I grew up in the northern part of the Netherlands with a bunch of siblings, a hard working dad and a mom who also worked outside the home for periods at a time, besides being a full-time stay at home mom. (Yeah that’s a bit of oxymoron) My parents started out with very little (nothing) before I came around, they worked very very hard and were very very frugal. They were always independent people, relying on no one else but themselves. Dad worked all day, 6 days a week. Mom ran the house, they bought an old farm house in 1983 which was so cheap that at the time the bank wouldn’t put a mortgage on it because the amount wasn’t high enough. Instead, the bank gave them the minimum mortgage allowable and my parents threw the extra money right back into the house.
This wasn’t an ordinary house, it was an old farmhouse with a thatched roof, more barn than house and a bucket with a wooden lid with a hole in it for a toilet. I can’t fully describe it, all I have is stories from my parents and my grandfather as well as pictures, all I know is I wouldn’t have touched that house with a 10 foot pole if you paid me to.
My parents had me and my siblings, they planted fruittrees and a garden. They gutted and fixed the house and from what I remember my dad was home pretty late every day but we always ate dinner at the kitchen table. Potatoes. We never ate out. We had two dogs and a cat (or two) and I remember a lot of playing outside in the awesomest playhouse my father built, cooking ‘meals’ with dried macaroni, sand and water and catching frogs and learning to skate on frozen ditches (on houtjes) in the winter.
My father eventually went the selfemployment route and when I was 11 my family immigrated to Canada for 6 months to find better opportunities to get ahead. The move didn’t go well and we moved back to Europe only to make our way back to Canada once again ten years ago. To say these moves have impacted my life would be the understatement of the century. Over time I saw many different schools, cities, different people, different countries and quite a few different houses. My parents were never conventional, we moved, we worked hard, we didn’t work standard 9-5 jobs and they tried and considered many different self-employment opportunities over the course of the years and that’s stuck with me.
My school and career path started out quite ‘regular’ in that I got myself a two-year college degree and found employment-opportunities with a retail chain. I did the things that were expected of me, went to school, found a job, found a boyfriend…. then things started rumbling inside. I subsequently moved across country to Edmonton, Alberta. I lived there for a year and a half, working a 9-5 job and planning my life the way it was expected of me before making the trek back to the East Coast after a break-up. I was miserable and whatever I was trying to do wasn’t working.
Since returning to the East Coast five years ago I’ve made decisions that many consider to be different. I quit my ‘regular’ job, took a nice paycut and started working part-time for the family business. I went to school part-time, one course, sometimes two per semester, to which a former friend exclaimed: “Renee, why don’t you just get it over with and go full-time!??” Well, because I didn’t want to be saddled with the same amount of student-debt as you. (And hey, it paid off! I will graduate debt-free) That’s why. I didn’t go full-time and I didn’t put my heart and soul into it either, it was a side project. Everything at the time was a side-project. I had a lot of things on the go but none of them 100%.
Many people didn’t understand WHY I would do such all these things the way I was doing them. I wasn’t doing things the way most of my peers were, some called it backwards or just plain crazy. My entrepreneurial parents had in the meantime ventured into landlording aka buying more shacks and turning them into nice apartments and I lived in one of them for cheap because of having to live around constant construction debris.
A year later I bought a house with no money (still debating if that was a smart move :p) I quit studying for a while until I had a conversation C. who inspired me and gave me the final push to go back and finish it. The family business-selfemployment thing wasn’t easy, but I battled on, it’s been extremely stressful and I can’t count how many times I’ve been in tears and have almost quit, I’ve looked for other jobs but ultimately few can offer what I have now and that is freedom/
Over the past four years our little company has turned into a fulltime job, a small company making a little bit of money and a handful of employees (20, actually). Many of my former friends didn’t understand the commitment of having to take that phonecall during a dinner or not being able to commit to an evening out. People didn’t understand my living situation, my work situation, my school situation.
Other entrepreneurs get it, but most of the 9-5, mortgaged to the eyeballs behind the white picket fence just doesn’t get it.
I’ve run into a lot of people over the years that have asked me, so when will you settle down, has ‘real life’ started for you yet? (what does that even mean and yes people actually ask that, I’m not paraphrasing) When will you have kids and get married? Where do you work? When will you get a normal job?
Why does that matter? And who defines normal?
I just turned 26, I work random hours all hours of the day and night, and sometimes I just choose not to work. I’m self employed in a family business, It’s stressful and sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it. I don’t make a lot of money but I’m doing okay. Being a little uprooted all the time is in my blood because of where I come from and how I was raised. I acknowledge my wanderlust by dreaming and planning and visiting places I’ve never gone before.
I like to travel and I’m getting my finances in order. I don’t want a car with a lease, a house that is 82.5% mortgaged for the next million years, I don’t need to be married and have babies (quite yet) to live a fulfilled live. I want to live outside my little circle and I’m certainly not interested in living my life the conventional way. I don’t want a 9-5 job. I like my life even though to others it seems crazy.
I’m not going to tell you that there haven’t been times in my life that I’ve felt completely lost and aimless. I have, actually I’m feeling pretty lost and incredibly lonely right now. I’ve also longed to just be the same, just average. Just working my job and going home at the end of the day, paying my credit-card bill and leaving my responsibilities once I punch out. I’ve had conversations with C., wondering how to turn it off – how do you stop thinking and planning?
But I can’t. We can’t.
I have no idea how to do that. I don’t know how to stop thinking about becoming a millionaire, how to stop thinking about where my career, my business will go next. I can’t stop thinking about becoming completely debt-free and making my own way in this world, about how to make this blog into something, how to improve myself, constantly learning and finding new things and about all the places I still want to see in this world. And also about finding someone different yet like me to do that with.
My purpose in life isn’t to be conventional, I can be lost and be sad and lonely and be happy and ultimately I will find my way. But it won’t be in a way that my peers at school expect me to, and it won’t be in a way my friends expect me to. Call me crazy maybe my life IS a little crazy but this is part of who I am.
Moral of the story?
If you aren’t born to be a follower don’t be. What is accepted as normal, doesn’t have to be and once you discover that you will be FREE. It isn’t easy, actually it is hard as hell and I struggle every single day but it’s worth it.