This is a true story. I realize some of this advice is not for everyone. I am a risk taker and I have a low tolerance for boredom. But I will tell you this, if you set your sights on a goal and believe in the possibilities, you can do anything you dream.
Near the tail end of my so-called accounting career, I found myself in a cubicle working at a dead end corporate job. I landed in this situation because my family needed not only the money but the health insurance. It was not an ideal time to be looking for work. The victim of a corporate buyout, I was unemployed for 14 months and started my job a week before Shearson Lehman filed bankruptcy. Despite all that, I had barely collected an unemployment check. Temporary jobs kept me busy but they didn't provide health insurance and the COBRA payments were destroying our savings account. Although I knew a cubicle job 45 minutes from home was not an ideal situation, my back was against the wall so I took the job. Four years later, this is how I escaped.
- Downsize. Two years into the job my youngest daughter left for college in Denver. We had lived in our old house for 20 years. Set on two acres along the Squamscott River, it was a beautiful place to raise children but the endless mishaps and upkeep were wearing thin. We bought the house at auction in 1991, around the time the American economy was experiencing a housing bust, so we were sitting on a bit of equity that we desperately needed for college tuition and debt accumulated during the lean years. It was time to go. Somehow I managed to convince my husband and the house sold in six months. At first the girls weren't happy. "Where will we have Thanksgiving?" they asked. "Home is not a place," I told them. "Home is the people you love. Besides, your father and I can't stay here just to cook turkey one day a year. They have turkeys in Florida."
- Simplify. We also sold most of our possessions and are now traveling light. There is something very liberating about getting rid of all that stuff. You realize you are fine without so many of the things you thought you couldn't live without. I vowed to never again accumulate so many possessions. This can be done. Just practice one very good habit: do not go shopping unless you really need something. Strolling the aisles of HomeGoods is an expensive hobby. Save money by buying less. Do you really need another one of those little pillows for your bed? You know it will only end up on the floor on the rare occasions when your husband makes the bed.
- Prioritize. Decide what is most important to you. I knew we were going to be working for many more years to come. Retirement is elusive. So I really wanted a job I enjoyed. During the last year in my cubicle, I wrote a novel during the sleepless nights I lay awake worrying about bills and making ends meet. It is the story of a New Hampshire woman daydreaming about escaping her cubicle and moving to the Islands to run a Bed and Breakfast.The title is The Reverse Commute, and I self-published it a few months before we moved to Florida.
- Be willing to make compromises. I would have loved to have been writing full-time in Florida, however marketing a self-published book is no easy task. But with the reduced living expenses after selling the money pit we once called home, I was able to take on part-time accounting jobs and write the rest of the week. The Affordable Healthcare Act was a godsend. Years ago, when my children were young I ran my own bookkeeping business from my kitchen table. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to stay at home with them during those early years, but as the millennium approached, the cost of health insurance continued to rise. My husband and I could no longer afford to both be self-employed. Who do you think had to take the job with benefits, the bookkeeper or the house painter? Correct, that would be me, the bookkeeper. In Florida, I was back at work freelancing with a variety of businesses. With the reduced bills and decreased spending on unnecessary things, 10 months after arriving in the Sunshine State, I managed to publish my second novel, Take Me Home, a story about a woman who has been kicked around by life but keeps searching for happiness and eventually finds herself running a small fishing lodge along the Snake River in southeastern Idaho. Which brings me to Item Five.
- If you write it, it might happen. This falls under the category Truth is Stranger Than Fiction. Two years and two months after moving to Florida, opportunity knocked. My husband and I had talked about working at a Bed and Breakfast for years and started actively seeking a job through a website called WorkingCouples.com. On a recent Friday morning I sent our resumes to two inns in Colorado and one in New England. Saturday morning I received an email from the inn in New England which led to a phone interview on Sunday, and on Monday a trip an hour north of where we live to a beachside town where the owners were vacationing. The interview went well. "You need to visit the inn," the owners told us. "As soon as you can. We'd like to fill the position by the middle of May." We booked the tickets the next day and I purchased a few sweaters for the trip north. Shoes too. Except when walking in sneakers, I haven't worn socks in two years.
Ten days after applying for the job, my husband and I can call ourselves innkeepers and I am going to need to buy not only more sweaters but socks and winter boots too. Back in Florida, we are packing boxes for the fourth time in two years. At the age of fifty-eight we are off on another adventure.
Over the past year, I finished a third novel. It was ready to go last week but there was the minor delay due to the major life change. It seems oddly appropriate that we flew to New England on April Fool's Day. Are we nuts? Who would return to New England after the winter they just had? Is winter even over up there? And it's true, some people do think I'm crazy. One of my readers on Amazon commented, "usually by the time you're middle aged, you've worked through your choices in life... In my opinion, you don't have daydreams about how romantic your life should be."
It seems a rather bleak outlook to me. In my opinion, daydream believers sometimes do succeed at bringing their dreams to life. I wrote a book about a woman escaping a cubicle to run a B&B and here I am, a woman who left her mundane cubicle job and is about to run an inn in Connecticut. But I'm even crazier than you might think because I have more than one dream. My third novel is now available on Amazon. It's titled Life Is All This. And that is certainly true.
***Please visit my blog to follow my continuing adventures in writing and innkeeping.