As a 3-year urban dweller in one of the nation’s coolest downtown residential centers I have learned a lot and many of the lifestyle axioms I once held on to have faded away. If you know me, it’s obvious that I am happier now than I have ever been – not that I was sad before, but the transformation that has accompanied my move downtown was very liberating. Change is good, sometimes hard, often unanticipated, but as long as there are good choices available change can be wonderful.
A couple of things have had a great impact on my thinking in the past few years. The first would probably be the loss of one of my parents. Most people don’t have to deal with this until their 40’s or 50’s and so there are other things going on in our lives that could account for a change in how we see the world. Many people divorce during that same time – I experienced that as well. And as with many other people who work hard and excel in their business, the financial rewards begin to multiply at the same time that our free time increases. With the kids graduated and out of the house you begin to look for ways to fill your time in ways that compare in at least some small way to raising the kids and getting them off to a good start in the world.
As a real estate broker and owner of Fort Worth Texas Real Estate I see lots of people at this stage in life working through the same life-cycle choices I’m describing. There is no right thing to do at this stage – what’s right for one may be wrong for another. All I can speak to is the choices that I have made; choices that have worked out well for me.
One big choice was to remarry, and that one was a no-brainer. If every other choice I make in life turns out to be a poor one I can skate right through on the strength of my one super-choice of accidentally falling in love with a person who carries all of the intellectual weight and emotional maturity for both of us. A plan to find someone like this would never succeed, that’s why I call it a lucky accident. For the purpose of this list, I will simply say that having a loving and supportive spouse is something everyone should have – and if you do, then we can talk about the rest of this.
What should you know about going from a suburban or rural lifestyle to an urban one? Here is my list:
Possessions are less important than you may think.
As anyone knows who has settled the estate of a parent there is usually just a small memento or two that you really want to hang on to which evokes a pleasant memory of their life. The cash and real estate get divided up in a meeting or two with people in suits and everything else disappears either quickly or slowly depending upon the collective emotional health and maturity of the heirs. My dad collected coins and stamps. I remember being so surprised that the hobby he relished for over 60 years had a liquidated value of under $2,000 after he died. Not that it bothers me, he took great delight in being a novice collector… the lesson in fact helps me adjust to an urban lifestyle where big gun collections, gardening, working on a classic car, or other common “hobbies” are difficult to pursue.
During my first marriage, I accumulated a garage full of power tools, woodworking equipment, fishing equipment, sporting equipment of all kinds, and of course lots of lawn and garden tools. They immediately became devalued when I divorced because I had to leave them behind. It took me a little while, maybe 6 months to a year to realize I felt strangely liberated without those things that occupied my time and had no retained value after their immediate purpose was over. Yes, the pool and yard needed to be maintained because the kids needed a nice place to grow up. After the kids are gone though is there a reason to keep laboring away on the yard until you’re out there one day in the blazing sun mulching the flower bed for the 50th time and you look up to see the Grim Reaper standing there? Stamp collecting seems interesting to me now.. too bad I didn’t hang on to dad’s collection.
What’s the stuff of great value in the last half of your life? I think it’s time spent with loved ones, memories made by talking, traveling, and sharing life with people you never cared about or had time for back in the day when your calendar was dominated by school and work promotion scenarios. It sounds cliche but the things that matter most indeed are not things at all – so why do we need so much space to store them in? Downsize.
Urban living seems expensive on a square footage basis.
So just quit thinking about living like this.