S P A C E
It’s been about a week since we “announced” our pretirement on Instagram – a good week, at that. It’s freeing to be able to discuss what we’ve only quietly entertained with each other and the occasional close friend. Not to mention, the response we’ve received since taking our plan public has made us feel supported and encouraged, if not even a little bit interesting. For the first time in our lives.
Bottom line: everyone has been very fucking cool and we’re not surprised (see my prediction about the responses we might get in my intro post).
Something has caught us off-guard, though, and that is the number of people who have reached out to say that they either are currently considering doing something similar, or that they have explored a similar idea in the past.
Hearing people we respect say that they have imagined doing exactly what we’re doing is validating, of course. But, while it’s flattering, I am personally struggling with how to respond.
The easy response when you’re excited and euphoric about something you’re doing is to encourage other people to do it, too – “OMG you SHOULD! If I can do it, you can do it!”
But, when it comes to this kind of major change, saying that feels a little obtuse.
I cringe when I come across an article on Pinterest or Buzzfeed with a title like, “I WALKED AWAY FROM MY SIX-FIGURE JOB TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND YOU SHOULD, TOO. HERE’S HOW.” The intention, of course, is to emphasize that a person can have everything that’s conventionally desirable and walk away from it because money isn’t the most important thing.
But the concept of self-congratulating for it is offensively flawed. For one thing, it’s oblivious to the fact that only privileged people have the luxury of subscribing to the “there are more important things than money” ethos. It’s easy to walk away when the chips are up, Six-Figures McGee.
Secondly, it’s carelessly reductive. It seems to say, “all you have to do to get this life is want it”. And, at worst, “if you do want it and you don’t have it, you’re failing.”
It hinges on the false assumption that there are only two things in life to be fulfilled by and those things are money and freedom and if you’re not fulfilled by one, you should just pursue the other one. It also conveniently ignores the fact that those two things are often mutually exclusive, which is the very definition of privilege. And the world spins madly on.
Due to a little hard work but mostly dumb luck (and a lifetime of privilege) Joe and I get to make a very luxurious decision. Still, the last thing we ever want to do is give the impression that leaving our home and our friends and our traditional careers was somehow the easy or obvious choice for us, much less that we think it should be an easy, obvious choice for anybody else.
We do not unilaterally believe that everyone should do what we’re doing, even if the idea of it appeals to you. The idea of it has appealed to us for years and it only became the best decision for us within the last few months. Because we, like everyone else in the world, had things to consider.
I don’t know if you should quit your job to travel alone or with your partner or with your dog or with your mom. I really don’t. So, to say something like, “YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD DO THIS, TOO” doesn’t feel good to me, even if you’re telling me you want to. If it’s not practical right now or you have other responsibilities or you’re super fulfilled by the career you’ve earned or the family you’ve built, I don’t want to be a voice diminishing those priorities under the guise of “encouragement”.
So, these moments have felt unwieldy to me. I may have seemed awkward or, as some friends have pointed out, unexcited. So, in the tradition of every single botched interaction I’ve had for the last thirty years, I’ve been thinking about it incessantly.
While I brush my teeth. While I make tea. While I listen to Joe explain why it’s offensive to call cryptozoology “pseudoscience”. I’m thinking about how I fucked it up.
It’s been – and I’m speaking just for myself, now – a taxing 18 months…maybe a taxing three years. Let’s just round up to an even 30. The last few years in particular, I’ve endured a lot of disappointment.
I’ve been operating in a space that was not made for me. I’ve been adhering to rules I didn’t set and often don’t understand – and make no mistake, they were designed that way. I had no space that was mine only, a space where I set the rules, and where I could grieve my disappointments in the people and institutions that let me down. Instead, I stayed in the spaces that weren’t mine, trying to play by rules that were written deliberately to prevent me playing at all, much less win. I was getting angry and chubby and tired and jaded and resentful to no one’s detriment but my own.
So, what does this decision to pretire boil down to for me?
Space to need more and be needed less. Space to lick my wounds. Space to say “fuck” as loud and as often as I want. Space to make rules I understand and space to break the ones I don’t. Space to learn what’s for me and what’s not. Space to create what’s for me if it doesn’t exist yet. Space to lovingly invite others to leave my space if their being there is harshing their mellow or mine.
The way I’ve chosen to take space is a privileged one. But the concept of taking space is not.
I think that’s what I really wish I’d have said to anyone who told me they were wishing or hoping they could do this, especially if they wished for it because it ultimately represents freedom and self care and space.
You deserve space that is yours. You deserve a you that is yours. You deserve to make a few rules that serve you best. That is not a privilege. That is a right.
Whether your method of carving out space looks like mine, whether it’s frequent or infrequent, audacious or shy, whether that space is big or small, I encourage you to do it and do it with intention. Make it yours.
I hope you find what you need there, and I hope I do, too.