Just a year ago, I found myself packing up my things into brown boxes salvaged from the dumpster behind my apartment in downtown Denver, CO. My things and myself were destined for Middle Georgia.
When my fiancé (EV) got the call for the permanent change of station I was admittedly terrified. Middle Georgia had never been high on my list of places I wanted to live, in fact it wasn’t on the list, period.
In Colorado, I lived the life that many people in their mid-twenties dream of. I had a job most would kill for, that most certainly would have turned into a career showered with praise and high paychecks paid into my company by even higher falootin’ clients. I had friends that regularly came over for dinner parties; we discussed politics and paychecks, the stock market and hating our bosses. I spent weekends skiing in the mountains with friends and family eating fancy dinners, and weeknights mulling over weekend plans while entranced in a glass of Aperol Spritzer and a plate of Salumi. I purchased things by the dozen—clothes from overpriced boutiques, outdoor gear, clothes to go with my outdoor pursuits, fancy shoes, blazers by the hanger-ful—I had closets, nooks, and crannies full of things.
I had mentioned more than once to EV that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with this life, something seemed out of place, something about it felt off. I was constantly stressed. I spent a good chunk of my paychecks on massages, chiropractors, and more due to my 24 hour a day, 7 day a week on call tech job. In nearly a year on the job, I had never gone longer than 24 hours without a fire to put out, a client to make happy, or a complaint to manage. You could say I was smack dab in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. So when the call to move came, EV made me a deal.
“Take some time to find peace again. Move with me, and take some time.”
I took pause. And agreed to move to Middle Georgia.
To have time, to get a chance to breathe, to ‘find peace again’.
This was my mantra.
So I put in my notice to my job, turned in my company iPad, and began packing my things. Things into boxes. Things into bags. Things into storage.
I was doing the unthinkable, in many of my friends’ minds. I was following love—an Air Force fiancé—and leaving my career and the life I had so carefully, yet mindlessly built in the mountains of Colorado. My parents balked. My fellow Women’s College graduate friends filled themselves with angst, worrying about my ‘apparent lack of feminism, and equally apparent brainwashing’ to give up so much for a single person, especially one so ‘deeply entrenched in an institution awash in patriarchy, lacking any sense of post-modern sensibilities yada yada’. And as I packed each thing into its respective carton, I too worried. Maybe they were right, maybe this is crazy.
We drove east, with the mountains at our backs. They beckoned us to stay. We stopped at the Colorado border, gave ourselves one last look at the state we were so attached to. ‘Just another thing’, I thought. And as Colorado faded from our rearview, I found comfort. Comfort in the fact that I, for once, had an opportunity to build a life mindfully, a life uninhibited by expectations of those around me, those I grew up with. A place where no one knew my name.
I had been given the gift of time.
And that was extraordinary. The thrill of possibility ran through me.
I had never once, in my entire life, had ‘time’. Time to mull, time to sit, or time to breathe. I had spent 26 years of my life going going going at light speed. In school, at work, in life, they do not teach being mindful, taking time. I was a product of my world—a world obsessed with things, money, and clout.
The three-day journey gave us, as a couple, a chance for pause. We spent hours chatting about the future, our impending wedding, and what our new lives would look like. We got excited about where in our new home we would put our things, the vacations we would go on, the things we would do.
As we entered our new hometown in Middle Georgia, we were overwhelmed. The heat was deafening, suffocating. Exhausting.
The land was flat, save for the magnolia trees that bloomed everywhere.
The downtown area was seemingly dead.
I remembered advice I heard from a yoga teacher once, “Breathe into the areas that make you the most uncomfortable, that is where you’ll find true growth.” I flinched at such an idea in that moment, but kept it close.
With no other options and nowhere to go in the seemingly empty town, we unpacked ourselves into our new home. And as we unpacked something happened—it must have been the heat or some measure of divine intervention—for every item that went into our closet, another found its way into a box bound for Goodwill. Our things lessened by the box-full. Relief washed over me, us. We let go.
I breathed as I relinquished my things to be picked up by new owners. To find new lives outside of my own.
Time, space, ease.
Those words rang in my ears.
With fewer things to fill our corners, everything became an opportunity for elegance and simplicity. The things that remained were things of extraordinary beauty or purpose, and a certain life flowed into our home.
During my days I wrote, read books that had long sat unloved on my shelves, sought out potential new careers, and went on walks in the summer heat. I packed lunches for EV. I found honest enjoyment in tasks like mopping, dusting, dishes. I made lattés on the stove. I spent more time lingering over tasks, rather than rushing through them.
Early evenings were for EV and me. With my lack of paychecks, we were forced to cook together, as a family. What started as nightly drudgery soon became joyful. We cooked adventurous meals, found evenings at home over the stove; spoke to each other in the quiet of our new life together.
We had found a current in our lives.
To escape the heat of the kitchen, late evenings became times to sit on our porch. We soon discovered porches were our community. As we sat, we met our neighbors by the dozens, that community we were hungry for materialized. The intimate nature of a porch required a true openness that my corporate life in Colorado simply didn’t. Conversations were not about bosses and paychecks, but rather about experiences, joys and sorrows.
I embraced my vulnerability.
I told stories that I had buried deep inside me, had authentic conversations about philosophy, childhood, connection, and joy. These connections weren’t tied to the ski gear they owned, the paychecks they took home, who bought the salumi platter and wine we had just consumed. They were honest, and they stirred me.
I found community.
As it turns out our downtown was indeed alive, you just had to learn the cadence. To the outsider it lacked life, but to the insider it was a vibrant community. Office workers rushed through the streets at lunchtime purchasing comfort food from mom and pop holes in the wall, Wednesdays brought the local farmers market followed by trivia at a local watering hole. The first Friday of the month opened up our streets to people bopping in and out of art studios you would have missed if you blinked; second Sundays brought hundreds of residents to the park on our street to catch live music under an afternoon sun.
I learned its pulse, followed the ebb and flow, found myself deeply connected to my community, in a place I never thought possible. So I began to put down my roots.
I planted a garden.
Oh, how I had longed to have a garden! I remember dreaming of soil during my time in my apartment in Colorado. Yet, I focused more on my paychecks and my expenditures, than my heart’s whispers in dreams.
I had found new priorities.
I worked on a farm in exchange for produce. I milked goats, fed baby cows milk with my bare hands (they hated the bottle), weeded and planted. The skills I learned there helped my garden flourish. I harvested handfuls of heirloom tomatoes, blushing to high heaven in the Georgian heat. They dripped down my elbows as I bit into them, barefoot in the dirt.
EV and I made friends with my famers at the market—our ritualistic Wednesday afternoon stop. We discussed their lives, would ask them about their wives and children, made friends with families that had children. Discussed simplicity in honest frank terms.
More things found their way out of our home.
I found a calling.
During all the down time, I discovered the ‘simplicity’ lifestyle, and quite by accident. Through conversations with friends, farmers, neighbors, people who became my family. The ‘de-stuffing’ and the deep personal connections I was forging gave me a foray into a world I soon loved.
I couldn’t get enough. I read attachment mothering/home/family/sewing blogs, I cried over home birth stories, I pored over Waldorf teaching methodologies. I realized that the life I had been craving underneath my torrid love affair with corporate America was indeed possible, and had a thriving community attached to it—far beyond the reach of where I was living.
Something in me woke up. I woke up.
I quickly focused my energies on what I wanted to be, how I wanted to live, what being mindful meant. In doing so, I became a product of my own making. I relinquished the expectations of my family, my friends, my past. I found joy in my tasks, beauty in my everyday, and peace amid the torrent of life. And each time I did I rewrote my future, bit by bit.
One step farther from the life I left mindfully, purposely behind.
Then, I made the leap. I signed up for courses to train me in a career that embraced the lifestyle I was learning to love, gave me the opportunity to stay at home with my future children, helped me forge meaningful connections with people in my community.
And with that, I was home.
Makenna Johnston lives, breathes, and loves in Middle Georgia, where she is an Adjunct Professor and Doula in training. She’s embarking on a new blogging adventure at The Simple, Abundant Life.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.