Moving Out of the Fast Lane
I Took the Road Less Traveled

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By RainyDayWoman
June 28, 2002

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Two roads diverged in a wood and I --
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost
Hello, friends. I've spent the last couple of days reading this whole board. How wonderful a find!

I would like to share with you a little something about my move out of the fast lane, and where it has taken me.

My DH and I were in our late 20's, cranking up the careers, taking on additional responsibilities, and generally acting like a pair of workaholics. Both of us being thinkers and planners, we reached a point where we wanted to create a plan for our futures, and asked ourselves: "Where do you want to be in 10 years, and what do you want to be doing?" "20 years?" "Beyond that?"

Well, revelation. We looked around us and saw lots of older professionals trapped by their careers, trapped by the upkeep costs for their image and their "stuff." None of them seemed particularly happy. Neither of us wanted the big house or fancy cars; we had a million things we'd rather do than work to pay for them, then work to maintain/clean them, just to impress ourselves/others with our "worth." We considered that, even though we were in an urban environment, whenever we did get some time off, we'd travel someplace off the beaten path, and meet interesting and different people, go backpacking, commune with nature, or sit in the fresh air with a good book. (I always liked Thoreau. Hmmm.)

It occurred to us. Maybe we could just "run away" from the rat race, go live in one of those off-the-beaten-path places, and make our work revolve around the way we wanted to live, rather than having the way we live revolve around our work. So we did. We "ran away" to Alaska 21 years ago, when we were 30. Found decent jobs, not the careers we had envisioned earlier, but a step down to something a little less life consuming.

Many lessons learned between then and now. The most important one being "wherever you go, there you are." The emotional baggage goes with you, and you have to learn to deal with it, whether the baggage is how well you deal with (or don't deal with) your extended families, or whether you can ever really cure yourself of creeping workaholism, or how to maintain the balance of financial security versus letting money/lack of/the things it buys rule your life. Well, life is not static, is it? "Happily ever after" is a moving target.

But we had a plan, and it worked for us. We had a financial plan, and I maxed out the retirement fund options at work. We were reasonably frugal and LBOM, but not extreme. We bought a house that was not big or fancy, and nowhere near the price the bank and realtor insisted we could "afford." We traveled, and played, and volunteered, and hiked, and took risks that didn't always pan out (like starting a small business - oh the horrors, the paperwork).

Fast forward to today. I'm 51, and could retire today if I want to, but will probably put in a couple more years because I (usually) enjoy my coworkers, don't feel I'm "done" yet, and wouldn't mind a bit more cushion on the retirement. My house (3 blocks from the national forest in one direction, 1/2 mile from the shore in another, and a 1/2 mile walk to work) is paid for. I have no debt. Sure, the house managed to get full of "stuff"; (I'm convinced it breeds when I'm not looking), but I learned long ago that buying "stuff" doesn't make me happy, so whenever there are extra funds they usually go into retirement investments. Ok, I do have lots of books, and music. Choices made.

It's about choosing quality of life, rather than quantity of stuff, and choosing quality of life rather than putting it off to some distant fantasy date when you'll retire and "all will be wonderful."

My DH died suddenly eight years ago, at the age of 43. A perfectly healthy guy (we thought.) An aneurysm.

I can't express to you how glad I am that we did "carpe diem", and didn't save all our "some day We'll..." for that distant fantasy day. It would never have come....

Food for Thought.

Here's a peek at my world.

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