Monday, November 23, 2015

Best Laid Plans...

Seven months...that was the last time I wrote something on here. I was in the midst of making a life changing decision, selling off most of my possessions and pursuing a career as a truck driver. I wanted to simplify my life and driving a truck over the road was the only way I could find to make it happen.

Life in Edmond had become too hectic, too stressful. The people, the air, the memories - I was suffocating. My children were both out of high school. I was still single and itching for change. Weeks of research led me to believe that driving a truck would give me a quiet life with an ever-changing view of the country, affording me time to write and just "be".

As I sold my belongings, piece by piece, it was freeing. I felt as if a huge weight was being lifted just by getting rid of "stuff". I kept only the things that had real meaning to me or things I absolutely loved and couldn't part with. In the end, it all fit into a 6' x 12' U-Haul trailer. My whole life.

After six weeks of truck driving school, I couldn't manage to pass my CDL. I was without a job, without a home, and running out of money quickly. So I went to my mom's in eastern Oklahoma to try to figure it out. My few belongings were stored above my step-father's office out in his barn. My things were here, maybe this is where I was supposed to be.

Over the years I had considered moving out this way. It's beautiful country and I have family here. But the sweltering humidity and the people of Walmart always kept me away. Plus, being single, I knew the chances of changing that status out here were not good. But now I had nowhere to go. I had tried living in northwest Oklahoma near my dad and sister. That simply didn't work. I didn't have the money to move to New Mexico or Colorado nor did I have the money to travel there to look for work. I would have to find a job here. I arrived on a Friday. Saturday I looked for a place to live. Monday I looked for a job.

I lost track of how many jobs I applied for. Apparently seventeen years as an elementary teacher doesn't qualify you for much. I only had one year under my belt as an art teacher and honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to teach art again. It had been stressful, teaching in Edmond. Some of the kids simply wore me slick with their attitudes and sense of entitlement. As I applied for jobs, my stomach turned as I read about the positions. I needed a job. I had to have a job. But I couldn't imagine myself stuck in an office all day doing paperwork or having my eyes glued to a computer screen. How do people do this all day?

In my job search, I found a listing for an art teacher position in a small town in western Arkansas. I like small towns. They have their own problems, but for the most part, they usually have really good people. I set up an interview.

The interview went well and I was hired. I immediately called about a house in the country my mom had found for me. I let the landlord know I was interested in renting it.

I now had a job and a place to live but very little to put inside the house. I had sold off most of my things. I didn't have furniture. No bed. I had sold off my work clothes and kept only clothing that would be good for driving a truck. All the work I had put into creating a life around being an over the road truck driver...and here I was, in eastern Oklahoma, about to become an art teacher in western Arkansas.

I often asked God why he made me go through all of this...the expense of truck driving school, selling my things, the embarrassment of failure (again). The only thing I could come up with was that I was supposed to be here and this was the only way it was going to happen. I wouldn't have come here on my own. As much as I love my family, it worried me living this close. Would I feel smothered or would I still be able to live my own life?

I've been living here for five months. The humidity this summer was bad, but I didn't notice it so much because I wasn't stressed. The traffic is minimal and I am surrounded by the hills and mountains jutting up all around me. I think I have had one person pull out in front of me in the time I have been here. In Edmond, that was a daily occurrence. Once in a while the fire trucks from the Hog Eye Fire Department go wailing by. Mostly I hear coyotes yipping and howling, the occasional hoot of an owl, and of course, the rooster up the road that sounds like he is dying every time he sounds off.

When I walk outside, I can breathe...fresh air. I'm not breathing in the smell of car exhaust and fast food restaurants. I walk outside and see the reflections on my pond instead of other houses and buildings.

For the first time in years, I am relaxed, happy. I really love my job teaching art. I sometimes shake my head at the number of times I hear "ain't" in my classroom, but I also smile at each time I hear "Good morning", "yes, ma'am", or "Happy Thanksgiving!". I work with good people and am teaching sweet, respectful kids, most of whom are eager to learn. My drive to work each morning is beautiful, always changing with the weather.

Being close to family has been a good thing. I enjoy my time with my mom and her best friend. I even enjoy the never-ending harassment from my step-father. I am also very grateful to them all. They were the ones who had an abundance of furniture and helped me furnish my home. My step-father is the one I call when my twelve year old 4-Runner falls apart.

Six months ago, I fully expected to be on the road now, running into bad weather, living out of my truck, saving money, and seeing the country. This is the last place I expected to be, but it turns out, it is the best place for me to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Beginning

Six weeks ago, I made a radical decision to abandon teaching completely and become a truck driver.

In that time, I have been selling off most of my possessions in an attempt to reduce my worldly belongings to an amount that would fit in a small storage unit. It was terrifying. At 48, I have spent my life collecting things, trying to build up the type of life and home I envisioned in my head. It never really came together the way I had hoped.

My process of elimination boils down to emotion...if I look at something and get an emotional response to it, I keep it. Photos, notes from my kids, old bottles from a friend...those I will keep. My Fiesta Ware dishes that belonged to my great-grandmother...definitely keeping those. Books on photography, wildlife, exploration...boxed up and headed to storage. But so much of what I have accumulated over the years does not elicit an emotional response. It is just stuff that has no meaning for me. It makes me wonder about how I came to accumulate all this over the years. Was I trying to fill a home or fill a void?

Paring down my life is the most freeing thing I have ever done. So many people have told me they are envious and wish they could do the same. Being single with grown children is allowing me to have this freedom. I will be able to easily move anywhere I want taking only my most precious possessions with me. Of course, who knows where I will eventually end up. New Mexico and Colorado have always been my top two destinations of where I want to live, but now that I am about to embark on a journey as a truck driver, I will finally have the opportunity to see what else is out there. The United States is full of places that might eventually become home for me.

For years I have wanted to travel, see what is out there. I have felt trapped in Oklahoma, only venturing out to the surrounding states here and there. I know some people love it here and I am happy for them. You can have it. But I'm outta here! There is just so much more to the world. New people, new vistas, new cuisines, new ways of thinking...

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am heading in the right direction. This feels right. Driving a truck was certainly never a dream of mine, but it is the vehicle (pardon the pun) for doing exactly what I want to and write. My life is going to be simplified. I will have fewer things to focus on - driving, delivering, and writing. I won't have to look at my front yard getting taller and taller dreading having to mow it. No more vacuuming the house, cleaning the tub, dusting the furniture. My home will now be the size of a small walk-in closet. I will pare down my things to only that which is necessary and will fit in the truck. And when I decide to find  a real home, I will begin with only those things that I love.

My truck driving class starts in three weeks. My hope is to be on the road with a company shortly after that. It is going to be hard saying goodbye to my kids, my family, and friends. But they know me well. They know that this is just the sort of thing that I love...traveling, being on the road, solitude. I hope it can inspire others to take a bold step, do something unexpected, give life a chance. At the end of my life I want to be able to look back and know that I was bold, courageous, and willing to take risks. I want to know that I was an inspiration to others to follow their dreams, live their lives with passion. I think if we did a little more of this, the world would be a better place.

What happens when you take a break from Facebook?

Eleven days I ago I deactivated my Facebook account. The negative posts, political bashing, and idiotic memes were beginning to have an adve...