Freedom, Stereotypes and Why I’m Moving Back Home

If you haven’t heard, I’m moving again. But this time, I’m temporarily moving back to my hometown of Pensacola after living in Tallahassee for 8 years.

I want to talk about freedom.

My teacher/long-distance mentor by way of her Inner Circle group, Tiffany Han, has been preaching about flow and letting go of what isn’t serving our creative work for over a year now and I’m finally at a crossroads in my life where I have to embrace that.

A lot of things in my life have stopped working. Or they don’t work as well as they could. Or I know I could have better, if I just made a decision to change.

When she asked us “What feels like freedom?” recently, it scared the shit out of me when my subconscious bubbled up MONEY. MONEY FEELS LIKE FREEDOM.

The biggest confession that I have not wanted to tell people is that my relationship with money is terrible. I’ve got hang ups about earning it, I’ve got bad habits around spending it, there is all sorts of emotional baggage bursting at the seams with money problems.

I know I’ve written about being bad with money before and I’ll write more about my personal money rehab plan later, but let me simplify:

Every time I’ve come close to being financially solvent or decently stabilized in the financial area of my life, I move. For some reason or another, renting has always managed to suck my measly savings dryer than a creek bed in August.

It’s not pretty, but I also know that’s a choice I continued to make. Over and over again.

For me, living on my own has been the benchmark of “making it.” And not just living on my own, but in a nice place that I feel comfortable in–budget be damned.

That’s been fine and well until the end of my current lease started staring me in the face.

For many reasons, the idea of renewing my current lease or signing another made me panic.

The biggest reason for the panic was the money. I didn’t want to sink it all back in to another lease, just to repeat the cycle again in 6 months, a year?

I wanted a fucking break.

That’s what felt like freedom.

No deposit, no application fee, no first and last month rent due on signing, no electricity deposit, no utility bill, no Comcast bill.

Also, no getting ousted from a property on the whim of a landlord. (It’s happened a few times.) No year-long commitment to a city or a neighborhood or a zip code.

So, I’m going to be staying at with my mom for a while.

When I type that I feel a little queasy because I know the stereotype. I don’t want to be seen as a failure, or a flake, or a loser.

Because I’m not. I’m lucky to have a hometown that I love, brimming with support and possibilities and opportunities that will welcome me back with open arms while I take a few months to explore what I want to do next.

The truth is: I didn’t want to just land in the next house in Tallahassee. I don’t want to just do stuff for appearance’s sake. I don’t want to keep defaulting to this version of my life.

But you know what I also realized?

The trappings of living on my own are distracting me from the personal and professional and creative work I want to focus on. I’ve been trying for years now to succeed professionally, grow personally, improve creatively–all while trying to take care of house and bills all on my own.

Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’d like to tell you it’s not working for me anymore.

Trying to do it all at once. It’s not working. It’s not serving me.

So I’m giving up the one thing I’ve been clinging to as my mantle of BADASS, INDEPENDENT CREATIVE WOMAN MAKING SHIT HAPPEN. To, I dunno, actually be a badass, independent creative woman who makes shit happen.

How did I get to this point? It doesn’t feel like a rock bottom. It feels like when you’re digging in the sand at the beach and you’ve stopped paying attention to the tide and suddenly there’s water filling up your pit and you’re a few minutes away from the whole afternoon’s effort being washed back into the flat, soft shoreline. Nothing to see here.

What was the purpose of the digging? The striving? The work and the grit? For what?

I really thought if I just kept going, if I could keep my head above water, then that was success.

If I just didn’t stop, no one could point at me and say that I failed.

But they also couldn’t point at me and say I was a success.

When I look back at the past few years, they look totally fine on paper. They really do.

But I look at these years and know I could have done more. I see where I could have raised my white flag, surrendered to the pleading of my heart to just rest and refocus. Just for a second, just to reload and restrategize.

I’m not going to be ashamed about this new choice I’m making. I want to normalize the idea of just taking a fucking break from whatever it is that’s wearing you down.

Making Space by Having Less

Ok, finally going to get to the point here.

While I’m still a put-down-roots type of girl, I’m taking a page out of the travel-the-world crew’s book and editing my life to the type of situation that might end up looking real nice on Instagram. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll fit in a budget-friendly storage unit and the back of my Prius.

I’ve been enamored with the minimalist lifestyle for a while and, more recently, “zero waste” living. Most of my favorite “bloggers” (I consider them writers and indirect mentors, but you get my drift) are big proponents of the less is more lifestyle.

Here’s the draft version of my “wayward and willful” plan:

  • Read Cait Flander’s book, The Year of Less, and complete her 30 day challenge.
  • Downsize my belongings by about 50%.
  • Capsule wardrobe. To support not buying fast fashion, refining my personal style and taking good care of the clothes I do have. Also, for easy transport when traveling.
  • At least a 90 day moratorium on signing a new lease. I have a feeling that will stretch quite a bit longer, but there are still many things up in the air.
  • Going on an earning spree. Which means working my ass off, but for real this time. Not the fun stuff, like updating my website. I’m talking pitching a lot, writing a lot, learning how to network and grow professionally.
  • Addressing my relationship with alcohol and food. I’ve always spent money at bars and restaurants like it’s no big thing, but the reality is that I spend about a third of my income in bars and restaurants and that’s absolutely fucking RIDICULOUS good lord alMIGHTY.
  • Figuring out what the hell really makes me happy and how I’m going to afford it, long term. No fucking around this time.

All of those choices and actions are there to make space for the lengthy lists of personal and professional intentions I have for the year.

The combination of making space and adding those intentions has the ultimate goal of giving me the clarity, confidence and resources I need to take the next step in my life–whatever that ends up being.

I’m not going to let myself feel ashamed or even sheepish about telling y’all the reality of what I hope to accomplish through moving back home. I’m genuinely excited. I’m also genuinely terrified, because I’ve never made this kind of “big” responsible decision before. But it’s pretty long overdue and I’m going for it.