You know the Robert Frost poem about two roads diverging? Everyone knows that poem. Even people who don’t know poetry know that poem. The road less traveled and all that. The narrator walks a path that forks. A choice must be made. And, he chooses the one less traveled and that, he concludes, “has made all the difference.”
Ridding myself of nearly all my possessions, buying a 20 foot rig and hitting the road is, by most people’s definition, the road less traveled, especially when you consider I’m still 15 years from retirement age.
Why this choice you might wonder. Unlike Frost, the road I will soon be on wasn’t the result of a divergence but rather a convergence.
After I finished graduate school in 1996 (at 30), it took few years to get a handle on my finances and to put a plan in place to get out of the debt I accrued paying for graduate school. It took six years to get out from under the weight of all the credit card debt and student loans.
By then I felt like I had such a good handle on how not to spend money (since all the extra went toward the debt) I decided my next big financial goal was to be a millionaire by the time I retired at 65.
A lofty sounding goal but completely achievable if you start early enough. Simple, really. Put away a dollar at a time and, with a lot of years, the magic of compound interest will do the rest.
I made a plan. Put away $10,000 a year from the age of 40 to 65, get a 10% return, and voila. Millionaire.
I was more or less on track. Then I turned 46 and had one of those moments we all have at different milestones during our lives. A moment of clarity. I suddenly realized I was closer to 50 than to 40. My life was officially half over (if I was lucky).
Then I turned 47 and two more things happened.
First, I completed a novel. Seventeen years had gone by since I completed graduate school with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing. And for most of those years, I didn’t write a single creative word. This, despite the fact that being a writer was all I wanted to be since I took my first writing class.
Finishing the novel–a 100,000 word project–was monumental. It taught me that I was capable of doing what I told myself I wanted to do since I was 21 years old. I didn’t even care that it took 25 years.
Well, okay, I cared a little.
The second thing that happened started as a niggling whisper in my mind. Within months the whisper turned into an unmistakable, undeniable shout. I didn’t want to be a millionaire at the cost of not writing, of not spending time doing what I loved, of not pursuing my goal of being a published author. And I didn’t want to put my dream on hold until I retired.
I started to consider not remaining in a traditional job. It was shocking, actually, allowing myself to envision a life unlike any I had imagined before.
That conclusion was both exciting and terrifying. Terrifying because it forced me to ask the next question: how do I create a life where I get my heart’s desire and make a living? It was a question I obsessed over.
There wasn’t one easy, obvious answer. In fact, there were times where I didn’t think there was an answer. There were times I couldn’t see how I could not work a traditional job until I was 65. Coming to a solution was a process because at no time did the answer jump up waiving its little arms saying, “Ooh, ooh, pick me, pick me.”
So that’s how I decided it was time for a change. Come back next week and I’ll attempt to explain how the convergence of two roads led me to the RV lifestyle and how, now, I’m counting down the days until I’m on my road less traveled. Literally and figuratively.
Have you ever had a moment of clarity that caused you to change the path you were on? What about a birthday that really knocked you out of your socks? Please share your story in the comments.