2014 has been an experience, to say the least. Most people around 40 (I turn 40 this year) go through a mid-life crisis of some sort.
They’re either out having affairs with much younger people and buying inconvenient sports cars trying to recapture their youth, or are on an inner journey trying to “find themselves”.
For me, 2014 was definitely an inner journey, but it wasn’t to find myself really. It was more of a journey to find who I wasn’t.
What I didn’t realize six months ago was that I already knew who I was. It took me running off and trying to be someone else for a while to realize that.
While I was on that journey, I realized that I’m just not a very money oriented person. If I have money in my pocket, you can bet I can find a real need to spend it on. Because of that, I’m nearly always broke and waiting for payday to roll around again. Life has been like that for as long as I can remember and I’m just not good at living any other way.
I realized that having a nice house and a lot of fancy stuff just doesn’t rank high on my list of priorities. I’m as sentimental as the next guy (no, really, I am), but I’d rather have memories of who the person was than a bunch of extra crap to deal with every time I move. As far as my house goes, I’m perfectly fine with our tiny home.
Being able to puff up and tell people how important my husband is at his work is another thing that doesn’t rank high with me.
If his passions led him to be an important and high paid person at work I’d love him no more or be no more proud of him than telling people he’s a cook or butcher or anything else he could do. I want him to enjoy his job no matter what it is and I’m not going to crack a whip on his back because I want more than what we have. If I felt like that, I think I’d need to find another husband rather than demanding more and more from this one.
Living a hustle and bustle life as part of the rat race or trying to fit in with a certain rank of society also isn’t my cup of tea. I’m a tattooed, Pagan grandma that would rather be on a motorcycle than drive a fancy car. I haven’t “fit in” with society in a long time and I’m ok with that.
I would rather spend my days cooking, gardening and running around in floor-length skirts barefoot or on two wheels with the wind in my hair in the mountains somewhere than attending company dinners and wearing shoes that hurt my feet. I’d never be comfortable in that setting.
I realize, as I’ve said before, that our lifestyle isn’t for everyone. What the “other half” need to realize is that neither is theirs. Not everyone is willing to sell their soul to the corporate gods to drive this year’s model car or have a maid.
Some of us have other goals in mind, like staying sane, having time to watch our grandbabies grow up, planting a garden and enjoying life.
It’s not that either lifestyle is bad or wrong, really, it’s just that life is different for some people.
Some would say that living like we do should never be an option, much less a choice. I say as long as we’re happy, what difference does it make?
Happiness comes in all shapes, sizes and walks of life. What makes me happy might make someone else miserable, but in turn, what another considers really living, might (and probably would) feel like a prison sentence to me.
You should never, in my opinion, assume someone else isn’t, or can’t be, happy in a lifestyle simply because you couldn’t. You should never try to force your lifestyle on someone else, no matter how good your intentions, because you assume that since you couldn’t be happy that way, that they aren’t either.
You should also understand that some people fall into a certain way of life because they didn’t have a choice but chose to make the best of it and after living a certain way for so long, not everyone can adapt to living differently.
It puts me in the mind of a show I used to watch as a kid. “The Beverly Hillbillies”. For those who have no idea what that is, it was a show about a family of dirt-floor poor “hillbillies” that struck oil and moved to Beverly Hills because they were suddenly rich.
They had a mansion and “Granny”, one of the main characters, still cooked possum for dinner. They didn’t know how to be rich, had no appreciation for money or the things it could buy. They had no concept that they’d been “poor”, because it was the only life they’d ever known.
I remember my great Aunt commenting occasionally that you can take the hillbilly out of the hills but you can’t take the hills out of the hillbilly.
Basically she meant that you can take a person out of the life they’re accustomed to and shove them into a different lifestyle, but in the end, they will end up living exactly the same way they always have because it’s all they know.
That’s how those six months away ended up feeling to us.
I was happy that my “sister” had a good life that she enjoyed. All of the things she wanted from life, I wanted for her, but I never wanted that life for myself. I let her convince me for a moment that I did but in the end, I was looking into urban homesteading instead of making plans for all the things I could buy and have. She was freaking out over her power bill and I was taking about solar panels and hurricane lamps. She was looking at high-end shopping and I was buying second-hand. She was shopping the big box stores and I was talking about hunting and growing our own food.
We are from two different worlds. I thought we had enough in common for our relationship to survive but after moving down there and being told at every turn that if we were going to live there or do that, then we might as well have stayed in the camper where we were, I came to realize that she was right. We should have just stayed in the camper because moving to a different place and Paul having to work 60 hours a week for 4 months at a “good job” didn’t change who we were or what we wanted from life.
That life ended up feeling like shackles and chains to us. So many rules, so much of who we were didn’t seem to be “good enough” for that life or the people in it. When we stopped being invited to anything but the holiday get-togethers, I started to feel like the family’s little dirty secret.
I was told that none of how things ended was because we were being judged, but that’s simply not true and there’s nothing any of them can say to change my mind now. We were being judged before we ever left and the fact that our life was seen as “not good enough” had everything to do with T wanted me to move there.
When we were first offered to come there, I was told it was because she and I needed each other. The kids had their own life and I spent most of my days alone and I was lonely. Being there would solve that problem. We were offered a place to stay so that we could relocate without having to save up a lot here first.
When Paul got a job there with the same company he’d worked for here and got offered management we were happy but higher paying jobs continued to be pushed at us.
When our credit and finances left us with few options other than a hotel or a run-down trailer park, I would have gone to the trailer park where I could have afforded to live, but I was told it wasn’t good enough and that she would be mad at me if we lived there.
All of my purchases were scrutinized beyond the food I bought.
The brand of dog food I fed my dog was wrong, only the more expensive brand was good enough and I was told I was going to kill my dog because I didn’t want to buy it. Yes, she ate that food while we stayed there but she ate little and infrequently. She didn’t like it but you’ll eat what’s available eventually if you get hungry enough.
My body wash wasn’t good enough because I bought the cheap stuff and couldn’t see spending $3 or $4 on something I could buy for $1 that got me just as clean but might not be “anti-aging”.
I was told I needed to buy a more expensive brand of foundation, more expensive skin-care, the list goes on and on.
It finally got to the point that I’d go with her to do her shopping, but I did most of my shopping alone so I didn’t feel bullied into buying things I couldn’t afford and didn’t want.
The whole thing went from being happy to be able to see my sister more often to hoping she didn’t call or hoping I could avoid an argument if she did.
Of course, all of this was done in the name of “what was best for me”, but everything about my life and who I was seemed to be called into question and attempted to be changed.
The only thing it changed was how I felt about them and it led to me feel like I’d been misled about their intentions in wanting us to move there.
I never once agreed to change my life, my lifestyle or anything else but I was treated like I had. Their originally stated intentions for wanting us there quickly turned into something we hadn’t agreed to or wanted.
In the end, I was told I wasn’t “living up to my potential”. According to whom? Her? Her husband? Her family?
I feel like choosing to live with a smaller impact on the world we’re destroying day by day is living up to my potential. The person she “thought I was 20 years ago” was a child that didn’t know what she wanted or what the world was really about.
Back then, I knew nothing of religion other than what I’d been raised in. I knew nothing of politics. I knew nothing of environmental issues. I knew nothing of the plight of animals, the dangers of destroying our world for one more apartment complex, office building or shopping center.
I knew the world through the limited vision of the people who had raised me. People who cared nothing for animals, nature, politics, environmental concerns…all things that have become very important to me.
How could you really see me as the person I am and not see that living a corporate consumer lifestyle would go against at least 75% of my personal beliefs?
It didn’t take me long to see that my daughter wasn’t the only person she couldn’t see in the present. To her, we were still 20 and my daughter still a baby. Personally, I haven’t been 20 in a long time.
There was a time, 20 years ago, when I thought I wanted a different life, a life that might have looked more like hers, but I’ve grown since then both in the idea of I’ve grown-up and grown as a person.
Do I think my one little life can change the world? Maybe, maybe not, but I can live my life in a way that sets an example to the rest of the world, and even if I don’t change the rest of the world, I can change my world and my impact on the world around me.