never married, over forty, a little bitter

door number two

The thing I like about this city, the one I am about to leave, is that I own property here and thus, if I wanted, I could procure a pet or a roommate. There is a wide range of cultural activities here as well, and there are plenty of urban farming and gardening opportunities. And, had I gone back to work full-time, I could have potentially sold my condo and bought a house. I also liked having family within driving distance.

At the end of 2013, however, I had three job possibilities, and none of them were in this city. One was in a tiny rural town, more of a bedroom community really, about thirty miles away. I could have bought a house there and planted a garden and gotten a dog and maybe even some backyard chickens. There was not much there in the way of a town center, however, and probably few single people. There were no other businesses and opportunities for meeting men seemed slim (although you never know). My family would remain in driving distance, but I feared I’d feel like an exile there. There was one homey, artsy restaurant and a few yoga places, but that was about it.

The second possibility was a high-level job back in the L.A. area in a desirable beach town. Walking/biking commute to work. Lots of single people and more opportunities to mingle with the opposite sex. I’d have to go back to paying high rent for an apartment though and wouldn’t be able to get a pet or have a garden. And of course I’d be far from family again.

The third option was to return to my old org, working in an urban setting in L.A. Some of the openings were appealing but logistically problematic.

In the end, I went with option two.

Just as I was packing up, I received a phone call about an interview for an ideal job three miles away from my condo here. It was a dark moment for me. Did I let myself down by not determinedly sticking it out here? But that job opened months ago, and after I applied, they reopened it. There are also several internal candidates, and I’ve been passed over many times already by that organization. So I tell myself that it probably wouldn’t have happened for me anyway.

A tenant for my condo dropped into my lap (relative of a friend), so I’m renting the place out here, at least for the first year. The tenant is about the same age I was when I bought the place. She has the same last name as me and a similar first name. We worked abroad for the same organization.

Perhaps it’s a sign that this place was right for me at one stage of my life, but it’s time to move on permanently.


I hope (vow, actually) to never let myself again get to the point where “I hate my life” is my first thought upon waking:

In fact, it’s an issue that’s becoming increasingly problematic now that redundancies have left the remaining staff to cope with impossible workloads, too afraid to object for fear they’ll be next in the firing line.

Dr Borysenko believes women suffer so severely because they are more likely than men to be people-pleasers who ignore their own needs.

Trapped in a cycle of trying to do their best, but not realising the toll it’s taking on them, they end up in a cycle of despair.

‘Burn-out is a disorder of hope. It sucks the life out of competent, hard-working people. You lose motivation and vitality,’ says Dr Borysenko, a Harvard-trained scientist and psychologist.

‘It happens when you feel you can’t stand it for one more minute. You have such thoughts as: “I hate my life.” The risk for women is that so many don’t notice it’s happening to them until they’re so far down that road it’s hard to come back.’

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gap years

So what did I get out of my year? Time for myself, time to relax and time to do many things I’d always wanted to do. Physically I’m fitter and healthier than I have been since I was in my teens. Simply sleeping more, leading a much less frenetic life and eating better was a big part of it. Before I had to wear glasses – my optician told me that as I was getting older, the muscles around my eyes got tired more easily and needed the extra help. But I haven’t touched my glasses since I left work well over a year ago.

Having so much more time to spend together and do so many things with my girlfriend refreshed our relationship; it was more like dating in your 20s. It has taken our relationship to another level: now we have a daughter and are soon to be married.

I spent a lot more money than I originally planned and we could have avoided some expensive (and polluting) trips. But since my return I feel more settled and at ease in my job. I have a renewed enthusiasm for work. Switching to a new department has given my career a real boost and opened up many new opportunities. I have a much clearer vision of why I am working and what I want to get out of it and I don’t resent the time I have to devote to it. Many of the activities during my year off developed skills that will benefit my employer directly.

In many ways my life now is identical to how it was before I left – but I have these tremendous memories and a wealth of new experiences and skills to draw on.

I’d encourage anyone who has the chance, to take a career break … and I won’t hesitate to do it again myself.

the exotic

I used to love moving; I always liked the adventure of a new place. After forty, though, I wanted to be rooted, so it’s ironic I’m having to move again.

How did you guys make the decision to live the way you do? It’s clearly a challenging lifestyle, so it must have taken a great deal of conviction.

MS: When I was a teenager, I read about Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram in India. It was a place he lived among others simply, but also a base of social and political organizing for the larger culture. I knew then I wanted to be a part of such an endeavor. It took me nearly 20 years to realize the commitment I needed to make to be a part of such an intention. I’ve lived in urban intentional communities but often dreamed of living in a rural community.

In 2004, Val and I decided to quit our nonprofit jobs in the city and take steps to find Shii Koeii. We had become disillusioned with how people we knew in the city simply move away to another city or were unable to create intimate mutual relationships and community with each other. We wanted to either join or help create a community to heal the relationship with the natural world and each other. We’ve taken some risks. Not all of them have worked out. What we hold onto is faith. Faith in the natural world to heal, and, faith that other people will feel like-minded and either join us or start their own similar projects.

Most people want the “freedom” to move around, travel, and not be rooted in a place. The irony is this “freedom” is all within the confines of what capitalism allows and imposes on you. Living in a distinct place, building an intimate relationship with that place is fundamental to our freedom from domination and control. Most people don’t realize this. So, psychologically it makes it hard for people to even consider joining Shii Koeii—we are a foreign, almost exotic, experience for many people. When actually most of the “third world” lives like us, rooted in land where all of their culture comes from.


As I head back to the big city and paycheck, I found this interesting:

On the plus side, unlike the man being interviewed here, I will have no commute this time around, so that right there should lessen my stress.