Celebrating a Different Life

When I sit down to write a post for this website, I usually have a pretty good idea about what it’s going to be before I start. This post was going to be quick, light-hearted shout-out to all of the amazing people who came together this weekend to throw me a donkey themed “it’s way past your birthday but we still love you anyway” party on the farm.

There was a piñata.


And chocolate mustaches.


So basically we’re talking about a level of awesome that is hard to put into words.

But as I was writing about this weekend and my friends with their incredible humor, creativity, generosity, and thoughtfulness, I realized there was a different story to tell.

For me, it’s a subtle story. One that I almost don’t realize is there until I sit down to reflect on where I’m at right now, the people I’m surrounded by, and what an incredible difference there is between my life a few short years ago and where it is today.

Two years ago I was at the tail end of the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken, and the longest relationship I’ve ever been in.  While the things I was doing in my life–the actual day-to-day activities like working my day job, building things as often as possible, compulsively hoarding power tools, hugging miniature donkeys– are all pretty much the exact same things I’m doing now, the undercurrent of my life was different.

It’s difficult to wrap words around something that isn’t as easy as “I was unhappy” or “I felt isolated” or “something was missing.” Those things are true, but they aren’t. I suppose on a daily basis I was happy, but I also had this vague sense of unease about the life I was living. That I wasn’t in the right place. That I wasn’t taking the right path.

Here’s the problem with a vague sense of unease, and the reason why I’m telling this story… do you know who actually reacts to something like that? Who makes a change based on a low-grade sense that something indefinable might not be right, in order to find something new that they can’t even articulate? Nobody. Well, chickens, maybe, but they also duck and run for cover when I sneeze within a ten foot radius of them so I’m not sure if they should be taken as decision-making role models.

Two years ago I lived close to my family, my work, and two of my closest friends (who, at the time, were really my only friends). I was in a relationship with a solid dude– one who has a good heart, is tough as hell, and is still one of the only people I’m comfortable asking for help. I had a house that I’d built pretty much to my exact specifications, and someone to carry the burden of at least half the chores (and, let’s be honest, he totally did more than half.)

If you just read that and said, “well, shit, that doesn’t sound bad,” that’s exactly what I kept saying.  It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a situation that made me stop and think, “Holy hell, I need to get out of this.” It was a comfortable, convenient life.

When I thought about living a different life I couldn’t have even told you what it was. If someone had stopped me in my tracks, told me to drop everything and move away, I would have expected to lose touch with my family and friends, I would have expected I wouldn’t have time for the things I love– the writing and DIY– if I also had to spend two hours driving to-and-from work every day, I would have expected to spend a lot of time alone because I don’t make an effort to form friendships, even with people I like.

I left my last life on principle, and not even really by choice. Certainly not because I had a vision for something better. I moved to a crappy temporary farmhouse on a whim, and not because it made any sense. I made a plan to build a little cottage, and then, overnight, bought a big old farmhouse instead.

And I look up at the life I’m living now– an unplanned life, so much the same, and yet completely different from the one I was living before– and I see this:

My two closest friends, who’ve known me so long that they don’t even bat an eye when I disappear for a while and emerge two months later blinking and covered in sawdust, will still drive an hour into the middle of nowhere just to come hang out with me…


And know exactly how to make the perfect gift.


And, I’m sorry, I need to pause from the storytelling for a minute to say, IS THIS NOT THE MOST AWESOME THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN?


That’s a fairy door for the little sprites who’ve moved in to look after the Nuggets. As you can see, the Nugget Watch is on duty. Holy amazing.

Okay, the point I was making before that little outburst is that I haven’t lost touch with the friends I’ve had forever, and I’ve found new friends in people I’ve known for years. People who understand the importance and dedication it takes to play a good game of pin the tail on the donkey.


I’m surrounded by people who both inspire me, and totally get me…


(Why yes, it was a donkey themed party, but no one wanted the rest of my “family” to feel under-represented, so they made me these decorative candy jars.)

Friends who teach me new things all of the time, like the fact that the proper way to drink Tecate is with a lime and salt…


And, you know, how to roast a marshmallow without singeing your eyebrows off…


The truth is, I’m surrounded by awesome people, and not because I knew they were out there, waiting for me to take a leap of faith and move to a farm house in the middle of nowhere.

So the story I’m telling here, the one I wish I’d heard back when I spent a lot of time trying to talk myself out of making a change in my life because “things weren’t bad” is that sometimes you have to trust yourself to make the right decision even if it doesn’t make complete sense. Even if there isn’t a plan. Even if it means taking that leap, just because your gut tells you there’s something else out there for you, even though you don’t quite know what it is.

And maybe that’s not applicable to anyone other than a girl who builds things and writes about her life on the internet and randomly buys farms, but maybe it is. Either way, telling this story is my way of celebrating a different life for myself. One I never expected, and that I’m grateful for every single day.


20 Responses

  1. Once again, thank you for opening up and posting about your personal life like this – at just the very time that I needed some encouragement. I too, have had to make a decision based on a vague underlying feeling that something wasn’t right and it was so incredibly difficult to define at the time. But you have put it out here in writing and that gives me such comfort and reassurance, you have no idea.

  2. Must’ve gotten sawdust in BOTH my eyes or something. No…I am not crying! OK, I am totally crying. Good for you. I didn’t even know I loved power tools at your age. Good for you for listening to that voice and making the right choice for you. Impressed by your insight and self-awareness. LOVE.your.blog. Happy summer!

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this instead of the way you’d planned… I can totally relate! Vague sense of something wrong? Yep, I was just there. Buying a house and eating out of a microwave for a few months? Check. Kinda bad at being friends with the people I actually like? Check.

    Cheers to being in a happier spot.

  4. Wow. Thanks for sharing. You are a courageous person, and I’m not talking about walking on 2x4s over a two-story stairwell or napping on a roof. Here’s to living a thoughtful life!

  5. That was definitely an encouraging thing to read as I’m on the cusp of buying a house in Ann Arbor and moving my comfortable life from San Francisco to Michigan. I have no idea what is going to happen or what my life will be like a year from now. Hopefully my gut is guiding me in the right direction.

  6. See, another reason your badass self is awesome. I once took a similar leap (ok twice, no, 3 times), and haven’t looked back since. It’s hard to walk away from a comfortable life, especially when it’s only you who has that niggling little doubt, chipping away in the back of your brain like a jackhammer with a short.

    My first leap took me 4 hours away from everyone and everything I knew and dumped in a gorgeous place to totally start over. The second leap didn’t take me as far, but did get me out of a relationship that turned out to be a really bad idea (post-breakup stalker. Yeah.) The third leap took me back to the beginning, but minus the parental net. I’ve stayed planted in the same area for the last, oh, 13 years or so, and it’s been good. Of course, now my first fur-baby has passed to the big hunting ground in the sky. My second fur-baby is in declining health, but still manages to herd my three human kids pretty effectively. And, after all the craziess, I ended up with a pretty great guy. It all comes around once you land in “that place”. Sounds like you’ve landed.

  7. I think I speak for all of us in saying we’re thrilled that you took the leap. Mostly for you, of course, but also for us in that we get the stories. Oh, the stories.

  8. Wow. How’d you get inside my head from 6 years ago? That vague sense of not completely happy, that there was something more out there, that nobody else really understood… All yep. Spot on.

    I’m the city mouse version to your country mouse story. I had a great job with a solid guy and we had an awesome apartment in an awesome part of town in NYC. I left on a whim to a teeny place with a back yard and had a longer commute and a weber grill. It was weird at first, but then small things started dawning on me. I got closer with my friends. I adopted cats from the shelter where I volunteer. I laughed more. I got more comfortable with my flaws. I enjoyed my life and discovered that it was easier to do the things I like instead of try to fit into someone else’s life. I didn’t realize how much effort that took until I was free of it.

    I dated… Sometimes because I wanted to, and sometimes because friends pushed me into it. I figured, “Hey, I like to meet new people and dinner in this city is expensive, so might as well.”

    And then one day when I wasn’t paying attention about 3 years after leaving the solid man/’hood/apartment, I met the love of my life. We met on a Tuesday after work and I’ve seen him every day since the day we met. And 3 years later he’s my best friend and I didn’t lose any of myself to be with him. I now finally understand all of those happy goofy couples because I’m one of them. And it rocks.

    I can’t wait for you to have this happen to you. It will happen. It always does happen for people who make an effort to make themselves happy.

    In the meantime, rock on and create more stories. When you meet that person, the more stories you have the better the bonfires.

    1. “He’s my best friend and I didn’t lose any of myself to be with him.”
      Best damn description of a healthy relationship I’ve ever read.
      I’m glad to know it exists. Even if I never find it for me.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree – thanks to all for sharing. This is so helpful as I am going through this and wondering if whatever “it” is I’m looking for even exists. Now I have something to frame it with: “He’s my best friend and I didn’t lose any of myself to be with him.” That’s IT!!!!

  9. I’m so glad to see all of these strong women with similar stories, thank you all for sharing!! I see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

  10. I read your blog daily and never post, but after reading this post I felt compelled to say THANK YOU!! The words you write touch people in profound ways and speak to all of in a different way even tho we are all in different chapters on our lives.

    again Thank YOU for something you might might never know you did for me.

  11. I always resist handing out sage advice/comments to women younger than I am, mostly because when I was your age it bugged the crap out of me from people I actually knew, and I can’t imagine having women you’ve never met do the same. HowEVER. I want to tell you how good it is to read about a young woman like you, confident enough to have your own sense of what is right for you. Too many people push away that very “feeling of unease.” It’s always a mistake, and as a person who ended up leaving an 18-year marriage, I can testify that there is always hell to pay for it down the road. You’re on the right path, and you seem to know it. That you have the courage and the grace to share it with your readers is pure bonus for the rest of us. Rock on, girl.

  12. This, from Pinterest reminds me of you, “it had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” Leonardo da Vinci

  13. I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and a half now and I have to say this is my favorite post yet. Well done. And well said.

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