“But what if it doesn’t work out?!?!” *panics!* I used to ask myself this on a daily (hourly?) basis about all manner of situations, ranging from the banal (trying a new baking recipe) to the weighty (moving from Kansas to New York City). And you know what? Sometimes it doesn’t work out. And you know what else? That’s completely OK.
I’ve come to the realization that I can either: 1) live in constant anxiety over the apocryphal “something bad” happening, or 2) I can do what I fervently want and have the confidence that I (usually) make good decisions.
Homesteading: Our Ultimate “What If?”
Never has this line of questioning been more pronounced than with our decision to homestead. After all, there’s a fair amount of risk involved in making this move from city to country. What if it doesn’t work out, indeed? What if we don’t like the lifestyle? What if we make gigantic mistakes with our land? What if we buy the wrong property? What if Frugal Hound hates the country (unlikely since she’ll just be snoozing by the woodstove)? Well, yeah, what if.
But on the other hand… what if we didn’t follow this dream and instead stayed in the city, kept working our jobs, and then woke up in 40 years with the realization that we’d never pursued our passions or done anything tremendously fulfilling in our lives? I’d rather assume all the attendant ambiguities, what-if’s, and immediate unknowns than subject myself to a life I already know I don’t find meaningful.
I’ve also come to a place of acceptance with both imperfection and the knowledge that stuff will go wrong. Mr. Frugalwoods and I are apt to make hilarious (in retrospect) blunders on our homesteading adventure and I’m quite comfortable with that fact. Life can’t be perfect in any incarnation, so we might as well do what we want.
Anytime I waver or express hesitation over what we’re doing, all I have to ask myself is a very simple: “do I want to do this?” And since the answer is always a resounding “heck yes!,” I’m able to move forward.
I’ve recently heard several stories of colleagues and acquaintances who sadly passed away within mere months of their retirement. They’d worked hard all their lives, finally hit 60+, retired and were ready to do what they wanted–and then they died before expected. My heart goes out to their families and it’s a stark reminder that we don’t know how long we have. We don’t know how many chances we’ll get to create a purposeful existence. I’d much rather take on the risk of perhaps not enjoying my avocation than not doing it at all.
What’s The Worst That Can Happen?
Often, as soon as people hear about our plan to quit our jobs and move to a homestead in the woods, they spring forth with their favorite worst-case scenarios. I think it’s human nature to preoccupy ourselves with doomsday visions of what could go wrong. But here’s the thing: stuff will go wrong all the time. It’s an immutable fact-o-life.
The most common worst-case queries we get:
“What if you become gravely ill?” Well, Mr. Frugalwoods and I would both much rather spend our last days out in the woods on our homestead than in the city punching time in cubicles.
“What if the schools aren’t good enough for Babywoods?” (since, naturally, she’ll be a genius 😉 ) Well, what if they’re not? I have a Master’s degree, Mr. FW has a BA, we’ll both be stay-at-home parents, and we’ll have internet access. I bet we can figure something out. Plus, what if we were unsatisfied with the schools here in the city but stuck working all day every day and hence unable to supplement her education at home?
“What if you don’t have internet access?” This actually won’t happen because we’ve excluded all properties that lack reliable internet. Call our priorities whack, but we’d rather have internet than indoor plumbing (fortunately this is not a trade-off we’ll have to make, but I’m just saying.) Some worst-case scenarios can be prevented ;).
“What if a moose charges into your yard?” We’ll run inside, take photos out the window, and hope the thing doesn’t devour our entire garden.
All of these questions–and so many more–are all legitimate and certainly deserving of consideration before taking the plunge. But, none of them negate the fact that when you earnestly want to try something new, you should.
Since I’m an over-planner and a huge advocate for having one’s finances in robust shape before making a potentially jeopardous move, I will include a major caveat here. Mr. FW and I are so caviler about these concerns in large part because we have the financial backing to reverse our decision at any point. Thanks to saving massive amounts of money every year (we’re at over 70% right now) and investing our savings, we’ll have the financial ability to leave our homestead if we find it’s not tenable for us. I would be much more trepidatious if we didn’t have that financial cushion to bolster us. And that, to me, is what financial independence is all about–the ability to take risks, live richly, and not worry about money. But hint: you’ve got to first embrace extreme frugality in order to get there.
What Is Our Actual Worst-Case Scenario?
This is a fabulous question to pose to yourself if you’re laboring over a potentially outlandish/interesting/life-changing decision. What is actually the worst that could happen? Often, I find that the worst-case scenario is really not all that bad. Short of death and dismemberment (which is statistically more likely to happen while driving Frugalwoods-mobile here in the city than out in the woods), I suppose our worst-case scenario is that it turns out homesteading isn’t for us and we want to move. Ok, so then we move. When I outline it that way, it just doesn’t sound all that catastrophic. There’s no world war or Ebola epidemic involved. It’d just be the Frugalwoods moving onto our next adventure.
Mr. FW and I are both at ease with the idea, and the reality, of moving on and reinventing ourselves. Indeed, we’ve done it several times already. We haven’t always been the Frugalwoods after all. This entire journey is something of a reinvention of who we are. And I think that’s awesome. Why not try out many different pursuits in life to see what works best for you? Far better than toiling away for 40 years at something you patently don’t derive pleasure from. We’ve lived in various locations, done a number of unique jobs, had diverse sets of friends, and pursued myriad projects and passions over the years.
And there’s no need to feel regret or guilt when something doesn’t pan out–it’s merely time to move onto the next thing. We joke that perhaps once we’re finished with the homesteading life, and our kids are grown, we’ll sell the farm and move to a tiny apartment in New York City and open an art gallery (secret Frugalwoods trivia: we both love art and Mr. FW used to work at an art museum). Or maybe we’ll sell all our worldly possessions and travel the world. Who knows? Maybe we will!
Remaining open to the whims and uncharted mysteries of life is, for us, a wonderful way to live. Nothing in life is guaranteed and none of us knows just exactly where we’ll end up. But I do know that limiting myself, and limiting what I want to try and achieve and fail at would make me a most unhappy and bitter person indeed. I’d much rather look back on my life and laugh at all the bizarre things we tried–and that perhaps didn’t succeed–than to look back and realize I lived a safe, conventional, boring existence.