June 23, 2013

Bought a Mustang, Quit my Job, and Off to the Farm

So I bought a 1990 Mustang 5.0, quit my well-paying software consulting job, and am going to spend the next few months farming.

I'm excited.

But I'm also scared shitless.

When I think about how I got here, sometimes I wonder if I've imagined it all.

In April, something in me snapped. My relationship of two years ended. The stress and drain of my jet-setting job had wrecked me. I felt lost, depressed, fat, tired, and just… destroyed. I'd done everything I was supposed to do in life - finished school, listened to the authority figures in my life, gotten a great job, and was well on my way towards eventually getting a mortgage and a good-sized retirement nest egg. Everything was setup the way it should be. I should have been happy.

But I was miserable.

I'd felt like I'd been walking dead for a year. My work was really intense. Travel every week. Living out of a suitcase. I had no time to cook for myself or really have any sort of life. And any spare time I did have… Well, I would spend it sprawled out on the sofa watching my "Dawson's Creek" DVDs or in bed trying and failing miserably at catching up on sleep. I didn't have energy to do anything else in my spare time. I think the only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was making great money - well into the six figures.

Everything came to a head in mid-April when my relationship ended. The day after the breakup, the unravelling of everything began with a conversation with the coffee baristas across the street from my apartment at home in Toronto. That small exchange made me realize that I was in fact in a position to be able to realize a long-forgotten dream I'd had since I was 12 years old. The dream was to own and drive a 1987 - 1993 Ford Fox Body Mustang 5.0 5-speed.

I loved these cars so much. They were like the hot jock I had a crush on in high school who didn't even know I existed. I loved the Foxes because of their straight, sharp, masculine lines, their compact size, their wide stance, their long straight chrome dual pipes, and… Oh man. Because of how they sound. That sweet, sweet low American V8 rumble. I don't think there is another car on Earth that sounds like these. I always just figured that I'd never be able to drive, let alone own one of these cars. I thought never be able to afford one. And that by the time I could, there'd never be any left, at least not any that would be in any decent sort of shape.

After the conversation with the baristas, I decided to at least see what kind of Foxes were out there. Nothing to lose, right? A couple of days later, I ended up spending a WHOLE day in my Honda driving 6-7 hours and looking at 6-7 different Mustangs before I found my girl Ruby. I will never forget that day of searching for her. I hadn't felt that alive in a long, long time. I think 6-7 hours in a car driving to different towns test driving cars would be something that most people would consider torture. But I LOVED it! Me, my car, the open road, some good tunes, a drink in the cup-holder, it was awesome!

It was a week later after signing the papers for Ruby that I picked her up.

After a few days of driving her, I... felt a change happen in me, and there was no going back.

See, when you realize a forgotten dream that you'd had since you were 12, this question pops up in your head:
"Wait... If this dream that I assumed was impossible just happened... What else do I think that is impossible, is actually possible?"

And that right there is why I love this car - it represents endless possibility to me. It also awakened someone in me whom I'd long forgotten about - my inner country good ol' boy. I may be a brown guy, but I grew up in rural Alberta, and rest assured - my good ol' boy is still in there!

He'd been locked away inside me for years, suppressed to conform to the requirements of being a "professional" and of being an openly gay man in the city. Apparently, my Fox was the key that unlocked his prison. The best way I can describe this is that it felt like I'd just gotten out of the Witness Protection Program. I didn't feel like I was being someone else anymore. I felt like I was, for the first time, being my true self. I hadn't even realized that I'd been masquerading as someone else for many years. I started taking swift, bold action in my life, being really direct, being really vulnerable, swearing like a sailor, drinking beer, and meeting lots and lots of hot guys. I was sick of feeling like I had no control or choice in my life. I was sick of feeling like a helpless victim in my life, and the wild crazy rube inside me would not be locked away any longer!

My guiding principles in life has become these two things:

  1. If I want to do something, but then I tell myself I can't, I ask myself if I'll look back in 30 years and wonder what my life would have been like had I done this thing I now want to do. And if the answer is, "Yes, I would wonder what my life would have been like," then I give myself permission to do whatever it is I want to do. 
  2. I realized that I had failed to be happy at a life that I didn't want. And since I was already failing at happiness in life, I had nothing left to lose. I might as well try to create a life that I actually want. At least then, even if I failed, I'd never have any regrets. 

People always say how they wish they had the guts to do what I'm doing. Leaving everything behind. Going into the unknown with no real plan. But my choices aren't bold or courageous. I just had nothing left to lose, except a life that I didn't want anymore. When you really get to a place where you feel like you have nothing left to lose, you'll start doing whatever you want. You start to follow your heart.

Following my heart. This, I would say, is the core driving force behind my crazy life right now. I've spent my whole life intellectualizing everything. Analyzing everything. Stuffing my feelings. Doing what others expected of me.

I'd become disconnected from myself, I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, or what my purpose was. I was a person who was a collection of others' needs, wants, and expectations. I felt completely empty inside.

But when I snapped in April, when there was nothing left to lose, I said, "Fuck it. Fuck everything. I'm going to do what *I* want in life for once."

I don't have a plan, I don't know what's going to happen, I sometimes get overwhelmed with fear - but I've never felt more alive or present in my life ever before.

Someone who really influenced me and moved me is Brené Brown - the Vulnerability and Shame researcher who delivered an amazing TED talk about vulnerability. Watching that talk planted a seed in my head that changed my life. I realized that to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there naked, as you are, for the world to see, is great vulnerability. And great vulnerability is not weakness. It is, I have learned and understand now, a demonstration of great strength. When we feel vulnerable ourselves, we feel weak and exposed. We run away from feeling vulnerable to avoid feeling this way. Yet when we see vulnerability in others, we say they are brave and courageous for taking risks and being so open. Somehow, knowing this has taken a huge amount of the sting out of being vulnerable for me.

And so, I will share my journey and my stories with you, as openly as I can.

I have no idea how my life is going to be in a few months. And truly, my head is full of all kinds of fears. What will I do if my money runs out? Will I be able to get a job after my trip? What if my sharing my stories makes me look bad to potential employers? What will I do after my trip? What if I do this and end up in a cubicle forever anyway?

But, there's no way to know the answers to these questions in advance. All I can do is stop, breathe, reassure myself that everything will be OK, and trust that the things I need will cross my path at the right time.

It all starts in less than two weeks.

So, here goes nothing - or potentially everything.