I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. It was extremely difficult because I had no financial support, no one to guide me, and no idea how the process worked. I made a lot of mistakes along the way and it took longer than it could have, but I did it. I had to work full time to support myself and I chose to go to school full time because I wasn’t getting any younger. I had already done a few years in the Army and lived in Europe for a while. I had to buckle down, so I did.
My goal was to become an attorney. After I graduated San Francisco State University, I was accepted to the University of San Francisco School of Law. While in law school, I realized that I was very much in love with my then-girlfriend, Betty. I also realized that I hated law school, lawyers and the law itself. I loved the idea of the law, legal philosophy and the how the law was supposed to work. I hated the O.J. trial fiasco which was playing out at that time, the lawyers I met and one I had interned for and realizing the fact that most attorneys were fairly broke and bored.
The best paid lawyers earned around $200,000 per year while the lowest paid earned about $50,000 per year. I could make over $50,000 bartending part-time in San Francisco. I was already doing that by age 24. The real problem for me was the heart-breaking fact that most lawyers never spend a minute in a courtroom. Ninety-five percent of all cases settle short of a trial.
“If you love to read tedious cases, write technical reports, and memorize thousands of details…go to law school. If you love to argue, have teenage daughters.” I said.
The longer I stayed in law school, the more I realized that what I really wanted was the fantasy of being a courtroom litigator, a goal that would take more time than I was willing to invest. I also realized a life-changing fact.
Betty and I had just checked my final grades at the law school on our Christmas break. I had passed all of my classes and even done better than I had expected in some. We were driving on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, heading to the East Bay when I turned to her and said,
“I’m not going back.”
“What?” Betty said. I just looked forward at the drizzle on the windshield and pondered my next words carefully. I looked left at Alcatraz and nodded my head.
“I’m never going back to law school. I’m done.” I said.
“Are you quitting?” She asked. “But you did well. You’re the class president and a member of the legal fraternity. How can you quit?”
“It’s not for me. There’s just no way to know until you try. I tried it and I hate it. I have to admit it to myself. I hate it.” I said.
“I don’t understand. You’ve worked so hard.” She said.
“Very hard.” I agreed. “Law school is all I have wanted for many years. It’s the real reason I went to college. And I think I could be a kick-ass trial attorney someday. But I also think I could be a great husband and father someday.”
She looked at me but said nothing.
“I could do either of those things. I can’t do both at the same time. I have met a lot of attorneys and many of them warned me to avoid this profession as they slurped another rocks glass full of Johnny Red. I interned for a successful attorney in Sausalito and his office was just dark, gray and sad. It was lifeless. I’ve finished a semester of law school and I can tell, this is just not for me. I’m done.” I said.
“What will you do now?” She asked.
“Well, that depends. Are you done with me?”
“Done with you? Are you kidding?” She asked.
“You thought I was going to be an attorney…”
“I never cared about that!” She snapped. Then she softened a bit. “I cared about you. And since you entered law school I’ve seen you work your ass off, barely seen you at all and I can’t remember the last time I saw you smile.”
“I’ll be honest. I feel a bit numb right now. But I’m sure. I’m done with that. I can’t keep pretending just because I’m afraid to quit. I’m done.” I stared ahead and watched the droplets of fog pepper the glass in front of me.
“Good.” She said. We drove home in silence from there, each of us thinking, wondering.
I bring this story up because getting to that point took a ton of effort. I worked incredibly hard to get through school and paid for it all, no loans. I not only earned my degree, I paid for it. The only way I was able to do that was with 100% commitment. Failure was not an option. I did not have a Plan B or a safety net. I had to graduate, and I did. I am a very stubborn person which works for and against me. With work and school, it was definitely a bonus.
I am having a very difficult time figuring out Chapter Two in my life. Now that I don’t have my company anymore, what do I do? We have enough money to live if everything goes right and we are frugal. What if something goes wrong? What if we want to do something extravagant? I have to be prepared for those situations and to do so is to figure out what my purpose really is.
Becoming a real estate appraiser was not my dream job, but it was interesting, and the varied tasks required kept me involved for many years. That industry is dying quickly. Technology is taking over, and banks don’t want to give appraisers the time they need to do their job properly. I’m not going back to that. Appraising was a job, not a purpose. I don’t want to die and have people say, “He inspected a lot of houses, and damn…his reports were so readable!” Even after I transitioned from being a field appraiser to hiring thousands of them and my company got big, that was just being in business. It was all just numbers on a page, nasty emails and crooked clients. It was never fulfilling but it did put us in a place where we can search for fulfillment. Betty and I need to find our purpose now.
My new commitment: find my purpose, fulfill it, and encourage Betty to do the same.
Where do I start?
Here is one place: HarvardX
HarvardX offers free online courses from Harvard University. I checked it out and it’s legitimate; real Harvard professors teaching courses at Harvard…free. I had always dreamed of an Ivy League education. When I was younger, a movie called “The Paper Chase” enamored me with law school and the brick buildings of Harvard, our nation’s oldest and probably the most prestigious university. With a 6% acceptance rate and an annual cost of about $67,580 per year for tuition/room and board, Harvard is out of reach for most of us. It certainly was for me, But I always had that dream.
College is changing. Socialists want it to be free for all in the USA, but they don’t realize that their version of “free” just means that someone else pays for the student’s education. Nothing is free, except these online courses at Harvard. And I’m taking one now. A quick Google search shows that there are a lot of colleges offering free online courses. Most will ask for a small fee if you want actual credit for the course, but auditing is free.
The course I’m taking is called, “Introduction to Poetry in America: Modernism”. We’re studying poets like Robert Frost, Ezra Pound and others from the Modernist period of 1910 to 1940. The instructor delivers a passionate and entertaining lecture that incorporates videos, location shots (like Robert Frost’s cabin in Vermont), animation and music. It’s like sitting in the front row of a classroom at Harvard with a pause button and no fees. Amazing.
I love learning and I am sure I will continue for as long as I live, but it doesn’t pay. I’m still struggling to monetize my website. The hardest part is finding something of value that I can sell. Most of the sites I see offer the same expensive courses in travel writing or copywriting, none of which I can ever see working. Who in their right mind is going to pay a retired amateur travel writer enough money to cover the costs of travel, lodging, food, etc. much less a fee on top of that for profit? The main problem I see with copywriting is the sales aspect. I spoke to a representative from one of those mile-long copywriting pitch emails today via email and asked her just how they expected me to get clients. She sent me a copy of a webinar that listed the following:
- Cold calling. Literally knocking on doors and pitching your service to total strangers.
- Dialing for dollars: Same thing, but on the phone. Don’t you just love telemarketers? Especially when you’re busy at work?
- Networking: Put a name tag on and meet the rest of the losers at the Ramada Inn to shake hands and trade recently printed business cards that will be tossed.
- Create a blog: Become an expert and get readers to follow you, then sell them something. This method is the 21st century model of telemarketing.
- Public speaking: Go to Toastmasters or some other sort of networking group and tell the group about your product. Sure, pitch the same idea to the same people each week.
The webinar boasted 25 or so ideas, but I lost interest before the tenth. I may be jaded, but I’ve been down this road so many times that I can smell a scam a mile away. I’m still waiting on someone, anyone to prove me wrong, but I still think there is an extremely small group of people actually making a good living doing any of this.
He said as he typed another line in his blog on moving to Mexico.
I’m not sure why, but I’m stubborn. I never give up, even when I probably should. I’ll keep at this until we actually complete this move, keep writing and documenting our journey. I’m sorry if it’s not always an article full of useful information or some insight that will help you move. I just pray that you’re able to see what we’re going through as we do this. It’s not all just travel, planning, packing and moving. It’s a lot of trepidation, worry, and angst. And if you’re planning to do this too, you’d better be prepared for the same. It’s not easy living your dream in real time. It’s so much easier when you’re just dreaming about it, planning and scheming. When a race like this begins and has a finish line almost in sight, it’s kind of scary. Gotta watch what you ask for.
Right now, buying a house in Texas is a stupid proposition. It will just cost too much. But my Rich Dad did not say the idea was not possible, he simply focused on how to make it happen. And I am too. We may have to settle for a smaller place on a smaller lot. We may need to buy a manufactured home instead of a traditional site-built home. We may be those weird people who drive a Jaguar on a dirt road. I used to wonder about aging real estate agents, getting older, still working it and driving a 20-year-old Mercedes.
I didn’t want to be that guy. I get it now.