Let this be a blog of absolute honesty. To begin, an honest stock-taking of my life:
History: Have worked past 7 (!) years as an accountant. Did not intend to become an accountant, but somehow it happened through process of office osmosis. Have lived in city of Toronto for 10 (count ’em!) 10 years. Did not intend to remain in the Big Smoke so very long.
Good Stuff: Am blessed with a wonderful partner, Kathryn, whom I love with all my heart. More than all my heart actually, parts of my belly and most of my spleen loves her too. Other parts as well. Have been Kat’s girlfriend for over two years. Also blessed with 4 critters: Cats Leo & Sunshine, and dogs Mocha & Bonus.
Bad Stuff: Current employment situation is frustrating. It’s a great job by all standards except… it’s just not what I want to be doing with my life. I’m working said job in order to keep apartment and afford two week long camping trips a year, so that I may remain sane in city of over 6 million.
Changes Afoot: Have resolved with above mentioned Sweetie to change our lives, and form a lifestyle that is in-keeping with our values.
Values: Time with our families, each other, our critters, and in nature. Working in an environment we control (or have more influence over than we do right now.) Doing a job that creates good things for our life, our community, and the world.
Herein lies the reason for this blog. In order to change our lives for the better, Kat & I have to make a lot of changes. Big, scary changes.
We may have a good life by some standards, but it is not a life that makes us feel good. It does not reflect our values, or the changes we want to see in the world. As we hedge into our thirties together, we find ourselves working more, not less. We are too tired to socialize with friends, much too tired to do charity work or even take part in the political process. (I missed my chance to vote during the last federal election because I was too damn tired to stand in line at the polls.) There is more time on public transit, more overtime, less time with ourselves and each other. Our home life is held hostage by our work lives, by traffic, by things we do not care about.
Once or twice a year, Kat & I get back to basics. We go camping. No traffic. No blackberries. Just nature, wildlife, fresh air, exercise. Our days filled with simplicity and discovery. We have spent time in Temagami, North Bay, Parry Sound, Lake Huron’s North Channel, and Petawawa. These little trips refresh our spirits, and each time we return to the city we ask ourselves “Why do we live in Toronto?”
This past June, we crossed a threshold. Through a series of serendipitous events, we ended up taking our vacation on Vancouver Island. (You can read about that trip here: http://fds-stories.livejournal.com )
By the end of that trip, we could not tear ourselves away. If we did not have money and pets back in Toronto, we would have abandoned our jobs, our apartments, our stuff, EVERYTHING and just started fresh that week. All the crap that seems important in Toronto was revealed for what it is: A distraction. You don’t need a leather couch from Ikea, or dinner plates from Winners. You don’t need TV, that’s anaesthetic for when your life is too stressful. In that week, we *realized* that we really deserve better than the city slavery life we have.
Believing you deserve better is an act of rebellion.
After two years of living below the poverty line in Toronto, I landed a “good job”. Actually, my temp agency landed a good job, I just worked that job and took home half the salary that the company paid the temp agency. But even so, my take home pay was $14 / hour, and the pressure of poverty was off of my shoulders.
After nine months of earning money for a temp agency who had found the placement for me in a half hour and had not done one more thing to earn the half of my salary that they were taking, the hospital hired me full time. Halleleulia! I had achieved that holy grail of employment: A full time job with benefits. I was safe. I have a pension plan. I have no right to complain, right? I’m lucky lucky lucky.
Every time I felt discontent with my life, I would tell myself , “Well, there are people who have no job, there are people with no health care. I should be grateful for what I have. It’s not so bad.” I would work 12 hours and come home to collapse in front of the TV. To tired and too busy counting my lucky stars.
It was not until we visited Vancouver Island that we could we visualize, really see that a different life was possible. Only when we saw it did we believe we deserve it. Suddenly, I no longer saw myself as lucky.
We could not leave British Columbia – it was physically painful to press the gas pedal on our rental car as we drove to Nanaimo to catch our return flight. We resolved to make a new life for ourselves not just because we want to, but because we have to. We owe it to ourselves to live a good life, we only get one life after all.
So we put our heads together and took stock of what we have:
Two brains. Different skill sets. Kat knows how to roast coffee (that’s been her day job for the past 3 years) and I know how to manage a business. The idea just bloomed: We will start a coffee roastery. Kat will take care of the product, I will take care of the management. We will borrow the start up funds and roast high-quality coffee, sourced from environmentally-responsible coffee plantations that pay the farmers fair wages. We will create at least a couple of jobs for others by starting this business. We will set our own schedule, our own pace, our own priorities.
We will create a life we love to live. That’s the plan.
I can hear the cynics grumbling as I type, probably because I am one of them. Breaking up with a city, with a whole life you’ve build over a decade is not easy. I’m not going to pretend it is. Starting a business from scratch is not easy, I won’t tell you it is. Moving to a new province, several time zones away from all our friends and family will be hard.
But I believe we can do it. We are absolutely determined to make this work, whatever it takes. And so I’ll make a deal with you, readers (well, as I write this, no one’s reading, but I have faith that many will read this blog someday) I will not sugar coat the reality I experience. I will be brutally honest about the resources we have and do not have while starting this business. I promise you I will be honest because I believe the way we will change our current work-too-much culture is by becoming self-employed, creating our own jobs, our own future on our own terms. I want to be honest about this process so that others can see that they can do it too, so that we can all build a better community, a better culture and ultimately a better world, one life at a time.