How do you decide?

When to jump? When to make some major life decision whose outcome can’t be predicted, and afterwards your whole life will be different? We only get a few chances to make these changes, when all the events in our lives line up in such a way that we’re free to choose, or allow ourselves to be. Changing careers, making a choice to be married or single or married again, moving to another country. All possible, all with unanticipated endings. Sure, we can plan – make it easier or harder on ourselves by getting some idea what we’re in for. But in the end, it’s a leap of faith.

The questions are unanswerable. If I move to Central America, how much will I really need to live on? Can I make that much online? How will it feel when all the friends I know are here and I am there? Can I really learn the language quickly and make new friends? Will some of my friends and family actually visit, or not? Will I like the climate, be fascinated by the birds, love the slower pace of life, find enough to do? Will I really be in better shape and enjoy the walks into town to buy food, or will I hate the inconvenience? Will I die of loneliness, wish I had never left – or love it? How can I possibly know these things ahead of time?

I feel stuck in a cycle of expensive mortgage requiring endless work in a high-paying job. There’s no way to live decently as a single person in the US without spending too much money. But if I leave, I can’t make as much. Will I come out ahead, or will it just even out? Just looking at it from here, it looks like it would work. But if it doesn’t – then what? Start all over back in the US? Am I feeling stuck here for no reason? Lots of people write that it’s easier than it looks – of course, those are the ones for whom it worked out.

So many of my friends are going through similar dilemmas in other areas of their lives. Not the same issues at all – but the same problem of choosing without knowing, when the consequences are so great. What seems most likely is that it will be nothing at all like we expect – maybe much better, maybe worse. Paralyzed with indecision. But at least we’re trying to make a decision – then there are all the people who simply dismiss dreams or plans like this as impossible, not applying to them in any way.

And what about those who are just content? Will I ever be content, or am I one of these people that’s impossible to please? Am I justified in hating all that the US stands for in the world and not wanting my tax dollars to support that, or is that just a convenient justification for making changes, any changes, in my life? Am I missing some big issue that if I could resolve, I wouldn’t need to make all these other changes?

I don’t know. Questions without answers.


8 thoughts on “How do you decide?

  1. judithornot says:

    Sometimes it helps if you consider what life might be like if you DON’T make the changes. Do you like where that path appears to be going? Do you WANT to go there?

  2. Mike says:


    “I feel stuck in a cycle of expensive mortgage requiring endless work in a high-paying job.”

    For me, being free really means freedom to do what you like without worrying about the mortgage. There are many paths that a person could take to this goal. One step is to decide what really is a requirement, and what is not. Isn’t that part of what you dislike about the USA- the greed for material things? I think this frenzied greed is really the new serfdom; it’s surely a trap. What do you really stand to lose in exchange for freedom? How much “stuff” is enough? And isn’t what we get from a superabundance of material wealth only a false sense of security after all?

    I don’t believe that such freedom is unattainable here, but it might well be easier in Central America where there may not be so many unnecessary things on offer. In any case, the worry and anxiety about things is ultimately self-imposed.

    But it’s not just about a mortgage is it? I sense that you love your home- at least you seem to enjoy watching the changing seasons in your piece of the world. I have certainly enjoyed the posted photographs, but only because you seem to enjoy them so much, not because of anything extraordinary about roses and tea pots in and of themselves. There is very poetic feel to some of your posts about your home. Do you feel any sense of belonging there? Might that be what you are afraid of losing? Certainly, your love for your home is evident in some of your postings.

    “But in the end, it’s a leap of faith.” Faith in…? Faith that you can take what really matters with you, perhaps? Any such large decision, whether it is to stay or go, is ultimately an act of courage, isn’t it? Maybe faith is courage from something outside of yourself, or something greater than yourself. Is this about leaving where you are, or leaving who you are?

  3. Mike says:

    “When to jump? When to make some major life decision whose outcome can’t be predicted, and afterwards your whole life will be different?”

    Is this really the point of your post? Not if but when?

    “When” is easier than “why”, don’t you think?

    “When all the events in our lives line up in such a way that we’re free to choose, or allow ourselves to be.” I think so.

  4. Coppermoon says:

    Can you go try it for a year? Put things in storage, just take what you must have, live the life for a year and see how it goes? There are trade offs, of course, but oh, how it will alter your life….for the better, I believe. Very few people ever get to follow their dream – if you are one of the lucky ones who can, don’t you almost feel you have to?

  5. Thoughtful comments, all. Mike (and Judith): I do think one thing that makes this decision hard is that I do love my home, and have spent a lot of time (and money) making it just the way I wanted it – to live and work. I’d have to feel that I could create a space for myself somewhere else that feels just as good.

    This neighborhood, on the other hand, is a lot of what makes me want to move, along with the expense of owning a home like this in the US. The traffic, suburbanism (not sharing my values), and commercialism of the area is difficult.

    The cost of this house seems hard to justify. I don’t own or buy a lot of things, other than that – but utilities, insurance, mortgage, etc. make it hard to feel secure about the long-term, and don’t allow me any flexibility about working. Sometimes I have to work so much I end up making myself sick. I know a lot of other people are in the same boat. So… hence the dilemma :)

    I do like the question – leap of faith in what, exactly? :) Faith in myself that I can start over, faith that a new community will accept me and I can find friends there… beyond that, I’m not sure. Maybe faith in myself that I won’t just want another major change in a few years… always searching for something I haven’t identified.

  6. Mike says:


    I know what you are saying about “suburbanism”! Remember, we used to be (almost) neighbors? :-) I too got tired of the “suburbaness” of it – suburbs were designed with only the automobile in mind, and that is just one of my complaints about the ‘burbs! Where do you walk? Bicycle? On the white stripe at the side of the road, in most ‘burbs.

    The traffic was really, really getting horrendous when I left. I could bicycle home faster that I could get home by either driving or taking the bus. Sometimes, hours faster! But I would nearly be run over a dozen times a year – it got pretty scary, especially in the winter.

    So, we moved into the city. There are definite advantages. I was within walking distance of my office at the time. Our neighbors were more diverse- racially and economically – and I could relate to more of them. It really is fun to have neighbors who aren’t all cut from the same cloth, and who enjoy being that way! My city neighbors don’t care how many cars I have, or how often I mow my lawn, or ask me when I am going to get a gasoline-powered lawn mower (NEVER!). They seem glad that I am not parking a Hummer in my driveway, and that I mow the grass with a nice, quiet, push-mower. I don’t do all of my shopping at Home Depot and Costco, either. There is life beyond “the mall”.

    My suburban lawn made me feel like a plantation slave anyway. I had to spend way too much time mowing, weeding, raking, digging, and pruning. I have just enough of that to do now that I can dig in the dirt because I really want to, not because I have to.

    But moving to the city definitely did not solve the huge mortgage issue. I think the only way out of that one is to downsize, or move to North Dakota (or Central America, in your case?). I assume you have looked into real estate there?

  7. Veronika says:

    Teresa, you say that you are afraid that the new community won’t accept you, yet also that you don’t share the values of your current neighbours – doesn’t sound to me like being accepted at the moment anyway… I recently moved to another country. I did not like where I was living before and I do like my new home, but it still was extremely hard to “let go” of the feeling that I was leaving home. Worth it, in my case, though.

  8. Mike – yes I have looked at real estate in Central America – I’m thinking that I can buy a property and house outright there for the minimal equity I have in my home here – eliminating the mortgage altogether – and property taxes are extremely low (even non-existent in some countries). In general, there are really good buys well below 100K if you stay out of the ex-pat/luxury areas.

    Veronika – that’s a really good point. I don’t feel at home in my neighborhood. Part of the reason I would be moving would be to find a place where life is simpler, closer to nature, slower-paced. Also more emphasis on local foods, culture (and a nice climate ). So you’re right – I guess what I’d really be losing is the ability to see the friends and family I do have as easily as I do now – and that’s not an insignificant consideration.

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