I’ve had the idea for this blog post floating around in my head for a few days, but I’m not sure what to say or how to start it. I suppose I will just start from the beginning — kind of — and be as honest as I can be when I don’t know my own thoughts fully.
As of this December, I have been “officially” homesteading for ten years. That’s a decade. Roughly a third of my life. I guess that should feel like an accomplishment, but it doesn’t. What have I actually accomplished? I have learned a lot, met a lot of people, had a lot of wonderful and terrible experiences. Have I accomplished what I set out to accomplish? I don’t know. Maybe not.
No, definitely not.
In the beginning, self-sufficiency was my end game, or at least that was what I thought was my end game. I wanted to produce my own food. Slow food is still something I’m into and always will be. I like knowing where my food comes from, what went into it, how it grew, how it was treated, how it was made. There’s such a sense of accomplishment in seeing your food go from seed/birth to your dinner table. Words can’t really encapsulate it all. It’s impossible to really grasp all the intricacies until you experience it yourself. But that’s really neither here nor there.
Along the way I realized that I wanted more than homesteading just for the ‘self.’ I wanted to produce food for other people, too. Saving you a long– very long–tale, suffice it to say that every single avenue I’ve pursued in that vein (from beef to pork to a dairy herdshare) has been one closed door after the other. Every time things seemed to start falling into the place, they instead fell apart. The harder I tried, the more overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, and disillusioned I became.
So that leads me to the question. . .what do you do when you realize you’re chasing the wrong dream?
I haven’t completely accomplished my first goal, although I’ve certainly put up a good chunk of homegrown food, and I haven’t remotely achieved the second. And I’ve decided to say to heck with it.
Really, though, I have come to a place of acceptance in the realization that this isn’t meant to be–at least not right now. I’m just tired. Dead ends are exhausting after awhile, and I can’t keep bleeding myself dry mentally, physically, and financially for the wrong thing. I had a similar experience when I decided to stop pursuing my master’s degree. It’s just a sense of knowing that it isn’t right anymore. Maybe it was at one time, maybe it will be again in the future, but it’s not now.
Does this mean I’m “quitting?” Not completely, no. At least not for the foreseeable future. I can’t tell you where exactly I will be another year from now. The future is impossible to predict, even when we create it for ourselves, because sometimes. . .often. . .we change our minds or our circumstances. This spring I thought I’d be opening an LLC and doing a raw milk herd share in 2019, and now in December I know that isn’t going to happen, for example. But what it does mean is that I’m downsizing, lessening the load for myself, and being okay with that.
It’s hard to change something when it’s been a part of you for so long that it’s become a part of your identity. I think this is in many ways similar to ending a long-term relationship or saying goodbye to someone who has passed away. It was, and is, a part of me. Not just something I do. Part of what I am. When I think of myself completely devoid of any livestock, I don’t really know what that looks like. My entire adult life has involved livestock.
This new territory is unfamiliar and uncertain for me, but so is where I am now.
Something I haven’t talked about a lot is how out of place I feel where I live, psychically. This is one of those things that falls under the “this is really personal, so I want to keep it to myself” category, but it’s worth sharing I think.
I have genuinely wanted to leave west Tennessee since at least middle school. I have dreamed of moving to a number of different places. Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Alaska, other parts of Tennessee. . .really “anywhere but here” sums it up. There are limits (heck no to California or New York or anywhere ‘big city,’ for example), but this place just never has felt like I belonged here. I love Tennessee. I love the south. But I don’t feel like I belong right here, in this exact corner of the world.
I remember in middle school there was a brief chance we might move to Mississippi (we didn’t), and I was so excited by that possibility. Is it normal for a middle schooler to want to move? I feel like it’s not. Wouldn’t most kids that age want to stay with their friends and family? I don’t know, but I didn’t.
It’s so strange to be somewhere that feels so familiar yet does not feel like home. It’s strange to go to a new place and immediately feel like I could live there, almost every single time I travel. It’s strange to never, ever want to leave vacation and go back home. Coming home from vacation is a relief to most people, but it puts me in the worst mood. I always want to stay. It’s never long enough.
I would describe it perhaps as a perpetual discontent. It’s not terrible. I can live with it. And maybe it’s just a wanderlust spirit that always wants to roam, and maybe I would feel this way no matter where I lived. But it’s like wearing clothes that don’t quite fit just right. Sure, I’m not naked, but I’m not really rocking this look, either.
I don’t know what all of this amounts to. I guess the bottom line is that I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing right now or where I’m supposed to be. I have more clarity about what isn’t right for me than what is. I don’t know where I want to live. Middle Tennessee has been most recently on my mind, but I’m not sure. I don’t know what new dream to pursue. I think it might be my (fiction) writing, but what if I pursue that and fail at it, too? Then what?
Wish me luck, friends. I’m a discombobulated mess. But I’m actually surprisingly okay with that? I don’t want to give the wrong idea here, I’m not upset or depressed about this. It just. . .is. I do want to figure things out, and I’m actively working at being the best version of myself that I can be in all fields of my life, but I am content to be discontent for at least a little while longer until I can figure out what the heck it is I want/need.
(Aside from those brief moments of existentialism in which I panic about my future but we don’t talk about those, hehe).