When I was in junior high school, I dreamed of being in a big city somewhere–Manhattan, maybe. Or downtown Portland. I'd marry a high-powered attorney or doctor, I'd be a world-renowned lawyer myself, and our life would blossom amongst the constant bustle of city noise.
I did not dream of buying a house directly next door to my parents, adopting four rescue dogs, and spending much of my free time reading, writing, playing fetch with the dogs, and living solo. But that's the life I wound up choosing.
And I am solidly, contentedly, delightedly happy.
But you could work from anywhere, right?
When someone asks what I do & I begin to explain, they're often pretty jazzed about the idea that I'm basically location independent–that is, I can work from anywhere in the world that has a high-speed internet connection. “So where do you live?” they'll ask. “Ossian–a small town in northeast Indiana,” I reply.
“Oh…” they pause, a disappointed expression on their face. “So, you must have kids?”
I understand the assumption. Small, midwestern town = great place to raise kids. “No,” I grin, “Not unless you count my four dogs as children, anyway!”
“So, then, are you planning to move?” they'll ask, bewildered. “Where do you want to end up?”
“No moving in the foreseeable future,” I explain. “I'm next door to my folks, a couple of streets away from my grandfather and my uncles, and I'm pretty sure one of my dogs is in love with the basset hound across the yard from us, so he'd be heartbroken if we moved.”
“But… you can work from anywhere, right?”
It's like a Rubik's cube with one of the color squares out of place–a puzzle they just can't quite get to fall into place. I can work anywhere, I'm making good money, I'm not raising children, and I choose to live in a really small town, far separated from the young entrepreneurial tribes found in cities like Portland, Austin, and NYC.
I choose to live here because I'm happy here.
I know, the answer is so simple it's almost a let down, isn't it? There's a lot I love about the place I've chosen as home, though:
- I can walk across the yard with my dogs, and enjoy dinner with my two best friends & biggest supporters (Mums & Daddio), almost every evening.
- This Saturday afternoon, I suddenly decided I wanted to make soup & fresh beer bread for dinner & have a family meal at my house–and a few hours later, I did, complete with Mums' homemade cherry crisp.
- My house is a good size, and it's all my space. As an introvert + HSP of the highest degree, this blisses me out hugely. (I've often said that if I did choose to be in a relationship again someday & it became serious, the fellow would have to be comfortable with us having nearby–but separate–houses. I just love my own space too much!)
- The low cost of living lets me live very comfortably, solo, with my sights set on paying off the house entirely in the next handful of years. I relish the idea of having a home I own… renting an apartment somewhere doesn't even remotely appeal to me.
- About once a week, I get to hop in the van with my fellow coffee fanatic Daddio and go to Starbucks. Never too old for Daddy-Daughter outings!
- Grandpa pops by with fresh roses from his back yard, as well as jars of freshly made jam he made that very day.
- On lovely afternoons, I can sit outside watching the birds & squirrels frolic in the trees, listening to the breeze, and hear nothing more than some kids playing down the street, a dog barking, and the birds singing. I thrive on stillness.
- NO CROWDS. When I visit larger cities, it takes me about three and half minutes to get my fill of the constant traffic and crowds. No matter where you go, no matter the hour of the day, there's always traffic and there's always a crowd. I like spaciousness. Spaciousness is a premium rarity in big cities–around here, it's the norm.
This is the only place in the world where I can get this specific blend of family + cost of living + general quietude + spaciousness + FAMILY.
Yep, I know I mentioned “family” twice. That was intentional. 🙂
There are beautiful sites and fascinating scenes all around the world, and I love traveling to visit & photograph them. But I adore my home, and I adore the place I've chosen as my home. While I could find elements of what I love in other places, I couldn't replicate all of these elements, anywhere else in the world.
And that's why I'm happy here.
My old dreams had a lot to do with other peoples' definitions of success.
When I saw myself as a high-powered lawyer, married, living in a small apartment in a big city, most of that was based on what I believed success looked like. I mean, in the movies, in the fairy tales, on tv, in the tween book series… that's always the ultimate goal: get married, live in tall fancy building in bustling metropolis, accumulate wealth while wearing very high heels, etc.
It wasn't so much that I thought each of those elements would enhance my own happiness–it was that I believed in order to be viewed as successful, those were all elements I'd need to collect.
Kind of like life was a big scavenger hunt, and if I collected enough of the items on the list, someone would hand me a button that said, “Hey, you're a success!”
This isn't where I dreamed I'd be at age 34. It is, however, where I am happy at age 34.
I have collected almost none of the items on my adolescent Things Needed To Be Successful scavenger hunt list. And thank goodness. Had I “succeeded” in acquiring all of them, I'd likely be frantically stressed out, exhausted, depleted, broke and a pretty lousy spouse to the poor bloke who'd be trying to figure out why I was so unhappy when I had all these check marks on my life list.
Instead, I wake up in a house I love, greet the four rescue dogs who make my heart melt, wave to my parents across the backyard, do work I genuinely enjoy while sitting in the middle of my sofa listening to the birds chirp, and count the ways in which I feel blessed while I watch the clouds roll over my small hometown.
I can, indeed, work from anywhere.
And I choose to work from here. Because here is where I'm happy.
And that's the kind of success that's important to me.
Has the success you dreamed of changed over the years? Have you, like me, found that what you once viewed as the markers of “success” were different than the elements that make up your happiness?
Feel free to noodle on that… and if any answers spring to mind, please leave them in the comments. I'd love to hear!