Virus of the Mind

A new year often means resolutions. Did you make any resolutions for 2017? I tend not to make resolutions because I know myself all too well — I may start with a lot of passion but end up becoming bored and dropping it altogether. I’m definitely one of those people who likes to try lots of things but sticks with hardly anything. Instead I try to come up with small habits or lifestyle changes, since those seem much more attainable.

In today’s post, I want to talk about the one resolution/lifestyle change you should definitely make for this year.

Be True To Yourself

This is the one thing I wish for you this year. We live in a culture that is dominated by advertising. Every day we’re bombarded with messages regarding what we should look like, how to define success, and what type of life we should live to be considered “normal.” While it took until my mid-30’s to truly be comfortable with who I am, I’ve worked really hard to be true to myself without giving in to peer pressure to appear normal to other people.

As a 40-year-old woman who is single and childless (and has no problem staying that way), I know the struggle all to well. It isn’t just the media telling me that I’m not normal, but friends and family as well. I’ve lost track of the number of times (and people) who have given me a hard time for my lifestyle choices. My favorite comments include: “When you meet the right person you’ll definitely want kids” and “Well, you can always adopt after child-bearing age.” For some reason, people just can’t accept that I’m not exactly like them. Isn’t it better to know before having kids that I don’t want to be a mom and be responsible for raising children?

Another example is when I bought my house. I opted for a 960-sq ft townhouse, over a larger single family home. The perception was that this would be my starter house (as so many of my friends have done), but I’m still here 15 years later, with no plans to upgrade to something bigger/nicer. Now that people see how much extra money I’ve been able to invest, due to a small mortgage paid off in less than 14 years, the questions about when I’m upgrading have subsided. They finally see the benefit.

This is also a common theme in the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community. To accomplish something so extraordinary requires that you don’t care what people think. Could I have a nicer house and car? Absolutely, but I’d rather have the option of retiring when I’m 50 instead of working until 65. It takes a lot of determination to tune out the voices that tell you it can’t be done or it’s not a worthy goal.

When I think about how much influence outside sources have on our beliefs and self-esteem, the song Virus of the Mind by Heather Nova comes to mind. The lyrics talk about how these outside sources are really a virus because they infiltrate our thoughts and prevent us from being who we really are and living lives that make us happy. Here are the lyrics (courtesy of Google Play Music):

While I was watching this talk show the other day
And on it there was this guy
And he was saying “When you let other people tell you what’s right
When you leave your instinct and your own truth behind he said
That’s a virus of the mind,
That’s a virus of the mind”
Well I guess it’s kinda like loosing your sight
For a second you think that they might be right
And it feeds the doubts that you have inside
It almost starts to feels like a crime
To follow your own rhythm and rhyme

I’m pretty happy, living in my
My own sweet time, living in my
I’m pretty happy, and I don’t need your
Virus of the mind
Your virus of the mind

Well I went to this party thing last night
A lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long long time
And they wanted to know about my life
But making me feel like it wasn’t quite right
Like “Where’s is your kids?” and “Where is you car?”
I said “I don’t have either but I have a guitar”
And I ended up feeling like I was a freak
So I found some wine and something to eat
I talked to the dog to pass the time
I told myself “I’m doing just fine”
It’s just a virus of the mind

It’s just a virus of the mind
I’m pretty happy, living in my
My own sweet time, living in my
Yeah I’m pretty happy, and I don’t need your
Virus of the mind
Your virus of the mind

It’s in the deep of your soul, it’s on the tip of your tongue
It’s the feeling you get, when you feel young
It’s in the sound of a beat, it’s in the base of your spine
It’s in your gut reaction, yeah every time
But they tell you what you should have, they tell you who you should be
It’s in the pictures and ads and in the magazines
I’m kicking it off like a bug in the breeze
‘Cause is anyone out there inside me
I say “Is anyone out there inside me?”
I say “Is anyone?”

I’m pretty happy, living in my
My own sweet time, living in my
Yeah I’m pretty happy, and I don’t need your
Virus of the mind

I’m pretty happy, living in my
My own sweet time, living in my
Yeah I’m pretty happy, and I don’t need your
Virus of the mind
Your virus of the mind

Whenever I feel like I’m not normal or keeping up with the Joneses, I repeat the chorus to myself. After all, I am pretty happy for the life I have and try to remind myself that I am not them and they are not me. It’s ok (wonderful, in fact) that there are so many different ways to live your life. Why not live the life that makes you happy?

It’s up to you to determine what that happiness looks like. No one can make that decision for you. But my wish for your 2017 is that you take whatever steps needed to live a life in which you are true to yourself, as that’s the only way to truly obtain happiness.

6 thoughts on “Virus of the Mind

  1. Right on Kate! There’s a view of what we’re all supposed to want, and if we don’t do it, then something must be wrong with us. I think this is probably the most important thing to handling your financial life – you’ve gotta be happy with what you have and not go for what everyone tells you to do.
    Financial Panther recently posted…The 529 Plan Hack For Current StudentsMy Profile

    1. Thanks FP! I really hope that we’re seeing the start of a shift where people follow happiness first, above all else. It certainly seems like that’s starting to happen with the way financial independence and minimalism have gained popularity. Here’s hoping the trend continues 🙂

  2. I didn’t make resolutions, but I did make 2017 goals. Ugh, all of those comments about your life are gross; I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that. I think the big theme of FIRE is that it’s okay to be weird. Even within the FIRE community you have so many different lifestyles. Frugal living comes in many different forms, and it’s not up to us to say what’s the “right” way.

    I was always the weirdo, so as an adult it’s not that odd to have people question mine and Mr. Picky Pincher’s “peculiar” lifestyle and money decisions. Haters gonna hate. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend!My Profile

    1. That’s one of the reasons I love the FIRE community. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. And none of these crazy ideas seem all that crazy to anyone!

      Definitely agree that haters are gonna hate!

  3. it is ok to be weird. I am also single, no kids and get all those comments. I get comments on other lifestyle choices also (vegan, zero waste minimalist). But all these choices makes us authentic. Who wants to blend in drone society anyway?

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