Growing Old Before My Time

Posted by - July 1, 2011 | Category: Library

“Tired of lying to myself, trying to buy what can’t be bought.
It’s not living that you’re doing if it feels like dying.”

Old Before Your TimeRay Lamontagne

I’ve been listening to that song a lot lately. Probably more than is considered healthy. But self-control has never been the strongest of my suits, so I do what the voices tell me.  I am merely a conduit for the spirits within.

At its heart, Old Before Your Time is about wanting more.

Over the years, I’ve found myself wanting a lot.  And on the surface, I had plenty.  Life looked downright swell.  I spent years in a job that allowed me to travel for extended periods.  I could work at home 3 days a week when I wasn’t away.  I was slowing chipping away at a mammoth mortgage.  And I paid cash for my car.

But I wasn’t happy.

unhappy Starbucks cake

So I left that job.

I went to another one that held the promise of even more travel, allowed me to take even bigger chips out of my mortgage, and I would have probably had a much nicer car in a year or two.  It was the Canadian dream, fuelled by American television.

And I was miserable.

Miserable Kid

I found myself in front of a screen filled with windows of documents I did not understand, and did not care about. Staring out a 26th floor window, scanning the river below for bodies just so I could say something interesting happened today.  Is that how I wanted to round out my days?

The answer was a resounding “NO”.


At either of those jobs I could have a perfectly satisfactory life – padding my retirement fund, taking 2-week vacations here and there, and praying to God that I made it to 65.  But, my friend, there are no guarantees. And is “satisfactory” something anyone should aspire to?  Tipping a hat to Mr. Lamontagne, I was growing old before my time.

I wanted more, and I got it in spades. Thing is, I was wanting more of the wrong stuff.  I found myself sitting in front of a progressively bigger TV, on progressively nicer furniture, in progressively nicer clothes.  With progressively dwindling ambition, growing progressively more numb.

You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.

Life for me was beginning to resemble the humble smoke detector.  You know it has the potential to make your heart race and get you on your toes, but mostly, it just rests quietly on the periphery until the batteries slowly, and inevitably, run out of juice.

You’ve got to start a fire to see it in action.

unhappy smoke detector

So last week, I started a fire.  I quit my job.  On Tuesday, I bought a camera.  Wednesday, a ticket to Bangkok.  On Thursday, I started to tell my friends.  And I have been surprised by their reactions.


Every one of them has been supportive, excited, and filled with kind words. I clearly did not give them enough credit.  I was convinced they would think I was being rash, foolhardy, or even worse, unstable.  Crazy as a loon.  Foolish as a bag of hammers.  I’m sure there are some out there who will think that, and you know, I’m okay with that.  This is my life.  There are no retakes.  If I want to piss into the wind, then so be it.  At least I’m feeling a breeze.

I’m at an age where most people are settling down.  I’ve always been uneasy with that term. I’m certain it’s because of the words themselves.  No one likes “settling”, and no one likes to be “down”.  Perhaps if there were a more upbeat description, like “staking a claim” or “cashing in my chips”, or maybe “pitching my tent” I’d be more apt to fall in line.  Then again, maybe not.

I’m not quite ready to drop anchor when I’ve got so much set sail still left in me.

Vintage Sailor Girl Sailing Boat

Yes, that is me in my younger days.  Kidding of course.  I’ve been blogging about travel (in anonymity) for the past six months as a distraction.  Now it’s about to become the main event.

It’s time to put my money where my mind is.

I’ve been chiseling down my possessions, and squirreling into storage whatever makes the cut.  A couple of close friends are moving back to Canada after 8 years in the United Arab Emirates, and they are going to rent my condo.  The timing is perfect.

I’m not sure what tomorrow brings, or where I will land, but none of us can know those things for certain.  I do know that there is a great big fat world out there, and I want to see it.

I started a fire, now it’s time to fan the flames.

Kenny Rogers (yes, of ‘The Gambler’ fame) once said “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”  To be sure, I had it good.  But that’s not great now is it.

Kenny Rogers The Gambler

I’ll leave you with this little poem.  It’s been pinned on my cubicle wall for the past 7 years, and in my home office for the last 5 — it’s time to heed the message.  And I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Big Buddha Hong Kong

On an ancient wall in China

Where a brooding Buddha blinks

Deeply graven is the message

It is later than you think.

The clock of time is wound but once and no

man has the power,

To tell just when the hand will stop

At late or early hour.

Now is all the time you own

The past a golden link,

Go cruising now my brother

It is later than you think.


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97 comments - add one
  1. Wow! Good luck on your chosen path. We did it 8 years ago and we’re still going strong and have never looked back. We have no idea what the future is but it makes life more fun. Looking forward to your future posts.

  2. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!be glad you didn’t get that in full effect mister, because that was one spine curdling wail in salute of what you’ve just done! there are no words i can think of to fully express how excited i am for you. NOTHING that i can say to show how much i admire your courage, faith in yourself and conviction. YOU are in for an amazing life my friend. can you feel it coming? i can! YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! okay, that does it, we’re meeting up next year when my flight bennies kick in. beautifully written and love the poem. always loved that song “enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think” 😀

    1. Lorna, has anyone told you have ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC you are lately? If not, let me be the first in line! I smiled from ear-to-aging-ear when I read this. Thank-you for your kind words. And yes, we will definitely meet up sometime next year. My calendar just freed up. 🙂

  3. Congratulations! Life is for the living – satisfactory is never enough.

    Love that line “put my money where my mind is.”

    1. Thanks Roy — you’ve been a secret hero of mine since I started reading your blog. Full-time travel is definitely more than satisfactory in my books… 🙂

    1. Thanks Ryan — I’m confident there’s still lots worth finding in this great big world of ours. If not, well, at least I’m willing to give it that good old college try… 🙂

  4. Speechless. Hats off to you. Every word here is on the money, every single word. The post reeks of clarity and courage. All the luck in the world to you.

  5. Damn, I just wrote a message and then it didn’t go through. Basically CONGRATS. YOU DID IT!!!! Your Ray LaMontage quote reminds me of a quote from a Bob Dylan song I think of often “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Welcome to your life! PS, what the hell is that third picture???

    1. Thanks Kim! I will have to hunt down that Bob Dylan song — sounds like it’s right up my alley.

      That third photo is a Blobfish. It’s been dubbed “the world’s most miserable looking creature”. I thought it was appropriate… 🙂

  6. Brilliant, nust brilliant. Just like you, I changed my life from one day to the other, from international attorney to poor travel writer in 48 hours.The feeling of absolute freedom is incomparable and I salute your courage. The longer I do this, the more I realise how little ‘things’ i need. And so will you!!! Will follow your adventures breathlessly.

  7. Good for you!
    May you find in your travels that your decision was the best you could have made.
    May you find “living the dream” is the life that you live.
    Good post.
    John D, Wilson
    aka The Big Mozey

    1. it’s funny, but I say that all the time — ‘I’m living the dream”. Of course up until this point it has always been jokingly. Will be nice to actually experience it again…

  8. A huge, MASSIVE, kudos and congratulations sent your way! The rest of your life is starting RIGHT NOW! How exciting, and how thrilling that it’s just all happening Just! Like! That!

    Both Pete and I are very excited for you, and look forward to following along!

    1. Thanks Dalene. You and Pete are a shining example of folks who have done what I hope to have even a fraction of. Yes, it’s happening very fast, but I’ve always said, never ignore the signs, and never look at gift tenant in the mouth. 🙂

  9. A lot of us have been there – I was a school librarian one day, a travel writer the next. It is so worthwhile to make that change. I’ll be interested to read all about how you learn to love your new life!!

  10. Great choice, you will love full time traveling. Only last week a friend of mine over dinner told me she’s dreaming about quitting her job and starting the same life. I encouraged her of course 😉

    1. I think there are a lot of secret job-abandoners out there. Good for you for working the recruitment drive! Your toaster oven is on its way…

  11. Very exciting news.

    I think your larger message is so well communicated. I LOVE this:

    > I wanted more, and I got it in spades. Thing is, I was wanting more of the wrong stuff. I found myself sitting in front of a progressively bigger TV, on progressively nicer furniture, in progressively nicer clothes.

    We will be looking forward to reading about your journey – both literal and figurative.

  12. First of all:

    Woa! That “smoke-detector” analogy is utterly brilliant! And secondly…

    Congratulations! Welcome to the (terrifying but ever so exhilarating) world of “This surely ain’t a dress-rehearsal, folks” and joining me in taking a HUGE “Leap of Faith”.

    So is it Bangkok? Come Oct I’ll be in some g-forsaken rice paddy nearby (Vietnam). Hopefully we’ll bump into each other one day on the trail.

    1. Thanks Dyanne! I hemmed and hawed about putting that in there for some reason. Glad you like it!

      The plan for now is to travel around Asia, and I am certain our paths will cross.

    1. Thanks Stephanie! I heard something similar in of all places, an episode of ‘Strange Addictions’ on TLC. It stuck with me. Damn you cable!!

  13. “The Canadian dream, fuelled by American television.”

    Love that quote, it’s so true. Very exciting that you’re breaking free from a dream that isn’t for you. I’m sure your life is about to change for the best. Congratulations.

  14. Amazing! When I first began to read your post, I had no idea that the ending would be so great. I cannot begin to tell you how admirable you are for your rash but undaunted decision to travel and take control of the life you want to live. My goals to travel have been a progressive one; and although I have a start date in the future, the consequences of telling certain people have led to overwhelming and unnecessary stress to what should be an exciting time for me. You might just have a perfect idea here – to heck with the naysayers, you just did what you wanted and everyone just had to accept it. I wish I had that courage. Good for you! I’ll be here watching your progress. And I’m definitely excited to see where the road takes you on your epic journey.

    1. Sherry, I have every confidence that you will put your stamp on the world when you do finally take that plunge. But believe me, there are a lor fewer naysayers than I thought there would be. At least to my face… 🙂

  15. WOOHOO!! This is so beyond exciting – kudos to you for making the leap and seizing the moment and following your dreams and all those catchy phrases! Seriously, though, it’s awesome that you just did it. You made it happen.

    Can’t wait to hear all about your travels, and hopefully we can meet up “on the other side” one of these days! 😀

  16. Looooove the photos you found! Isn’t funny when all of perceived pressure to do something is really from ourselves? Oh, don’t I know that… So proud of you. Can’t wait to read about Thailand!

  17. Wow when you decide to move you move! It is hard to figure out you are not living the life you want but a life others tell you you should have. Good for you, for realizing this and taking action. Bravo!!

    Looking forward to reading about your adventure as it unfolds.

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Debbie! “I do what I like, and I like what I do!” No sense dancing around the edge of the pool — jumping is just so invigorating… 🙂

  18. Wow Billy! From the boy who lost his sandal while stepping on the Metrobus to quitting his job and livin’ the dream! You go Girl! I know that you will be happy with the decision you’ve made. Can’t wait to hear the stories and see the pics along your journey. Stay safe! May your journey end in NFLD!! xoxo

    1. Lynnie!! Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy the show… 🙂

      I’m sure I will be back in Newfoundland one day soon — it’s always such a good time. Hope Terry and you are well!

  19. I really love the poem!! Great find. Also- awesome photo choices. So many faces of melancholy. I’m pretty unsettled, though, by the pink blob.

    Cheers to giving up the good for the great!!

    -Al & Ted

  20. I’m so late to learn about your new adventure! Raymond that is just awesome. Your on your way to freedom!!! Another successful escape from cubicle nation.

  21. I love this one. I hadn’t followed your writing then. I didn’t know how you began blogging. I’m glad you are, your posts are great. I hope it’s even better than you imagined.

  22. Way to go. We quit our jobs going on 13 years ago and friends and family reacted with shock and disbelief. . .we’ve NEVER regretted our decision. Now we are living 4 months – at least – each year out of a suitcase. When people say we’ve re-tired I explain we’ve re-treaded!

    1. I aspire to the model that you have created! So many of my friends get 2 to 4 weeks vacation each year, and that’s all they look forward to. Honestly, the past 6 months I have not thought about vacation at all. Maybe because I’ve been seeing some many wonderful places and experiencing so many wonderful things. Or maybe because my time blogging doesn’t seem like work at all. I don’t know. All I do know is the past 6 months have been the most amazing months of my life. And even though I’m probably only earning about 1/10th what I was earning before, it’s enough to get me through. And I wouldn’t change that for the world. (Or a regular 9 to 5 either!)

  23. It was so exciting meeting you, watching you come to life, come into your own life, and your enthusiasm is infectious. I wish you all the best, most wonderful, awesomest adventures ever!!!

    1. Thanks Mariellen — it was so great to meet you as well! There’s such a great community of like-minded kindred souls out there, and I’m sure our paths will cross again soon!

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  25. This is a great blog! Good luck and stay strong! It’s hard to strike out on your own, and it’s hard to abandon comfort for adventure. You’ve done something inspirational, and I hope it all works out.

  26. I want to say thank you. I am brand new to your site and this post reflects exactly how I am feeling right now in my life. I’ve applied to teach English in Spain next year and am excited for my new adventure. Although I’m going if I’m accepted, I wanted to let you know that your words serve as even further inspiration for me. I know in the coming months I will re-read this if I am ever second guessing anything. Thank you!

    1. I love getting comments like yours Mike! I have to say taking the plunge was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve seen so many things, had so many great experiences, and met so many wonderful people in the past 18 months. I can’t believe there was a time when I had even a shred of self-doubt. The universe has a way of helping you land on your feet, so my advice is to just go for it.

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  28. Love reading this, the language you use is a ‘blast’ and the accompanying photographs are so funny. The poem at the the end was very thought provoking, it’s good to remind yourself now and again to actually live!

  29. Love your website. Found it today and have spent a lovely morning with coffee in hand, taking a journey through your posts and laughing so much I’ve spilt and spluttered more coffee than drunk. Then I came to here – to how you started and the tears began to roll – so close to the bone for me, I suppose for many wantabe wanders, for you were describing the feelings and motions I have been going through for many years. When I was 18yrs old I had all these wonderful plans (planning and plotting since I was 15yrs) and was just about to step onto the road to everywhere when I met and fell in love with someone who didn’t even want to step outside the garden gate. Plus he was ‘grown up’- responsible, secure, a good catch (he is also a workaholic). Before I knew I was surrounded with things I didn’t really want and strapped to a job to pay that mortgage, credit card, car repayment, a business that now supports 5families… and growing old. That was 32years ago… I’m still growing old. But I get away for an O/s trip once year – I push for 4weeks, 5 if I can get away with it and make him put on a backpack – the backpack makes me feel young – and we take off with only the flight ticket booked and nothing else.

    Good on you Raymond – plunge, dive, wander, grab life. Have an amazing life. Love your website.

    1. Kez, today I’m over-the-moon delighted that I checked my spam folder and found this!!! Thank-you so much for the beautiful comment — it really does mean the world to me. On days when I’m down and wondering if I’ve chosen the right path, I’ll look at it and smile and picture you with a backpack on ready to take on the globe. Good luck wherever your road takes you fellow wanderer — hopefully our paths will cross one day. 🙂


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