Leaving the Rat Race for a Simple Life
In 2012, I was in the process of a life-change. Not because of the recession at the time, because truly I hardly felt the effects of the economic downturn. Not because of some mid-life crisis, because mid-life is in my rearview mirror, never to be seen again. No, this change came about after years of introspection and asking the all-important question . . . WHY?
A little background to set the stage in explaining this change. I lived most of my life believing in the American Dream: bigger house, better paying job, possessions, if ten was good then twenty must be better. Owned twelve homes, made over $100,000, had the toys, nice cars, all the trappings of life.
I Was Trapped
Interesting phrase, trappings of life! Because in order to fulfill the American Dream, I was required to work ridiculous hours, neglect my mental, emotional, and physical health, and focus solely on THE DREAM. I was, quite frankly, trapped, sinking in quicksand of my own making. And as unhappiness set in, my best thinking told me that I must not be working enough, or not hard enough, or I don't yet own enough, so I picked up the pace, and the unhappiness continued.
For me, this was a battle I simply couldn't win. Statistics tell us that unless I was in the top 2% of money earners in America, I was never going to reach a financial level of ultimate security. Most Americans are one paycheck away from financial difficulties and that certainly described me, as with higher wages also came increased spending and debt.
Everything Came Crashing Down
Finally, it all came crashing down on me in 1989: a divorce, a back operation, loss of a job, and a mountain of debt. The American Dream for this boy had shattered, never to be realized or sought after again. Out of necessity at first, but eventually out of a realization that it was right for me, I started making changes. I came to realize that no matter how many toys I have, they never could bring me true happiness. No matter how many homes, no matter how much money, no matter how much recognition for a job well done, I was stuck in that quicksand and would never climb out of it.
Today, I Do More With Less
Fast-forward to today. The changes have come slowly, but they have come. I have learned to do with less. I have learned to buy secondhand. I have learned to shop wisely and live within a budget. I have paid off my debt, and I now buy only what I can afford without incurring debt. I own nothing but the clothes I wear and my truck. For probably the first time in my life, I can save money monthly, and it is easy to do so. And here's a fact that may be hard for some of you to follow along with: I have virtually no retirement stash and really don't need one.
I am happy today with barely any financial holdings. I work at a job I love, I have great friends and a son I adore, and I have free time to help others and spend time with those I love. Life is just good. And the changes that started from necessity back in 1989 continue today as I learn new ways to simplify my life, to gain more with less. It has been a wonderful transformation, one I could never imagine thirty years ago, and I am so happy that I lived long enough to learn an important lesson: Money truly can't buy happiness.
Follow Up: One Year Later
It has been a year since I wrote this article. In that time, life has only improved. We have continued the simplification process, and our family is happy and healthy. We need nothing and we want for nothing. We have it all.
Do you feel stuck in the rat race?
© 2012 Bill Holland