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By Georgeanne Barrett
Two months ago, I quit a job I loved and moved out my house and hometown to travel the US with my husband for his job.
There is more to this story than loyalty to a spouse and preserving for better or for worse -– though those factors do play a part. However, because I know I would ask, how does a sensible and modern girl make a decision like this? To get there, let’s start with the foundation.
Like many, I grew up with a single mom who worked hard to provide me and my sister a good life. One of the biggest lessons I learned from her was, with no exceptions, be able to take care of yourself. Provide for yourself and never rely on anyone to not only help with the bills, but also to make you feel like you are important and worthy.
Some of these lessons were taught by words, but more important were the lessons she inadvertently taught by example. My mom might have always had the bills paid on time (and if she didn’t she never let on to us), but she was always looking for acceptance or validation of her worthiness from other sources.
At the end of her biggest trainwreck of a relationship with an abusive alcoholic, I made myself a promise: You will never rely on anyone else for anything and you will never change your life for someone else.
I finished high school and started college immediately. I met and started dating Robert, the man who would become my husband, my senior year of high school. We both worked our way through college, and he proposed to me on a bridge in Venice, Italy. We waited until I graduated to actually get married and didn’t even live together before taking the plunge –- not for religious reasons, but because he respected, understood and encouraged my desire to live alone and take care of myself before combining our lives.
I surprised myself by getting married just out of college, but as clichéd as it was I knew I had met the love of my life. We both were lucky enough to get steady jobs right out of college and slowly, and appropriately (again by the book), worked our way up through our respective industries.
He went back to get his master’s degree with plans for me to do the same after he graduated. We bought a house, adopted pets and even were able to have two horses. With the exception of deciding not to have children we were in line with our peers. Everything had been done seemingly right and I had met all my personal goals –- so where was the satisfaction?
I had achieved what I thought was the most important thing, self-sufficiency, but something still didn’t seem right, and Robert felt it too. We would occasionally meet or hear about people who traveled the world or took exciting challenges, and I envied what I thought was their free spirits. We would make statements like, “I wish we could do that,” without ever taking the time to consider why not. It seemed ludicrous to even think about stepping away from the stable bubble around us –- why disrupt that?
Fast forward to today. The decision I made as a young girl and the playbook have flown right out the window.
When Robert was offered a great job in a terrible economy after graduating with his masters, it seemed too good to be true. Working for the federal government, he would be on the road most of the year, but we figured it was worth it in the long run because of the experience he would gain. I had taken a new job at a prominent non-profit that I liked, though not loved, however it seemed like maybe all the pieces were falling nicely into place.
It took almost exactly a year of him living on the road, one year of nightly Facetime, and one year of people sympathetically saying “it must be hard,” before it finally clicked and we realized that the life we were living made absolutely no sense. There was an adventure laid out before us but I was refusing to let go of the stability I had so carefully crafted –- the stability I thought I desperately needed.
We made the decision that what was best for us was for me to travel with him and pursue a career in writing that I had always been afraid of being too unstable. Right now what is amazing is that I have a supportive partner and an opportunity to take the time to find out what I want to do with my life.
I know now that a life can’t be built on long-ago promises or figured out during four years of college. Life definitely can’t fit into preconceived standards that we set for ourselves. I now know that I can take care of myself, but what my younger self saw as set-up for failure -- quitting a job to be with a man -- I now see, at least for me, as being a set-up for success.
With or without anyone else, I am the only one standing in my way of not living the life I truly want. It has been, and still is, hard to let go of the idea that a successful life is made up of a house that I worked for, and things that I paid for myself. What is even tougher is letting go of the security that I have built up around myself in the form of “right” decisions and stable jobs.
However, the most difficult part is knowing that in one month we will be leaving our current city (Honolulu), and packing up only the essential belongings to head out in a truck and trailer with our three pets and two horses to travel to the next place, which if we are lucky will be for six months.
We are making this work on our terms, and I know that if I fail I have built myself a foundation to start again.
Most importantly, I am learning how to let go. In my years of timelines and right choices, I’m now teaching myself what I really need to be happy and how to stop trying to plan for every second of life. Even though this drastic change went against everything I’ve built up around myself I finally decided to take a plunge and go against the norm. We’ll see how it turns out.