Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


25- Buying Time


In high school, I fantasized about being a big-city businesswoman who made trailblazing decisions during the day, gourmet meals at her beautiful country-suburban home at night and furniture in her backyard studio on the weekends. My creativity was highly-valued and bursting out of all three spaces. I was self-actualized.

But I graduated from college in 2002 and moved to New York City in 2007, when jobs were hard to get and layoffs made them harder to keep. I spent three of my first 10 post-graduate years unemployed. Unlike my fantasy, in real life, I had to use my creative power just to cobble together my lower needs.

As time went on, it seemed that the less creative a job was, the more money I made. I began to take jobs to grow my professional skills, pay my rent and always, always to save for whatever was next. At night, I ate takeout in front of my laptop to make time for my writing. I hoped each new position would get me closer to the fulfillment I dreamed of. I was getting by—at times growing—but not filling up any of my spaces.

In December of 2010, I was laid off from one of my better jobs when my position was moved out-of-state. And because I’d saved, I used this layoff—like all the others—to my advantage. I opened 2011 reading, writing, painting, cooking delicious food and spending more time with loved ones. I added time outdoors in the spring and writing part-time as a contractor in the summer.

Following my instincts, I finally started to manifest the vision that brought me to New York four years earlier. I could feel myself growing and expanding. Having money in the bank gave me time to think, breathe, try, experiment and create all sorts of things—including a life closer to the creative one I really wanted.

By 2012, I finally understood the many ways that previous jobs had divided—and even thwarted—my efforts. But with only $1,906.37 left in the bank on the morning I interviewed, I had set the person I was becoming aside and take my last position. I never expected to walk away two and a half years later having saved $64,744.65.

When I left in that job in 2015, I planned to use my savings to build my dream tiny home. But upon reflection, I realized that a house wouldn’t necessarily fulfill my higher needs. If I wanted to make my money count, I had to invest it in something that would.

So, I chose to spend it on time. So far, that money has funded 52 months to integrate who I am with what I do and createto finally establish the life I want. Traditional advice might not suggest that I live off my savings. But I have conserved and lived simply on thousands of dollars—multiple times. And living off of saved money through two recessions in ten years has proven both more reliable and more satisfying than the given path.

If those little moments on nights and weekends are not giving you the time to step into the fullness of who are you, there may be a different way. Over the past five or ten years, have you put more emphasis on making money or saving money? How has that emphasis affected the journey toward your vision? What have you learned, gained and lost from the experience? Share your answers in the comments below. There’s more we can learn from each other.