Starting Over After 40
Finding The Courage To Start Over
Starting over at any age can be really scary, whether it's starting a new career, going back to school, getting divorced or even getting married. Major life changes often blindside us and turn our World upside down, so we all know how hard it can be to get through life's unexpected ups and downs. Making the choice to initiate a major life change ourselves can be terrifying.
Just the thought of having to start over from scratch after the age of 40 can be absolutely paralyzing. I have unfortunately had to start over in my life countless times, and contrary to what one might think, it never gets any easier. My name is Bambi and this is my story about starting over again after 40.
Sometimes Love Just Isn't Enough
Recently, after 16 years of being with my husband, I finally found the courage to walk away from our rough & rocky 15 year marriage. People often ask, why I stayed so long if I was so unhappy. It's a valid if naïve question. At first, it's all about love, you tell yourself that it will get better. Then your spouse promises to change if you'll just stay. You want to believe the little lies, you tell yourself that marriage is for better or worse, so you keep hanging on hoping the better part will eventually begin.
In the mean time, years go by and life happens. There are good times as well as bad times, you desperately cling to the good, hoping it will last. In my particular case, during the first five years of my marriage my husband struggled with alcohol addiction & mental health issues. He finally got sober after a short stay in jail & the ultimatum of not being able to come home unless he went to treatment & sobered up. The sobriety stuck, unfortunately the mental health issues that were causing the excessive drinking were never dealt with. He did try to deal with his bi-polar disorder at first, but missed the extreme highs that went away with the medication. He quit taking his meds and soon I was heading for the door.
Then fate intervened, tragedy occurred. He was in a flash fire explosion and burned over 85% of his body. His family pretty much left him for dead, but I didn't. I'm just not the kind of person who kicks someone when they're down. I stood by him, nursed him back to health, and for a while his accident brought us back together. For the next few years, while he needed me to take care of him, things were pretty good. He took his meds and together we survived, but it didn't last.
Eventually, as he became more independent, he quit taking his meds and the downward spiral began again. Then when I lost my job and joined the millions of unemployed Americans, and he lost the lifestyle he had become accustomed to, things quickly went from bad to worse. Rather than step up to the plate and help out, he developed an expensive drug habit, and became increasingly paranoid, anti-social and angry at the World.
Picking Up The Pieces
There just comes a point sometimes when you ask yourself, do I really want to keep living like this, always in the path of the storm? Walking away from a bad situation can be really hard to do, especially if you've invested a lot of time, energy and your heart into it. I don't hate my my former spouse, he will always have a place in my heart. When all is said and done, he's not a bad person. After all, I did spend 16 years with him. Yes, he was controlling, verbally & mentally abusive, negative & has mental health & substance abuse issues...But, he was also a good father to my kids, has a fun sense of humor & I believe he did the best he could considering his own personal demons.
It just came to a point where my kids were all grown up and moved out with families of there own, and I realized I had just spent the last 16 plus years of my life taking care of everyone but me. That even though my kids had grown up, my husband never had & never would. That if I ever wanted to pursue my dreams, travel, have fun and find happiness, I was going to have to do it on my own because that just wasn't what he wanted for his future.
He was perfectly content letting me take care of him. He had no interest in traveling or even actually leaving the house if he didn't have to. He could care less what I was doing as long as I fed him when he was hungry and didn't try to change his TV channel. He would have actually preferred if I lived elsewhere & just came over to feed him. He had become more like a pet, or child than a husband.
Still, it wasn't easy to leave. Change is scary, I had been there for 16 years, I wasn't the young adventurous woman I had once been. Then there was the guilt factor, he had become disabled in his accident, and even though I knew that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, what would people think? Also, I knew that he would fight me leaving. That the only way I could get away would be to basically run away, leaving just about everything behind and never look back.
When I finally did get up the courage to go, it was even harder than I had anticipated. I did have to leave everything behind other than what I could fit in my Jeep and my cat. Friends and even family reacted to the split even worse, and he fed the fire. I was the bad guy that had deserted him, the poor helpless disabled guy. People were angry with me and let me know it, even my two youngest sons.
My New Home
Choosing To Live Full-Time In An RV
I've always wanted to travel once the kids were all grown up and moved out. When I first married my former husband, we shared this dream, but after the kids moved out he made every excuse possible not to make it a reality. The big one was that we can't afford it, but maybe by next summer. After two years, and lots of research on my part that indicated that an RV lifestyle would be much more affordable than the money pit house we were in, I finally realized that he really just didn't want to do it.
When I finally found the courage to leave my husband & start over, I thought that my dream of living and traveling in an RV was lost with the marriage. I couldn't possibly do it alone, could I?
Then as I started reviewing my finances and searched for an affordable place to live, I came to realize that adopting a full-time RV lifestyle would actually work better for me than anything else. My monthly income just wasn't enough to afford the high Minnesota apartment rental costs. I could possibly afford to rent a room in a shared house or apartment, but I really didn't want to move in with a complete stranger and hope for the best. Plus I had a cat, which limited my apartment and roommate options.
After reviewing my finances, I had enough money to purchase a nice used motor home, insurance, roadside assistance and all the things I would need to live in it full-time. I also knew from two years of researching RV living that it would be much cheaper for me to afford RV park fees & gas, than rent and utilities in an apartment. In fact the monthly costs of living in an RV was almost half of what it would cost me to live in an apartment.
So, the only thing that was stopping me from living my dream was my own fear of traveling alone. So, I started researching and found out that lots of single women were out there doing just what I wanted to do, they even had an RV club with thousands of members. A lot of them were even much older than me, in their 60's & even 70's. So, the only thing stopping me from living my dream, was me.
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Starting A New Life
Getting Ready For Life On The Road
Since I left my marriage with basically just my clothes & a couple of boxes of stuff I couldn't live without, like my laptop, I really was starting over from scratch. This was another factor that helped me decide on becoming a full-time RVer. Motor-homes are basically already furnished, which would save me a ton of money on furniture. I was also lucky enough to find an older model RV that was in excellent shape. An older couple had purchased it to live in while they built a new house, and had refurbished everything in it from the refrigerator to the engine to the water heater.
Still, I wanted to make sure I would be completely comfortable with my new lifestyle before actually hitting the open road. My class C motor-home is considered a mini-motor-home even though it is 26 feet long. First I wanted to be sure I would be comfortable driving such a large vehicle across the Country. Also I wanted to be sure I would be comfortable living in a relatively small confined space.
So, before hitting the open road, I decided to take a couple of short local road trips and then spend a month in a local RV park. This also gave me a chance to become comfortable with the ins & outs of RV living. Time to learn how to empty the sewage tank, hook up the electricity, water & sewer, and how to refill the LP gas, work the generator and other RV maintenance I would need on the road.
Ready To Hit The Open Road
After living in my RV for over a month, I was ready to hit the open road and start exploring America. Having spent most of the last 40 plus years in the sub-zero ice and snow, I was really looking forward to spending the winter somewhere that wasn't sub-zero for most of the winter.
With no real plan, I started driving South and West. Being on the road was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about traveling alone. I also learned pretty fast that I needed to get better at budgeting my money. Constantly traveling can get really expensive really fast, so I started looking for somewhere to settle down for a few months & enjoy my first warm winter in years.
I Love New Mexico
Land of Enchantment
After wandering for a little while, I landed in the middle of nowhere New Mexico and fell in love. New Mexico is beautiful. Almost every day I have been here has been around 70 degrees and sunny. The RV park I'm staying at is walking distance from the Rio Grande river and at the foot of the Caballo Mountains.
Sunsets here are amazing and the people I've met have been wonderful, especially during my first holiday season away from my family. I'm not sure if I'll come back to New Mexico next winter, but I've enjoyed it this year. I think I'll choose to go East and South next year though so I can experience a different travel adventure.