Bird is the Word: Young retirement

March 2016 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Kali-MartinBy Kali Ramey Martin

I don’t watch the show Portlandia regularly, but when it first came out they released a song all about how Oregon is where the young people come to retire.

The song pokes fun at young people who don’t have serious careers, who only work a couple hours at odd jobs here and there, and spend the majority of their time pursuing their passions.

It pokes fun at the ridiculous idea that there could be a world outside of our fast-paced, super-connected, convenience-focused society.

I realized earlier this week, it pokes fun at me.

Five years ago, at the ripe old age of 24, I decided the corporate life wasn’t for me.

I hated working in an office, being away from home for eight hours a day and having my life dominated by someone else’s schedule.

I spent six months saving up a chunk of change and enrolled in culinary school to learn how to cook professionally so I could start my own catering business.

I wanted to be my own boss, be able to exercise in the middle of the day if I wanted and to spend more time just being at home.

In 2014, I finally took the plunge, quit the part-time job I was hanging on to to pay the bills, and set off on my own.

And you know what, instead of feeling footloose and fancy-free like I’d always imagined I would, I really, really struggled.

It was everything I’d ever wanted and yet I was miserable.

Because unlike all the glamorous sides of self-employment that I’d thought through, there were the unglamorous pieces that were suddenly my reality.

Being alone, constantly. No steady income. No one expecting you to be anywhere, ever. No security. No structure. No one else to blame.

Change is hard, even when it’s change for the better.

It took me about six months before I felt comfortable at home and even longer to develop a daily routine that worked for me.

Almost a year before I felt I was thriving. Still longer to not feel guilty about my slower lifestyle, my “young retirement.”

And lately, I’ve found myself in that strange place of transition again.

We had our first child at the end of December, and since then my days have looked entirely different than they did before.

I’m a person who enjoys hard work and used to fill my days with tasks, being productive and getting things done.

Now, I’ve gone from looking at the week ahead to living hour-to-hour, feeding-to-feeding, nap-to-nap.

My schedule is entirely dominated by an adorable tiny person, and all the change felt out of control and a little intimidating at first.

But after a few weeks of feeling overwhelmed, I started to remember that I’d been here before and, in fact, I’ve worked really hard to get to live this way.

Because as much as the modern world pokes fun at a slower lifestyle where there’s time for simple pleasures, that’s exactly what I wanted.

A job where I get to decide how long my maternity leave is. A life with the space to accommodate a crazy newborn schedule. Days where my to-do list starts and ends with spending time with my son. Weeks spent at home caring for the place and the people I love.

If that makes me lazy in the eyes of society, well lazy I must be, because I wouldn’t trade this “young retirement” for all the corporate success in the world. And there’s no way any job has dimples as cute as my son.

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