Life Isn’t Static.
For years, I followed what I felt was a prescribed path for me. I’d gotten pregnant—those pesky hormones—got married and had my first daughter at seventeen. I went to work in a grocery store where my mother-in-law worked. I had another child in my twenties. In other words, life happened to me; I didn’t direct my life.
Then the first series of blips occurred. My father committed suicide not long after I turned twenty. My mother was diagnosed with colon and pancreatic cancer and given three months to live. I found myself a single mom with two kids. I’d wanted to become an interior designer and had gone to college to pursue my dream. My husband didn’t like it. It wasn’t the entire reason for our divorce but my wanting to break free contributed to it. It was the first time I stuck to what I wanted to do and to pursue what I wanted to have in life. But it came at a heavy price.
Fast forward. My mother would live for fifteen more years. I remarried. And I realized my goal to become an interior designer. I loved my work, and I was good at it. But I began to feel a pull away from interior design toward writing. I started a writers group since I knew nothing about writing. I recently returned to Texas and was asked to speak at their meeting. The group has grown and just celebrated its twentieth anniversary (July 2018). It has launched many authors and writing careers, and I’m thankful I didn’t let what I didn’t know stop me and planted that seed that’s now flourished. By this time, I was in my forties, my kids were grown, and I had grandkids. I could start living my own life.
I quit my design job to focus on writing. I thought I was going through the change early, but it turned out I was pregnant. My daughter, Jori, is now nineteen and attending college. She loves to travel as much as I do, and I’ve instilled on her the message of living her life to the fullest on her terms. While I hadn’t anticipated having another child, she is one of the greatest blessings in my life.
For some, hitting refresh means moving to another country. For me, it was moving from a place I’d lived most of my life (San Antonio, Texas area) to Colorado. Before long I became involved in a local nonprofit. I traveled to the Ukraine helping at an orphanage summer camp. The next year, I went to visit my daughter whose husband was stationed in Germany. We traveled to Belgium, the Netherlands, and France where I’d lived as child when my own father was in the service. The next trip took me to Egypt, Jordan and Israel and the following trip to South Korea. When my daughter was nine, I took her to the Ukraine with me, and we traveled around the Netherlands. I loved these trips, but they were always within a set timeframe off from work.
I was working with a nonprofit. I wrote donor communications and grant proposals. Within six months I would be laid off. It was then that I realized I had to break free from the typical work situation and life so that I could travel when I wanted or do the work I desired. I began my own business as a nonprofit consultant and grant writer, but the fact is that I kept feeling I was missing out. Life was passing me by. I knew that I could put a lot of effort into growing my business into a major entity but was that what I really wanted? The answer was a resounding no. You see, I’d concluded that people don’t really want to become millionaires, they want the lifestyle that they believe it will afford them. I had to figure out how to get what I wanted and not focus so much on the money aspect.
If I didn’t want to follow one path, then what path did I want to pursue? I understood that I’m someone who enjoys change and likes doing more than one thing. I began writing articles and teaching classes on various things that I enjoy. I devised a simple quiz that helps determine the top ten things I want in life. This led to the creation of my most popular workshop, “How to Get What You Really Want Out of Life.” The fact is that we’re all self-employed—it’s just that some have only one client. I didn’t want to focus on one thing and I wanted diverse income streams. I realized that others might enjoy working the way I work and so I wrote my book on Work Quilting.
I also recognized my passion for traveling. I’d go with groups, with my friends, and with my daughters. I wanted to travel more, but I wanted to do so in comfort and traveling with others helped with the costs. I discovered housesitting and started pet-sitting for neighbors. I gained knowledge on travel hacks and collecting miles. This helped pay for airfare and provided the recommendations I needed to begin global housesitting. This expanded my travel budget and increased my enjoyment of solo travel.
We can make our plans and decide what we want to do, but life happens. Sometimes the things that happen are good, and sometimes they crush our spirit. But each helps to mold us into the woman we become. After I had my daughter, things returned to the status quo for a while. Then my sister discovered she had lung cancer. I’d lost my dad in my twenties, my mom in my thirties, and in my forties would lose two sisters—one to cancer and one to a heart attack. This left my younger brother and me. I was on a housesit when I got the call that my brother had committed suicide.
Tragedies happen. They are unexpected, and we are stunned by them. Illness and accidents can strike without notice. It’s often at those moments when we question ourselves and our lives. But without sadness, you don’t recognize the joy.
If I could give any advice or re-do any part of my life, it’s that I would have started living it my way sooner. I would recognize that we need to accept responsibilities we might have while not neglecting our own spirit and self-care.
For some women, hitting refresh means picking up and moving to another country. Or starting a new line of work. Or working on an area in their life that’s been holding them back. For me, it’s doing more than one thing and creating a life that fits my desires. I’m living the life I want and doing the things I want to do. I’m working on my next cozy mystery, and I can work from anywhere in the world. I just choose to have a home base in the United States. Will that change? Who knows? Not one of us can know what tomorrow will bring. Today is all that we have. It’s up to us to take that one small step that leads us closer to the life we desire.
Now I’m sixty years old. Sixty! When did that happen? The fact is time happens to all of us. We can hit refresh when we’re thirty, four, fifty or sixty. We can do it multiple times in a year. When opportunity knocks, don’t just open that door, fling it open and embrace it.
After my daughter was born, I struggled to lose weight and discovered I had thyroid issues. All those years of working full-time, doing all the housework, volunteer work, etc. had destroyed my adrenals and affected my thyroid. In my pursuit of doing what I felt was right, I had neglected my own self-care. I found Louise Hay’s book on Healing Your Life. She noted that thyroid issues revolve around the questions of “When is it ever going to be my turn?” Is it any wonder then, that thyroid issues are increasing at an alarming rate in women?
I feel like I’m just coming into my own and moving into a great third act. This is the fall of my life and that’s my favorite season so good things are on my horizon. I love the quote by Dorothy Sayers, “Time and trouble tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.”
There’s lots of truth there because I’ve found the older I get, the less I care about what others think of me or how I must “fit in” to society. I have friends of all ages and backgrounds. I choose to live fully. And unafraid. No matter what life brings, I will hit refresh.
Vikki Walton is an author, consultant, instructor, and global house/petsitter. She founded the over-forty ladies travel group @girlswantago and wrote a guide and journal, “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Travel.” She lives in Colorado where she’s a backyard farmer. When she’s not out feeding her chickens or working in her garden, she travels the world. Her motto is Travel More, Travel Well, Travel Soon.