Life changes are always hard. Making changes that have no reset is really hard. Choosing to walk away from a 20 year career, essentially at the top of your game, for about half the money and selling all your stuff – priceless.
Of course we’re leaving behind all of the bills, a mortgage, a sedentary lifestyle and a stressful job at a point in life where stress matter, so all in all I think it’s a fair trade.
So how do you prepare to leave a house, a life of accumulation and comfort to move into a few hundred square feet with weight limits? All that stuff, much of it is easy to get rid of and expensive to store. But what about all that paper we keep? How many years of taxes? Pictures. Family history documents – records of birth, and death. The things that defined me.
Preparing to be a nomad, from a suburban middle class life, is unnerving and liberating all at once. In my twenties I once dropped out of college, walked out on a lease, put all my stuff in my mother’s basement (just a few boxes of records, books and clothes) and hitchhiked from Milwaukee to Prince Rupert Canada to catch a boat to Alaska, in March, in the snow, all on a whim. No problem. This time things are a little more complex. Or are they?
During the years when I (well Barb and I, but that’s another story) used to roam between Alaska and Mexico and Guatemala, we would meet many other Americans on vacation “down south”. I remember noticing that I could always tell the difference between those gone for a week and those gone for a month or more. The short term vacationers, the one’s on a week or two trip always asked, right away, “so what do you do?”. The answer was obvious. This. Right here, right now, THIS is what I do. Now I know this answer perplexed and disappointed them, after all, it broke from the convention most people operate by. We define ourselves by what we do. Our identity is based so much on the thing that is supposed to financially support our lives, not become it!
Flash forward thirty years….wow, really over thirty years?! The principals remain the same. I had a bonfire awhile back. Lots of mundane items, bank and credit card statements. Warranty information. Old loan documents. But also my parents obits. Their death certificates. Evidence of the joys and pains in my live. I was reminded of that question, “so, what do you do”.
This. I do this. Whatever this is. I look forward, I am not my job, or the sum of all the paper and stuff I’ve accumulated. I am not the years I’ve put in or how vested I am in a retirement system. I am whatever Jeanne and I decide we want to do.