Probably not. But, you need to ask a few questions first.
This time last year I had spreadsheets. They were color-coded and connected formulaically. I had pieces of land I thought about buying saved in Zillow. I dialed in what I needed to live on to a tee. It was all part of a huge plan to reinvent myself by the time I turned 50.
That was last year. This is this year.
I have contemplated a major metamorphosis about a dozen times. If I’m going to be completely honest, it usually happens out of frustration, depression, or boredom.
At some point, all of us find ourselves sitting on our living room couch, looking around, absolutely convinced that there must be more to life than…this.
So our minds start turning and ideas flood in. We convince ourselves that the real life we are supposed to be living is out there. We just need to shed ourselves of this life.
Admittedly, I have one hell of a pair of rose-colored glasses and I can over-romanticize just about anything. I am exactly the kind of person that follows a couple of dozen people on Instagram who live out of various ridiculously small places or vehicles. At times, it sounds totally reasonable that I would quit my job, sell my house, pack up my dog, and head off into the wild. At 50.
Those of us in our mid-life or later years hear it a lot. Time is just a construct. Age is just a number. We can do whatever we want. Yes. And no.
As starry-eyed and idealistic as I am, I’m also reasonable. I know that any major life-changing decisions I make must be well thought out. I have spent the last 46 years of my life getting to where I am now. Starting all over sounds like a hell of a lot of fun but it can also devastate everything I've worked for.
To avoid absolute ruin and to ensure I’m not eating dog food when I’m 80, I’ve created a litmus test for whatever hare-brained idea comes along next. It involves asking myself three questions:
To what end?
I can be exceptionally linear. I like having a destination in mind. I’ve also spent half my life in non-profit and have done more strategic plans that I could have imagined I would. The result of this is that I think about all major decisions in terms of ends statements.
I imagine the idea of what the life I want to live looks like. That goes beyond the tangible. I try to imagine what I want to feel like when I wake up in the morning. Am I satisfied? Excited? Content? Energized? Peaceful?
I think about what my day is like and how much time I want to spend working. Do I want to travel or find a place to put down roots?
You need to know what you’re chasing before you start out of the gate. If you don’t do this, you’re just wandering.
I never realized this was even something to contemplate until I entered into the not-so-secret Society of Reformed People Pleasers. Our ideas may seem well-intentioned but unless we really have a solid understanding of who is driving our hare-brained idea, we could stand to find ourselves less than content after implementation.
My ex-husband was from the Midwest. He loved it there and never quite felt right in the big city. I was born in New York and have spent most of my life in Phoenix. I have big city in my blood.
Whenever we would go back home to visit his family, my husband would feel a longing to stay and not come back to Arizona.
At some point, I had put plans into motion to uproot my life after my daughter went off to college and we’d move to the Midwest. I’d have to completely reinvent my career but my husband would finally be back home.
Then we got divorced.
The dream of moving to the Midwest was his, not mine. I’m sure I would have been fine but our marriage was broken already and we just didn’t see it then. Evolving myself into a Midwest wife was something I thought about but it was never for me. That’s a dangerous proposition.
At what cost?
I should have been a lawyer. I absolutely love law in ways that are far beyond geeky. When I was about 35, I contemplated a self-evolution and entertained the idea of studying for the LSAT and heading off to law school. I could do. I have the brains and the drive.
I also had a well-paying job I’d be leaving behind and was the single mother of a small child. Amassing a huge sum of money to go back to school was not logical, no matter how interesting the idea seems.
Right now, the same goes for throwing caution to the wind and roaming the country in a van living a carefree life of wonder. Sure, I could sell my house and take the money and buy a whole set up cash. I’d also be left with a depreciating asset, a serious reduction in income, and my entire retirement hinging on the fact that some pandemic doesn’t come along and decimate my 401k. Oh, wait…
Right now, I know my life will change in the future. That’s part of the fun of growing older, having a certain level of financial security, and being so inclined as to play around with life.
I’m feeling no pressure to name what the next self-evolution will be. I know it doesn’t have to be dramatic. It doesn’t have to involve giving up all of my worldly belongings. I may not know exactly what my life is going to look like in 10 years, but I know I’m going to like it. I’ve taken the time to know myself enough to understand I need to figure me out before I figure out the rest.
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