Grit Blogs > Almost Country

Changing Lifestyles: From Career to Chasing Dreams

A portrait of the author, Colleen Newquist.I’m staring out the window at a carpet of bright green in the distance, visible through the bare trees. It looks like grass, but it’s not – it’s moss coloring the slope of a wooded hill the Crayola shade called “spring green.”

I love when patches of moss start peeking through the leaves that blanket our property, heralding the start of spring. When we moved here, we attempted to follow the idea of a traditional yard and blew or raked leaves to the edge of the nature preserve. Now we know better. Not only is the effort mostly futile, but successfully clearing the leaves only means a mess of another kind. Grass doesn’t grow here – it’s too wooded – so if we eliminate the leaves, we simply live with more mud, or, in the summer, dusty patches of bald earth scattered with spindly weeds. 

From time to time, my husband thinks about trying to plant a variety of shade-loving grass, but to me it just seems silly. Why try to make the landscape something it’s not? Moss and mud suit me just fine, although I know it can be hard to let go of convention and the way things are “supposed” to be – as evidenced by the many homes in our neighborhood where trees were cleared to allow for manicured expanses of green. 

I think that’s part of my desire for “country living” – the desire to fearlessly live the life that I find comfortable, not necessarily the one that’s expected of me. Bucking the conventional is not new to us, but it’s not always easy. The challenge persists to shut out the voices – real or imagined – of those who find our choices questionable, if not downright crazy. It took courage for us to decide that my husband would no longer pursue employment, but would instead follow his dream to be an artist. At the age of 55. With a mortgage. And a son in college. 

Not only did we give up his income temporarily, but we also took on the costs of starting a new business, essentially, and in a down economy. My job keeps us afloat, but it still took a huge leap of faith for Michael – what if he made art that nobody liked or wanted? It was scary. Still is, given that the adventure is in the early stages. But the prospect of failure is nowhere near as daunting as the depression of a life half-lived.  And with commitment has come tremendous progress. The dream is quickly becoming everyday living. 

Now it’s my turn. Or soon will be. I have made a promise to myself that when Aaron is finished with college in a few years, I will allow myself to leave the security of my longtime employment to … I don’t know. Freelance? Write books? Raise goats? Make cheese? Run an herb business? Start the Creativity Farm, a place where artists like us can learn, share and thrive out in the country? Maybe run a coffee shop and art gallery?

All of it sounds slightly ridiculous and tremendously scary. I have lived nearly all my adult life with the conventions of a regular paycheck, sick time and vacation time, retirement benefits, and for more than 19 of those years, with the security of the same employer and the Cadillac of health insurance policies, never paying more than $20 for anything, including surgeries. It flies in the face of logic to even think about giving that up as we get closer to the age when we’re more likely to need it. And yet, and yet … 

I stare out the window at the spring-green moss. I can’t change my desires any more than I can – or want – to tame these woods. 

The seed of a dream is planted. Now I need to cultivate courage. And knowledge … and skills … and fortitude … some savings wouldn’t hurt … a boatload of faith might help … 

I feel a little bit like a kid building a rickety raft to set sail on an ocean. I may not know exactly what I’m getting myself into, but what an adventure it will be.