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September 3, 2012 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure it's not a mid-life crisis. Help me rationalize/forget about my burning desire to quit my job and change my life.

So far in life, I'm winning the rat-race. I'm in my mid-30's. I have a really excellent job with more than enough money and benefits and retirement and the whole nine. I'm good at what I do and I work in a fulfilling field. I'm confident I'll always be gainfully employed. I love my family very much and they love me. We are super close-nit.

I have a non-stop urge to turn my life (and that of my family) upside down by quitting my job and moving away... maybe buying an RV and packing my family in it for a simpler life. Maybe buy a log cabin and live off the grid. Maybe buy a shack on the beach and start a business giving tourists rides out to sea. Then when I convince myself that such things are too drastic, I contemplate other ways to change... start a doggy day care, landscaping or tutoring business. My thoughts go on and on and eventually I'm obsessing about how to inject the most change into my life.

The thing is - I don't hate my job. I don't hate where I live (I actually really like my home, my family, my surroundings). But I'm worried I'm spending my one and only life as just another cog in the wheel.

Is this normal? Has anyone ever given in to these urges and thrown away the security of jobs and stability for excitement and adventure? Does it get old? Did you want your old life back?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Of course it's normal. It wouldn't be a cliche if it weren't.

By "family" do you mean spouse and kid(s)? Because once you have people dependent on you emotionally and financially, you don't of course get to make decisions like this unilaterally. Well, you can, but the consequences will be awful.

Have you talked to them about this?

Also, please remember that even being some nomad on the road or beach means some amount of responsibility, and there will be boring grind aspects to it. Just like you have now, though with different boring grind issues.
posted by rtha at 4:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the key is to channel the urges into creative pursuits and other challenges that give you purpose.

Do you *want* to live off the grid? Do you have solar panels on your house and grow/preserve your own food? Do you keep bees?

What are your creative pursuits? Do you play an instrument, go to concerts? Do you paint or speak another language? You can probably afford to travel, are there places you'd like to visit?

What challenges are in your plans? Do you want to run a marathon, hike the AT, go skydiving or ballooning?

My thoughts go on and on and eventually I'm obsessing about how to inject the most change into my life.

Change is good but it doesn't have to be destructive. Start with a bucket list. Do you have one?
posted by headnsouth at 4:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


My best friend's parents did this. They threw in stable jobs and sold the family home to move to wine country. It was a real sea change. They moved to a small town by the ocean and attempted to start a business specializing in recruitment in the wine industry. unfortunately, the small town hated newcomers. (A family who moved there 30 years ago were still referred to as The Smiths from Big City). They were pointedly ignored and snubbed at every move and local businesses refused to even consider using their services. They tried everything, they even bought a property to show they were serious about staying.

Eventually they simply couldn't afford to stay any longer and after almost 3 years of struggle, moved back to the city, selling their property at a loss. Sorry this story isn't more positive but if you can take anything out of it, I would strongly suggest due diligence on any business idea, get a feel for the locals and maybe taking a extended leave from work to spend some time in your chosen destination to try before you commit.
posted by Jubey at 4:55 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a theory on life. When you are born, generally, your whole life is ahead of you and full of interesting bifurcations that could lead anywhere. Think of life like a funnel that your are entering from the small end. What happens in your 30s though is that the funnel begins to invert. Less and less things are possible and your options slowly reduce until all you can do is die. That weird energy you feel is a response to this limiting nature of aging, meaning to say it's perfectly normal. How you should act on these feelings is up to your own inquiry and soul searching. Your response to the situation will be unique, but I think your feelings are very common.
posted by milarepa at 4:59 PM on September 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


This is exactly what a mid-life crisis is. You've acquired a career, gone through the stressful periods where you had no idea what you were doing, succeeded at it, and figured it out. And now that you're not at the "figuring things out and mastering it" stage, you are looking for the next challenge. And certainly, chucking it all to pack into an RV and starting a tourist company by the beach would be another challenge of the sort that you faced in the beginning of your career.

So what you're looking for is something that gives you that same feeling of adventure and challenge that you had in the beginning of your career. Figure out what that thing is.
posted by deanc at 5:09 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now that you've succeeded at merging onto the great highway of life, you still have energy left over. Maybe some volunteering with/for the less fortunate will help you use that energy and give you an accurate perception of how hard it is to get by without that great job/great family thing you've got going on. If you still have energy left over, with no imaginary ideals about how great it is to be off the highway, then think about what you want to do.
posted by bleep at 5:42 PM on September 3, 2012


When I turned 30, my wife and I quit our jobs, sold our house, cars, and lots of other stuff, and moved overseas. Although I didn't do this alone--my wife and I did this together--I was the driving force behind the change. Your story reminds me a lot of how I felt in the months leading up to our decision to move.

The thrill lasted about four months. After that, what I think may have been an episode of depression sank in. For the first time in my life I found it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I had trouble taking care of even simple responsibilities, even though I had no job and nothing else to do. This improved when I started working, but cropped up again after we returned to the US a few years later and I didn't find work right away.

The damage to my career was nearly catastrophic, and only by what I can only think of as a minor miracle do I still have a career left today.

Now that everything turned out okay, I'm happy I did it. But there was a period of years where I really wondered if it was one of the dumbest decisions I ever made in my life. There were all kinds of great things about the move, many of which I appreciated at the time, and all of which I can look back fondly on now that my life is back on track. One nice thing is that I'm very appreciative of my job and career now, and I can say I had previously taken those things for granted.

As it turns out, my perception of the experience was shaped profoundly by my ability to regain what I had given up. Had I not been able to pick my career up again, I think I'd likely be depressed and very down on the decision; since it all worked out in the end, I'm glad about it.

In any case, I think escape fantasies are common. I probably would not recommend acting on them, though, unless they are more than fantasies. If you really want to open a doggy day care, then maybe you should give that a shot, since you don't want to be 70 and wish you had pursued your passion instead of staying put. But it sounds like you're not so much thinking about running toward a passion that you really want to pursue, but you're thinking about running away from the life you have now. In other words, whatever it is you're thinking about escaping "to"--doggy day care, tourist business, life off the grid, whatever--doesn't hold any real value to you except that it's very different from what you're doing now. That being the case, I'd expect you to have a short-lived euphoria for a time leading up to the move and immediately after, and then settling down into deep feelings of regret after.

On the other hand, if your ability to pick your career right back up after a time away from it is high, you are much more likely to have a positive experience: either you'll find your true passion is to ferry tourists around by the seaside, or, after having the experienced the reality of your escape fantasy, you'll be able to (like me) slide back into your old life.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:46 PM on September 3, 2012 [29 favorites]


Think about exactly how fucking hard living offgrid is. How difficult freelancing and small business is. My parents have worked for themselves their entire life and as their child I hated it. The platitudes about 'your own time' don't mention the needy bullshit from people who call to talk boats at 7am on Christmas day, and the way some businesses are predicated on reputation and you don't get a good one telling people to fuck off, it's Christmas when you know their wife left them a week ago and their business is down the drain and, hey kids, can you hold on a sec? Daddy's doing business. It's different for a lot of businesses, but that's how it is for most small business/self-employed people I know. The freedom to choose your work is predicated on how much you earn.

Yeah, I'm bitter, brut the shiny world of small business ownereship portrayed by the lifehacker/entrepreneur blog set is a calculated marketing strategy. Same with living offgrid blogs, and every other damn thing you read. It's calculated to sell something - the blog, or their packages, or the graphic design business, or whatever.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:01 PM on September 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


I know a lot of people who've decided to do a lot of what you are talking about without going whole hog. How about learning how to install your own solar, and then put just your fridge on it? Or hot water heater? Or one for each?

How about getting a camper and going for a week at a time, three times a year?

How about learning something totally new, and getting really into it?

If you own your own house, the world's your oyster, especially if you don't have an HOA.

How about having BBQs that involve burying a whole pig 4 feet down in a pit in your backyard?

If you own your own house, the world's your oyster, especially if you don't have an HOA. If you do have an HOA, how about moving someplace that doesn't?
posted by small_ruminant at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I totally MEANT to repeat the oyster line because it is SO TRUE!
posted by small_ruminant at 6:09 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge fan of doing things that are on your bucket list, having adventures and changing your life. I don't think you should be "talked down" from that -- that's getting the most out of life!

However, one thing that concerns me about your post is that you seem to treat your family as if they are inanimate objects you can bring with you on this journey. If this is your wife and kids, they are people, and might want to have adventures of their own (your wife, at least, if your kids are small and their idea of adventure is the backyard).

Talk to your wife. Maybe she wants to take a career break in Indonesia or rent an RV or move to Vermont. Her opinion is important to this decision. Don't ask us to talk you down; ask her what she thinks, and maybe she'll talk you UP!
posted by 3491again at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2012


This is totally a mid-life crisis. You're precocious!

How is "giving tourists rides out to sea" not being "just another cog in the wheel?" I know people who are willing to work in the tourism industry because they love the beach or the mountains or whatever, but most jobs in the tourism industry are repetitive, low paying, and involve being ordered around by entitled assholes. Is that really going to be an improvement over what you dislike about your current job?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:16 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You sound like you need a vacation. Can you do that? Send your wife and kids off to the parents' for a week and take some time to decompress and make your bucket list and start to miss them and your job and your real life?
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:20 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Funny how so many are assuming anon is a guy.) Take as many weekend excursions as you can. Go camping in a tent.

A big part of living off the grid is learning how to live with less and you can do that now. Stop consuming as much as you do and save the money to go to the wilderness for vacations.

Are there any semi-rural areas within commuting distance of your job? Are they in places with decent schools if you have kids? Could you get a similar job in a more rural area, a smaller city?

Or stay where you are and start growing your own food, get beehives, make your own clothes, learn as many of the skills you'd need to really live as far off the grid as possible.

Spend your vacations volunteering in developing countries.
posted by mareli at 6:38 PM on September 3, 2012


You do sound like you need a vacation. Beyond that...

I work with people who are following their dreams every day. One of my favourite clients took out a giant loan, quit his amazingly well paid corporate job, and opened a wine warehouse to sell the wines he is truly, genuinely passionate about. That was five years ago.

This year he is finally taking a salary, and will be the 3rd employee of the business. The family has lived on his wife's salary, which basically trapped her in her (quite awful) high-paying job. It also meant they didn't have the 4th child they had originally planned. He sees his kids because he gets up with them every single day at 6 am, six days a week. That's their deal. The whole thing has been hard on the marriage, but she is really supportive and it has survived.

I have another client who just quit her job to follow her dreams and I can tell you right now that unless she pulls a unicorn out of her arse, it's going to fail. That is the outcome of more than 70% of the businesses I work with. Self employment is so much more difficult and you suck so much harder at aspects of it you haven't even considered than the way it is in your dreams.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:53 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe the desire not to be just another cog in the machine, but to live a life that seems valuable and worthwhile is admirable. I hope you won't let anyone make you feel bad about having such a desire. Whether you label it a "midlife crisis" or not is irrelevant--what you are reporting is that now that you have a settled and stable life, you realize that you want more than material security. I second the notion that it's important that you acknowledge that this is a privilege, as so many people spend their lives scrambling to make ends meet and don't have the luxury to do more than fantasize about their ideal lives. Yet having such fantasies is crucial, and enacting as many as possible of them to make your life rich and worthwhile is great.

But as others have noted, you have obligations to your family to make their needs central in your decisions about what to do. It's fine to fantasize, but the actions you actually take should be positive for all, not destructive. And so long as your fantasies are too wild to be enacted, you won't be able to make the change in your life that you desire.

I suggest starting with small and easily-enacted steps. For example, you say you're interested in tutoring. Start doing that now. See how much you like it, and explore the regional tutoring milieu: the needs that exist, the regulations and bureaucracies surrounding it. You might find that you have the skills and interest to set up a whole new tutoring entity and make a career of it. Or you might find that the routinization and limitations would make that a bad move.

The important thing is that you take steps to explore some of your dreams, rather than living one life while fantasizing about dreamy, rewarding alternative ones.
posted by DrMew at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2012


Do some volunteering with local organisations - really active ones like mentoring at-risk youth and stuff. It make take a couple of false starts to find an organisation your are simpatico with, but once you do, I guarantee it will inject your life with a feeling of meaning, accomplishment and, yes, a quiet pride - in my experience the best way to find meaning in your life is to give it others.
posted by smoke at 7:00 PM on September 3, 2012


It sounds to me like you're very much enamored of the idea of making a big life change, but you haven't figure out exactly what it is you want to do with yourself. Unfortunately, no one can tell you what you are passionate about - you'll need to figure that out on your own. Try as many new things as you can. Don't just read up online - it's about doing, not just learning. With luck, you may find your true calling, and maybe you'll take that big chance. If you don't find it, at least you'll collect some interesting experiences along the way.

My situation is almost identical to yours. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm still trying. (Unfortunately, collecting seashells on the beach doesn't pay the bills.) Good luck!
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 7:28 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've done this several times and I've only been able to do it successfully each time because I had no roots holding me down. A hard fact is you have a family to consider, they rely on you for stability and security. Are you willing to shape their lives on your urge to try something different? I've met several people who grew up in households where their stability and security was uncertain due to a parent or parents always uprooting them when things got "stale" and they are bitter about the experience.

I highly recommend doing it if you don't have a family or with someone that may be negatively affected by the move. If you are rooted and have responsibilities to someone you love and care about, don't do it unless they honestly agree to go along with it without any pressure from you.

Each time I've done this, it was a true test of my mettle and am sincerely thankful that I had the privilege to do something like this and it's only because I was responsible for myself.
posted by nataaniinez at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've met several people who grew up in households where their stability and security was uncertain due to a parent or parents always uprooting them when things got "stale" and they are bitter about the experience.

This. I had one of those parents, and I still am bitter about always having to leave friends behind again and again, about starting a new school regularly because my father got bored where he was, about never feeling as though I had roots. Please consider your children and your partner.
posted by purplesludge at 9:29 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I'm worried I'm spending my one and only life as just another cog in the wheel.

I hear that. I feel like that too. But...

Most people are cogs because that's how the world works. Most of us want to have enough food and insurance and money and stability enough that we choose to be cogs in the wheel so we can have those things. This is how we all fall into that trap, especially the people who settle down with families. It's HARD to have health insurance and enough money to feed a family of four without being a cog.

Some people go take a leap and it doesn't work out and it goes about like the people here have said it did. For some people, the leap does work, but it does take years of struggle to get there. But here's the thing about taking the leap: right now you don't really have a desire or a plan to do anything else that you super want to do. You just...kinda want to rebel or something. You don't have a dream that you've always wanted to chase. It sounds like right now you'd be willing to try anything if it wasn't living at your house and it was doing any job than the one you have now. And that's what's dangerous here is that you just want to run away but you don't care to what.

At the very least, you need to pick a dream location or profession or activity or all of the above to strive for, and convince your family to go along with it, before you can seriously start working on an escape plan. But if you don't have one and you don't really care and you just want to rebel? I'd say to just go on a vacation or something for right now, or take up a side job or hobby or something that honors your non-cogness. At least until you come up with a plan.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:00 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound like your current life is making you depressed, homicidal, or suicidal. I would second the above advice to make some small but meaningful changes, take a vacation, and see how you feel.

If you decide to make a huge change, you want to have plenty of money saved up. Giving up a secure job can be very destabilizing, and having a nest egg makes it feel less insane about a month in, which is when you start to wonder if you did the right thing (speaking from my own experience).
posted by artdesk at 10:23 PM on September 3, 2012


Here's my advice: if you're going to do this don't envision doing something totally out of your experience because you will romanticize it. Think back to what you loved to do as a teenager or as a young adult: skiing, climbing, sailing, playing music, writing, gardening or whatever thing you loved that people turn into a lifestyle but you didn't for your own reasons. Now imagine if you had done that the whole time instead of pursuing the career you did pursue. Think about what a different person you would be.

If the thought of having spent 20 years doing that one sole thing makes you shudder in horror then forget your plans because the One Big Thing you give up when you pursue your dreams is the time and freedom to do anything else. If you want to run the Iditarod you're probably not taking a day off or buying any new clothes for 4 years, never mind spending money on any other leisure activity. If you're a smallsteader in Vermont, you're probably not touring wine country in CA anytime soon. Or traveling to your friends weddings or going resort skiing or even something as simple as taking the family to the beach a couple state over for a few days. Bluewater cruisers aren't eating at fabulous beach side restaurants. No time and no money.

If you look back and think "god, I wasted my time and money in bars in my 20s and got nothing out of going to college, I wish I'd spent the last 20 years living 24/7 in that log cabin in the pretty woods on the organic farm I used to work at and raising bare footed children" or "I wish I could make a 20 year plan to accomplish something and work really hard every day on it" you might be single minded enough to live like this. If you think "I'm so damn glad I quit crewing on yachts or teaching skiing or being a summer camp counselor to get a real job where I had disposable income and could travel and buy a reliable car and change my mind!" you should probably keep the job with disposable income and take more vacations.

I have friends in both camps and that's cool. Me, I'd go mad buying a piece of land and thinking to myself "well, this is where I'm going to be for the next 30 years, best get to felling trees!" but I also like to have meaningful work so I work at a meaningful job. For a salary. And then I go home and do my hobbies!
posted by fshgrl at 12:33 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Test any theory out first. Try it in small doses. If you think you can love dog care then first find out how good you are with dogs. You think you can live without the security of your job? Have you ever had to live like that before not knowing from where the money was going to come in? How did you handle that..Iwouldn't recommend anyone to chuck all that they earned and worked for in an instant for a dream. Dreams take time and patience and a solid plan to turn into reality.
posted by pakora1 at 1:53 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


High five fellow traveler.
The good news is this is all totally possible. The bad news is you will want to do it again in a few years. The odds of jumping into just the right place that suits you forever are incredibly slim, but the odds of finding something that works now are much better.
For me, the changes have been:
- getting a job where I could get a transfer overseas for a few years and living in another country
- taking a year off with my first kid
- moving from the city to a small town
- buying a beautiful but run down old farm house to restore

These changes have all been very positive (well, the year off was pretty indulgent in retrospect), and my spouse and kids have ended up benefiting substantially themselves. The keys for me were getting their agreement in the changes and maintaining enough income to have a pleasant/secure lifestyle.
My next hoped for plans:
- a year touring the UK in a narrow boat
- running a cafe/diner

Both these require a bit more financial backing, so I am working toward that. And just for reference, the idea of moving to a small town or spending a year in a boat would never have occurred to me, or appealed to me as a young adult, so it pays to have enough flexibility baked in to allow future dreams beyond the dog grooming or beach combing.
posted by bystander at 4:36 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real quandary seems this:

There is no escape and simultaneously, all limits are self-imposed.

It may also be why the Buddha concludes that all pain is desire.


None of us is immune, and no one I ever met who is thoughtful in the slightest doesn't question his circumstances.

Humans seem to optimize pain.... if the pain of change is less than the pain of stasis, we change, subject to a minor tolerance threshold/dead-band.

The outcome in one analysis is invariant, though, and that is that you will die soon. Once you attain will and mobility and some measure of confidence, all that remains is allocating the time between today and Lights Out. All humans, famous and mundane, who were born more than about 100 years ago are now dead. Newton, Einstein, Euler, Jesus, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Lincoln, Jefferson, Shakespeare, children in Dresden and Hiroshima in 1940's, good men and bad, rich and poor, pious and profane, noble and evil, all dead. Soon, we too.

There really isn't a right answer. Thoughtful consideration of the present, knowledge of the fatality of it all, perseverance and work despite the reality, willful joy in the face of doom, combat of entropy, all seem worthy individual goals. Easing the pain of fellow humans, developing morality, leaving a trail of beauty and kindness, finding hope, promoting love over hate and fear are a step up and out of pure selfishness. Making an example of a life and seeing to its clear publication are another few.

What carnival ride (be it a winery, a boat business, a retail establishment, a product design, ad infinitum) you choose for your thrill seems a trivial matter in comparison to the actual facts we face and they are ruled, I tell you, by the undeniable King of Issues, Mortality.

This thread is being read by a lot more people than those responding, I bet. There is a lot of specific wisdom in the responses, too, and some good general stuff. The answer isn't here, though. If it were, this would be the most valuable writing of all time to thinking people. As much as I love metafilter, it's not likely to spawn the universal answer.

It does seem to suggest your impulse is transient. You probably will consider many options and stay put. You will regret either direction to some degree. Eventually, you may accept what you did and elevate it to First Place in your list of past choices. Whatever you do, it's OK with us. We're not your judges. We're busy answering the same questions.
posted by FauxScot at 6:27 AM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your entry could be used in a text-book describing a classical mid-life crisis.

The reason you don't want to identify it as such is the same reason you are having one. A fear of being normal/ordinary/boring.

Our culture plays the cruel joke of demanding we "conform" or "make good" and at the same time telling us we're losers for doing so. Both arguments play off built in needs and exist to get you to buy stuff.

As many have noted a vacation may be in order. I would suggest a very long one, perhaps annually. Talk to you work about being able to find such an arrangement, perhaps including unpaid leave.

A Month or Two in an RV or living in Europe during the summers with your kids, or staying at your lake house, could work wonders.

If those things sound unreasonably expensive then you likely can't afford to quite your job either.

The people I know who live artsy, fantastic, bon vivant lives are the children of well off families. They live their "outside the box" lives because their family at some point was a strong cog in that wheel you don't want to be part of.
posted by French Fry at 7:45 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I did this about 10 years ago.

Right after 9/11, I was working in Telecom and my customers were primarily international Air Carriers. So...not a lot of business on the horizon from those guys.

I thought, this is the perfect time to quit Corporate America and do what I'm called to do, teach thugs in the hood.

Within a month I was in a classroom. It was a terrible mistake. My decision was informed by all of those "non-traditional school teacher takes on the system and changes the lives of disadvantaged youth" movies. Not really a real-world take away.

Now, I won't say that it wasn't rewarding, it totally was. But there wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't resentful that these kids didn't appreciate the sacrifice that I had made to teach them. I was perpetually frustrated by the administration and the failure that is so obviously the Public School system.

Right before I was to start my third year teaching, I went back to the phone company. Thank heaven, because the stress was about to freaking kill me.

What I learned is that I enjoy being a cog. What I do is important, it makes the lives of others easier. I like a steady paycheck, I like decent wages, I like my house, I like having a cube to toil in.

I agree, if checking out and traveling in an RV sounds like fun, do it on vacation! If you can afford it, get a country house. There are tons of ways to live out your dreams without chucking what appears to be a dream situation at work.

Sometimes, that work boredom is just your brain telling you that it wants a challenge. Learn a new language, see if you can do your job in a different country, write a book. Climb Everest.

Instead of viewing yourself as an insignificant cog, see yourself as the big cog, the one that makes all the little cogs rotate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on September 4, 2012


Nearly all stories start with a change: a discovery, the beginning or ending of a relationship, a change of setting. Off the top of your head, list ten novels or movies in any genre, and think of the change that sets each story in motion. This isn't to encourage the idea of making a grand change or to dismiss it as cliché, just to kind of get you thinking about how universal our desire for change and adventure is.

In my experience, the most crucial element to feeling fulfilled and purposeful is some sense of forward motion, however small. Even though everything in your life is pleasant, it's not giving you that sense of motion.

I'd suggest you start small. An overseas trip, a new hobby, something big enough to shake you out of inertia, but not so big that you're not rearranging your life. Most successful life changes start out with something small, anyway, and build from there. That way you know you're into the thing itself, and not the idea of a grand change.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2012


I am in my mid-thirties and just moved back from living on a small island for a year. My partner and I saved up enough money (without raiding any retirement funds) to take off work for a year and move to the island. It worked out great for us. My partner starts a new job tomorrow and I've started consulting in my industry. I'm totally recharged, have learned to relax and made a set of islander friends that will last a lifetime.

We don't have children, just a dog, but we have no regrets. We aim to do it again.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2012


My wife and I both left our corporate careers for work that is more fulfilling to us. We are in our late thirties. Our jobs were "killing" us. She quit seven years ago. I quit two years ago. Our careers were not closely aligned with our natural talents and passions. She went from Mechanical Engineer to Graphic Designer. I went from Translations (Telecom) Tech to Commercial Photographer (I'm still building my business, actually.) Now we are both self-employed and have a three year old. We transitioned to this life over the course of a decade, with multiple scary leaps of faith along the way. "We'll make it work somehow" has been repeated many times. There is lots of uncertainty, lots of debt, and lots of hardship. To say it has been difficult for us is massive understatement. Who knows how our "life experiment" will work out, but it was and is the right choice for us. We have never regretted our decisions to strike out "on our own".

Maybe it's the right choice for you, too. It's only a decision that you and your spouse (and your kids) can make. Going off the beaten path and against the grain of what most people choose to do will be hard. Very, very hard. Most people won't do it. And many who do it won't make it work. Like everything in this world it has its pros and cons. With risk comes the possibility for reward. And the possibility for "failure". Make sure you are comfortable with the possibility of "failure".

Know that if you choose to make a drastic change it will be far harder than you could have ever imagined and life will beat you up, just like it always does, but you will not have the footing you once had to absorb the hits. But you will grow. And you will learn things about yourself that you didn't know. It is impossible not to. I do have to remind myself sometimes that one of the many reasons I left the comfort of my corporate job was because I wasn't being challenged enough. Well, as they say, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. I have all the challenges you'd expect, a bunch I could never have expected, and there are certainly more on the horizon. It's exciting, it's overwhelming, and can be treacherous. As you can see from a few of the comments above, the "romance" will fade (or more likely evaporate suddenly). And when it does, will you be happy with your decision any longer?

I've see lots of good advice in the comments above that I'd try before you decide to do anything drastic that can't be undone. In a lot of ways we made our "burn the ships" decisions because it was pretty clear that the "normal", traditional path was not for us.

Good luck, whatever you decide. If you'd like to talk one-on-one about it, shoot me message with your phone number. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. I struggled for a very long time with feeling that are similar to yours. Perhaps I can help make your struggle a little bit easier.

And to answer a couple of your questions directly:

Does it get old? At times, yes. (Just like everything.)

Did you want your old life back? Never. Not for a second. However, that part of my life was important. It's what I had to go through to get to where I am now.

-John
posted by fueling depth at 12:31 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


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