I’m not good at statistics, but I think the average American adult spends between ten and twelve hours a week sitting in traffic. I’m not good at statistics. But I’m a pretty smart guy. And I have the ability to guess and estimate pretty well when it comes to time. Not big time, but small time for sure. I can therefore estimate fairly that if I left my house at seven in the morning to be at work by eight, and it’s only fifteen minutes away, then I spent forty-five minutes in traffic. Would you agree? Well, therein lies one of my problems. The fact that a fifteen-minute drive takes forty-five minutes extra tells you that there’s too much damn traffic. And in closing the first paragraph of my column, I come to the climax with my grand statement: there’s too much damn traffic.
Let me just say that traffic is the bane of my existence. And I have now narrowed it down to one highway in my life. Because I live off of US Highway 380, between Denton and McKinney. Highway 380 represents to me all the traffic I ever sit in. It’s not, but it represents it, because, dude, I spend at least an hour a day sitting on it either leaving the house or returning to it. At least an hour. That’s sick. And I’m not good at statistics, but let me do some simple math for you. Five hours a week is 260 hours a year. That’s almost eleven days a year of your (my) life. I’ve lived here for two years, almost exactly. So that’s about twenty-one days I’ve spent, conservatively speaking, sitting on the highway less than ten miles from my house. That’s three weeks! What could you achieve, starting right now, if you had a full solid three weeks to get going on it? What could I achieve? Good grief, there’s a lot. That’s almost long enough to make a baby. From what I hear.
So what are you saying, Space? Well, I think you’ve figured it out by now. I’m going to eat me a lot of peaches. I’m moving to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches. What is the country though? Just somewhere there’s no city? Well water? Off the grid? I don’t really know. I just know that it’s somewhere I don’t have to sit in traffic less than ten miles from home for five hours a week! That’s insane! Like literally! Why do we sign up for that? Why are we okay with it? Why don’t we change it? Well, my friends, I am. I’m changing it. My wife and I have made the decision to do something about it. For real this time.
So you know back in May (of 2016, for you time-travelers), I jumped the IT ship and changed career paths to the slower-paced field of construction. Well, it’s slower paced in that I don’t have to sit behind a computer every day. In fact, I almost never see computers in my day-to-day life anymore. And after twenty years of spending eight hours a day at one, that’s significant. I’m not good at statistics, but that’s somewhere around nine years of staring at a screen. No, seriously. Add it up. Eight hours a day, five days a week, forty-eight weeks a year (assuming a four-week vacation a year – ha, ha), for twenty years. That’s almost nine effing years solid of my staring at a damn screen. Stressed and angry and dissatisfied with life. Why did I settle for that? Why did I accept that? So this project management job in construction has provided me the ability to make my own schedule and avoid computers, avoid rush-hours and pretty much come and go as I please. So I’ve really gotten down to a stress-free life. Except for traffic. Sadly, stop-and-go driving has become the only stressor in my life anymore. Well, maybe sadly isn’t the right word. But if that be true, why not eliminate it? I am.
My red-haired wife and I went and looked at some land a few weeks ago in Bowie, Texas. A little over an hour and a half from home. It wasn’t right. So we kept looking. We looked and looked. And then this last weekend, we went and looked at seven or eight properties out in the Palesine area, having a realtor show us around. About half of them had structures on them. The other half were just land. Unimproved, undeveloped. On the second-to-last property of the day we finally realized that any property in our price range that had structures would only contain structures that needed serious over-hauling, and in most cases, complete demolition. That seemed like a lot of work. Why tear down and build new when we could just build new from the start? So we were about to tell the realtor, “Hey, when we come back next weekend, let’s only look at empty land.” Then we pulled up to this property. The second-to-last property of the day.
So this land is four and a half acres. It is, as the realtor put it, “A road off a road, off a road.” To which I replied, “That’s sounding better and better, and better.” And it is. It’s got a wet-weather creek running through the middle of it. The back third has almost no trees. The front third has a bunch of trees. and the middle third is nothing but trees. Well, and the creek. It’s dense. It’s off the beaten path. Whatever that means. I’ve never beat a path in my life. But I’m trying to beat one now. That silly game of waiting where we have to pack up and get this house ready and sell this place before we can leave. That’s a path I want to beat the hell out of.
Step and I decided this was the one. So we made an offer on a Sunday evening. Monday morning we had a reply from the realtor. The owner had accepted our offer. So we decided to celebrate by driving out there this weekend to drop off the check for the earnest money. We took a cooler and some camp chairs, too. And after all was said and done, we went and sat on that land under a cloudy night sky and just took in the sounds of the land. And I’ll tell you one thing friends. I now know what ‘whispering pines’ really sound like. There are about a thousand billion pine trees on our new land. And they whisper like the spirits of primitive acreage – the way the Indians heard it. No airplanes in the sky, no cars driving by on a nearby road, no horns and shouting and shops and car doors and cussing and traffic. No 380. Just the wind through the trees and a trillion crickets.
Allow me to take you on a journey with me as I uproot my normal city life with my wife, my 2.4 children, my white-picket fence and my traffic jams, and move to something a little less normal. A little less noisy and busy and fast-paced and trafficky. I would like to share with you what I’m thinking and experiencing and living as I move from this to that. From city to country, fast to slow, US 380 to Anderson County Road. I experienced more life this weekend than I have in years and years of city living. Seriously. I’m not at all exxagerating. Sadly. And yes, this time I really mean sadly. I feel like I missed out on a lot of life, living out here with my white plastic picket fence, squared in by the perfect grid of sidewalks and HOAs and kids on bikes and school zones and crossing guards and concrete. Fast-paced just wears you out faster. I’m slowing it down. I plan to live every minute from here out. Instead of spending an hour of life for every minute you live, why not balance it out? That’s what I’m doing. I would love to tell you all about the weekend we just had. The people we met. The things I experienced. The lessons I learned. The emerald stars and the bamboo tree-houses and the decision to build a pole barn instead of a conventional house. I have so much to share that it has actually inspired me to write again. Come back and read. Part two is coming soon.