Measures of Life

Life Beyond Measures

June 17, 2020

I’m finishing my third week on the road. Tomorrow morning I leave Tennessee and set up camp at a state park in Indiana. Lately, I have been thinking about how the measures by which I used to gauge my life have become meaningless. Measures like time, wealth, and even weight. It’s a different type of freedom that I’ve never before experienced.

There are no Clocks at the Campground

The only date and time that concern me are my check-out and check-in dates. I pay attention to when I can check into the campground and then calculate my departure time appropriately. Beyond that, time has no meaning. Or maybe it’s better said that time is the most important element, but it’s no longer measured by minutes and hours. Instead of the clock, time is measured by the sound of the birds singing in the morning, the gray clouds that may bring in the rain, and the sun going down over the lake, or mountains, or valleys. Time is all we have.

In my former career, I had to document (and bill) every 15 minutes of my work day. I hated it. Now I still have to work, but my days are flexible and I don’t have to put in a certain number of hours each day. For example, yesterday I launched my latest online course (Emergency Financial Planning) and made some videos for my Youtube channel. I did so knowing that today would be a special day with my niece. We spent a carefree morning on the lake, and I couldn’t have been happier.

It took me a long time to get over the bitterness of being fired from my successful career. I was 54 when my career ended; not quite ready for retirement. Now I wonder if being fired was a gift? True, I lost my income, and even my identity. But here I am traveling the country with my three cats, taking in amazing views and living a simple and authentic life. I’ve had a hard time turning off the smile muscles. Maybe even my wrinkles are diminishing as the layers of stress seem to peel away with every new campground? Perhaps I’ve ADDED years to my life?

Defining my Worth Beyond Income

I had a healthy six-figure salary when my career ended. Then I decided to try my hand at blogging, creating online courses for the Gutsy Women Finances community, and building a financial coaching business at Dr Brenda Money Coach. I still haven’t figured out how to turn a profit. If I lived by conventional rules, I’d close shop and return to a high-powered career. But I believe in what I am doing and have every intention of earning enough money to fund my low-cost lifestyle. I have faith that this will work out.

I’ve tucked money away for retirement for decades, and the sale of my house eases the pressure of producing an income in the near-term. Sure, I still track my net worth, but my concept of “wealth” is evolving. Wealth is defined as having an abundance of money, of “stuff.” But what if all we need is “enough” to know we’ll be okay for years to come? Downsizing into a 32-foot RV has certainly made me realize that many of the trappings of wealth bring little joy.

There’s something about RV life that removes the external filters that define us by how much money we earn. The campground evens out everyone’s social status. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a traveling nurse. We are ordinary people set out to enjoy nature, family, and friendships. And isn’t that the way it should be? My income, or my wealth for that matter, has no meaning here.

The Scales of Life

I have dieted my entire life – riding a rollercoaster that fluctuates between normal and obese. Too often, I let the scale and my clothing size define how I felt about myself. I’m starting my RV life in the much-dreaded obesity zone, and that’s one of my primary reasons for making this big move to RV life.

Originally, I intended to record a weekly video showing my progress as I lost weight and got fit. But in the end, my scale didn’t make the cut. There wasn’t room, and I know from experience that I can have a fantastic week and the number on the scale doesn’t budge. Why do this to myself?

Do I miss my scale? Absolutely not! Am I “dieting” in the traditional sense? No. Instead, I am making better food decisions, and it feels “natural.” I am taking my cues from my body, eating when I am hungry. Fasting when I am not. It really does seem that simple. And hanging out in a campground means I can’t run to the corner convenience mart and grab beer and chips for the night!

I know I won’t see immediate results, but I’m on the right path. And it’s a relief NOT obsessing over the number on the scale. It’s a lifestyle change and over time, I’m confident that this rollercoaster will end and I’ll hop off at the station.

You can’t Quantify Everything

As a researcher, I worked on performance measures and created tools that people could use to gauge success and tweak their programs. Most often, we measured success with numbers, like the amount of time spent on a hearing, number of people served, percentage of cases closed. And here I am, dismissing time, wealth, and weight as meaningful measures.

Maybe I’m being naive as the excitement of my new life clouds my view, but something has changed. The measures of my day, of my life, are qualitative. Things like:

  • Spending time teaching my niece how to kayak
  • Watching a great blue heron fly from its perch
  • Dipping my toes into the warm waters of the lake
  • Slipping into a new pair of pajamas
  • Listening to birds singing in the morning
  • Biting into the first slice of watermelon of the season
  • Playing cards with my sister and brother-in-law
  • Hearing children laugh as they parade their bicycles around the campground
  • Hiking up to the waterfalls
  • Having long phone conversations with friends
  • Sleeping with the windows open
  • Hanging out with the cats in the catio
  • Reading a murder mystery

And so the measures of my life are quite different than they once were. I could never have predicted this particular outcome. But the moments of joy I feel every day indicate I am on the road that I was meant to take.

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Dr. Brenda

Dr. Brenda is a sociologist, financial coach, and full-time RVer. Her offerings include the Gutsy Women Finance community, the Financial Freedom Academy, and Financial Freedom for Women Workshops.

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