Embracing A Simple Lifestyle: Saying Goodbye To A Life That Was No Longer Working
I had a friend ask me the other day what I had done that day, and my reply was that I had done next to nothing. An honest answer in that I hadn’t done any of the things we associate with “doing things.” I hadn’t worked, nor had I run errands, gone shopping, done chores around the house…by the standards of today’s modern world I had indeed done nothing
But upon closer inspection I had done quite a bit. I visited with loved ones and friends. That took up quite a chunk of that particular day. I sat in the sun and listened to the birds and watched the clouds flow by. I stalked a deer and took a close-up picture for my memory box. I read for awhile and even managed to find time to do some writing and take a nap. Food for body, mind and soul.
I have worked one job or another for nearly forty-five years, longer than most of you reading this have been alive. I have owned businesses, been married, been divorced, raised a son on my own, climbed mountains, fought the rat race, owned homes, done lawn work, played sports for decades….in other words, I have lived life at a reasonably fast and non-stop pace.
Now, at sixty-two, I have decided that it is time to step back, gear it down a bit, and appreciate those things that for decades were ignored. And I have never been happier. I absolutely love my life. First time ever I have been able to say that….i love my life. I do not feel the need to “do” anything. I help others when I can, make sure I take time for myself, and love those so important to me. It is an amazingly full and rewarding life I live today.
When I wrote that reflection I had just finished my second year of teaching at a private school in Beaverton, Oregon. I was about three weeks from starting a new teaching endeavor in Olympia and was seriously contemplating semi-retirement at the soonest possible date. Little did I know that I would leave that new job two months into the school year because of unacceptable working conditions. In other words, my peace of mind was more important to me than the paycheck that job offered.
Is it possible for those of you reading this to do the same thing? Of course, most of us have to work. We have responsibilities that have to be met; that is an absolute that can’t be denied. There are jobs and debts and families and the list seems endless at times. Where is the time in that hectic day of yours to just be? Well, folks, you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. I can tell you the steps I took to put myself in position to do what I did, and I can also tell you the decisions I made to make it all possible.
HOW IT BEGAN
It began with a realization that I was not satisfied with my lifestyle, that it was not bringing me happiness. I had worked for over four decades, for the most part the typical nine-to-five scenario, five days a week, that leaves a person exhausted at the end of the week and wondering why the weekend is so short. Whoever came up with the forty hour work week was either a sadist by nature or had never worked under the conditions they envisioned. And since I was a fairly typical American, I managed to spend most if not all of my income each month. That left me with a vision of the future where work was necessary and just breaking even was the best I could hope for. In addition, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer I was able to handle the stress and the physical demands of working full-time? The typical adult works straight through their most productive years only to enter retirement too tired and beaten down to finally enjoy the golden years. Needless to say, after imagining a fairly realistic representation of my future, I was not overjoyed. So what could I do? What could I change? What facets of my life were set in stone and which could be altered or eliminated? Thus the quest for a better future began.
CHANGE WAS NECESSARY
My needs were few. I needed shelter, food, and a few creature comforts. I have never needed the newest toy, the flashiest car, the next high tech gadget. It’s just not who I am. I was at that time renting a wonderful cottage on four wooded acres and I enjoyed the freedom that renting gave me….no lawn work, no repairs, no property taxes, etc. Since I live alone my grocery bills weekly amounted to less than $50, certainly not an extravagant drain of my income. I decided to monitor my spending for a month to see what I was spending my money on and by extension what I was wasting. Every penny was accounted for and at the end of the month I had a fairly good idea what I needed to do to shave expenses.
Once I had spending down to the lowest possible level I needed to look at my income. What if I quit my full-time job? Where would the money come from? I had just reached early retirement age, but my Social Security was not going to meet expenses, so that left the necessity of a part time job. Considering the fact that I had worked full-time for four decades, the thought of working part- time sounded damn good to me. Even in today’s uncertain and unstable economy, a part time job is not that hard to obtain. I also liked the freedom that a part time job gave me, and I also had the realization that if something better came along I could always switch part time careers.
A HAPPY ENDING
All of this took some time to formulate and make a reality, but today I write when I want to; I take on only the writing jobs that I want; I draw early retirement; and I lack for nothing. This minimalist lifestyle has become somewhat of a challenge to me. How can I further cut expenses? Where can I make a few extra dollars of income without infringing too much on the free time I have grown to love? As I write this it is eight a.m. on a Wednesday morning. I am having my cup of tea and watching the rain fall as I write my hub and organize for the rest of the day. Around noon I will go for a walk with my girlfriend/significant other/soulmate and we will talk about our future farm that we plan on buying and while we are walking we will watch the birds flying and the clouds drifting by and we will say hello to the neighbors. I am still young enough to enjoy life, my health is great, and I am stress free and in a very positive frame of mind. In other words, as I said earlier, I love my life.
I am not implying that most of you can just quit your job and live in a Utopian world of self-sufficiency. I am, however, suggesting that you can change your way of thinking about what is and is not important and make some decisions that will allow you more freedom to enjoy life and spend more time with loved ones. Is it more important that you buy an expensive gift for a loved one or that you spend more time with that loved one? Is it more important that you live in a bigger house and drive a newer car, buried in debt, or live more frugally debt-free? I know what I want; I took the steps necessary to achieve those things. Now it’s your turn. As Mr. Spock was fond of saying, “Live long and prosper!”
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
For other billybuc hubs on this topic see:
- Lifestyle Choices: Leaving The Rat Race Behind
Leaving the rat race behind is a lifestyle choice. Social issues like unemployment and debt can be guarded against but it takes a conscious decision and willingness to change.
- Owning Your Life
A positive way to look at the brilliance of being you by rewriting stories from your past that keep you stuck.Empower yourself.