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.

almost country_1
3/19/2010 9:27:34 AM

Mountain Woman, I would LOVE to be your neighbor--Your blog "Back in the Saddle" was hilarious--and the scene you paint so beautiful. Vermont, huh? I used to travel to Burlington for work, and I did like it there...but I think we're going to stick a little closer to family and go for Wisconsin. If I make it out your way, though, can I stop by for a visit? Maybe you can teach me to ride a horse :) I gotta check out your other blog. And thanks for the words of encouragement! It means a lot. I really dig this GRIT community. A more positive bunch of people I don't think you'll find online--or anywhere.


mountain woman
3/19/2010 6:37:01 AM

Dear Colleen, What a beautifully written and moving post and I totally identified with everything you wrote. I have a main blog (not a Grit blog) for Red Pine Mountain and my motto is "Live Your Dreams, Share Your Hearts." It's been very frightening in some ways pursuing my dreams and not every day is wonderful despite living on the most beautiful farm in the world (okay, I'm prejudiced :-) but it has been the most worthwhile experience of my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Like you, I left a conventional job, a steady paycheck, great benefits to wander into the unknown and, yes, we lead an unconventional lifestyle hardly anyone understands but it speaks to my heart every day. I know you will get there. You're moving there every day in mind and spirit, courageously pushing forward to the life your soul desires. I commend you in your journey. So difficult at times. And I look forward to reading your words which are so moving. P.S. - Why not consider moving to Vermont? I'd love to have you as a farm neighbor. Mountain Woman Red Pine Mountain


almost country_1
3/18/2010 9:31:18 PM

Dave, I wish I could sit on your patio, drink some coffee, and soak up some of your wisdom on a regular basis. I'm grateful that I really like my job, and I LOVE the people I work with--that's always kept me going more than anything. But sooner or later, I will need to leap--if for no other reason than to say that I did. Thanks for visiting! :)


nebraska dave
3/18/2010 4:56:09 PM

Colleen, changing seasons of life can be a tremendously scary thing. I’m sure you have not done anything without a lot of thought. I’m into my third season of life which is the best so far. Of course I never quit a job but instead started the dream of my life job at age 20 and worked through 60. I learned that if you have a job that you just can’t wait to get there to do, it’s not a job. Even though I got paid quite handsomely and had really good benefits, it was the thrill and challenge of each new day at work that made 40 years fly by. Now I’m in a season that is nothing like the job I worked, but it goes way back to my first love of farming. I don’t own a farm, but I’m quite satisfied with farming on a smaller level called gardening. I’m after the whole gambit. Growing, preserving, and the best part, eating, are all something I’ve always wanted to do since childhood, but never could manage it around raising kids and other time consuming family life activities. Another thing is definitely health. Waiting until just the right time to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do, can end up with those things not happening because of failing health. There comes a time when that leap of faith will present itself. Not to take it can be a nagging “What if” memory. I wish you well in your endeavors and look forward to hearing about the journey.