I’m 54 years old. I have two great kids who are teenagers now. My daughter is going off to college in the fall, and my son will be entering 10th grade. I spent many years chasing the “American Dream”, always unsuccessfully. But rather than taking a hard look at the flawed system, I always thought that my “failures” were my fault, that I wasn’t “good enough”, since I couldn’t seem to achieve what I saw others achieving all the time. Now, as my kids are reaching the age where they will be going off to choose their own life paths, I worry about them getting sucked in to the same illusions that I did. I need to show them that there are other options.

After my divorce several years ago, I began to realize that I had actually been chasing the WRONG dreams for decades. That’s why I was never able to succeed. My heart was never really in it, there was no passion or sustained commitment to what I was doing. I was trying to fit into the consumer culture, and achieve things for other people, so THEY would approve of me. I needed to compete with them, and be just like them. But this type of motivation is set up for failure from day one. I was not happy.

And all throughout this lengthy growth process, I felt empty inside, like something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it might be. I couldn’t really express how it felt. But it was there, whispering to me that I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong things. What were the right things? I had no idea.

So in my attempt to be happy, I started doing things that I used to enjoy but had put aside for a number of years when there was “no time” for them. Things like reading, and crafts–knitting and crocheting and quilting. Those things made me happy. I also enjoyed gardening. I started growing vegetables, and I learned how to can tomatoes, and salsa, and pickles, and jam. In finding new reading material for my entertainment, I began choosing books about things that had interested me for a long time, like growing herbs, both culinary and medicinal, and raising sheep, and chickens, and making soap and candles, even keeping bees!  I have been a lifelong fan of Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, MA, which is a living history museum depicting life in New England in the 1830’s. I love to go there and just walk around, visiting the animals, watching people doing farm chores from “the olden days”, and learning about the past. (I have to admit that I’m also guilty of spending a fair amount of time in the Gift Shop.) I chat with the costumed staff, ask them about what they’re doing, how to do it, why they do it that way, etc. I have even asked if they would let me help them with what they were doing so I could learn. I never leave until closing time.

Hmmm. I started seeing a pattern here. The things that I was pursuing for my entertainment were all things that I liked, no, LOVED. They made me VERY happy. Were my hobbies subtly leading me in the direction that I should be going? Was my soul nudging me toward the path that I should be on? But these things that I loved doing were all leisure pursuits. They weren’t things that I could do for a “job”. I could never make a living doing them. Could I?

That’s what I’m about to find out. The city is not for me. And I don’t just mean the physical limits of an actual city. The modern American lifestyle is not for me, either, no matter where I live. Come along with me as I learn about sustainability and starting my own homestead from scratch, at the age of 54. Am I crazy?

Published by Lauren Steele