I was provided a free copy of Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life to review. All opinions and ideas are my own, however. Links to the book are affiliate links.
While sitting down and reading Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup, one quote really stuck out to me. It’s not because this quote is uncommonly profound. In many ways, it is just common sense. Instead, the quote seemed to in some way validate all the radical decisions I made over the last two years.
The good life is not what we think it is.
For years, I was on a clear path. I left college with a triple major and immediately began graduate school for literature while working full time as a special education assistant in my old high school. I was immensely busy but I had a purpose – graduate with both my master’s degree and teaching certificate while paying my own way and then get a teaching job. I did. In a time where finding a teaching job is tough, I was lucky enough to land a job where I student taught. Perfect!
Now … teach, get married (I was planning my wedding at the time), and continue to follow the path.
However, the path wasn’t working. Teaching brought on immense migraines at a frequency and severity I hadn’t experience since high school. I woke up every morning with a sense of dread – Would I be able to go to work? Would I need lesson plans? How can I be a good teacher when I can’t even get to school?
There were so many complicating factors – an hour plus commute in city traffic, an immensely stressful work environment where nothing was ever good enough, a boss who didn’t understand that migraines are not headaches, and so forth.
It all finally crashed down upon me in the spring of 2013. I came home from work in pain as I did most nights. Nights were no longer about watching a tv show with my husband or even making dinner. It was about getting my head to a pain level where maybe – just maybe – I could go to work the next day.
I complained, again, about wishing I could just sleep and not worry about work, that I just wanted to feel better, when my husband said that maybe work needed to be taken out of the equation.
Take work out of the equation? I thought he was nuts.
We were lucky enough to have housing included in my husband’s job on a college campus, but that was definitely reflected in his paychecks. Up until that moment, I brought home more money and I had plans for that money. Putting aside a down payment for when we left college housing, paying off a car, going on a family vacation that was already scheduled but not paid for.
How could we take work out of the equation?
But we did. First with a medical leave that allowed me to take care of myself, get more rest and try a new medication. Within a week, I felt better. I felt like myself again. The job really did need to be taken out of the equation.
Unless you have experienced chronic pain, it is hard to imagine what the prolonged experience is like. For me, I became a different person. Every moment my head ached. Light hurt. Noise hurt. Movement made me nauseous and hurt. Nothing came easy. I became irritable, annoying, angry, sad … and it’s not hard to imagine that I wasn’t exactly being the best wife.
We had just promised through sickness and health and the sickness part took us very seriously. Our first year of marriage was baptism by fire and we thankfully emerged stronger.
I’m not sure I will ever love my husband more than for telling me I needed to find a different path and that it was okay. For giving me permission to realize “the good life [was] not what [I] thought it was”.
Here is what I know now though, my secret to a good life I guess I could say: In order to be living the good life, you must give yourself permission to rethink the life you thought you wanted in order to be happy.
Two years ago I was struggling to keep up with a job that wasn’t what I thought it would be and it was physically making me ill. And, if not for my husband, I probably still would be. Ruth says that she thinks “most of us have the tendency to put our dreams on hold in favor of the practical.” I agree with her. I would have. I would have worked through the pain to bring home that paycheck.
I am so thankful I didn’t.
The Love Nerds began during that short medical leave and has turned into a thriving blog and business. It sounds completely corny but The Love Nerds has turned into my good life, providing my opportunities I didn’t think I would ever have.
You know, I was asked the other day when I had my last migraine and I couldn’t remember. I had to actually pause and think about it. Pioneering this new path for myself has allowed me to take care of myself.
I won’t tell you that it wasn’t scary and still isn’t. When I left teaching, I cut our income by over half. HALF! There were tons of restless nights, hundreds of pep talks and many batches of comfort cookies when those pep talks didn’t work. There were also lots of fights about going out to eat and the purchase of video games or a new sweater. We had a car to pay off and student loans for both of us. We had to change our lifestyle, something Ruth talks a lot about and I will, too, more this year.
With the help of Ruth’s ideas in Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life and some other financial authors she recommends, we are being intentional with our money and our happiness. Ruth even pointed out goals and desires I have for my good life that I didn’t really think about, even though my husband would probably say – of course that’s important to you. Sometimes we just need someone else help us change our perspective and make things clearer.
It took us about a year and me getting creative about how to make more money from home, but we are finally seeing an upswing toward the good life we truly want. It takes work but the work is worth it.
I truly believe that anything worth pursuing will be scary. We jumped anyway. Give yourself permission to step off the path that isn’t working for you and create the life you want.