It’s kind of weird to have someone else explain your situation to you as they have told other people. Today I had a conversation with my dad about how someone had asked what I’m up to. It was odd, and gave me pause to hear how my dad was explaining my situation to other people. There were bits of it that almost sounded apologetic for my situation.
He told them that I had been laid off from my job and couldn’t afford $1000 per month to live where I had been living before (with bills, rent, and utilities it was actually more like $2400). The truth of the matter is there was a lot more to it than a massive layoff at a job I worked for twenty years. A job that cut over 100 of us loose just before a pandemic to save money.
The truth of the matter is that I decided to follow opportunity to do a number of things I had been putting on hold for most of my life. The layoff was really just the catalyst. The opportunity was having a big empty chunk of house that has been in my family for generations up in some of the most remote country in northern Colorado. Living up here was not a result of getting my ass handed to me by life.
It was a calculated move that I gave a lot of thought to and made a lot of sacrifices for. I lived hand to mouth working for a university for terrible pay, no chance of advancement, and paying out the nose for rent for two decades. In the seven years I lived in the little rental where I landed after my divorce, I paid $89,000 for a house my landlords turned around and sold for $249,000.
I’ve been living for someone else in so many ways.
After my divorce, I got the freedom to make decisions which weren’t dictated by an abusive spouse. I wasn’t happy in the city where I was living, and though I never had any intentions of living there more than a few years, or working that job for any longer than I had to, I found myself stuck there for 20 years. Just getting by. Watching my good years dissolve and thinking my life would have a chance to start when I was 54 and the last of my kids was off child support. Then things fell into place and there was another way that I could work wherever I lived, have affordable rent, and live in a beautiful location.
I’m 46 years old. How many of us can say that they’ve had a shot at their dream? If you did, wouldn’t you go for it? Even this late in the game.
In January 2021, I moved back to my home town and began renovations on the place where I am living, while beginning my career path as a freelance writer. I write content for an agency that produces content for corporation websites, for anything from blogs and white papers to product descriptions and landing pages. When I’m not writing copy, I’m working on my book (or the other way around). Which in two years turned into three books. Though my income isn’t nearly as predictable (or high-paying) as my job at the university, it is fulfilling. I don’t have to worry about someone stabbing me in the back, and I don’t have to watch inept administrators and sychophants climb the ladder, stepping all over the rest of us anymore. I don’t have to put up with literally being yelled at by a supervisor who had absolutely no business managing other people.
I don’t wake up every day wondering when I’m going to be released from the monotony of an unlived life. Every day I wake up I get to choose what to make of my life.
I’ve been watching YouTube videos of others living a fulfilling life and I came to the realization that I was enthralled by their lives…not realizing what I was doing wasn’t much different. It’s not a conventional life, and some people might not understand it, but it is a life.
Since my rent is covered by the amount of renovation I’m doing on this house–a lot of which hasn’t been touched in decades–I get to follow my dream to write full-time. I couldn’t do it without the opportunity to live in this old house. I have an office, a big bedroom, deep old timey tub, and I am surrounded on all sides by some of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado. I don’t have a dishwasher or a clothes dryer, so I have to wash dishes by hand and hang clothes on the line. Sometimes the house is cold, but the same is true for everyone living up here. We don’t have a Walmart or a Kroger within an hour drive. The worst part of living up here is the isolation.
Which isolation for a writer…jeez, a lot of people pay good money to go on writer retreats to get a fraction of this isolation. It’s good for me. It keeps me out of Target too, which is easier on the bank account.
For the old house, I’ve put life into it that it hasn’t seen in a very, very long time. There are lots of things about this place that are very beautiful too, and over the last year, I have made so much of it my own that it’s barely recognizable as it once was. But like I’ve said, I’ve made some sacrifices which were unimaginably hard. Maybe I’ll talk about them one of these days.
But I’m writing. I’m teaching myself photography and webdesign and pitching to publications for travel articles and I am currently surviving. Sure, I’m broke as hell, but living in the city, there were months after I paid child support, bills, rent, and put gas in my car I would have $8 to get me through the rest of the month. The big difference here is I’m no longer miserable, working for someone else. A place which replaced me less than a week after I was laid off. I work for myself. My alarm clock is whenever I wake up. I work as late as I want. I don’t have traffic to fight. I don’t let myself feel guilty anymore about taking a nap or drinking too much coffee.
Does it get lonely? Sure. But I have a couple good friends I talk to regularly. I have my yellow lab. I get to help my folks out whenever they need me. And when the weather is nice, I can always get in my car and go. I am less than twenty minutes away from hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and mountains I can hike and explore in the summer too.
And I get to write.
For a very long time, I was criticized and persecuted for writing. Now I get to do it for real. For that, I have plenty of wealth in ways many people cannot imagine. I get to have peace in my soul because I’m finally doing what I love. Do I worry about my next paycheck? Yes. Don’t you? If COVID has taught any of us anything it is that life comes with no guarantees. Do I get bored or lonely? Absolutely. Don’t you?
I might not be a professor or an electrician or an account manager or a mechanic, but I get to do what I want to do. Someone I once knew told me that I didn’t have a lot to offer when it came to relationships. “Women need security” she told me. My thoughts on that are one would hope that someone wanted a partner who was content. I can be broke and a little bit panicked as to where the money is coming from, but I’m very secure in how much joy this path in my life has brought me. If nobody wants to share that, then there’s more for me, because who needs someone so shallow anyway? I’m not sure where men were told that our happiness depended on how well we could take care of someone else. Having to carry someone else my whole adulthood has not been fulfilling. Why would I care if anyone thought what I had to offer them was attractive or not? If that isn’t some Patriachial shit, I don’t know what is.
My life is taking me places right now. My only regret is that it took so long to get here. The learning curve can be steep too. And it’s sometimes hard to make anyone understand what it is I’m doing. I followed an opportunity to leave the rat race and take off in my own direction.