Makenna Goodman  @  ChelseaGreen

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Sustainably Sane: Why I Fled the City to Find the Good Life

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 4:54 pm by Makenna Goodman

About two months ago, I decided it was time to change my life. During the most historic presidential inauguration and election of my lifetime, in the throes of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, at the emotional peak (or precipice) of my mid-twenties, from the mean streets of New York City-a Greenwich Village apartment, a big job in publishing, and mounting debt-I left my job, packed up my life into a friend's pickup truck, and moved to the middle of rural Vermont. I had a place to live, in a wood heated house that cost about one fifteenth of my rent in the city. But I had no job waiting for me. I didn't have a car, or a clue what I would do when I got there. Thank god.

Why did I do this? While living in the city, I didn't wake up feeling good about my life. I thought only in terms of the future-getting somewhere "important". But I didn't believe in my job. I felt like a machine. I felt disconnected from my body, alienated from my community (which felt illusory and fractured to begin with), and to be frank, not sure what it was that made me feel human. I bought a lot of stuff I didn't need because I thought it would make me feel better, like a $45 plant for my windowsill. I ate a lot of processed foods, and didn't have time to cook. But my biggest impetus to get the hell out of there was that I lay up nights fantasizing about one day living a full life in a beautiful place, living within my means, where I might wake up excited about the day. I'd worked one summer on a farm during college, and loved it. And even though I was working with Pulitzer Prize winning authors, and handling book contracts with world leaders, I thought about farming all the time. Eventually, I decided I wasn't going to spend any more time killing myself for any job, any thing, any social ‘norm' I couldn't take with me when I die. This meant redefining simple things such as: production, consumption, and connection. Basics. So I left the job. Subletted my apartment. Freaked my mother out.

Here's what I plan to change. I'm moving to a cabin up a dirt road (now snowy), on the outskirts of a town with less than 1,000 people. I'm going to learn how to grow my own food. I'm going to raise my own meat. I'm going to press my own cider, and make my own beer. I'm going to spend as little money as possible on things I don't need. I'm going to sew instead of buy new. I'm going to cut my own hair. I'm going to learn how to drive a tractor. I'm going to bake my own bread. I'm going to work in a job that promotes ideas I believe in. And other stuff I can't plan for. Bring it.

I'll keep you posted.

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