Ghost Life

by Kim on October 21, 2014 · 72 comments

When I worked in sustainability it was my job to try to quantify the value of our most precious resources. In a world that worked in dollars I was tasked with putting a price on clean air, drinkable water, and a healthy planet. But how is it possible to determine what those essentials are worth? There are things in life that are bigger than money, wider and deeper than the dollar can capture.

But that wasn’t something that I could easily explain, especially to a bunch of people that were only interested in the bottom line. After ten years in the field I came to believe that the value of our natural world was something that an individual either knew in their bones or knew not at all. I couldn’t sweet-talk someone into caring about conservation. I couldn’t convey to them the humbling feeling of standing in the wild. I couldn’t make them love the earthy sweet smell of the pine trees. And I certainly couldn’t convince them that some things are worth more than money.

I don’t work in Sustainability anymore but I still find myself wrestling with a similar dynamic. Except, now instead of trying to explain the priceless value of nature I am struggling to put a monetary value on my freedom.

I’ve been thinking about money a lot lately because Brian and I don’t have much of it. We still have most of our savings account. We had 7 months of meager paychecks (no more since our job just came to a close) and my even more meager writing income. We make less money together than one of us used to make on our own. But our life is rich.

And yet. I have this ghost life that haunts me, floating beside me on the sea, paralleling my real life with its unlived possibility. My ghost life has a little house in the forest and a room with big windows for writing. My ghost life has a dog and maybe even a baby. My ghost life has a kitchen and decorations for the holidays.

I want that ghost life so badly sometimes. But I also want the life I have now. And I struggle with seeing how to merge the two. I need more money for my ghost life than I make in my real life. So far, it has been an obvious and easy trade-off: Little money for huge freedom and adventure. What would I have to give up to live my ghost life? What am I willing to give up?

ghost life

The other day I sat down and wrote out my perfect version of things, the way I hope to merge my real life and my ghost life. This is not the first time I’ve written down my ideal version of the future and in fact today’s version is vastly similar to the version of life I laid out years ago when I wrote about why I was quitting my job to travel.

I’ve been trying to keep that scenario, the merge, at the forefront of everything. This merge is what Brian and I are working towards in Mexico. It feels like a lot is at stake. What if we fail?

If I go back and read the pages of this blog I can see how this journey has transformed me and how I have transformed the journey. As I said in Life on Fire, dreams evolve.

Four years ago I had a desperate need to see the world. I knew there would be an un-lived ghost life shadowing me if I didn’t do it. So I did it. And it feels fucking wonderful to have done it. But the arch of that dream is curving towards a slower life. I want a front porch and a coffee maker the same way I used to want a one-way ticket to Ecuador. But I also want to write and make a livable income working for myself and I want the freedom to travel when I want to. I want it all: My ghost life and my current life, a home base and an open-ended ticket to anywhere.

Maybe it’s crazy to put so much pressure on our relatively short amount of time in Mexico. But I hope to have a clearer vision of what Brian and I are capable of by the time our lease wraps up next spring. Can I merge my ghost life and my real life? I don’t know. But I’m going to fight like hell to try.