In undergrad we were once described as the kids with the “free-flowing hair & free-flowing ideas” (amazingly we did not go to undergrad in the 1960’s). I guess this means that for quite a while now, we’ve been living in some way on the fringe of society (at least as perceived by certain up-tight professors).
We’ve since been to grad-school and managed to find good jobs graduating in the height of the recession, which was quite amazing. I found a job teaching theatre (which is what I earned my degree in) and my husband found an opportunity to employ his management skills at a leading rental car company, where he did quite well for himself. Surprisingly, even though we were “successful”, we weren’t happy.
The small town in Indiana, where we had moved, didn’t provide us with much in terms of any of the things we valued. Additionally, at the time, I’m not even sure we could have clearly stated our values and priorities. We were equal parts lost and relieved. Relieved to finally find employment after over a 100 applications we’d sent out into the world (we’re no dummies- but remember the recession?), but lost without a clear sense of purpose. While my job was in my chosen field, it was an instructor position with a limited contract, no long term security. In contrast, Mr. Sweetspot’s job had nothing to do with his interests, but he was VERY good at it, and was soon seduced by that lustrous corporate ladder.
Enter more money + general unhappiness… we ended up eating more and spending more. While we managed not to blow extensive money on a house or car (a Rent-to-own lease option on the house allowed us to avoid a mortgage, proximity to work allowed me to bike/walk and Mr. Sweetspot had a company car. Remember: housing bubble people!) we became very consumeristic. Spoiler alert: we were not any happier! As my contract expired, we moved for my new position in upstate NY. This created our first brush with minimalism- we were moving from a 2 story house with finished basement to a 1 bedroom apartment (sight unseen- more on that later!) and we were renting a mini-van through Mr. Sweetspot’s work discount to save on the moving costs. There was no way we would be able to take all of our stuff with us!
Since I worked on the academic calendar (and continue to do so- my new job was also teaching theatre, but this time TENURE TRACK!) I had time to Craigslist a bunch of items while Mr. Sweetspot worked through the end of June. As even in our very consumeristic days we were fans of curbside furniture, the fact that I made over $800 with this gig was quite satisfying… and only a 3 on the creepiness scale. So off we went with a rental van packed to the gills! SIDEBAR: Our very packed van had a faulty tire, which we needed to refill with air roughly every 90 minutes. Other fun fact- within a 3 hour radius of our new home there are no air pumps at the gas stations close to the exits.
We landed in Oswego- a town which after my initial interview I described as a really cool small town, and I stay faithful to those words to this day. Mr. Sweetspot started with random gigs, bartending nights, special events but soon a perfect opportunity presented itself- Director of a recently restored historical performing arts theatre, which also hosted special events & weddings. On paper- his perfect job. In reality, his pay was ridiculous (as in laughably little). On top of that, the job was 45 minutes from our house, which with this lovely local thing called “lake-effect” snow presented quite a challenge. The job proved quite demanding, with 14 to 16 hour shifts at a time and of course it was the exact opposite of my schedule. Thus we never saw each other. We were in a new place, doing new things, technically much improved in society’s eyes… but we were still unhappy.
This was a good thing because it made us sit down and re-prioritize. As it happens, we really like each other, so time together was a must on said priority list. The pathetic extra salary was not. So after 2 years at the Schmallet Theatre (a really intense code name) Mr. Sweetspot quit his job, to pursue documentary filmmaking, wedding officiation, event MC-ing and most importantly, hanging out with Mrs. Sweetspot.
And guess what? Happier? Check! Lost the weight? Check! (in fact, fitness and healthy eating became one of our main hobbies!) Reduced income? CHECK! Reduced savings? Heck no! In an M.Night Shyamalan type twist, our decision to quit the Schmallet Theatre not only increased our overall quality of life, but it also increased our savings & investments. Let us tell you how!