I call it my Doc Hollywood moment. If you're not familiar with the movie (it is from 1991, after all) the short synopsis is this: Med student in NY has plans to be a plastic surgeon in Hollywood. Sports cars, expensive home, etc. Encounters an unplanned detour, during the drive across country, where he falls for a simpler life in a small town. Yeah, he falls for a girl too, but you get the picture.
He realized he was happier with less - and didn't need all the material things as he thought he did.
Cut to: Back in the summer of 2011, my wife JL and I were having a somewhat existential conversation about our future. What did we want to be doing when we were 75 years old? We weren't retiring when we were 62, to be sure. Did I want to be locked in a beige office, working for some dusty old guy in a corner office until then? Or did I want to be doing something I enjoyed? Something that was satisfying for me, as well as doing good and right by other people? JL was doing just that; making changes to her career and starting her own consulting business.
This conversation was precipitated by the fact that we were talking about where we wanted to live in New York. We had lived there for a number of years after moving from Chicago, and were finally thinking about buying a place. Now, New York is expensive (and we didn't even live in Manhattan) and we were quite honestly limited in where we could look based on home rates at the time. At one point an area was being tossed around as a place to look for homes, and I said: "I don't really want to live there." This started the real conversation.
We had a discussion on what we really wanted. From our desires relating to a home, lifestyle, cost of living, work, and what was going to make us - the two of us together - happy.
I always thought I needed "stuff". A big house; an expensive car; lots of "things". I saw people fighting that battle back east. To quote Tyler Durden, (yes, another movie reference), their things owned them. It was a constant game of chasing our tail. Who the hell were we to need a bunch of expensive crap just because other people we knew had it and we felt that, because of this, we needed more.
We realized we didn't need a lot of things to be happy. We needed each other, first and foremost. Everything after that was icing on the cake.
So we planned. I was already a USA Triathlon coach at the time - coaching on the side. How to make the move to full-time coaching? That's what I wanted to do. I loved the sport, I wanted to work in the sport. My wife, being a much better planner than I, assisted in the process. Okay, she led the process. We had lots of spreadsheets. We began planning. We had to get away from the East Coast. We weren't from there originally, so it really wasn't a big issue (save for leaving some dear friends, of course). What did we need to pay the bills? Where can we run our own businesses and live a comfortable life that made us happy?
There's much more to the entire process, of course, but the bottom line was we needed to simplify our lives. And we did. We moved across country to the amazing state of Colorado. Our new careers have taken off. JL is a cook, cookbook author, consultant, and culinary instructor. I'm a triathlon coach, a club and high school swim coach, cross country coach, and work with US Masters Swimming on coach education and other programs. We own a condo, manage our schedules, and are having a ton of fun together.
Sure there's stress. But not the same kind of stress I / we had. No more dreading going to the office. No more taking time off and still checking email and answering the phone. Sure, being your own boss can mean constantly fighting spreadsheets and looking at the bottom line. It has it's own challenges. But we sure are a heck of a lot happier.