Hey! My name is Emily and I’m a recovering city slicker, turned armchair eco-warrior, turned van -dwelling country bumpkin turned … well, now sandwiched somewhere comfortably in between the three.
My Story Goes A Little Something Like This
Once upon a dark and miserable time, I lived in the city working a 9-5 corporate job. Each morning I would groggily wake to the brain hemorrhaging sound of my alarm; the repetitive beep piercing little darts into my soul.
"It was the promise of a (not even decent) coffee waiting for me in the office that got me through most mornings."
Above image via Unsplash
As I dragged my feet to the bus stop, I looked akin to a cast member from ‘The Walking Dead’ (not the hot sheriff’s wife, the blood-thirsty zombie kind). Even my earphones couldn’t drown out the backing soundtrack of manic traffic and honking horns.
It was the promise of a (not even decent) coffee waiting for me in the office that got me through most mornings.
I would clock in my 8 hours (and then some), proceed home to flop on the couch, exhausted from the mental and emotional burden of existing on planet earth, and somehow muster up the energy to put a few pieces of lifeless food on a plate.
As I lay in bed replaying the day over in my head, the tug-of-war ensued between my mind doing mickey flips like a two-year-old on red cordial, and my body which screamed for just a few hours of peace.
At this time, my one accolade for contributing to a more sustainable society was catching the bus to work (even this was unconscious as I considered it a horrible inconvenience but I was waiting to accumulate enough funds to purchase a car).
I spent my days staring into the world outside as I sat trapped inside my glass container of self-importance, busy-ness, and distractions.
Somewhat oblivious, and otherwise ignorant, to the impact this ritualistic lifestyle was having on the world around me and on myself. I was consuming earthly resources, media propaganda, trashy TV shows and slave-child-made products like the cookie monster when he gets into the cookie jar after a big night out on the town.
I was far from a human ‘being’. I was simply ‘doing’ life. There was nothing about how I was living that exuded any sort of ‘being’. My emotional stability was questionable as I was trapped in a merry-go-round of thoughts which looked a little like this.
“Was I merely put on this earth to be a consumer? A sheep – a follower of trends? What value was I bringing to this world? What change was I apart of? What good was I doing? Am I really responsible for climate change? Could I survive in the wilderness on my own if the zombie apocalypse came? Do I even know how to start a fire? Am I the reason those children in Africa are starving? Why can’t I just pretend like none of this matters to me?!?”
But it did matter to me. I was denying an important part of myself that was screaming out for connection. Connection to this place we call home. And I wasn’t finding it anywhere living in the city.
Big City Problems
I shudder at the thought of how many hours I must have spent flicking through my social media and google searches for anything, something, to capture my imagination and give me some hope of change.
Was there life on the other side of the drudgery? Why didn’t the city life excite me anymore?
When in such a dire situation, it’s easy to romanticise a life outside of your own. To see what others are doing and idealise their lifestyles. The problem with this is, when it’s coming from a place of brokenness, resentment, and jealousy, it can actually have the opposite effect.
When your thoughts are misaligned with your actions, you invite disorder into your life. So much of my thinking revolved around craving what others had and quite frankly, how much I wanted to just give my city life the big fat middle finger and run away from it all (preferably to a little cabin in the mountains raising some chickens and ‘peacing out’ to the sound of nature while doing yoga each morning). Stuck in this frame of mind, all I could see were the problems in my life rather than the solutions.
I realise my scenario back then was by no means unique. There are few people I’ve met who haven’t faced such existential questions in life. What is unique about my story is that I decided to do something about it.
Rather than remain in my black hole of self-loathing, envy and self-pity, I put on my big girl shoes, the kind that screams ‘she’s a responsible, caring and highly valuable contributing member of society,’ and started to do something about my life.
And no, I didn’t just flick the finger to the city and flutter off into the rolling green hills to live happily ever after.
Sometimes the big, scary, ‘let’s turn your world upside down and inside out,’ kind of change is needed. It’s like electrocuting yourself out of zombie-mode and into something new, exciting and challenging that suddenly injects a spark back into your life. And other times, it’s the seemingly teeny-tiny changes, day by day, that are needed. The ones that accumulate into a rolling snowball so over time, this snowball gains such momentum that the natural next step to take is to fulfill those crazy dreams you had.
From City To Country
I started on the slower and steadier path. Day by day, I started exposing myself to new ideas.
My daily commutes, lunch breaks and every other waking hour outside of work (and sometimes inside it too) became dedicated to my growing infatuation with books, podcasts, blogs and courses that spoke of sustainability issues, Permaculture, green living, and regenerative agriculture. I started caring more about what I was feeding my body and my brain.
Caring made me want to understand the world around me more. The natural consequence from this was a deep seeded willingness to make changes in my life that reflected these newly formed values. Small changes to my lifestyle led me to seek bigger changes in my life. I didn’t realise at the time but my actions were finally starting to align with my values and thoughts.
Fast forward a couple years to a time when I would wake before sunrise to the sound of a rooster crowing and an orchestra of birds so numerous in number I couldn’t tell you what they were. Rolling green hills had replaced the city skyline and not a single honking horn could be heard. Back then, do you think I ever imagined that just a couple years down the track I would be living in a van on a mountain, raising chickens and doing yoga each morning to the sound of nature as my soundtrack?
But this was what became of those teeny-tiny, incremental changes I was applying in the years leading up. It was only then that I would finally be ready to say ‘yes’ when the right opportunity landed in my lap to finally make the city to country transition.
What it took for me to actually make the BIG change in my life was to start living out that change on a daily basis, even in the midst of my existential crisis in the city.
Looking back, as tiny and insignificant as it seemed growing those tomatoes on my apartment balcony with the worm farm alongside, it was those little changes that catalysed what was to come next.
Deep long-lasting change doesn’t come from mimicking the lives of others. It comes from forging your own path from the unique, gruelling challenges, questions and obstacles you’ve faced. No one’s experience can replace that of your own. I understand my dream of moving from the city to the country isn’t for everyone. Nor should it be. But to live more consciously in your life as it is, should be a matter of priority for everyone.
When you are bored with life, then you need only to look outside and realise it’s not life that is the bore – it’s you. Change your internal environment first, and from there, the ripples of change will have no choice but to infect your external environment.
Here’s the clincher.
My life has changed yet again where I’m transitioning between the country and city on a frequent basis. But this time, without a dramatic dragging of feet. I’m excited! It’s not either one or the other now. I can choose to live my country life, with all it’s serenity, sustainable living practices, and peace, wherever I choose to take it – city skyline, honking horns and all. With it, I bring ALL of my learnings from these past years. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. And I compost them into a bloody rich and beautiful life force that can used for good moving forward, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. To grow more seeds of change in my life and hopefully, in the lives of others. This kind of change, the conscious kind, that’s driven deep within you like a fence post – that stuff travels with you wherever you go. It doesn’t fade away like a cheap pair of denim jeans made in an offshore sweatshop.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of small changes. Those romantic dreams are worth holding onto and chipping away at because you never know, you may wake up tomorrow and realise you’ve been living them.
Emily Uebergang is a writer, farmer and ecoprenuer who transitioned from the urban jungle to a working farmstead in the beautiful mountains of the Manning Valley in New South Wales, Australia. She writes like she's out to try and save the world... or at least make a difference for the better.