In Fact, It Made Them Worse
In 2012, I left my 9-to-5 job to pursue an online business. I wanted to create a business to provide flexibility and financial freedom to my family so we could live where we wanted and have more quality time together. At first, I didn’t know exactly what life would look like when we were able to live where we wanted but I knew I had to work hard to get there so we could have the choice. About two years into my business my husband and I realized that our vision was becoming a reality and suddenly it was scary. Dreaming and doing are two very different things. Suddenly the thought of selling our home and moving somewhere foreign became scary not a dream that propelled us forward. However, one cold dark night in January my husband got home from New York City exhausted and disappointed he was not able to see the kids before bed. He fell on the couch, looked at me, and said, “I feel like my soul is dying.” No longer was it an option to stay put because of fear. We started to talk about a date for him to leave his job and what the next year was going to look like. I can’t remember the exact day but suddenly Costa Rica popped into my mind and I said to my husband, “Would you consider moving to Costa Rica?” Instantly we knew and started to plan a trip there to explore.
The number of days that I would sit in my office bogged down with huge To Do list for the house, kids and my business dreaming of days with the warm sand beneath our toes, the sun shining on my face, and finally having time as a family to bond were endless. I also imagined time for myself to truly spend guilt free on my own health and happiness. When we got to Costa Rica things will be better. We would have more time for ourselves. We would feel more relaxed. We will be able to stay present at the moment to enjoy life.
I’ve been in Costa Rica for eight months and the one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is I was completely wrong. Costa Rica didn’t fix my problems, in fact, it made them worse at times. This is not a story to complain about. It has a happy ending but for those of you putting off quality time with your family or your own personal goals for health or happiness until you can escape the rat race or get somewhere like a dream destination, DON’T. Make the time now. Find a way because when you simplify your life everything changes. A retirement, leaving a job, or living in a tropical place won’t heal or fix the problems underneath, only you can do that and you can do that now.
Here are five lessons I have learned since selling everything I own and moving my family to Costa Rica.
1. Getting Rid of Physical Stuff Uncovers The Emotional Stuff
I remember when the dumpster was delivered to our house how excited I was to fill it up! The junk was easy to throw in but eventually, things started to get more personal. I would open a box and see pictures from high school or a trip in my twenties and think, “oh wow I need these.” Sure I had not opened the box in eight years but these were my memories plus all the scrapbooking materials I never used should not go to waste. Then my husband looked at me and said maybe we should just not open the boxes. We haven’t cared all these years. We don’t know what is in it to throw them out. Wow, how liberating! Every day got easier. I would cry over my daughter’s dollhouse but be greeted by a pregnant mama at the door sharing how it will be the greatest gift for her daughter distraught over the new baby coming to steal her attention and I would light up inside. By the time we are done, we were leaving for Costa Rica with six suitcases. I had never felt happier. Of course, when we arrived we were exhausted and a stranger in a strange land. Suddenly having none of our stuff felt jarring and uncomfortable. We had a beautiful view but no routine. We had an adventure but too much time on our hands. We had plenty of family quality time but in some ways too much. It was like standing in a room without furniture, without clothes, being fully exposed. It was scary the emotions that bubbled up. There was no hiding behind busy, excuses, or I’ll get to it later. Later was now and there is no escaping how uncomfortable it felt.
2. New Problems Arise When You Change Your Surroundings
When we moved to Costa Rica the problems we wanted to solve were more family time and my husband finding his balance between work and time with the family. It was time for him to find his purpose. Little did I know how changing the routine of daddy working all day long and mommy working her business around the family had become our comfort zone. Yes, we felt it was becoming a prison we wanted to escape back in New Jersey but being in a foreign land without that comfortable prison started to challenge everything we said we wanted. I wasn’t used to my husband being home all the time. My husband wasn’t used to sharing the responsibilities of the household. The kids weren’t used to the new routine. In addition, my husband faced reinventing himself after twenty years as a successful businessman in New York City. Instead of facing a work crisis we were facing a marriage crisis.
3. Having More Time Doesn’t Make a Goal Easier To Reach
Here we were with more time on our hands. I wanted to spend it meditating, working out, being there for my children, and creating family memories to last a lifetime. Instead, I was faced with more work and the stress of providing for my family on my own while my husband figured out his next move. After 20 years of working a 60-hour workweek, he needed and deserved time to decompress but as much as I wanted to grow my business the problem was I still wanted to be a mom. I went from my husband and I being on the exact same page to being too far apart. I knew I was meant to take this year in Costa Rica but I had no idea it would mean I needed to work on my marriage. Suddenly this wasn’t the scenario I thought would change our lives and grow my business. More time did not solve the problem, we needed to make a choice to change now more than ever.
4. Relationships Will Change For the Better But Also For the Worse
For the first four months, my husband was living the life of his dreams while I grew sad, lonely and stressed out. He wanted this to be an experience we remembered not regretted so after Christmas break we started to see a therapist. Before I moved to Costa Rica I would tell people that I didn’t know why but I felt God wanted me to be there. Whether you believe in God or something greater than yourself it doesn’t matter, it was a strong feeling and I knew I needed to leave New Jersey. I knew I needed to be in Costa Rica for a reason. What I didn’t realize is that it had nothing to do with business and it had everything to do with my life. Seeing how our loved ones reacted to our move forced us to become a better couple, a better family, and to reevaluate our relationships with friends and family we loved the most. We were changing but not everybody wanted to change. Many people were incredibly supportive but some we love most disappointed us in the end. We are totally fine with both because we are a more confident, stronger couple because of it. Nothing can break us now. In a way, it is survival of the fittest. The strong grow stronger and the weak don’t survive.
5. You Will Never Look at the World the Same Way Again
Before we moved to Costa Rica, I felt I was the problem in my life because I should just be happy with what I had. Leaving the comfort of our town, state, family, and friends we loved brought us face-to-face with problems I may never have dealt with if I had stayed. Where would that have led, divorce or depression? We made the right choice for us. It was hard. It was uncomfortable. I still feel scared but I’m not hiding behind excuses of time, money, or the reasons I used to give, like when I leave my job or when I pay off that credit card or when the kids get older. We did it now and are forever changed. We are the family that sticks together and supports each other with shared goals. We know that home is not a place of four walls but is a place in our hearts filled with love, support, and togetherness. We chose memories over stuff. We lost some friends along the way. Some family was disappointed. We still love. We love each other. We love those who supported us. We love those we disappointed and who disappointed us. We face this world with new eyes not bitter eyes, not tired eyes, but eyes that will survive change. Eyes that can feel afraid but still smile.
So here I stand with a marriage stronger than ever, with two brave children who inspire me every day, and a soul that is happy and doesn’t hold grudges. Moving to Costa Rica may have made my problems feel worse but it taught me the greatest lesson of all. Just like Dorothy with the ruby red slippers I had the power all along. I didn’t have to move to Costa Rica to find the answer but I am sure glad I did. Maybe you don’t need to move but you do need to challenge the way you look at life if you are stuck. Change your patterns. Be ok getting uncomfortable, simplifying your life, and getting rid of the excuses holding you back. They say ambition is the new black. I say uncomfortable is the new black.
This article was also published in the Huffington Post by me.