Today, I’m featuring a guest post. The author is my wife. I’ll soon be posting a companion piece of my own, which will be part 2.
I have too many dreams.
So many dreams.
I live in a cabin in the woods in Idaho. I live in France in a big house in the countryside. I live in London, or Stockholm, or Copenhagen. I don’t own a car. I bike everywhere, I shop at marketplaces, I challenge my brain by speaking another language.
I collect most of these dreams from the Internet. You know why? You do know why. It’s the inherent understanding everyone has when they sign on. It goes like this:
Everyone’s life is better than yours.
Online is a dangerous place.
I had the nicest email from a reader the other day, truly, and I don’t want to make light of how good the note made me feel, and how happy I am to have inspired him. The note said that Casey and I were living his dream in regards to the tiny house and the cabin. In that particular moment, I wanted to write back and say “We’ll sell it all to you right now. How much?”
You see, living differently has a price. It’s painful. It is sacrifice and sweat and blood and tears and I mean all four of those literally. It’s emotional pain. It’s physical pain. And because it’s different, you have no one to guide you or support you but yourself because everyone around you is in a normal house, with a mortgage, at a normal job where you get paid every two weeks as long as you show up and contribute a bit here and there.
The Bucolic Plague is a book I turn to in my moments of utmost desperation. I realize now that I turn to it because its author is telling the truth, and in my moments of desperation, I need to hear someone telling the truth. Telling the truth is something I’ve been scared to do here. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want advice. I don’t want assistance. I don’t want to feel I have to qualify my words or decisions to anyone. I’m scared to write this, but I can’t contribute an incomplete picture anymore. I see it too often on the digital pages I visit. I go online seeking connection. To people. To their stories. When I read only stories about perfection, I feel inadequate. I can’t play with that game any longer. You’ve heard about the good stuff. This post is showing another side.
My life is not perfect. Money is up and down and up again. Being self-employed and owning two small businesses is work times work times work. Being self-employed doesn’t mean that you don’t have a boss, and that things are free-wheeling and flexible and four-hours-of-work-a-week (I despise Tim Ferriss and every ounce of the bullshit that he is selling people. I don’t say that lightly). Self-employment means that every day is like scratching up a wall, and that wall is yourself. You have to decide what comes next. What the best course of action is. You can work 18 hour days for weeks making products for a three day craft fair. You can sit at that craft fair for three days with cigarette smoke swirling around you and loud bands blaring across the street and another vendor coming over to scream at you intermittently and then you walk away from those three days with $310 in your pocket. Minus the Square fee. Minus the tire replacement from the drive up and back and up and back and up and back. Minus gas for those 200 miles. Minus food because you were too busy to pack two meals times three days. Minus sales tax. Minus income tax. Minus self-employment tax.
Who wants to go halvsies on a package of Orbit? I’ll bring the coupon.
Then there’s the tiny house.
Building a tiny house is not picturesque. It sucks. Anyone who tells you differently is either balls-out lying, wants to sell you an e-course, or has had their memory genuinely clouded by a combination of time, nostalgia, and hindsight. Every fucking bit of building a tiny house sucks, and if you’re not careful, it becomes a sacred cow on wheels, a cow you genuflect to daily with blood sacrifice from your bank account and saline tears from your eyeballs and sweat glands.
Then there’s the part of my life that I don’t talk about because I think it’s boring. It’s the part that looks just like yours.
Our car needed over 1k of repairs this week. We got screwed royally by a shop that received great reviews and recommendations. We took our perfectly functioning car in for needed maintenance, and drove away with brakes that don’t work properly. Casey drove it back and was told it must be a coincidence and that the car rolling four feet after braking to a complete stop didn’t seem “that bad.” As of this moment, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. It’s not just the money. It’s literally “We’ve seen every independent mechanic in town and been screwed at all of them. What in the hell do we do now?” My dad says our car issues are a first world problem. I don’t entirely agree with him. Being in a city where having a car is mandatory, when it’s how you get to the store and to clients and jobs and money, when you’re in a system that pretty much presents no other way…I don’t see that as a first world problem. I think FWPs are things that any person, anywhere could absolutely be living without at any time, but they’re complaining about having to deal with it. “Oh, I snapped another pair of my Gucci heels today!” “The barista never gets the temperature right on my drink order” or my favorite FWP meme: “I broke my iPad…by dropping my iPhone on it.”
Ah, the joys of alternative living. Breaking the mold! Stepping outside the box! Living your best life! Simplify, simplify, simplify! I even found myself earlier thinking “If only we had decided to build a teardrop trailer that could be pulled by bicycles. Then our lives would actually be simple and better.” Again with those dreams. This is what I’ve realized: I don’t know if “the simple life” is even real. I don’t think it is. Even if you own one shirt, a bike, a backpack, and a pair of shoes, life is never simple. Anyone who tries to sell the simple life to you for either money or page views is, well, selling it to you. Never, ever forget that.
I have so many dreams. London, Stockholm, Copenhagen. Then the fantasy stops. Money must still be made in Copenhagen. No car, but rent and everything else is much more expensive. You’ve left all of your friends and must make new ones. You still have a chronic illness, it’s the end of your cycle and your fatigue is rapidly returning like a dust storm waiting to settle into every muscle and bone in your body. Also, fall is coming. The sun just left. This is Copenhagen, so you’ll see it again sometime next July.
I said above that living differently has a price. But that’s not fair. All living has a price. I want to stop selling the notion that there is a way to live that doesn’t.