The iconic saying "Go West, young man" has been attributed to Horace Greeley when in 1883 he advised a then young Josiah Bushnell Grinnnel to, "Go West, young man go west. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles." This was written over two-hundred years ago and the statement still holds true; there his health in the country. As far as "imbeciles" go, I'm sure one or two have taken up residence in the "country" as well.
My recent decision to quit my corporate job and head westward might seem ludicrous at a time when close to 10 million people are unemployed. But working in a cube was not my idea of living the "dream". It was a job not a Life. I did get to utilize and exercise innate talents and learned skills by doing the things that I really enjoyed and still do, such as teaching and coaching. Best of all, I got to work with and learn from a great manager; just one of two over a forty-three years of working. My former employer treated me for the most part very well. I was compensated fairly and on time. Their benefits' package was and is superior to that of many global companies. We had an agreement and we both held up our end of the deal but in the end, salary and benefits while being very important were not enough for me to continue on until that coveted time of life entitled, "retirement."
A very wise old lady who worked six days a week up until the time of her death at 92 once told me, "If you're consuming you should be contributing." I agree. Most people believe that they can't or shouldn't pursue their dreams and live the lives that truly want and are passionate about, until they've retired. I understand. There are many factors to consider before quitting your job and uprooting yourself. When I told my colleagues I was leaving to pursue my passions they looked at me and said with desperation, "Please take me with you!" Of course, a lot of people are perfectly content in their jobs and careers but if you're like me and can no longer avoid those thumping thoughts in your head and pangs of passion in your heart to go after your dreams, then you too can quit your job and live and work where you know you belong.
It takes a certain amount of courage and desire to untangle and separate yourself from the expected way of making a living and living a life in order to follow your instincts and dreams. Some people commented on my decision with, "I envy you" and "Your so lucky." No one should envy me and if luck had anything not much would get accomplished. I am not advocating that what I've done and what I'm about to do would be right for everyone. But I need to be true to myself and listen to the voice inside my heart that has been calling me for many years and return to the canvas. I'm grateful for all the years I've spent working for large companies. In one way, everyday that I went through those revolving glass doors and cut my way through stagnant air brought me closer to realizing what I didn't want. I made those jobs work for me. My dreams of making a living and making a life as an artist in piñon scented mountains are about to come true. You don't have to wait for retirement to feel satisfied with your work and where in the world you live. Of course, you can wait until you retire and be dead shortly thereafter. Sadly, this was the case recently when three former colleagues all died unexpectedly within a year of their retirements.
Young adults travel in order to find themselves. After completing a road trip across the USA or a RailEurope tour they're expected to have their souls cleansed of wanderlust and any remnants of childish thoughts then buckle down and put their noses to the proverbial grindstone. I've been on the journey of self-discovery for over fifty years and the move to new environs is just another step in a long and winding path.
This is not the first time I will be living outside an urban center. I lived in Vail, Colorado for eight years in my twenties and would't trade that time and experience for the world but I lacked three essential ingredients for creating and sustaining a viable and peaceful life: discipline, acceptance and responsibility.
In his seminal work Walden, Thoreau wrote, "I learned this at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will being to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them."
Do what you love, serenity and money will follow. For the fortunate, advocation and vocation are one in the same. However, not everyone has the same choices. Socioeconomics unfortunately, to often dictate success, health and happiness. I'm going west to the confluence of heart and art and room away from the crowds. Decide what's really important to you. Go after it now. Take one step. Don't wait until the "right time". It won't ever be perfect, even if you retire with a lot of dough in the bank your health may fail, a loved one may die and then all you'll be left with are "should have's, would have's" and "wish I had"s. Build your castle brick by brick and live amongst the stars.
Stay tuned for Act - 2: on the road and beyond.