Radically Content by Jamie Varon | Exclusive Excerpt
Read an Exclusive Excerpt From Radically Content, a Revolutionary Memoir Arriving This Spring
If you've spent the last couple years untangling yourself from Hustle Culture and trying to find who you are outside of your achievements and productivity, then we've got just the book for you. Fans of Untamed, this is your next favorite read. In Radically Content, published by Rock Point, author Jamie Varon explores how to build a satisfied life in an endlessly dissatisfied world.
Too many of us are waiting for our lives to begin, for when we have the perfect careers, bodies, and partners, and when our lives finally feel "good enough." But what is good enough? Who gets to decide? And when do we ever reach it?
Jamie takes a sharp, incisive look at the industries that are constantly telling us to do more, be more, and keep striving, pushing, and hustling, and shows you how to radically opt out of societal conditioning — and opt into yourself.
We've learned to be terrified of contentment, thinking it will lead to complacency. Yet, being content in a world that profits off our dissatisfaction is not complacency. It's revolutionary. Radically Content releases worldwide on April 12, 2022, but you don't have to wait until then to get a sneak peek. Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt.
As a girl, I'd often escape into my daydreams. During boring moments or when I was trying to sleep, I'd concoct new realities for myself. At first, it was harmless. But then, as I grew up and entered my teens and then my twenties, it became a way to disassociate from reality. It became a way to leave myself and imagine a new life that felt increasingly far away.
It became a way for me to escape into "I'll be happy when . . ."
I'll be happy when I've lost weight.
I'll be happy when this guy likes me.
I'll be happy when I've achieved this thing.
What started as a harmless way to flex my imagination became something that actively harmed me, a place I could go to escape myself and the present moment.
When I made the decision to change my life and find happiness right where I was, I knew I had to let go of the daydreams. I was still using that as a place to retreat to, a place to perfect my life. I'd lull myself to sleep with these fantasies, and of course the life I'd constructed in my mind wasn't messy or difficult or anxiety-ridden. No, it was always perfect. And so, reality felt like a lackluster version of the life I was living inside my mind. I wouldn't allow myself to be happy until I had all of the things I was dreaming about, thinking that it was my motivation. Not being happy was my punishment for not being there yet.
And I was missing my real, imperfect, beautiful life by escaping there.
Letting go of the perfect picture I had of my life felt like killing off a part of myself. Achievement isn't bad on its own. Achievement can be wonderful. But achieving when you are truly able to embrace it from a healed place is one thing. Achieving when you are trying to prove your worth—it complicates everything.
But, I didn't know what I was going to look forward to. I remember thinking to myself: So without my "I'll be happy when's" I just have . . . Right Now? I hate my Right Now! Nothing is okay in my Right Now! My Right Now isn't perfect at all—I'm not anywhere I expected to be and I'm not thin and I'm not accomplished enough and my marriage takes work and I'm not a famous writer—I'm nothing. I felt as if I was nothing, with proof. I felt I had nothing.
Which, of course, wasn't true, but escaping into the "I'll be happy when . . ." had made it true.
Because it's all completely perfect in our minds. There's never any obstacles or fear or anxiety or fights or insecurities when we play it out in our minds.
When I stopped my daydreams, when I stopped projecting my happiness onto some future moment of perfection, I watched as several dreams fell away. Once I realized that I couldn't really achieve my way into a certain kind of contentment, I had to root myself in the present over and over, and find that contentment exactly where I was. I had to be radically present. Radically content. Radically honest. Anything else wasn't going to work.
The achievements, the accomplishments, the milestones—they went to their rightful place: as the additions to an already beautiful life in progress. Not when. Not if. Now.
I realized, on this journey, that what I had assumed was "happiness" was not that at all.
It was healing.
I realized that my fantasies and disassociations had become a way to escape into a healed version of myself.
I realized how much time I'd spent on the sidelines, watching other people enjoy their lives, caved in on myself. How much of my life I'd spent feeling undeserving, unworthy, and hesitant. How I let the world tell me who I am, where I belong, and what experiences I get to have. How many times I put my joy on layaway until I was "better."
By letting go of the "I'll be happy when . . . " mentality, I was able to work on healing myself and how I saw myself. I was able to appreciate who I was in the present. I refused to let another moment pass me by. I refused to be a sideline character in my own existence.
It wasn't that I had become so undeniably happy that I never had a bad day or a difficult situation or an unruly mood. It's that I had healed enough to know I could handle any life situation that came up unexpectedly. I healed so that I could actually hear my emotions, instead of denying and repressing them, terrified of what they might reveal to me.
I thought it was happiness I was longing for, but it turned out that what I wanted more than anything was the healing. It's in that healing that I was able to notice the moments of my life that were beautiful, or challenging, or opportunities to evolve even deeper.
It doesn't matter where we go, what we achieve, or how much we change our external life. The one constant is how we feel about ourselves, how much we allow ourselves to feel, how much of our past we heal and evolve from. I've been deeply unhappy in lots of beautiful places. Wherever you go, there you are.
I spent so much of my teens and twenties afraid to face myself. Because of that, I'd escape into those fantasies, thinking that I would be happy once I checked off all these life achievements. I was terrified of my emotions, of what they'd reveal to me if I felt them, if I looked at them, if I spent considerable time with myself, without distracting, avoiding, numbing, disassociating, and escaping. I drank a lot of alcohol to avoid that reckoning. I smoked a solid amount of weed to avoid it. I overate to avoid it. I was reckless and obsessive with men and women to avoid it. I spent my twenties constructing a mechanism within that would do anything and everything I could to avoid the healing I needed the most. I don't remember being nineteen years old. Or twenty-two. Or twenty-four. I wasn't present. Alive. I was operating from my most unhealed, fearful self, terrified that if I slowed down, if I faced myself, if I opened myself up to that kind of vulnerability—that I'd fall apart.
But, I've come to understand that sometimes you need to fall apart, so you can reconstruct yourself in a stronger way.