How To Get A Life Out In The Sticks

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One of the many reasons why I had two jobs for 20 years was that if there was drama or problems at one job, usually the other job was fine, so I still had something to look forward to. It was a kind of balancing act. Since having one job, I have learned to achieve that balance with work and home instead of between two jobs.

Last year, when Kitty passed away and my world shattered, home pretty much sucked. Luckily, I absolutely loved my job and was able to draw strength from that. I have learned that the opposite holds true as well, when you don’t like your job, home life better be stellar to counteract that.

I am very fortunate right now in that my home life is amazing. My home life is definitely the most positive aspect of my life right now and I am very grateful. At the same time, I am missing the support of having a job I loved, and am looking to recreate that somehow by trying to “get a life” out in the community.

Trying to get a life in a small town is hard. First, there aren’t very many opportunities. Second, small towns tend to be quite clique-y, so trying to infiltrate the ranks can be challenging. Honestly, I miss the city. I also miss freedom to move around. My medical issues have been clipping my wings quite a bit for the past year or so. Since I no longer have the ability to take off to who knows where on a whim, I need to make do with this small town I’m in.

Trying to get a life out in the sticks is partially contingent on age. This is what I’ve learned so far:

Bonfire

This strategy works well in your teens. When I was young in a small town and you wanted to find people, look for a bonfire. That’s where everyone hangs out to talk, listen to music, and roast marshmellows.

Bonfires typically follow other events like the Friday night high school football game, which was the hottest ticket in town. Ok, it was the only thing to do on a Friday night when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. If you are a teenager who wants to get a life out in the sticks, find a bonfire. Or, make your own. If you start a bonfire, they will come.

Alcohol

Bonfire experiences in your teens typically evolve to include alcohol in your 20s. Actually, in your 20s, you don’t even necessarily need the bonfire anymore. You show up somewhere with a 6-pack or a bottle of vodka and Boom! Instant party.

If you want to get a life out in the sticks in your 20s, all you need to do is add alcohol. It’s very simple.

30s & 40s

This is where I am at a complete loss. For most of my 30s, I was in school working on my degrees. Meeting people is easy when you are a college student. At 39, I’m stuck in a small town and no longer in school.

People my age don’t seem to exist. I’m sure that they do, but I don’t see them. I imagine that everyone my age is happily coupled and spends their evenings at home cooking fresh, organic, vegetarian dinners followed by family board games with their 2.5 kids while the dog snores in front of the fireplace. They are just so blissfully happy, they have no need to go out and meet people.

More likely, everyone my age was smart enough to get out of rural USA while they could and are off living in the cities. I’m not sure where I missed the boat on social and geographic mobility in America, but that ship has defininitely sailed, and I was not on it. I didn’t even hear the boarding call.

Bars

Let’s not go there. If you’re still on the “bottle of vodka creates a party” kick past your 20s, you have a problem, and I am NOT your therapist. In my small town, bars are filled with young college students and meth heads. I do, after all, live in the county that is considered the meth capitol of NYS.

This is not a scene that I am in or want to enter. So we will just leave the bars alone in this little experiment, mm’kay?

How To Get A Life

Well, this sounds dismal. You thought I was going to have some great ideas on how to solve this little problem, didn’t you? Well, I do have some ideas. They are still in progress. Some have pros and cons. We’ll go through them.

Volunteer

So far, I have found this strategy to be helpful, but it is a little early yet for definitive data. My strategy for volunteering is to choose only one or two organizations. This way, I am able to participate fully without overwhelming myself. It gets me out in the community networking and meeting people. A con to this strategy so far is that I have not met any people my age. Although the people I have met so far are fascinating. I am also learning new things and I like that.

When choosing volunteer work, it is helpful to choose an area in which you are passionate. Passion will get you through the rough times. For example, everyone around me seems to find fault with me right now, so I am starting to think that animals are better than people. But since the point is to try to meet people my own age, I guess I need to put up with the jerks. And come home to cuddle with my cats. A lot.

Events

What’s the hottest gig in town? As a teen, it was the aforementioned high school football game. In this small town, it is the public library. Our library posts a calendar of events each month offering a wide range of activities. I’m trying them. Some I like better than others. The good thing with events is that there is no commitment. If you don’t like something, then you just don’t go when it is offered again.

The event I attended that I liked the most was an educational workshop put on by the NYS Bluebird Society. It was awesome. This was one of the best lectures I have attended since grad school. (I told you small town – so yes, that makes bluebirds wicked exciting.) I haven’t really met any new people as the result of the workshop, but the NYS Bluebird Society gives me a whole new field of interesting information to learn when I’m bored or can’t find people to hang out. I have plenty of things I like to do on my own, but finding friends is kind of hard.

Organize! Or, “old habits die hard”

If you can’t find something to join that interests you or fuels your passion, start it. Organize. I’m doing that now with one of my volunteer opportunities. I want something that is not there, so I am helping to organize things to make it happen.

For me, this situation also falls under “old habits die hard.” The activity I am helping to organize is an event I miss attending when I was in Boston. If you want to do something and it does not exist, make it happen. I physically can’t go back to the city right now, so I’m making the city come to me. You can do it.

Forward & Onward

Trying to get a life out in the sticks is wicked hard. I’m not going to lie. Even when you try to do something positive, people are going to judge you. Well, they’re going to judge you whether you just sit there and do nothing or if you act and organize, so you might as well do something.

Life was a lot easier last year when I had a job I loved and all this friendship and fulfillment was automatically built into my work experience. It’s harder when you have to search for those things outside of work. My job already exhausts me; it makes getting a life outside of work just that much more difficult.

This year I am starting the slow process of getting a life out in the sticks. Of course, the ultimate goal, which has been the goal for over 20 years now, is to return to Boston. I don’t see that happening, as Boston housing is way out of my price league, and I can’t logistically figure out how to make it work. Also, my home life is the most positive thing in my life right now, so I am not about to rock that boat.

This spring and summer is going to be about getting a life. It is also going to be about recreating equilibrium. The stability I worked so hard to create in life fell apart last year when the place I was working for closed. Hopefully by getting a life, I can regain my footing and get some of that stability back.

I am fortunate in that I have spent years slowing down my life so that when this tragedy happened last year, I did not completely fall apart. I was knocked down a little, but not completely demolished. I am able to stand up again, brush myself off, and move forward.

How do you go about getting a life out in the sticks?

 

 

 

 

How do you go about getting a life out in the sticks?

No Regrets

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I used to say that only had one regret in life – that moment when I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I distinctly remember moving on 4th of July weekend, thinking it ironic that at a time when everyone else was celebrating freedom, I was in fact, relinquishing mine, and voluntarily taking up chains. I spent well over 10 years after trying to return to Massachusetts.

It didn’t work. The cost of living is way too high for me to be able to pull an income to live there without being homeless. Not only did I have to face that heart crushing reality, but I also came to realize over the course of time, that I needed to let go of that solitary regret. There is a Buddhist saying that if you live in the past, you are depressed, if you live in the future, you are anxious, and to live in the present because it is a gift.

I agree wholeheartedly that the present is a gift. When I face challenges or adversities and start to become stressed, I try to summarize the situation by identifying the two or three things that are bothering me the most. Then, if I mentally set those things aside, I realize that life is pretty damn good and start counting my blessings.

Now I live with no regrets.

Regrets are borne out of the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” mindset. We all have it from time to time. Sometimes we wonder how life would be if we had done this differently or chosen that over what we are doing. The key is to not get caught up in that exercise and beat yourself up over what could have been. It typically happens when we are contemplating major life changes. When faced with big choices, choice A is sure to have a distinct and different outcome than if we were to go with choice B.

I have had some pretty major life changes over the course of the past year. My 20-year career as a college student ended, and I have been out of school for 6 months now. I have no regrets. The timing was right. I was ready to be done. Four or five years ago, when various people were encouraging me to drop out of school due to my grueling commute, I was not ready to be done with school, and to drop out at that time surely would have resulted in regret. The timing was right for me to be done now. I am completely happy.

About 3 months ago, I completely deleted my faceboook account. Every so often, I will be in conversation with someone, and they will say “I saw it on facebook,” or “on facebook …” and trail off. I just smile and nod. I honestly do not feel I am missing anything by not being on facebook. My stress levels have decreased significantly. I do not feel the pressure to keep up with the Jones’. I am no longer subjected to everyone’s drama. Believe me, to quote the infamous Deadpool, facebook is to my mental health like what “Limp Biskit did to music in the 90s.” I am significantly happier without it.

To add to the plethora of changes that have been occurring, I cut my hair last week. You are probably like, “whatever, I get a trim every 7 weeks.” I typically get my hair trimmed also, except this was a major cut. My hair has been halfway down my back, approaching my butt for going on 10 years, and it is now up above my shoulders closer to my ears. One of my coworkers did a double take and literally almost fell over when they saw it. It just needed to be gone. When your hair is so long and so fine that it not only gets caught in every seatbelt, purse strap, and starts to attempt to try to dreadlock itself, when you don’t want dreadlocks, then its time to be gone.

With my new hair, I can drive with all the windows down without having to worry about my hair being knotted worse that a rubber band ball, and showering is quick and easy. Believe it or not, I can still style it in my signature braids for running, although the braids are now so small, they make me look like a toddler. My hair is just slightly longer than that kewpie doll look.

I am looking to sell the bed in my spare bedroom so that I can reclaim that space for a different, yet to be determined, purpose. Not only am I changing myself, but the space around me.

Big changes that are coming in the future is that I will be shutting off my home internet, and giving up my space in the parking garage I use for work and having to walk a few miles to work from someplace that has free and safe parking. Giving up Internet and parking are going to be challenges, but are necessary changes that need to be made for financial reasons. There are only two ways to get more money in life to pay for necessities. You either earn more money or you reduce your expenses.

I could earn more money. I could apply to teach at one of the colleges in the area or look for some other part-time job. I don’t want to. I enjoy the time I have now with my given work schedule. It is not worth it to me to sacrifice my time to work another job to try to get more money. Now that I have experienced this phenomenon called leisure time for the first time in my life, I am hooked and do not want to give it up. I spent decades working 70 hours a week. I don’t want to do it again.

The only way to come up with more money to cover the unexpected medical expenses I am facing right now is to reduce my expenses. The only frivolous expenses I have are parking and Internet. So, they have to go. Once the parking and Internet bills are gone, I am only left with necessities like rent, electric, car, and insurance. If cutting parking and Internet does not free up some cash to pay medical bills, then I don’t know what will.

Before everyone throws a fit over canceling home Internet, be aware that my cell phone has unlimited Internet. When I switched phone carriers last fall, I not only saved myself over $100 a month in the switch, but I also went from having an Internet cap to unlimited. I can still email, catch the news, sports, and weather right from my phone. In fact, in looking at my Internet usage over the past 6 months since I have been out of school, the only time I bring my laptop out and plug into the Internet is when I’m writing this blog. Not only can I do that from my phone with an app, but I also have access to some places with some pretty good wifi if I want a larger platform than my phone. Spending $2 at my favorite café once a week for coffee and wifi is a whole lot cheaper for Internet at a grand total of $8 per month ($2/week x 4 weeks) than what I am paying now. Plus, going to the café once a week gets me out in the community. Or, maybe I will alternate. If I can blog through an app on my phone, then maybe I will only frequent the café twice a month. Either way, I do not feel I am using the Internet enough to justify paying for home access, and the money I will save by shutting off Internet will be better used for other bills.

The hardest transition is going to be giving up my parking pass. Having a parking pass is a huge convenience. It is close to my work, it is in a safe location, and the car is covered so I do not have to deal with snow and ice in the winter. My car is safe there. Now, the challenge will be finding a safe place to park my car. Once I do find a safe place, I will have to walk a few miles to work. Normally, this is no big deal. I run marathons, after all. The challenge is that the time of day I will be walking due to my work hours is not the safest time or place to be on my own, but after surviving some negative experiences in big cities, I will be sure to play it safe.

I have done a lot to decrease my expenses in recent years. Most of it has just been cutting out excess and fluff. Getting rid of my parking pass will be my first true sacrifice in trying to get more money to pay for bills. I am hoping I don’t regret giving up my parking pass. Time will tell. It is definitely going to be a huge change. I have viewed my parking pass as a way to keep my investment (vehicle) safe, so my life is about to get more challenging.

Whenever we face big changes in life, we have the potential for regret. I want a live a life with no regrets. I want to look at all the options, make an informed decision, and jump in with both feet: this is what I’m doing and live with the consequences. Change is scary. It is fear of the unknown. Even the best-laid plans do not always work out. We may make a decision, and then find out information later that makes us wish we had made an alternate choice. Yet we can only go on what is in front of us at that time. How do you live a life with no regrets?