October 11, 2012 in Simple Stories
A sweet reader wanted to share her story but remain anonymous because of some of the details. I admire her bravery to tell her story. Here is her story in her own words.
I am very new to the minimalist movement and feel like I have much to learn and a long way to go but I am trying to embrace this evolution for what it is, a lifestyle change and not an overnight process.
In a nutshell, because I know you are busy, I grew up very poor and my mother worked very hard her entire life in a factory to be able to send me to college. I was fortunate to work for some great people in a very solid organization that allowed me opportunities to advance. For the first time in my life I had plenty of the one thing there never seemed to be enough of in our home as a child – money. I married another ambitious person who also thought money was the answer to all of life’s shortcomings or problems.
The next 20 years became a blur of long workdays and a constant quest to move up the next rung of the corporate ladder. My life became consumed with obtaining bigger, better and newer of everything. Bigger house. New car every two years. Designer shoes and handbags. Expensive vacations. The latest gadgets. All of the status symbols I felt I needed to obtain to prove my self-worth to others, to my family and, sadly, even to myself. During this time my husband and I raised a wonderful son together but we both held high-profile jobs and we were both extremely driven to be in the top of our respective fields. That pace led to its own set of problems that we tried to resolve with alcohol. As one might expect that set our marriage on the fast track to disaster and began to bleed over into other areas of our lives as well.
In 2011 the frenzied pace of the last 21 years had finally taken its toll on me and although I was at the highpoint of my career and enjoyed a coveted senior management position with a company that paid me a very handsome salary I experienced a terrific epiphany – the relentless pursuit of money and the sheer volume of “stuff” I had so voraciously worked to acquire had not filled that void I still felt every night when I went to bed. The stress level at my job and the unhappiness at home had reached a crescendo and I mentally “checked out” for about three months in the late summer of 2011. From the outside my life looked like a dream but I never let anyone look past the front door.
In hindsight I now see that my first tentative steps toward a more minimalist life were completely subconscious, although huge. I divorced my husband of 20 years. We had become toxic to one another and were both dying a slow death. It was an exceedingly painful time and I literally blocked pieces of it from my memory – I had gone into self preservation mode. It is embarrassing to reflect back on some of my behavior during this time and I can only be thankful that God saw fit to bring me through it and to spare my son from the horror of burying his mother at such a young age. I sought stability and solace in the form of a rekindled relationship with my high school sweetheart. His influence in my life gave me the courage and foundation to make my way through some very difficult days and he helped me to find my footing again. We both received a huge surprise when in January of this year I became pregnant – he never had any children and assumed he was unable to have any. After the initial shock of being pregnant at 40 had sunk in we were amazed to have the opportunity to start a life together 20 years after high school and we began making long term plans. For reasons that only God knows I suffered a miscarriage several weeks later. In a 6 month time frame I had left 20 yr marriage, rekindled my high school romance, had a surprise pregnancy and endured the heartbreak of losing that baby. The good that came out of all that was that I had stopped alcohol cold turkey and today I am over 8 months sober.
While still recovering emotionally from the miscarriage I took complete stock of the wreck I had made out of my life. I spent a lot of time defining what I wanted my life to look like going forward. I knew that I had to stay away from alcohol and I knew I would need strength from God to do that. It was at this point my high school sweetheart and I knew that we wanted to build our future together and in March we were married in a private ceremony that was absolutely perfect. Three months into our marriage I made the monumental decision to leave my job of 15 years for a job that allowed me to stay local and not travel anymore. Although I took a 20% cut in pay the Lord gave me a path to be able to make it financially. I cashed out my 401k and paid off all my debts other than my house and car. I refinanced my house and got a lower payment and actually am able to put more money in savings now than I had a higher paying position. I know I have to rebuild my retirement savings but the trade off has been immeasurable. I leave work at a reasonable hour every day, I come home and spend quality time with my husband and my son. It actually feels better NOT to buy something rather than coming home with a shopping bag full. I totally get what you say about it becoming somewhat of a game and getting a big kick out of not buying stuff and actually getting rid of stuff.
I have so much to learn and such a long way to go but it feels so good to see the progress we are making and the order and peace that is flowing into our lives as we let go of the stuff that has held so much power over us for so long. I could almost run naked down the street – I won’t of course lol, but that is how free-ing this process feels.
Thanks so much for sharing your story ‘anonymous’!