Bigger Isn’t Always Better

The American Dream: get a college degree and a high paying job. Meet the love of your life, get married, buy a house, have some kids, and retire young enough to enjoy your grandchildren and travel the world….

I think I believed in that dream until I hit 30, when I had that degree in education plus a teaching license under my belt, but was more interested in wandering the country working at odd jobs in order to support my addiction to adventure. Now, at 52, I am still dreaming of all the places I’ll go, and all the people I’ll meet. I’ve started my own blog, Journeys Out Yonder, with the goal of telling others about the great places and people I’ve met on my road trips.

But, backing up a bit, I did dabble in the marriage and home ownership realm of the American Dream. Soon to turn 40, I felt it was time to go big! I had been living in little, above-the-garage, apartments, trailers, rented rooms, and even in the boiler room of Forest Service housing, exchanging a day of work per week for a free room. As I was turning 40, I met a man who fell in love with me pretty hard, and quickly. Within 6 months I was taking the leap. I had the best wedding EVER! On top of Arrowhead ski area, wearing an elegant boiled wool skirt and coat from Geiger, I married a man who was into me enough to wear ski boots and ski down the mountain after our wedding vows. We played house for a few years, buying one and fixing it up to his liking. To “his liking”….this is where bigger was getting really bad, for me. Our life centered around “his liking”, which was in the line of bigger is better. He wanted children. I didn’t. He spent thousands of dollars on big TV’s, big trucks, and big vacations. I spent money on good, healthy food. I volunteered in local schools, and started an after-school program for local youth. I taught avalanche safety courses, cross country and downhill skiing, in exchange for services and products. My time was spent exchanging my gifts with others, benefiting from their skills and becoming empowered by sharing my own. I wasn’t making more money, personally, but I was creating deep friendships and was developing a deep love and appreciation for the new community I had moved to with my husband.

Free to ski in elegance and beauty
Free to ski in elegance and beauty

The bigger house, TV, trucks and vacations didn’t make a difference to me during my marriage. I was scared to leave, because I now wasn’t so sure I could support myself, and didn’t know where I would go. I lost my mojo! Me, the life-long adventurer, was stuck. I made one phone call, to a friend back in Colorado, and immediately found my groove again.

When I took off, and left him to fend for myself. I found a job and a small cabin in the woods outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My two cats and I lived peacefully, and simply.

Then, realizing the money I’d saved for years was burning a hole in my bank account, and it was time to prove I’d “made it”, I started looking for a house to buy. I was still in the mindset that bigger is better. I had moved into a full-time teaching job, which would continue to pay more each year, including getting a masters degree, and I still had the dream of meeting the man of my dreams who would share in the cost of my home. I bought that dream house in January of 2008. It was everything I’d dreamed of in a home. A couple months before the current economic downturn, my school district discovered an error they made in my contracted salary. My salary was reduced, making it more important for me to get my masters degree to increase my salaray. Five years later I had that degree, but had resigned from my teaching job, and I was still paying my mortgage alone. Bigger wasn’t better, for long!

A place to call my own.
A place to call my own.

The big job teaching in a public school conflicted with my own beliefs and training in education. I started my masters degree, and the more I learned about equity in education, the more I lost my love for teaching. The abundant paperwork and regimented system of teaching, to get students to perform well on standardized tests, overshadowed my love for sharing the joy of learning. Bigger scores aren’t always better.

Smaller is simpler, for me. I’ve cleared away my clutter, and am on a new journey to create a new American Dream, which is to follow my own dreams. They are creating a Tiny Home Village, making “MY Ski Skirts”, leading “Journey’s Out Yonder”, and spreading great advice with my “Quote Roll-Ups”. These are my skills and my passions, unique to me.

Calligraphy quotes on scrap lamination strips…great thoughts on reused plastic…beauty and ideas in one.
Calligraphy quotes on scrap lamination strips…great thoughts on reused plastic…beauty and ideas in one.

“I start to feel that each step taken is part of an invisible journey for which there is no map and few road signs.” John Francis, “Planet Walker”
“I start to feel that each step taken is part of an invisible journey for which there is no map and few road signs.” John Francis, “Planet Walker”

Small is beautiful. I sold my house recently, and moved into a 240sf bungalow. I’m starting over, with less. I gave away or sold (for barely anything) more than half of my possessions. The items I gave away to friends are there, in their homes, for me to enjoy when I visit. I haven’t bought anything new for years, preferring to shop at thrift stores for my clothes and the local food coop for food. I need nothing else. The less I own, the freer I feel. I donated all of my teaching materials to the Marble Charter and Ross Montessori Schools.

Small is Beautiful
Small is Beautiful

What dreams are you following?

Are your dreams unique to you?

Do your dreams show off your passions and skills?

About Mary Russell

I thrive when I'm learning, traveling, interacting with the natural world and others, and spending time alone wandering, reading, and watching films.
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