At four years old, I earned a scholarship to an elite, predominately-white prep school. Even at such a young age, I understood the “opportunity” before me—that if I worked hard, I could have things that I didn’t see in my poor, all-black neighborhood on the other side of town. And while the big, beautiful newness ahead excited me, the disparity between it and the world I’d come from didn’t quite sit right with me.
Years later, instead of studying economics and going into business like so many at my Ivy League university, I followed my curiosity into the gap between those two worlds. Concentrating in Afro-American Studies, I learned the history, economics and sociology of class, power, segregation and oppression. And for the first time, I understood the difference between our cultural myth and the truth.
By 32, I had a graduate degree and years of saving hard work under my belt, but I didn’t have the security, esteem, belonging or self-actualization I’d expected to come with all of that. Money couldn’t spend away those needs.
With all the energy, effort and emotion that simply “getting by” required, I couldn’t imagine going on for anything less than the dynamic, fulfilling life I craved. And I believed that I—with my talent, time, curiosity, creativity, passion, persistence, determination and patience—could realize my vision on way less money than my job could.
So, four years ago, I walked away from my highest paycheck to date to prove it. I started my experiment living out of a backpack for eight months in Asia and Europe. In 2017, I paid cash for the first two seeds my new life and an acre of abandoned land to plant them on. One hundred miles from everything—even the expectations—I knew before, I started building my new life by satisfying my needs from the bottom up.
Today, my vision is taking root. I get to live in my curiosity full-time and indulge my passion for learning, growing and discovering everyday. I’ve created a space to sustainably develop the autonomy I was missing amongst a community of striving people who both share with and challenge me. And I do all of this job-free and on about $1100/month. While “following the rules” failed, following my needs—to know, to be, to prove—got me where I always wanted to be.
When I left my last job, I knew of no one suggesting that I could use the length, breadth and depth of who I am—and minimal money—to realize my dreams. I wished desperately that I could connect with someone who had been where I wanted to go, who’d abandoned the given map—of education, a job and hard work—and was determined to try and fail and try again until they became what they needed to realize their vision. What Lies Above is the resource I wanted when I decided to redesign my life.
My hope is that, by sharing my journey, experiences and results on this blog, I will help you build a dynamic, fulfilling life that you love. Take your first step. Start here, now.