I live downtown like lots of people. However, I hardly exhibit the traits of a typical downtowner who wants to live close to work, near lots of amenities, including fine dining and entertainment, and is living the good life through spending of money relatively freely. I don’t even exhibit traits of a student with some budget who’s living reasonably close to school, but is out and about a lot, and has home amenities like the others of cable or subscription TV, lots of tech, that many of their fellow students don’t. Compared to them, for lack of spending, lack of socialization, lots of learning and spirituality (often involving life philosophies), I led the lifestyle of a monk, though I am far from a real monk. I’m just far enough from them in lifestyle that I would be like a monk in comparison.
Lack of spending
One telling mark I live like a downtown monk is by my overall expenditures. Last year (2020), I lived on the equivalent of minimum wage after taxes, so like the real thing for disposable income and not just a calculation of minimum wage income. With my rent (and utilities) taking up 66% of my expenditures, I spent like someone on minimum wage living downtown there. I just saved in other areas like:
- Transportation. No car by choice, so no car insurance and car related expenses, either. Took the bus a literal handful of times, and a $10 cab ride once from my poor planning for timing on a visit to someone I respected a lot and didn’t want to be late.
- Food. $6.33 per day average for all food and drink, with 72% of that spent on groceries. I did no serviced dining (like with a waiter or waitress), and bought lots of discounted slightly old food as a routine for money and reduction of wasted food.
- Entertainment. No cable or digital subscription services of any time. Definitely no concerts, sporting events, books, video games, new tech, and such. I even hardly bought anything, relying on average internet service for a lot of my entertainment, from blogging to news and documentary reading, and tons and tons of learning, starting with 4500 new words and terms!
- Clothing. Didn’t buy any new clothing or even gear for sports or other activities.
- Luxuries. Outside of the life “necessities” for most people in the western world like food & drink, phone and internet in addition to utilities (which should be utilities), some household items, gifts for others so expenditures not for me there, I spent an average of $3.88 per day on myself for “luxuries”. Can you understand why I call myself a downtown “monk” based on finances now? And how I lived on less than minimum wage disposable income in 2020?
Lack of social contact
Another thing about monks is they spend a lot of time either on their own, or at least not socializing among others. I don’t have much of the latter, but that was because I had little of the latter. I had what I deemed “meaningful human contact”, or a face to face (in real life) conversation with one person or small group of person for at least 5 minutes, on only 2 out of every 3 days. So basically, 1 of every 3 days, I didn’t really even talk to anybody in person, and often not on the phone or video calls, either. Downtowners didn’t do that! The pandemic did skew that stat a bit for a few months, but things were pretty good in Nova Scotia for lack of restrictions from our society’s good efforts to curb COVID-19 spread so to not limit social contact on that short level. It was easy to meet friends outside on most days of the year if I had wanted to, and even speak to colleagues at work as we were allowed to come to work, and that actually accounted for most of those days where my meaningful human contact took place.
Outside of work, I had meaningful human contact on just 30% of days. That would be meaningful human contact with acquaintances, as I have no family here and few friends close enough to truly call them friends. I was in year one of my social circle transformation, dissolving a lot of weak relationships that weren’t meaningful into no or next to no relationship that were their true “market” value. COVID limited opportunities to replace them, but it wasn’t like I had a great desire to have more people in my life for the sake of more people. If they weren’t right, I’m fortunate to be able to ignore it and take interest in the gazillion other fascinating things life had to offer!
Lots of learning and spirituality
On 7 of every 8 days, I learned something online for at least 30 minutes. A lot of this wasn’t skills, but knowledge useful for things like art history for my learning to paint, which I didn’t do much but have lots of composition ideas and details to work on for the rest of my life now! I did learn some useful skills in sewing, painting, Gothic and italics calligraphy like a true monk scribe, and data visualization programs for work. I also learned to self-publish a coffee table style book of only text (and equivalent ebook version by design) on my life philosophy quotes, with short accompanying essays. Few monks, I dare challenge, would have a better set of life philosophies quotes they had written to show than mine! Did I mention I learned 4500 words and terms during the year? Of course, I did, but it was worthy of an encore mention! I also listened to at least half an hour of podcasting, often twice that or more, on 7 out of 8 days as well, outside of the online learning.
On the spirituality side, I am not religious like most monks are, but I was as spiritual as any. There was some contemplation with those life philosophies, but the bulk would have been for all the many things I learned, as I didn’t learn them for memorization or awareness. I fully engaged with what it all meant, and altered my life perspectives in addition to expanding them. There was hardly any religion in my life like a monk, as I’m not religious. However, running is often compared to a meditative activity, and I did a lot of running! No, despite the lack of stereotypical spirituality of monks in my life in 2020, there was no shortage of it by comparison in other forms many monks would find challenging to match for identical outcomes.
Really, folks. For those achievements in major characteristics of a monk, I have no doubt I’ve attained “downtown monkhood” to be able to call myself a “downtown monk”. The caveat to my arguments so far, though, would be that it would only apply to 2020 because my evidence was all from 2020. From documentation I have of past years, I can say that 2020 was an extreme year for some of those categories, as it was for many aspects in almost everybody’s world with COVID-19, but that it was only a fluke year in those extremities, not for all those lifestyle practices I mentioned. So far in 2021, and as is the plan, I will be doing the same, with more focus on some things, and less than others, but generally the same outcomes for lack of spending, socializing, and lots of learning and spirituality. No. This is an engrained lifestyle for me now, and you can expect to see lots of it in my writing posts in at least 2021. I have no imposter syndrome about this. I’m the real deal. I’m the real downtown monk.