Be Careful What You Wish For: You Just Might Get It.

photo credit: Valeriano Della Longo

One of my guilty pleasure movies is Under the Tuscan Sun.

Have you seen it? Diane Lane takes a trip to Italy to get over a nasty divorce and ends up buying a house in Tuscany. She heals her wounds by renovating the house and building friendships in the small town.

It’s a great little movie and it will make you want to grill up zucchini and serve antipasta platters. Or set you day dreaming about living in a farmhouse in the south of France.

One of my favorite scenes is when our protagonist is lamenting that she doesn’t have what she’d hoped for: a baby and a wedding in the garden. Her friend points out to her that she has both: her friend and her baby are staying with her and she just hosted the wedding of a young couple at her home.

Sometimes what we wish for comes to us in a different package than we expect.

Three years ago I often day dreamed about a windfall that would get us out of consumer debt. I kept a lottery ticket in my purse for a few months, never checking if it was a winner, and on bad days I would tell myself it was the one.

That’s how I imagined we would get out of $82,000 in consumer and student loan debt. A windfall.

I never imagined that we would work for it. That we would sell a lot of things, my Olympic Torch, our car and that we would cut bills and I would stop spending $100 at the drugstore when all I went in for was my husband’s shampoo.

I never imagined that my husband and I would track all of our spending. Every penny. Every pence.

Living overseas was always a dream of mine. Several of my siblings have lived abroad and my parents emigrated to Canada from Scotland in their 20’s. I loved the idea of a stint overseas for Chris and I and Henry.

We even toyed with the idea of renting our home out for a few months while I was on maternity leave and living in Spain or France. Unfortunately the timing and the numbers just didn’t add up. I shelved that dream thinking it would be something for retirement.

Since my teen years I’ve wanted to be a writer. It seemed impossible. It was a fantasy and the fantasy was selling a screenplay or scoring a big publishing contract. The dream got farther and farther away. I was happily working in a marketing and sponsorship role before I went on maternity leave. I thought I had found my calling in the corporate world. That was it. I’d run events, write copy and manage employee engagement projects. Not my dream job but a pretty good one.

Moving to the Isle of Man wasn’t on my radar. My husband getting a corporate job and taking an indefinite hiatus from road life with his band wasn’t something either of us could have imagined.

But here we are. Living in Europe. We’re going to Spain soon. Not as we’d once a imagined but for a quick and relatively cheap holiday (thank you airline points and piggy backing on a work trip).

Some days I feel like we won the lottery. I shake my head and say to my husband, are we really here? Did we really pay off all that debt?

Yes, we’re here in a different way than I imagined. There wasn’t an easy way out of debt and we’re not basking in the Spanish sun every day with our departure back to rainy Vancouver looming over us. I’m not making a six figure salary from writing or on the top ten bestseller list. But I’m earning a small income from self-publishing, freelance writing and this blog.

It’s not how I imagined it: it’s better. Because it’s real.

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  • Well done Rachel and Chris! :) You really should be proud of yourselves. It’s so encouraging to hear such a positive story.

  • well done! I just read Dave Ramsey’s book this weekend (in one day – it was a page turner) – we are taking back control of our finances. quoting him ” if you live like no one else , later you can live like no one else” thanks for the encouragement

    • Love that Dave Ramsey quote. Have heard a lot of good from DR’s book. I’ve read some of his stuff and we followed some of his methods to get out of debt. Debt Snowball for the win :)

  • Thanks for the inspiration Rachel, I needed it this am :-)
    Having just deferred my 50 thousands of student loan debt (no consumer debt, that’s all gone and paid up), and now a freelance writer after leaving work in public radio to raise our daughter Scout instead of busting A$$ to pay someone else to do it. I’m wondering how my world traveler and I will accomplish dreams and goals for us and our family. But perhaps that’s the trick of it, just continue working hard towards our goals and we will get there….

    Enjoy Espanna! I don’t know we’re you’re going, but I fell in love with that country when I traveled to Madrid and south east, driving and backpacking. Love that country and its people :-)

    And thanks again for the inspiration this am.

  • “Sometimes what we wish for comes to us in a different package than we expect.” I would say usually it does and I agree it is better…and we all need to be reminded of it now and again. Thanks!

  • I read the book which seems very different from the movie version. I think the movie sounds way more interesting and I must watch it. Thank you for your inspiring story!

  • I love that movie! I always watch House Hunters International and think, could that be me someday? My husband is a professor and I keep telling him on his next sabbatical we need to live somewhere abroad!

  • What a great post for Monday morning! I feel like your blog has helped me shape a vision for the future that I want for myself. Even though I am young and currently single, my boyfriend will have significant debt from law school and I will certainly have some from physical therapy school which I hope to pursue in the future. As someone who’s hyper vigilant about finances it’s hard to realize that our debt may limit us, but also liberating to know that if we plan right and make sacrifices we can overcome it. :)

  • What a great and inspiring post! thank you for that reminder to stop and count our blessings (and look for ways that dreams are here with us in different forms). You have worked very hard for your dream, and it took a lot of courage to go against the grain in many ways. Kudos, and you deserve all the happiness in the world (as do we all)!

  • It’s funny because my dream of moving is finally coming to fruition, 8 years after it was “supposed” to happen, and I’m actually a bit torn on the decision lol! It’s funny when we create this ideal image of what we want, and when that actually starts getting into gear, how unexpected life now makes us re-think that dream. In the end, I think it will be a great move for us, but I’m glad I can also recognize that it won’t be perfect and that we still have a lot going in our current city that is worth cherishing. I’m glad that I’m now calmly walking to the hills rather than running to them :)

  • For me, truly understanding what I want from life only happened once we were pretty much stripped of everything familiar when we moved to Switzerland. I want a family, friends and a home and time to enjoy all three. Nothing extravagant – just time and laughter, preferably in my own back garden.

  • I’m in a similar place now, and it’s great. Like you, I always used to wish for a windfall. Somewhere along the way I accepted that I’m not lucky (in that way), but if I thought outside the box I could do big things with what I already had. My husband and I are on track to be debt free (except for our mortgage) by the end of this year. Once I let go of the silly “if only’s”, I freed up my mind to think of practical solutions to reach our goals. After years spent just squeaking by each month, it’s difficult to get used to having a little more than we need now. I feel so much satisfaction because of how we have accomplished our lifestyle.

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