The Difficult Path to The Simple Life
From city girl to simple life
I grew up in the city. Life was fast, competition was fierce and downtime was considered a luxury. Meals were often eaten on the go as I rushed from appointment to appointment; From the train to work; From home to school and back again. Always rushing.
Always stuck in never-ending traffic, or alone in a crowd on the train as everybody averted their eyes from each other and looked down at their phones. Always scurrying around with everyone else stuck in the rat race, just trying to get through the day. Get through Life.
I’d look up sometimes and see nothing but grey; Grey concrete shooting high into the sky on a backdrop of grey skies. And I lived in one of the greenest cities in the world! Still, it never felt natural to me, and I often found myself stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and depressed.
I know there are lots of people who do love living in the city, surrounded by stimuli; Things to do, places to go, limitless options for dining out, a never-ending selection of entertainment, businesses open 24/7, bright lights, loud noises and crowds of people everywhere. The city teems with life, and some people thrive on that. I have many friends who do. They get their energy from the constant buzz of city life. I think it’s awesome for them! But it’s not for me.
Loving life in the slow lane
I like living a quieter, slower, frankly more boring life. I hate feeling rushed, stressed or pressured to keep up with everybody else. I’m energized by being in nature, gardening, reading, writing, solitude, having deep philosophical conversations with my closest family and friends, and spending time simply enjoying life in the moment. I once read that time is a currency, and that we all have a finite amount. I truly believe this, and I don’t want to waste mine.
So we moved away from the city to the outskirts of a smaller town. It’s still quite large, but nothing like the big city. There’s lots of land still out here. There’s nature everywhere and room to breathe. Many businesses still close on Sundays and most dining options shut their doors at 8 pm. People look each other in the eyes here and most still say hello or offer a friendly smile. There’s less pressure to run the rat race because there’s really no rat race to run.
Sure, it’s still busy here. We live off the main highway and as I write this I’m listening to sounds of rush hour traffic right outside our front door. But at night, the road is quiet and the traffic is replaced by the sound of crickets or frogs or owls or nothing, depending on the time of year. And you can see the stars when you look up on a clear night. There’s no light pollution to interfere. It’s heavenly.
We live on enough land now to grow a good-sized garden, we currently don’t pay rent where we live in exchange for taking care of the house, and I’m realizing my dreams of pursuing a simpler life where I get to stay home most days, spend quality time with my family, follow my passion for homesteading and write about it here to boot. I really couldn’t ask for a life better suited to me and my husband. But I still struggle to embrace simple living fully and completely, the way I really want to.
You can take the girl out of the city, but…
Last year when I was about 6 months pregnant with my daughter, I was working full time at a school where I had a conversation with another teacher. I told him I was also working part time at another job, substituting at other schools on the days this school was closed, starting a candle-making business from home and growing my first big veggie garden, all while being due to give birth in the middle of summer. As I told him all this, he looked at me, perplexed. Then he asked me, “why are you so busy?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I feel like I need to be. I like to keep busy.”
“Do you think it’s because you used to live in the city?” He asked.
I thought about that for a moment, and let his words sink in. Finally I responded, “maybe.”
Learning to let go of the need to keep up with the pace of a faster life has been a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong; To most people looking from the outside, it might seem like I don’t have a lot going on. But I’m always busy with some project, task, commitment or self-imposed deadline I’m working toward.
I’m very goal-oriented and I care about being successful. But what I’ve been learning lately is that my version of success doesn’t need to look like other people’s. I still struggle with feeling like I need to prove myself to others; To please them and be what they expect me to be, rather than who I really am. To feel accepted. To fit in.
I don’t think many of my friends and family members really understand this lifestyle that has captivated me, and I still get the feeling some people think it’s a way for me to justify laziness and get out of working for a living, which could not be further from the truth. I just want the work that I do to be worth more than a steady paycheque and a good benefits plan. And I don’t want to rely on a pension to provide for me in my old age. I want to rely on my own skills, knowledge and land.
But I still feel pressured to prove my success through the money I earn, the title I have and the things I own, because that’s how so many other people define and understand success. A stay-at-home mom with a few bucks in the bank and dirt under her fingernails is hardly the poster child for a successful woman in the 21st century. But that’s what makes me happy. And I believe being happy in today’s world is the greatest success anyone can achieve.
Success is all relative
My version of success is not about earning enough money to pay for a fancy lifestyle. Rather, it’s about living a simpler lifestyle so that I don’t have to earn as much money to support it. It’s not about having some big fancy title or status. Instead, it’s about living a life that’s true to who I am and what I believe. It’s not about accumulating things. I’d rather accumulate moments spent with my family, in the garden admiring the miracle of life, in the kitchen cooking, at home creating and doing what I love.
I decided to write on this topic this week because I’ve been feeling out of sorts for the past few days. I’ve been struggling to find where I fit. Do my friends and family think I’m strange for pursuing this dream? Do they take it seriously or think it’s just a phase? Often I don’t talk to them about it because they can’t relate to where I’m coming from. I hardly told anyone I was starting this blog before I launched it simply because I feared they would ask “what’s it about,” and I’d have to explain it to them, feeling weird and uncomfortable and utterly “different” as I did. After all, let’s face it: this isn’t the typical 21st-century millennial dream.
On the other hand, I feel like a fraud sometimes because of my inexperience living this lifestyle. I’ve connected with some amazing people online who are self-proclaimed homesteaders, preppers, farmers, gardeners and natural-living experts. Many of them have years or even a lifetime of experience doing what I’m teaching myself to do one step at a time. I’m proud to feel like I’m becoming a part of this community, but I often feel inadequate and even unqualified to give advice, like I do here, on this blog…
Learning to trust my journey
I’ve had to remind myself lately that life is a journey, and to trust that journey. To love where you are on your path and know that’s exactly where you should be. Right now I’m in a transition phase. I’m still learning to slow down, to let things go, and to allow myself a little grace.
I don’t need anything fancy. But I do need to feel as if I’m living my life honestly and being true to myself. For me, that means breaking free from the rat race, and living a life removed from the stress and the pressures of the modern world.
A simple, slow, quiet life where I grow some of the food that we eat, make what I can with my own two hands, follow my passions, and spend as much time as possible enjoying every moment with the ones I love.
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