How I Hit the Reset Button on Life


“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

I remember the first time I saw the Houston skyline.  I was on Spirit flight 49, seated next to an enthusiastic Mexican-American minister and his wife, celebrating and finishing up our margaritas.  The song “Dreams” by the Cranberries had been playing in the terminal when I had boarded the flight in Detroit, and it still resonated in my mind as endless highway and skyscrapers came into view.

“Oh, my life is changing everyday, in every possible way.”

Up until that point, the course of my life had been set from the time I was 18.  I had always wanted to be a special education teacher, and I knew the local people who could make it happen.  My family could not afford to send me away to college, but I used loans and scholarships to pay my way into a small, but well-reputed, university 30 minutes from home.

I did well in my classes, worked part-time, and lived with my parents until I married my high school sweetheart at age 22.  He worked retail while I used loans and grants to continue my education.

These were some of the sweetest years of my life.  We paid $1000 to have a 12 X 60 mobile home moved onto an RV lot in a “mobile home resort” in a rural area in northern Michigan.  We loved the simple lifestyle in the tight-knit resort community.  Our friends were mainly retirees.

I graduated and found a teaching job 45 minutes away.  I was happy staying where we were, but everyone told us that we needed a “real house” if we wanted to have kids.  We both desperately wanted a child, so we began the process of house-hunting.

We ended up in a 4-bedroom chalet in a wooded resort community, not far from where I worked.  I loved the hills, the endless forest, and the quaint Christmas lights that illuminated the town when we closed on the house on Christmas eve.

The house needed a lot of love, and at first we enjoyed maintaining it.  But, gradually, we found that our hearts weren’t into the repairs and the yard work.  We preferred taking road trips and sailing.  We owned a 20-foot sailboat and spent two weeks exploring Lake Michigan one summer.

It was after that summer that I became pregnant, and our daughter entered our world.  We designed an adorable nursery for her and filled it with toys.

Meanwhile, I was no longer loving my job.  I found myself in the middle of small town politics, and it became worse every year.  I saw that I was burning out and losing my passion for teaching.

As I drove home from work everyday, I saw the sidewalks lined with teenagers pushing strollers, and I began to question whether this was where I wanted to raise my daughter.  Yet, we had a mortgage and a large home, and I had a steady job with a retirement plan.  Leaving simply wasn’t an option.

During those years, my greatest joy was found in sailing.  We upgraded to a 29 foot sloop, and in the summer of 2012, the three of us lived aboard for 91 days, cruising from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan.  On the water, I became someone else, and I experienced a confidence, freedom, and peace that had been previously unknown to me when I was at the helm.

That summer, all three of us thrived.  Our daughter, who had been diagnosed with autism, had the time of her life.  Marinas are social places, and every port had a playground nearby.  She made friends quickly, and our life was filled with social interactions that just didn’t happen at home.

It was a strange day when we dry docked our boat in Grand Haven, Michigan the day before I was to return to work.  Our daughter excitedly ran around the house, happy to be reacquainted with her multitude of toys.

Then she headed to the door, proclaiming, “I go to park!”  She cried when I reminded her that there was no park across the street.

That year I was actually excited about returning to work.  I was in a new position and was filled with energy that I had not had in years.  I was sure my tenth year of teaching would be the best yet.  I worked to revamp a failing program and was sure that my hard work and efforts were finally being noticed.

The job, coupled with the excitement from a successful summer on the boat, reawakened a creative energy within me, and I threw myself into writing my blog.  Through the blogging community, I began to question a number of assumptions I had held about myself and about life.  I was purpose-filled and purpose-driven.  The world was opening up before me.

Then, in February, it all hit the fan.

I was removed from my position at work and returned to my old one.  It turns out that I had been a pawn in a small-town squabble between two prominent people in the school, and that there had been no way I could win.

I had stayed in this house that I didn’t want to maintain, because I had a stable, secure job.  I had stayed in this job that caused me so much stress, because I had been there 10 years and it was secure.  Security.

During that dark winter, in early 2013, the illusion of security was shattered.  It was an unusually cold, snowy winter, and we moved into the basement to save money on our heating bill.  For weeks, I sat in front of our space heater in the windowless basement, wondering what to do next, what would happen.

Could I support my family?  Would we starve?  Could I even find another job in the bleak economy in Michigan?  What about the house?

All the growth I had experienced during the year, came into question.  What was real and what was the illusion?  At times I became depressed and withdrawn, and even suicidal.  It seemed there was no light at the end of the tunnel, that I was trapped in that dark basement, with no future.

Compounding this stress and fear was the fact that my daughter would be entering kindergarten, and there was no program that would suit her needs, and no money for the services she would require.  She was brilliant, but we were facing the possibility of her ending up in a life skills program, unable to obtain a diploma when she got older.

Then I saw the flip side of my situation.  Without the “need” for security, we were truly free.  We no longer needed to be imprisoned by that house, that mortgage, that town, or the job I didn’t love.  We knew the life we wanted, and it was ours for the taking.  Without “security,” none of the rules applied to us.

And so, that May I had the Skype interview with the school in Houston, and the weekend after, I found myself on that plane, seeing my new home from the sky and celebrating my new life with the couple sitting next to me.

We’ve lived here for two years now, and I am writing this story from inside the cabin of Breaking Tradition, our 35 foot sailboat and home.  We no longer have housework and yardwork, and I no longer fear losing the security of my current job.

In fact, even while I am teaching, I am working to start my own online counseling and coaching business, so that I can help other people to let go of their illusions and limiting beliefs, in the hopes that the world will open up for them as well.

Photo by Lilit Matevosyan

18 thoughts on “How I Hit the Reset Button on Life”

  1. Bethany, your story was so engaging you held my attention all the way to the end. It is wonderful when we learn to recognize our attachments and face our fear of loss. And then we discover we can live in freedom and happiness. The best in your endeavors.

    1. I think letting go is a lifelong process, Skywalker Payne. Even now, I see a lot that I have been clinging to–old relationships, old patterns, and even an old self-identity–that are better off taken off, like an out-of-style dress that I used to live in but not longer wish to wear.

  2. Beautiful! I agree with Skywalker Payne. Your story is very engaging and inspiring to follow the path things take to a better conclusion.

    I have been in some similar dark places myself – literally and figuratively. I moved to Asheville, NC last year and had a hard, hard time with the grey, damp late fall, winter, and early spring due to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now it is very beautiful and I am facing my need to leave before fall and my desire to stay put.

    It is hard to consider making a huge, energy consuming change once again, but what really what holds me back, as Skywalker mentions, is attachment and fear of loss. These are things I can work on accepting. Luckly I am able to pick up and move.

    Overall, it seems that sometimes we fight to hang on and fight to let go in many situations though nothing is permanent. However, when something really is not working out, I believe the Universe gives us hints about what to do next.

    In my case, I have made the decisions to leave the lovely area of Asheville and all its great people, to move somewhere where I can get more sun. It often comes down to priorities and the larger picture. Then we have to be brave and take small steps into the next best direction.

    I am glad things are better for you where you are. It sounds like it was a long, hard journey to get to a better place. So it was going somewhere better all along!

    1. What is it that you like about Ashville, Catherine? Would it be possible to find those things in a sunnier place, like Austin, for example?

      Not that I’m trying to give advice (ha! Funny that I said that, when that’s exactly what I was doing!), but that came to mind right away. Something else that I’ve realized from moving is that the biggest changes weren’t in my external circumstances. It was the internal changes, the facing of fears, that led to the external. Without those changes inside, it wouldn’t matter where I lived.

      In fact, I’ve continued to do a lot of work with my thoughts and fears since moving. And the journey within was the most important.

  3. Great story. Thank you for sharing it. I am glad that you have found a more fulfilling direction for your life. “The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.” ~Ramakrishna

    1. I love that quote, Chas! I will have to use it.

      Another that I really like: “For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.”
      ― Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living

  4. I am impressed! I must say that I expected this story to turn into the “I quit my job to freelance and now I travel around the world ha-rah!” story I’ve ready about so many times. Instead, you found your passion in a unique and inspiring way.
    Maybe it’s a little late, but congratulations on taking your life in your own hands. You saw a solution when everything seemed to be ending around you.
    I’m glad that you found a passion and you’re making a wonderful life for you and your family!

    1. Ha, we do plan to do that eventually! In our own way of course, and on a better equipped sailboat.

      I think it is interesting that there are certain scripts that people still follow, even when pursuing their dreams. I’ve blogged in the minimalist community for a long time, for example, and there is almost a “right” and “wrong” way to live simply. I think we’re the only “extreme minimalist” family to own a Wii U–and we love it!

      There is no right or wrong way to live life. :-) It’s all ours to create.

  5. You found who you were and it was good for your family. Great story that I could not stop reading because I can relate but in a different way. I have seen those great lakes where you were and they are beautiful and I’m sure where you are now is beautiful too. Enjoy!!

    1. I don’t know if anything is as beautiful as the sand dunes along Lake Michigan, but the palm trees in Clear Lake Shores come very close!

  6. What a wonderful post! Beautifully written, honest and open. Isn’t it amazing how the ‘simple’ act of letting go is actually one of the most intense and difficult things for most of us to do? I often think of the advice Coco Chanel gave about accessorizing… In essence, she said that when you’re dressed and ready, look in the mirror. The first accessory you notice is exactly what you need to remove.

    Seeing what needs to be removed is one thing. Having the courage to actually do it is something else entirely. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring all who read it, to want to find that courage too.

    1. Thank you, Shine and Rise!

      I love the idea of that commercial, that the first thing you see is what has to go. That can go a lot deeper than material possessions. I think it would also apply to the labels we give ourselves, the identities we seek. I am a “teacher,” so I need xyz.

      Perhaps the most salient thing we claim as our identity is what we need to revisit.

  7. Sometimes trials and tribulations that we have to endure bring us to where we need to be. I had cancer at 24, made a load of corporate money, was laid off, divorced, was homeless and had to declare bankruptcy. I have a fraction of what I had but am much happier. Less to maintain, pay for and protect.

  8. This is an awesome story! Thank you for sharing. Fear can consume our minds with a negative belief that we our trapped. I love how you broke free and went after your dreams. There’s abundance in waiting for us. It’s a matter of breaking free of old paradigm ways of thinking. You did that which makes this story so great!

  9. What a story.

    The power of reset. And we all have it in our hands. It is one heavy button to press. But the more you dare to press it, the easier it becomes. The fear of failure or rejection will shrink every time you kick it in the butt.

    You story reminded of several changes in my life. getting burn out, moving from Asia to Europe, changing my career. When everything was rosy, I choose to come out to my family causing my relationship with my parents to fall apart. It then took me years to stay true to myself and pick up the broken pieces. My family has since realized that I am still the same me. Now my wife and I are welcomed home with open arms. I’m living the life I want and focusing on things that matter.

    Every change I went through was one bigger than the one before. The power of reset is amazing. Thank you for reminding me.

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