One day, about four months ago, I came home from work to hear my wife exclaim “I figured it out, I know how we can get out of here!!” The “here” that she mentioned referred to our 4 bedroom home, big yard, hot tub, fire pit, 40 hour work-week lifestyle that we, like so many others in 21st century America, had been living for as long as we could remember. It caught me off guard. We had it good! Peggy had been an engineer with one of the world’s largest engineering firms for some 15 years, bringing in a six figure salary that, along with my substantial salary, allowed us new cars, a big house, the largest Trex deck in the city, a hot tub, big yard, new clothes, a $1000.00 plus food budget (which wasn’t so much a “budget” as it was a simple habit of dining out 3-6 times per week, or whenever we felt like it). I didn’t understand, at first, what she could possibly be trying to get away from. The reality of the situation, however, was far different than it seemed….
Peggy had been unhappy and unexcited in her job for the last 6-8 years or so. It turns out that the giant, engineering machine in which she was trapped was far from inspiring to the human spirit. It mostly involved formulas and spreadsheets and a suspension of all imagination and dreams. Far from the romantic idea of scientists dreaming big and eventually making science fiction become a glorious reality, it was actually a romance-stifling machine that cranked out new versions of the same old stuff mostly over and over….She had had enough. She was going to quit her job in the morning and travel the world teaching “English as a Foreign Language”. *thump*…Whu????
My life flashed before my eyes…ok, my “lifestyle” flashed before my eyes. My 2.0 ltr. turbo, fancy clothes, fine dining lifestyle was being threatened by a third-world, couchsurfing, backpacking nightmare! We had a $2000.00 Stearns and Foster mattress for God’s sake! What could she possibly be thinking! I talked her off the cliff that night and managed to distract her with the promise of an extra beach vacation next year. We went to bed with very different emotions. She frowned and said good night, I let out a deep breath, a sigh of relief, and fell asleep in my very safe six-figure world. About a week later she was at it again.
“I’m miserable”, she said. “I’m not getting anything out of this lifestyle to make me happy,” she proclaimed. She was being honest, I know, but things were pretty good for me. I raced cars when I felt like it, trained BJJ 4-6 times a week (never as often as I wanted, of course), played in a Rock-n-Roll band on weekends, got 5 weeks vacation per year which I used for trips to exotic places like Italy and Cozumel, and would SCUBA dive as often as those vacations would allow. It seemed like I had it all. I had just about talked her off the cliff again when the conversation shifted… “Isn’t there something you would like to be doing everyday instead of sitting at a desk calculating OSHA incident rates?” she asked. Well, of course there was! But this is reality and we don’t always get to do exactly what we want all the time. Hell, no question I spent a good deal of my workday thinking about BJJ. Why wasn’t my guard passing working? Should I try weaving the left leg before inverting from guard? There has got to be an armbar from that omoplata, yes?
Like most BJJ players I am passionate about BJJ. It stimulates my imagination, pushes my boundaries, and brings me to new levels of excitement every time on the mat. “Maybe we can retire early…in like fifteen years or so and we can travel wherever we want” I said in an attempt to assuage her. The conversation was about to slip into that soggy, unfinished realm where uncomfortable conversations often end up lying, when she said it: “What if we could travel the world and you could train jiu-jitsu all the time?”
My right eyebrow peaked up. “What?”
“We could travel the world and you could train BJJ all the time, all over the world,” she said with a grin that was both the grin of an excited child and that of a chess grandmaster knowing they had just made a brilliant move that would change the flavor of the game. Suddenly, everything was different. Images of Omoplatas in Oslo, Armbars in Amsterdam, Berimbolos in Brazil were flying through my head. I was quiet for a moment, not wanting to secede the argument but not able to say I wouldn’t WANT that. Peggy was going a mile a minute throwing out details of how we could make it happen: Sell the home, move to Mexico (considerably cheaper cost of living there, apparently), travel the world, etc… None of it made any sense, but I couldn’t focus on it. I was still “traveling the world” in my mind, training BJJ everyday, with everyone on Earth. I fought it all off. In one desperate moment, I said “Let’s just retire early in fifteen years and then move to Mexico! I’ll have a black belt someday, the house will be payed off…we could sell it to buy a home in Mexico and I could open my own BJJ school.
Whew! that was close!
Little did I know, a brilliant counter was coming my way…. “There will never be a RIGHT time” She said. “We’re trading in our best years in hopes of doing something with our least years” she went on. “But when do our last years start? We’ll never know. We could all die tomorrow and then what happens of our plan to retire early?” She was starting to make sense.
Now, I’m a fairly smart guy and i can put two ideas together, make connections, see the underlying current. Like most BJJ players I was making connections between real life situations and Jiu-Jitsu. I was holding my guard closed, refusing to open and play. I was waiting for the clock to run down so that I wouldn’t run the risk of “losing.” I can’t stand that kind of jiu-jitsu. I preach against it everyday in my beginner’s class. “Open up and play” I yell at my students…”You can’t lose in here” I would shout. But yet, here I was figuratively “on my back,” feet locked together, knees tightly clenched in the game of life…too afraid of losing to open up and play! What the hell! She was right…I was that guy in the gym that kept his guard closed, squeezing onto my safe, uneventful life for fear of getting my guard passed.
Peggy was still going on…We could teach English in Korea, take odd jobs in Spain and Greece…
“Okay”, I said….”but I want to move to Cozumel!”
“Cozumel?” Peggy quipped. She was taken aback by my directional switch (like a sweet butterfly sweep on an overpressuring opponent). We had been to Cozumel just a few months before and I had fallen in love with the Island. The climate, the food, the people, and most of all the SCUBA. My second passion (after Jiu-Jitsu).
“Yes,” I said. “If we are going to do this, I want go all the way. We can base out of Cozumel and travel the world when the hot summer rolls in.” Why not? We were talking about selling everything we owned for a big giant “who the hell knows what will happen.” I might as well dream the biggest dream I could and go for it.
“But, you will have to be willing to travel based on where I can train.”
I threw that one in as an extra. I knew that all good negotiations were based on a “Give -and-Get” relationship. As long as she thought I was “giving in” to her “great escape” then I might as well go for the little extra.
And so, folks. this is where we’re at on December 24th, 2013. Christmas eve. I am sitting here writing this as I am contemplating how on earth I am going to make this happen. We have set a tentative deadline of January 3, 2015 as our departure date. There is a lot to do and a lot to plan for. How will we finance this venture? Where will we travel? Where will we live? WHERE WILL I TRAIN? Stay tuned as I navigate the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. I’m not sure how I am going to do all of this, but one thing I do know is WHY. You Only Live Once in this BJJ world and I am going to open up and play! YOLO!