If you could do anything, what would it be?
Potty training is going to look a little different the third time around. While our older kids were potty trained on the ordinary-est of white porcelain toilets in a little house in sunny Florida, our youngest will be using a compost toilet on a farm in Texas. Crazy, right?! We’re in the process of a cross country move so my husband can do a livestock internship at a non-profit sustainable agriculture farm – the fulfillment of one of his dreams.
The whole adventure started over a year ago when I asked my husband Daniel, “If you could do anything, what would it be?”
The kids had all fallen asleep in their car seats. We had a few hours of our road trip left and the time together to talk uninterrupted was the closest thing we’d had to an actual date in a long time.
“I’d want to farm, have plenty of space for the kids, be involved in the homeschooling, and eat three meals a day as a family.”
At the time, that certainly wasn’t what life looked like for us. For the past five years, I’ve been homeschooling our kids and working from home as a writer. Daniel was faithfully working an office job we’d always planned to be temporary – a pays-the-bills job that wasn’t using his education, talents, or fulfilling his passions. While a steady paycheck certainly isn’t something to sneer at, doing a job just for the money isn’t ideal. For a long time we made the best of it, but it was time to get unstuck. Time to be a little reckless.
So after a year of planning, Daniel quit his 9-5 job with great benefits for an unpaid internship. In a week, our house sale will close, and soon after we’ll move our family (with three kids ages 2-6) into a 650 sq ft apartment on the farm. And we’ll be leaving a great support system of friends and family. When I write it all out, it does sound a little crazy.
And sure, moving three little kids across the country is no joke. We’ve only just started packing and it’s making my brain explode. But I’m not concerned about sacrifices like moving into a small space, getting used to a compost toilet, or having a smaller budget. Because the creature comforts we’re leaving behind are negligible compared to what we’ll gain.
We’ll be living on a farm and eating farm fresh food. We’ll be pursuing a dream of owning our own farm someday. Daniel and I will both get to do good, honest work we love. And because he’ll be working on the same farm where we’ll be living, we can eat three meals a day as a family. His work load will mean that he’ll have more time than ever before to help with homeschooling and we’ll have more opportunities to spend time together.
Photo by Simone Perrone
And maybe it’s because we read too much Wendell Berry in college, but it’s very important to us that our family has a connection to the food we eat and the land where it’s grown. We believe those things matter. And whether it’s the raised beds of vegetables and the chicken coop we’ve had in our front yard in the city, or the farm where we’ll be living in a few weeks, it’s a priority for our family to raise our kids with that knowledge.
In the past year and a half, we’ve done lots of soul searching to discover what’s important to our family, and what changes we need to make in order for our life to match those ideals. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve gotten rid of at least half of our possessions. We’ve scrimped and saved. We had our home on the market for almost four months while homeschooling three small children there (that was the worst part, never again). And then everything from figuring out health insurance to finding a new pediatrician has been a huge headache.
When we got ready to share our big news, I felt a little nervous, a little embarrassed that we were giving up a perfectly good, comfortable life. As if being able to pay your bills means that you aren’t allowed to want anything else, or consider what other opportunities might make your family thrive.
But since making the announcement that we’re taking the plunge, the response has been fascinating. What we’ve mostly heard is, “I’m so jealous. I wish I could do something like that!” People have come out of the woodwork to share with us about how they desperately want to be doing work that makes them come alive.
So maybe it’s not so crazy to quit your job, sell your house, and potty train your kid on a compost toilet (okay, that part IS a little crazy). But considering all the ways this move will help our whole family to thrive, staying in a safe, comfortable life and ignoring our dreams sounds far crazier.
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