Guest Post by Mark Velasco
From the time I was a teenager, probably 14, I was striving for more. More money, more electronics, more guns, more tools, more stuff! I wanted more, and I associated more with success.
Before that, I was very simple, and I was also very happy. I had little in the way of wants or desires. I played, worked, and went to school. I was happy growing up in a small town, with several friends, a dog, and lots of time spent outside with very little in the way of material goods.
I spent my time doing things boys do in small towns. I played with a few Tonka Toys, I walked in the woods with a BB-Gun, shooting birds, I rode my bike with friends and did chores, lots of chores. I played youth sports like Pop Warner football and Little League Baseball. I was fulfilled.
Along came those teen years and my eyes grew wide with all of the stuff I didn’t have. I wanted a better bike, I wanted clothes that my parents didn’t want to pay extra for, I wanted stereo equipment, and the list grew.
The list always grew. I would gain what I wanted and then I wanted more. Fast forward to adult life and the thirst was never quenched. I bought a house and I wanted stuff to fill it. I bought vehicles and added stuff to improve them. I married and we needed stuff for her and we had a child and he needed stuff. The list only grew, and as it grew I needed more room to put the stuff I had accumulated. I also needed to work more and harder so I could earn more money to buy more stuff.
A 1300 square foot home grew to a 2000sqft home and then to 4700 sqft home on 2.5 acres and then to 5000 sqft on 2.5 acres plus a detached garage with a living quarter above. It was all so very overwhelming. The worst part, I wasn’t happier; I was miserable. I was drowning in stuff and all the trappings of wealth. I had a small fortune, multiple properties, multiple vehicles a boat, and other toys. But I was not happy. Upkeep and maintenance on all that stuff and trappings of wealth can be overwhelming, at the very least its expensive. It also took time. Time to work, time to maintain the stuff. Very little time to enjoy.
Part of the list of things to achieve was a business. A business that grew from one person to employing over 100. That too, added complications to my life. Things did get more simple after that business was sold. However, the thirst for more money and other trappings moved me to start other, albeit, smaller businesses later.
My health and mental well-being were suffering. I was at least 30 pounds overweight, and developed a tumor where no man wants to develop a tumor. And this forced me to look at simplifying my life. A much-needed wake-up call.
Unfortunately, my wife and I grew apart. She and my son became resentful at my desire to focus on health and cutting back on our expenses. My desire to simplify was not well received. It was a very difficult time, and occurred when I should have been at my peak of happiness. I had acquired everything I’d ever dreamed of obtaining. On the surface!
Soon things unraveled. My marriage fell apart, my son grew more and more distant, and my health suffered tremendously. Things had to change.
The first thing had to be my health. I had to undergo surgery to remove the tumor, which I believe was brought on by stress. The good thing is that this was my wake-up call. I prioritized my health and began losing weight, (Fat) and getting healthy.
Then it was time to simplify my life. I began by getting rid of all the things I didn’t unpack after my ex-wife and I separated. Then I began selling off many things I thought I wanted but never used. Reducing my possessions simplified my life.
I then moved on to bigger items, I started to sell off the properties. I no longer wanted the stress of caring for, collecting the rents, or finding new tenants.
Next, my work life had to change. I was working 12 or more hours a day six to seven days a week to try and save a dying business that was sucking cash and life from me. I put my ego to the side and let the business dye. It was a difficult decision, but it was for the best.
I was reading a lot during that period of my life, as I worked to simplify. The reading brought me enjoyment and taught me many things. I learned that my struggles were not unique. A lot of men had wrestled with very similar issues. We worked to buy possessions to fill a void or to attempt to portray an image. As I reduced the complexity of my life I was becoming happier, and my life was becoming simpler to deal with.
I began to do work I enjoyed. There was no glory in this work, it was simple, it was blue-collar, it was something I could turn off at the end of the day. The best part, I didn’t need any employees. it was serving a purpose in the market and I was good at it. My new clients were happy, and so was I.
It’s been eight years since my life got turned upside down. Eight years of reducing my life of stuff. Simplifying my work, my finances, my relationships, and making my health a priority. My life is drastically improved. A broken marriage and relationship with my son are painful experiences but my life as a whole is greatly improved.
I’m still working to simplify and reduce. But, my life today is very simple, and I am happy. I continue to grow and learn, and as I do, I hope to help others gain back the spark that makes them truly happy and healthy.
I hope this article is helpful. I hope I said something here that will help someone else simplify their life and make them at least a little happier and closer to being the person they really enjoy being.