the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

Sunday Thoughts: Some Life Design Chatter



Some quiet mornings, when I’m alone drinking coffee, I listen to my music and reflect on all the ideas that have been floating through my mind over the last couple days. The people I’ve talked to, the podcasts I’ve listened to, the articles and books I’ve read, and most importantly, the lessons I’ve learned with my hands and feet. It never ceases to amaze me how much mental “stuff” I consume over the course of just a few days. I love these mornings. I feel inspired. It can be overwhelming.

The more I learn about permaculture, I am drawn to the life design element. This is the idea that we have the power to create a life that aligns with our goals, values, and beliefs. A lifestyle can be actively designed to meet all these existential/ intellectual needs, and this lifestyle can be functional, efficient, and fulfilling. This differs from the traditional view that there’s a designated path we must follow – go to school, get a job, have a family, go to the gym three times a week, take vacations, retire at 65. Cue Fitter Happier.

Having the power to design my own life isn’t what drew me to the early retirement community, but it is the idea that flung me full force into the path of financial independence. The FIRE community talks a lot about anti-consumption and retirement as the ultimate freedom – things that are core parts of my being – but I  feel that holistic life design is often missing from the conversation. It’s so enticing to fixate on the idea of retiring early that you get caught up in the work hard, save hard mentality and don’t take the time to consider the life you are currently living. I’m guilty of this – I often feel that I am head down, grinding through the days to save that money and get where I want to be. But I have at least 10 years left until early retirement, and I don’t want to spend those 10 years in this miserable, unfulfilling grind.

My currently lifestyle is not designed. It is a dichotomy of paid employment, and the things I love. Two separate lives that happen to belong to one person. I’ve talked a good deal on this blog about that struggle, and the stress that comes with over-extending myself. I aggressively pursue the things I love because I’m so bitter about having to go to a job 40 hours a week. It always ends in me, exhausted, and unable to even enjoy the things I love because I’m so overworked. I need to get away from this antagonistic lifestyle contradiction and learn to manage both aspects of my life in a way that’s fulfilling and healthy.

Part of it is naivete. I’ve only been in the traditional full time workforce for a couple years now, and I’m still learning to navigate. I’m also still realizing out who I am and what’s important to me. But part of it is this idea that I’m marching towards some utopic endpoint where suddenly my life will be as I want, all my ducks in a row. That creates a feeling of perpetually waiting for your life to happen to you. I can’t control my naivete, but I can control this mental paradigm.

I don’t have any answers today, but I am going to share a little inspiration from my week.

Current anthem – “Life Could Be a Dream” by Holy Sons

Life could be a dream, life could be a dream/ so you can lie back and shudder, or wake up and scream/ or rattle chains like me in a limbo in between

Emil Amos on the backstory of the song: “I was back in Georgia visiting my mom and picking out some chords while thinking about what I tend to think about everyday… which is this hilarious tempting thought that ‘someday, maybe things will be different’… the fallacy that life is moving towards some grand achievement in a linear fashion… a meditation on the grass being greener eventually…just something the ego taunts you with.”

Permaculure Voices – Stalled, Stagnated, and Stuck. How to Start Living The Permaculture Life That You Dream Of with Javan Bernakevitch

In the episode they talk about this Jim Carey commencement speech, where Jim says:

“As far as I can tell, it’s about telling the universe what you want, and working toward it, while letting go of how it comes to pass”


“You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here – the decisions we make in this moment, based on love or fear. So many of use choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality – what we really wants seems so impossibly out of reach, and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare ask the universe for it.”

Things I Learn in the Woods

Be a part of nature. The Appalachians mountains were made for us to be a part of them. They are humble, unlike the towering peaks of the Rockies or the Alps. They will be here for us if we are here for them – if we tend to them, and live in harmony, copying their rhythms instead of fighting them.

“One day you will realize, or maybe you already have, that the smallest, most inconsequential decisions can completely change the course of your life.” – Walt Cook, retired forestry professor who has built hundreds of miles of trail all over the Southeast.

3 thoughts on “Sunday Thoughts: Some Life Design Chatter

  1. How in the world did you get so wise when you are so young?! The things you are contemplating – designing your life as you live it NOW, and not waiting for 25, 30, 40 years, is precisely what we WISH we had done! Yes, you may need to have employment from another source to put some cash in your pocket, but just being aware of “how much is enough” is a POWERFUL thing! It was the impetus for our Encore Voyage – one we wish we had considered years earlier! Congratulations to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What type of job do you have?

    I actually considered after university (5 yrs.), my working career, the next stage of learning. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have worked for some very interesting employers/clients and have learned enormously.

    Sure save money and be frugal but thinking constantly about retirement when you’re only in ;your 20’s, is not going to help psychologically.


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