Do you ever feel like you are fast-tracked on a one-way bullet train to a life you never consciously chose? You’re supposed to go to college, get a job, find the love of your life, get married, buy a house, adopt a dog, have 2.5 kids, and retire at age 65. But, what if that’s not the life you have or even the life you want?
A few years ago, my husband and I were newlyweds and new homeowners both with steady jobs, we were ready for the next stop on the train – adopting a dog. I’m pretty sure our conversations about getting a dog began on our first date; we are both big dog lovers. So we couldn’t wait to adopt Luke – a sweet and docile 1-year old puppy. The adoption process moved fast. Within about a week of seeing Luke on the website of a local animal rescue charity, he was at home with us. We couldn’t be more excited!
Within a day, we realized that Luke was going to be quite a handful. His leg had been injured before he was rescued and he had just gotten out of his cast when we adopted him. He was ready to run free and use up all of that pent up energy running across our yard that had no fences to keep him in and trying to escape the leash on walks. We just couldn’t keep up with him or keep a tight rein on him during our walks. But, we were determined. We would just fence in our yard (about $2,000), buy more harnesses to teach him how to have better manners on walks, and we’d take more time to acclimate him to our home and lifestyle. He was our dog!
A few days later as we headed to the pet store to get more gear for Luke, my husband had the courage to ask the tough question, “Do we really want to do this? Do we really want Luke?” We pulled over into an empty parking lot and both bawled for about 20 minutes. We had both wanted this so much and yet it wasn’t right. We had come to a decision point – we either had to keep him wholeheartedly or let him go with empty hearts. We had to do what was right for Luke and for us. Luke needed a family with the patience to train him and lots of fenced in land where he could run free. Between our steady jobs, my full travel schedule, and our busy social calendar, he would spend a lot of time in a cage if he stayed with us.
As we wiped our tears, we talked about what we wanted our life to be. We wanted the freedom to go out when we wanted and to go on short weekend trips without having to look for a dog sitter. We didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars fencing in our yard, we wanted to spend it traveling. With heavy hearts, we decided to go home, call Luke’s foster parents, and bring him back as soon as possible so he could begin the search for a new family. Second, and more importantly, we decided to step off the one-way bullet train that lead from marriage to a house to a dog to 2.5 kids and decided to chart our own path.
We wanted our life together to be defined by adventure and creativity. A few months later, we turned the spare bedroom in our home into a gear and travel room. We took ownership of our marriage and began defining our life together. Yes, we were the couple who returned a rescue dog, but we are also the couple with a subscription to National Geographic Traveler and maps all over the walls of all the places we’ll go. We are the couple that throws caution to the wind and just goes whether it’s exploring Iceland’s golden circle or heading out with the other hard-core nature lovers to open the camping season in Minnesota shortly after the ice has thawed.
Two and a half years later, we are still a family of two, by choice, working to create a fulfilling life for ourselves. A fulfilling life for us includes exploring new places, creating a home we look forward to coming back to, and having meaningful jobs that allow us the flexibility to travel. In the midst of creating this life, we are also working to build up a solid financial foundation, repay our debt, and be generous to others. You may wonder what, if anything, this has to do with finances and I would argue that this is at the center of being financially well. Having money doesn’t mean much unless it’s going toward the people, places, things, and causes you care about. If you don’t know what life you are trying to create for yourself – what end goal you are trying to reach – how will you know the steps to get there? Sometimes you have to step back, before you can really step forward.
I’d love to know what a more fulfilling life looks like for you. Tell me in a few words in the comments below. Or, if you’d like to get more creative. Post a picture on social media and tag @classyfrugalist.
Let’s connect your money and your values to help you create a more fulfilling life!