I never lived in a small town growing up. I was born in Dallas in 1988. We lived there until we moved to Davenport, Iowa (part of the Quad Cities) in 1998. From there I went to art school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and got my Bachelor’s in Oklahoma City. After college I moved myself to Perth in Western Australia and two years later, to Los Angeles. Three years after landing in LA, I moved into the second floor apartment of a hundred year old house in Vergennes, Vermont — population 2,597. No one seems to get it but me, and even I have my doubts sometimes.
When I was living in Perth, I began to realize that I hold a weird tension within myself: I was ambitious and wanted to change the world, but I also highly valued simplicity and solitude. I felt that in order to satisfy this tension, I was going to have to choose between a high-powered, big city lifestyle, or a quiet, barely noticeable country retreat. At the time, it seemed to me that I had some sort of responsibility to the universe to head to the big city. In order to truly fill my potential and make my maximum contribution to humanity, I was going to have to pick a career with the highest profile and live in a city where six figures felt like minimum wage. I was going to have to embrace social media, skinny jeans, and platform heels and let go of my yen for grass, sky, early bedtimes, and community pancake breakfasts.
So I did it. I did LA. I was in the City of Angels for three years. And the crazy thing about LA is that the people who live there LOVE IT. They believe in LA. They are on board. Even though I never once felt like that, I dug in and invested in the city. I started a nonprofit, I worked for a tech startup, and I joined a church. I was going to make it work so I could realize my potential.
Two and a half years in, I went on a trip to Malawi. Malawi is that country in Africa that Madonna is partial to. It’s referred to as the Warm Heart of Africa- and it is.
One morning at about 5:45 as I was sipping my cup of coffee on a patch of dry grass, I felt a snap. Suddenly the universe released me from my delusion that I needed to be in LA and pursue societally-mandated ambitions. God (Source/Universe/Divine… whatever you want to call that thing/presence/energy that seems to be bigger than us) seemed to say, “Hey, you’re done there. You have permission to live the life you want.”
YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT?!?
WHAT?? That was a life-altering concept for me. In my soul, I had always known the kind of life I wanted- one of purposeful simplicity- but it didn’t seem like it was attainable/responsible/allowed/wise. So, the fact that God seemed to be giving me permission to have it while I was sitting in the quietest place I had been since moving to LA was a big deal.
I decided I was going to make the transition wisely. I was going to go back to LA, keep working at my job (I actually really loved my job for the most part), and figure out a way to move smoothly into a new position that would allow me to live where I wanted to live and make space for a partner and a family. I would live a life that reflected my personal values- a strangely novel concept.
And then God laughed. Or maybe the Universe laughed? Or maybe the company I was working for laughed…? They ran out of money and I lost my job. Six days later, I gave notice on my apartment, and one month later (two and half months after that moment in Malawi), I was packed up and moving out of LA. No concrete plans in sight.
I traveled for a few months, sometimes working with nonprofit friends, sometimes just enjoying the new scenery. New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont, Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Calca (in Peru), Atlanta, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In December, I was in Atlanta working with a nonprofit, and I felt the Universe talking again. I knew where I was supposed to go: Vermont.
Yes, you read that right. Vermont.
I think back in the 1960s and ’70s, there was a movement towards Vermont, but at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be too many young people headed to the Green Mountain State. I don’t have any ties here. I didn’t know anyone here- I didn’t even know anyone in New England. It just seemed like I was being pulled here.
Vermont is BEAUTIFUL. When I’m driving to the grocery store, I think damn… I can’t believe I get to experience this beauty every single day. Seriously. How do more people not live here? It is stunning. My house is old with wood floors that all slope towards the center of the house making it incredibly difficult to hang shelves or place furniture in a way that looks straight. I have a big back yard and a lilac bush, and farms less than a mile away. I work at a horse farm two afternoons a week- just brushing retired horses and trying to learn so I can own one myself one day. I go to bed at 10:30. I deleted my Facebook. I wear a lot of flannel.
I don’t know why, but it feels like home.
It’s also fucking hard.
It’s fucking hard to move somewhere where you don’t know anybody. It’s fucking hard to lose relationships. It’s fucking hard to lose your job. It’s fucking hard to start over. Even though I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be, I don’t really hear God that much at the moment. I feel pretty alone. I watch a lot of New Girl and pretend that they’re my friends. I treat myself to solo road trips and sit by myself at the bar of rural craft breweries. I’m an introvert, but not a loner, so there have been a lot of tears.
I’m not telling you that to make you feel sorry for me. Ugh. Pity is THE WORST. I’m telling you that so just in case you ever feel that way, you’ll know it’s normal. Just because you have the opportunity to live the life you’ve always wanted to live doesn’t mean it will be easy and feel great. It’s a fucking battle. And that’s okay.
If you’re reading this, I’d like to make a toast to us: Here’s to a life well lived, a life of intention and joy, a life that respects and celebrates, to family and community, to true love and faith, to the experiences that brought us here, the hope in our futures, and the possibility of the present. May we share it all with the generosity of abundance, and with the knowledge that no matter what happens, it’s all going to be okay.