suggested it. She laughed at the thought. When I tried to take her picture, she scorned me. It was as if there was a demon in my home. I was scared. I wanted to run away.
I wanted to run away so bad, that I started to plan out my escape. But school had started once again. Now I was at my wit’s end. I had to deal with school, my mother, my job. This was well over 100 hours of responsibility a week. I couldn’t handle it.
I knew I was going to break down. I knew that everything was just going to crumble apart. I had to escape. So I had arranged a vacation in New York.
At this point, my mind slowly became more and more unstable. Many thoughts had come across my mind.
How am I ever going to find a significant other if I live with my mom?
How am I ever going to introduce her to anyone?
She’s going to scare off anyone I ever meet.
Am I going to have to take care of her forever?
Am I going to be single forever?
What am I going to do with my life?
I’m like officially trapped now. Trapped in Los Angeles until the day I die.
Now I’m trapped at my job.
Do I want to do this exact same job for the rest of my life?
I want to escape!
I want to run away!
I don’t want to be in LA anymore!
I want to be free!
So, instead of targeting the exact issue I had at hand, I panicked. I figured that the solution was for me to escape Los Angeles. To get out of here and end up anywhere else.
I inquired about the costs of living in various areas, from Washington to New York, to San Francisco to London. I did the math. I figured that in order for me to maintain the exact same lifestyle that I had now, I needed to earn $90,000 a year in any other area, so I could use the excess of that money to cover the rent for my mother in Los Angeles. So I could escape from her grasps, the grasps that would hold me down and keep me in place forever.
So even though I was a bit disillusioned and in shock, I started to plan my escape. I networked and connected with others outside of where I had lived. I had started to talk to this man. He had promised me a job out in New York. I already had bought round trip tickets prior to our conversation for a vacation I was planning. A week prior to my departure, we had discussed a six figure position at his firm.
The week before, my employer was fired from their employer, being replaced by another company. Two weeks prior to that, as an act of goodwill, I had bought someone a plane ticket to the Quora Top Writer meetup I was unable to attend. I thought this job that was promised to me was a sign. A sign of good faith for the altruistic deeds I had done over the last year.
When I arrived in New York, this man was nowhere to be found. I called his phone, went straight to voicemail. I thought he may have been asleep, so I headed over to my friend’s home. I arrived on the upper east side of Manhattan at a brick building, my new home for four days.
This is a $6,400 a month view on the upper east side of Manhattan, New York.
This is a $3,000 view in Downtown, Los Angeles.
This is an $8,000 a month view in Hollywood.
The first night, I had forgot to ask where the heater was. I froze to death as I slept, trying to withstand the 50 degree weather. As I awoke, I went on my quest to meet Mr. Altucher and his wife Claudia. When I arrived at the W Hotel in Times Square, we talked for about an hour over breakfast. I was lost, multiple times. I walked and tried to follow the GPS on my phone, but that was absolutely useless. I passed the W like five times without even realizing it.
After we talked, I was to meet my friend for lunch at some Japanese place near fifth avenue. He was tied up at work and had to get onto another conference call, so that never ended up happening. Investment banking, insane hours with no freedom… So instead, I wandered off to the shopping area, then tried to head to the museum. I was a block away from the museum, but it never appeared. Then I went off to Central Park.
After coming home, I kind of regretted not taking a ride on the horse, as I thought there would never be another chance.
My friend had told me that the mayor of New York was discontinuing that service in their town. But as I was there, I tried to do my best to partake in all the sight seeing I could. This was a day I had set out for myself, so I wanted to enjoy it all.
The best part of the day after breakfast?
Eating mini cupcakes at Baked By Melissa.
The worst part of the day?
Never being able to find the museum until it was 9pm.
Later, I ended up back at my friend’s place. I thought he may not have eaten so that we could grab a bite. He already had, so I ate at the diner next door. Then I received a text. The person whom I was to meet had told me he had passed out and was sent to a hospital in Stamford CT.
The next day, I had set out on some more sight seeing. I set out my morning with one goal in mind, to eat Russian dumplings at this one breakfast hot spot that only took cash. I hopped on the subway for the first time, got off where I was supposed to and wandered around. I never found the place I was looking for, so after starving for a few hours on my search, I ate at OneGin, which was kind of a disappointment. Ethnic foods don’t really taste good at fine dining establishments…
Later, I saw the Brooklyn bridge, had the best hot dog and halal chicken of my life from a cart, then went back to where I was staying.
The next day, I spent time with Scott Danzig, as described in this post: I met a Quoran! First contact! by Scott Danzig on The Fog of Lucidity.
Later, I came back to my friend’s place with a bottle of Oban, where he had a party to celebrate a new job, only to encounter this: What does it feel like to get recognized in public because you’re on Quora?
I went home, thinking that it was pointless to follow up with that job, because it just seemed too stressful. My handful of my friends had told me it was a sham, while my other friend said I should keep trying. While I was out in New York, I called the hospital he was supposedly at, yet there was no one by his name checked in there. So with that little information, I decided that the employment wasn’t something I wanted to pursue further and just went back home.
It was probably my fault to begin with, to even have hopes of being able to change my life with a six figure job. I kind of broke my principles of not having expectations, because they lead to disappointment. But I did break them, because I was desperate. Desperate for change. Desperate to escape my mother. And as expectations always promise, disappointment was what I encountered. A lot of it.
I knew I didn’t have a contract, but I was planning on signing one right when I landed. I planned everything. What I would do with the money. Where I would live. How much I could send to my mom. I had even told a few of my friends I was moving to New York. Then out of nowhere, it was all gone.
I felt like such a liar afterwards… Hence why I stopped writing for a prolonged period of time. But even before I flew, I didn’t take enough time to do my proper due diligence prior to my flight out, since I was so overwhelmed with my mother, work and school and only had about seven days before flying out.
Now here I was, back home, without a six figure job. Without an opportunity to escape from my mother. Being condemned by her constant nagging and negativity. With the mindset that I would never find a woman to love, because no one would accept the fact that I live with my mother.
I felt worthless. Less than worthless, actually. Every time I even took a glimpse into the future, I wanted to cry. Sometimes I did. I saw a future paved out in black, where I was working at my current job in the exact same position forever, until the end of time. I saw myself living at home with my mom, being a loser. I saw myself single, until the day I died. I saw my whole life just slipping away.
I didn’t know what to do anymore. I started working on my resume, but I bailed on that after a week. I tried to make steps to escape, but that didn’t work. I didn’t want to do anything. I even dropped two of the classes I was taking the day after I arrived back at home.
Then one day, my mom said four magical words.
“Leonard, buy me plane ticket.”
I didn’t care how much these tickets cost. I was going to buy them, send her on her trip, and never have to deal with these problems again. She was going away and I was free. Free from the shackles that were placed over my feet. Free to do whatever I chose to do. Free to live my life the way I wanted. Oh, and not to mention, my mom didn’t put gas in the car the last time she used it, so I ran out of gas and was left stranded the day before on my trip out to Glendale.
All the stress that had weighed me down on my shoulders was lifted. I was finally free. I didn’t have to look for a new job. I didn’t have to worry about escaping my life. I didn’t have to worry about running away and starting over somewhere new. I could just live the way I wanted to live and recover my life to the way I wanted to.
Two weeks after I had sent her out on her trip, she had texted me asking for me to buy her a ticket back home.
I told her to ask grandma.
She said no and asked me again.
She asked again.
I declined again.
She continued to ask.
Then I told her why I wouldn’t buy her a ticket.
I said, word for word, “You’re racist and all you do is complain. I’ll buy you a ticket only if you don’t complain or b*tch or moan or anything. Plus you just spent $700 of my money. I don’t have $700 extra to spend. I want to leave LA but every single time you come back so I’m stuck in a city I’ve grown to hate, instead of being able to find me a job that actually pays me what i’m worth. I have an entry level job and I don’t even have friends here. You stress me out and make me scratch the back of my neck until it scars and then turn my hair white. My neck finally healed and now I’m going back to have stress and start scratching at my neck again.”
She begged and pleaded, saying she would change, so I finally bought her a ticket back to my place. Once she arrived, she stopped complaining. She stopped acting like an entitled old Korean woman who gets everything her way and kept to herself. Then instead of listening to her complain, I complained to her for two weeks. Because it was my turn. I earned the right to complain. Or at least the $1,000 I spent bought me that right. Then she stopped complaining altogether, probably because of the threats I made to leave her at grandma’s house. No one wants to live with grandma…
Home became nice again and started to feel like home. I accepted the fact that I’d have to take care of, or live with my mom forever, as she stopped treating me as a bank account and a sound board for all her complaints. I figure I’d just have to find some woman who would accept it as well. All I had to do was narrow down my potential matches even further than the extremely small pool of women I had to choose from already.
No big deal, I suppose. Then, shortly afterward, I made a decision to quit. To quit writing, to quit looking for work, to quit everything except my current job. I just needed a break from it all. But before I quit, I made sure that I would have an assistant work on being able to handle the background mechanics to a social media campaign, to ensure my content stayed circulated.
The weird thing, was that once I made this decision to quit and reflect, things in my life started to turn right side up.
I found a woman who ended up liking me for me, not for what I did or didn’t have in my bank account.
What, Leonard found a woman?
Yes, somehow he did. He found one that accepted him for who he is. One who accepted the fact that I have to take care of my mother for the rest of her life. One that accepted I drove a 20 year old death trap that some people call a car. One that accepted that I had flaws. One that accepted me for all that I wasn’t and all that I currently am. One that didn’t understand how someone could be so lazy and do nothing since I had made that decision to quit doing everything, yet consistently get showered with messages of how he was such an inspiration.
She pulled out a calculator and added 2 and 2 together, but it didn’t add up. Not literally, but she still accepted me for who I was. She even helped me stop smoking and is helping me prepare myself for a better job. She’s been great at shaping me into the person whom I need to become. Oh and she didn’t even run the possibility of leaving me when I turned fat from not smoking, even though I can’t button my shirts down anymore.
Then more good things came my way. A person whom I had planned on consulting for their business came back my way a whole year later. I’m consulting her on her business, which has a ton of potential. My assistant’s work is starting to pay off on other networks. I’m also working on writing a new book, while I’m looking for new jobs.
So, even though things went grim for a while, my life is starting to flourish into whatever it is that has been designed out for me. I have a wonderful relationship with an amazing woman, a great business to consult, books to write and a new job to seek out.
So what is the bare minimum I want from myself?
The bare minimum I want from myself is to hold myself to the daily practice:
- To think of what I’m grateful for each morning.
- To take care of my mom’s expenses.
- To put a roof over my mom’s head.
- To get 8 hours of sleep a night.
- To stop living in the future.
- To stop living in the past.
- To live in the present.
- To eat healthy.
- To laugh.
- To think of ideas.
- To exercise each day.
- To say no to cigarettes.
- To avoid negative people.
- To avoid engagement with haters.
- To say no to the wrong opportunities.
- To volunteer my time into improving the lives of others.
I also hold myself to The Four Agreements:
- To be impeccable to my word.
- To not take things personally.
- To not make assumptions.
- To always do my best.
Then to my girlfriend.
- To feed her with yummy food.
- To cheer her up when she’s sad.
- To tell her how much I appreciate her.
- To give our puppy Bear treats and take him on trips.
- To support us so she doesn’t have to carry all the weight anymore.
- To introduce her to my friends (even though they may be imaginary).
- To soon make over twice what I’m currently earning, so I can earn more money than her.
Then to the me of the future.
To stay loyal.
To resist temptation.
And to make multiple books.
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Leonard Kim consults startups and write books. He also blogs at LeonardKim.com.