This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for months. I’ve had the ideas swirling around inside and I’ve been putting words to those ideas while I work, walk the dog, do the dishes, work in the garden, cut flowers, and wash my hair. I’m sure none of it will come out as eloquently as I’ve rehearsed, but here goes.
Back in December I left my job – the one that had me spending far too many weeknights away from home sitting on a hotel bed on Long Island, too full from dinner at the local tavern, warm laptop across my knees while I worked and watched past episodes of Intervention and Hoarders. Yes, really. I watched those things even though I watch NO television at home. This became my routine. But by December and after three years at the company, the paycheck was no longer worth it.
I ended up being out of full-time work for nearly six months, something that at one time would have scared the bejeezus out of me. But, I came home that last time from Long Island in the best mood I’d been in for a very long time and not at all scared. The time ahead of me was a gift, one that could not be wasted. I took the time to figure out how I could make the life I’d been dreaming about a reality.
I already knew what I wanted because I had been dreaming and journaling about it for years. Most of this work began when I started Tomato Envy since it was born from the vision of my ideal life. Then, when I was alone on Long Island for work eating breakfast or dinner, I used to pull out my well-worn notebook and start putting more of my daydreams on paper. There were bold statements about my truths-things that I believe regardless of what I’ve been told, how I was raised, or what society says. There were also bulleted wish lists, lists of things I was grateful for, doodles, garden plans and diagrams, and rants. Sometimes, I would look back on my past entires and marvel about how many of my dreams had come true, and this inspired me to keep it going.
This winter, with no job to go to, I practiced living my ideal life. Our home was clean, I had time to get most everything done, I cooked great meals every day, I almost never drove my car, I got to know our lovely new puppy, I planned this year’s garden, I started my beekeeping classes, I meditated, I picked up a few freelance writing gigs, and I walked in the woods. And, I looked for work, a demoralizing process that has absolutely nothing to do with qualifications or ambition.
I needed to go back to work, but I decided this time it would all be a little different. What I wanted was a life that was consistent with my big picture, the way I dreamed things could be. I came very close to going the other way, the way most people probably thought I would go, right back into a lifestyle and career that would have me dreaming about the future instead of being able to live many of my dreams right now.
This is a short list of things that helped me define my big picture:
- I like to be home.
- I’d rather cook meals at home than go out to eat.
- I don’t enjoy frequent travel even if it means I’m not going to see the world before I die. When I travel for pleasure, I tend to visit my favorite places over and over again (Big Sur!).
- I am snobby about food and that’s OK.
- I can afford to make less money if it means I can do work that interests me in a way that fits my ideal life.
- I do not need a vacation every year, a new car or new clothes.
- My time is more valuable to me than money.
- I can learn from the past and plan for the future, but I am only promised the present moment.
- I need fresh air, time outdoors and nature.
- I don’t need my job to provide me a social outlet.
- I do not find it demeaning to fold my husband’s socks, clean the house, or make dinner every night.
- I do find it demeaning to constantly pander to people I don’t respect because I need to make money.
- In addition to using my brain for thinking and planning, I enjoy physical labor and working with my hands.
- I feel good when I accomplish something big at work, but I do not need others to recognize my accomplishments.
- I want to do so many things, I will never be bored. Boredom is for boring people.
- I do not wish to have a high tolerance for stress.
- I want to live as sustainably as possible with local shopping, local food and local work.
- I want to dress casually and comfortably more often.
- I want to enjoy more of life now rather than continue putting off my rewards.
- I want to be engaged in my work and believe in the cause.
- I want to eliminate our mortgage early to permanently reduce our living expenses even though most people think that’s a dumb idea.
- I want time to spend in my garden, with my bees, in my kitchen, with my pets, with family and friends and with Mr. President.
- I want to be my authentic self at work and at play.
- I want to expand my social circles (my “tribe”) with people who are like-minded.
- I want to buy less stuff.
- I want to spend as little time in the car as possible.
- I want to grow as much of my own food as possible.
- I want to incorporate physical activity into every day.
You know the Law of Attraction? Well, I just kind of believe in it. While I believe that what you think about you bring about, I don’t believe just sitting around thinking about stuff you want will manifest those things. I believe that once you know your big picture, you must think about it daily while you make decisions and pull the levers that make it happen. There has to be action along with the intent. There is no room for decisions that aren’t consistent with your big picture.
So, in the end, I made a decision that fit my big picture. And, boy does it fit…almost to an eerie degree. I am closer to my dream life than I have ever been or thought I would be! And, it only has a little to do with the job I chose. The rest is made up of all the other things that make me tick.
Why am I telling you all of this and departing from my usual practical how-tos and recipes for this post? Besides my selfish need to share this story with you, I’m telling you because this actually is a how-to. I want for you to discover your big picture too, if you have not already, and get out there and live it!
If you are not where you want to be, you can change it! First, you must be clear about what you want and write those things down. Before you start writing, you need quiet. I mean quiet in your mind with no other voices telling you what success looks like, what things you should want or what is important in life. This step requires serious effort because you will have to ignore decades of programming, outside stimuli and things you have long believed to be true. You must listen to and heed only your voice.
Be patient that your big picture may take some time to materialize but if you keep it top of mind, you can make it happen. Finally, you must be free of too many financial obligations and learn to live below your means. I have found that the biggest reason people do things they don’t want to do is because they need money. They get trapped in a way of life and forget that most of it is self-imposed. Some of my most hopeless days were when I had lots of student loan debt – six figures worth – and a wallet full of credit cards. Once that was gone, I began to see what was there all the time: choices, opportunities and my ideal life waiting for me.
I won’t say there have been no challenges, and I understand that work, relationships and life always involve compromise and sometimes, unpleasantness. I am adjusting to a new routine that is keeping me very busy, but I know my big picture is always there reminding me which way to go.