Changing the Plan to Create The Good Life

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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!

Changing the Plan to Create The Good Life - Sometimes it takes stepping off the pre-planned path to create a healthier, happier life! {The Love Nerds}

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.


  1. Amy says

    Hi Maggie – I’m stopping by from Ruth’s blog tour. Loved hearing your story, because I can identify so much with it. I quit my job in early 2014, in order to focus on writing. It was awesome to hear how your bravery paid off…and how a change of plans doesn’t mean failure. Your story is amazing – and super inspiring! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Maggie says

      Thank you so much for coming over, Amy, and for your kind words! Changing plans always seems like such a failure after all the hours and work you put in to make it happen, but it just means there might be a better plan out there. You are amazing for trying something new! Best of luck to you in your pursuits!

  2. Rebecca says

    I’m so happy to hear that things are so much better now for your health and your life. I find myself in a similar position somedays and one day I’ll get up the courage to make the change, but I’m not at that point yet. You’re seriously such an inspiration and I admire you for a taking a risk for yourself and your dreams. May only the best find you in life!

    • Maggie says

      I definitely wouldn’t have had the courage to leave my job if not for the pain and Bryan’s support. We are socialized to believe that work and financial security must come first so I felt selfish for wanting to put my health first. I really would have just kept going and that’s what most people encouraged. People thought I was CRAZY for leaving, but thankfully Bryan wanted more for me.

      I know you will get to the point though when you can make your next big step and start a new plan! You are too talented not to. 🙂

  3. Debi @ Life Currents says

    Good for you! I’m really happy to hear that it worked out. My husband and I talk all the time about how to know when the time is right. If someone doesn’t push you out how can you make that decision on your own? I mean, oh, I just have many questions and doubts and maybe worries about this. I think I’m rambling, sorry. I’m very happy for you!

    • Maggie says

      Being pushed into it is a big part of it, I think! I really would have just kept going in order to be practical and earn more money, even though it meant constant pain. There will never be a right time though. It definitely wasn’t the right time for us and we had to make a lot of sacrifices, but we are making it work and know it will be the best for us in the long run.

    • Maggie says

      It isn’t exactly a plan or idea exactly. Since childhood, we are slowly socialized one way or another into what we think our life will look like. For some it’s a career, for some it’s being a SAHM, for some it might be traveling the world. I had such a clear plan and it was all happening perfectly but then I realized it wasn’t perfect. I had to change plans if I was going to be healthy and happy.

  4. Becky says

    If only I had the courage to do what you did… I admire what you did and am very glad that it worked out for you. I don’t think the timing is quite right for me yet (when is it going to ever be right, I know) but hopefully one day… Thank you for your post!

    • Maggie says

      I think I have stopped believing in the “right time” – maybe better or worst times, but definitely not right times. Life always seems to get in the way and make things harder or scarier. If it wasn’t for the pain and my husband constantly reminding me that we would find a different way, I would probably still be teaching with constant migraines.

      I wish you all the luck though in changing your plan if that is what you want! It might take a lot of work and really creative thinking, but I know you can do it!

  5. Cathy @ Our Mini Family says

    We had a very similar experience our first year of marriage and I can totally relate to when you say “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.”–our first year together resonates with this very much so.

    I appreciate you opening up to us and sharing your story. <3

  6. Stephanie Pass says

    This was a great post, Maggie! Your health is so much more important than a pay check. I’ve been telling my husband this as he’s been killing himself lately with over time. I definitely want to check out this book now. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Meagan says

    Such great advice and I’ll have to look into this more. It’s so important to have a plan when it comes to finances. It can be so stressful. Thank you!

  8. Rachael says

    I loved reading this! I think many of us have similar stories that way. And that leap was scary! Your blog is so beautiful and amazing and I am so glad it is a successful and thriving business.

    • Maggie says

      Thank you, Heidy, and thank you for coming over! It’s so hard to see potential when life is hard and overwhelming, but it really is there. I wish only the best for you!

  9. Ruth says

    Maggie, this post brought tears to my eyes! I am so sorry for everything you had to go through, but so, so happy that you have found a different path to the Good Life. Thank you so much for sharing your heart!

    xoxo, Ruth

    • Maggie says

      Thank you, Ruth! That means so much to me. It wasn’t an easy post to sit down and write, but I know so many others have similar experiences. Stepping off the path is so terrifying and there were moments I thought I made a huge mistake, but I am so happy I did it now.

      AND thank you for allowing me to review your book! You may not realize it, but you’ve been such a mentor to me since starting my blog, and I love opportunities to work with you and hear what you have to say! 🙂

  10. Leia @ Eat It & Say Yum says

    Great post, Maggie! Sometimes it’s the hard things that make us stronger. Good for you to take that leap of faith, and I’m so glad it is paying off for you now! Thanks for sharing such a personal story and putting yourself out there. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Maggie says

      Thank you, Leia, and thank you for taking the time to comment! That means so much to me! It can be so easy to lose track of hope or potential when things are hard, but you are so write. Those hard things are what make us stronger and lead us to so many new chances.

  11. Camila says

    Maggie this post is so inspiring and true to the soul. I’ve been through something similar but with an addition of a little girl. Life is all about decisions. All those plans we make needs for us to make a decision and sometimes things don’t go the way we planned them to be. I had a path on my head as well. Ever since I was a teen I was certain of what I wanted to study and what I wanted to work on. I studied hard and I got a cum-laude degree. I started working and I was good at it. I stayed in my country when my parents decided to leave because I wanted to work and be independent. But then my country got under a really bad situation and as much as I wanted to stay in some point I knew I had to leave if I wanted to have a good life. My boyfriend {now my husband} understood my feelings and also share the feeling of deserving a decent life and he decided to jump on that new path and adventure of leaving Venezuela together. The thing is that things didn’t go the way we wanted, I got pregnant because of a miscalculation {I don’t regret having her one bit} and things changed drastically for both of us. Spain got really bad too and we made the hardest decision we had ever done. We decided to get separated for a while, he went back to Venezuela and I went to my family house. We made this huge sacrifice for our daughter, to not place her in a place where she would never be free and would never have all the things she needs. It’s been over an year and half since we got separated and we are full of hope that this year he’ll finally come and we will be able to start over together and see a bright future to build and give our daughter what she deserves: a happy family. Our path will always change, and it’s ok. Sometimes God has something to teach and for that we need to stop and rethink what we had planned. In life we are in constant changes, life happens, life changes so it’s definitely ok to change our path and keep looking for our good life. I’m still on it. My blog and my we design business are my bright light at the end of the tunnel, it keeps me going with the goal of bringing my hubby with us and reunite our family!!!

    Thank you for this post and for reminding us that we all go through hard moments and tat we all share the same goal, looking for a god life!!!!


    • Maggie says

      I am so proud of you, Camila, and the journey you are taking! It is not a complicated statement, but it is SO hard to make the hard choices. It is almost always easier to stay on the current path and not take any risks, but you are both making sacrifices and taking huge steps to make sure you have the life you want in the long run.

      Know that I always want the best for you and can’t wait to see what 2015 brings you!

  12. Emily @ Love, Pasta and a Tool Belt says

    Maggie, This was such a great post! I completely relate. I was in a job that was making good money but I was completely miserable during our first year of marriage. Finally we decided it wasn’t worth it if I was going to continue to be so incredibly miserable. It wasn’t healthy for me physically or for our marriage. I did the same and cut our income in half but God has provided and the blog has been such a help with being able to work from home. I love it! Thank you for sharing! I need to check out this book!

    • Maggie says

      Thank you for commenting, Emily! It means so much to me! I am so proud of you for making the change! You know, it’s so easy to just stay on the path in front of you. Just continue to take one step in front of you until it’s years down the line and you realize you aren’t happy or don’t even recognize yourself anymore. I am thankful that we both realized that wasn’t what we wanted and that we both had husbands who were supportive of this fact.

      I always love seeing what you are doing and how your blog is growing! I wish only the best for you, friend! 🙂

  13. Carisa Smith says

    I love your blog Maggie and how honest you are! This is such a great post! I’ve struggled my whole life with migraines and other help problems and it really does take a toll and make even the simplest things harder. But I love that you are sharing that its okay to maybe follow a different path then the one you thought was the right one! I needed to read this tonight! Thanks!!

    • Maggie says

      Thank you so much, Carissa! Your support truly means more than you will ever know! Migraines are so horrible, partially because they are also so misunderstood. Only a fellow migraine suffer truly understands how debilitating they can be. I feel very fortunate that I can create this job for myself and work hard at it while also taking the time I need for my health. The money just wasn’t worth my health at the end of the day.

      I wish you all the best and can’t wait to see where your blog takes you this year! 🙂

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