This week I quit my job and moved to the country.
When I was 14 I saw a Jack Black video, which went a little something like this:
I was seized by the idea: If you love something - if you truly love it - quit your job. Just do that thing you love. Quit your job and let yourself rock. And if you can't make it work forever: There it is. So it goes. Now you know, and you tried. And that's better than spending your whole life wondering and talking about could-have-beens.
Perhaps it would be a better story if I'd learned anti-orthodoxy from Black Flag instead of Jack Black. But we can't help what shapes and inspires us in life. Jack Black's ear worm was fully in place, working its way toward my brain.
There's this path we're meant to take in life, and stages at which we're meant to make changes. We live somewhere through school then move away for college, get a job, move in with a monogamous committed partner, have children, progress through higher-paid higher-responsibility jobs, retire. Cultural narrative says those are the broad stages of life.
I followed that narrative and did all the stuff I was meant to. But you know the thing about dominant cultural narratives? They don't fit everyone.
I was miserable. I woke up to go to work, then crawled into bed to sleep as soon as I got home. It wasn't until June of last year that I suddenly realized how deeply unhappy I was. I made some mantras to focus on feeling better:
- Find what makes me happy and do more of that
- Find what make me not happy and do less of that
Simple enough but, like lyrics from Jack Black that seems obvious, sometimes we just need a few simple and clear phrases to remind us what's important.
I was on minimum wage but I lived very small and put aside everything I could, saving for the someday when I would have the courage to chuck away the cultural narrative to follow my own happiness - and Jack Black's advice.
I wasn't happy at my job and had tried to quit several times. Then this year, thinking of those fateful words I'd carried around with me all this time, I finally did it. With no partner or kids or pets or commitments, I took the chance that I'll possibly only ever have once in my life. I quit my job to focus on what made me happy: Writing. I found a place that's low-rent because it's in the middle of nowhere, and gave myself a year to just write.
It's beautiful here. I've lived in the city all my life, and now I wonder why. Amidst bush and pasture it is calm and quiet without the jarring noises and constant rush of city life. Being completely alone means being under no pressure but my own. And it's constantly breathtakingly beautiful.
There are downsides. I'm four hours by car from any of my friends, and I don't have a car. It's an hour and a half walk to (unreliable) internet and phone reception, and a three hour bike ride to the supermarket - so a round trip of six hours for food. My house is affordable because it's isolated, and also because it's uninsulated - which means four months of the year will be spent huddled by the fire while outside there's snow and black ice.
But I found what made me happy, and committed myself to doing more of it.
I might have to upload stories from a library three hours from home, but I will have the luxury of time in which to write those stories. And that's the best gift a writer can have: Time to just do the thing you love.
Time in which to rock.