Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How I decided

Since I made my Big Announcement two weeks ago, I've been inundated with emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages from people all over the world. Friends and former coworkers from several US states, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Taiwan, and Australia have showered me with messages of support. It has been truly amazing and humbling, and I appreciate every single one of these messages. Thanks! :-)

Before I left "the Company" I was talking with one of my colleagues about my decision to leave, and she told me about a book she'd been reading called How We Decide. I haven't read this book, and this blog entry is not a review of this book. But something my colleague said got me to wondering exactly how I came to my decision to exit early. What she said was: "When it comes down to it, you have to go with your gut."

That's exactly what I did. It went something like this. A year and a half ago, I returned from a six-month assignment in Vienna, Austria. Vienna was just one of many places I visited from October 2007 to July 2009. This global experience changed my perspective on many things. But the most noticeable thing was, I totally got a new perspective on myself.

The "reverse culture shock" of returning to the US was very difficult for me. WAY more difficult than the culture shock of moving from the US to Europe. When I think back, honestly I'm not sure how I survived the year 2009. It was a year in which I felt as if I could do nothing right - not just at work but in "real" life. I became highly critical of everything I saw as wrong with American culture: our dependence on oil; our disinterest in what's in our food and how it's produced; our reckless disregard for the environment; our lack of good public health care and a decent national public transportation system. Even little things like the use of those awful plastic shopping bags at stores set me off. I still take my own bags. I don't think I will ever stop doing that. I hate those plastic bags!

At some point, it occurred to me that the "reverse culture shock" I was feeling was something more. I was still growing as a person, still evolving, and what was happening was that I was entering a new phase of life. I became interested in so many new things: organic gardening; learning how to preserve food; learning how to live off the land. I can't explain it, but it's like suddenly my rural roots were calling to me: "Come back!" (This is particularly ironic for someone who doesn't like sweat and dirt.) And I wanted time to do some of the things I've enjoyed most of my life, things like reading and writing and cooking.

In short, I decided that I wanted to live a more simple life. And I was willing to make some sacrifices in order to do this. Because in the end, I want my life to mean something. I don't want to just take up space and use resources!

I still have no idea what my future holds, but I do know that when the dust settles, I want to be doing something that gets me closer to the land; something closer to my heart and my personal values. Yes, this is a "scary" time in a lot of ways. In future blog entries, I'll be writing about some of the scary things. But I think it will also be exciting and rewarding . . . one way or another.

So yes, I think it was my gut that was speaking to me this past year and a half or so. At some point, I had to start listening. Is YOUR gut talking? What do YOU want to do? How will YOU decide?