By Wendy van Eyck, Crosswalk.com
About six months ago I watched a TED video about a man who went home one night and asked his wife, “What does freedom mean to you?” Shortly after, they sold everything in their home, put their last few belongings in backpacks, and went traveling with their toddler for a year around Australia. He spoke about how they decided that living their dreams now held more importance to them than putting off their dreams till they felt they could afford them.
Define freedom even in hard times.
I went home and asked my husband the same question, “What does freedom mean to you?” He looked at me like I was mad and went back to replying to email. I sighed, and thought, there goes my opportunity to travel through Australia.
Three months later, we were told for the third time in our two-year-old marriage that my husband has cancer. A diagnosis of a dread disease makes you reevaluate a lot of things in your life. Cancer put into focus for me the fact that I can find ways to make more money but it is impossible to make more time. When we were married I thought we would grow old traveling the world together but his diagnosis made me realize that I had to make a choice not to let work become more important than spending moments with loved ones.
Ask yourself what time is precious to you.
During the first few chemotherapy treatments, I grasped that every minute I spent at the office after my usual working hours stole from the time I could be with Xylon. It became my priority to ensure I had completed my work by 5 pm so I wouldn’t waste precious time at the office. A friend suggested setting an alarm 30 minutes before home time so I could start the final checking of emails and begin packing up to make sure that I could leave on time.
Departing the office on time was my first experiment in making more time but this latest diagnosis made us start thinking about whether it was possible to make more time by making less money. The next step in his treatment was radiation so while we made all the arrangements for that we started talking about what freedom means to us.
Write it down.
Actually, we pulled out a journal and scrawled, “what living life fully looks like for us” on the top and then began to jot down the things that were important to us. Later from the numerous things we wrote, six things main themes emerged that we both agreed made our lives fuller:
- A home to share life with people we love
- Opportunities to do things together
- Finding ways to appreciate God in easy and hard times
- Being open to experiencing new places and things
- Surrounding ourselves with natural beauty
- Doing work that has a purpose
As we looked at that list we realized that in many areas of our life we had been trading in the things we valued most, like spending time with people, for a bigger paycheck at the end of the month. So we sat down with our budget and began to look at the things we paid for but didn’t really need. The first to go was the TV subscription, then we looked at our grocery bill and worked out we could eat for less by consuming more vegetables, and shopping at a cheaper grocery store.
Be brave and take action.
We reduced our living expenses to such an extent that we started talking about changing our working hours in order to have more time to do things on our list that fell under the category of experiencing new places and things. My husband had two jobs at the time. Both were contracts that he did from home with similar incomes, but one caused him a lot of stress while the other was low stress and very flexible about location. We decided that it would be best if resigned from the high-stress job and we handed in his notice and finished in February.
I sat down with my bosses and requested unpaid leave. This will work as a 50% pay cut for me over the next few months. However, because we first focused on lowering our living expenses our reduced expenses still cover all of our standard monthly costs. Over the next few months with savings, we had put aside to travel, we will be going overseas and take a few local trips, which includes holiday time with both our families. We are also looking at relocating in the next year to live closer to our families and will use the time to research places and costs of living in the area.
Live your good life.
My husband and I are not radical minimalists. We don’t plan to buy a plot of land and build a house on it with recycled materials, although part of me wishes I were brave enough to live off the grid. We are just ordinary people who have chosen to live more simply so that we can be more generous with our time. Together we have made a choice to be able to do more things, see more places and be more present. This is what freedom means to us, what does it mean to you and what would it take for you to live the life you want?
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances, or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.