Jake Keiser is the last person I would have expected to sell me a goat. She is beautiful, smart, and refined and she is a farm girl. I met her through a friend when she first made her dramatic move from urban Florida to rural Mississippi. Many of us dream of giving it all up and exiting our successful lives for something with more substance, but few people are brave enough to take that leap into the unknown for the slim chance that there might be something more beautiful on the other side. Jake leapt into that dark hole in her life, and came out the other side shining. This is her story.
This year marks my fourth year living as a farm girl in north Mississippi after nearly twenty years in Tampa, Florida. Until I came here, I was every bit the city girl. Moving to Mississippi was a huge change in lifestyle and culture. So many people ask me what made me leave the city for a rural life. There were several reasons, and it took a perfect storm to lead me to my current life which is more authentic and fulfilling than I ever imagined.
At the time I started seriously thinking about this major life change, the economy was really depressed. Every day I watched the news and heard stories of parents who were having a difficult time feeding their families after job losses. The media was featuring desperate parents playing with their kids in yards talking about their fears about food. I noticed that these yards weren’t being utilized in any way to assist them – they didn’t even have a small garden. Their helpless mindset scared me deeply. I was living in a condo with a view of a freeway thirty feet from my back door, and I realized that my home would never sustain me if I found myself in the kind of emergency so many were experiencing. My lifestyle made me totally dependent on others. I found myself dreaming of a scenario where I could one day retire to a house with land and have a garden and a few chickens.
Then the epiphany happened. As I sat in my condo watching a celebrity TV show, playing a game on my phone with an US Weekly magazine in my lap, it dawned on me…I had a busy life, but I was unfulfilled. Despite my professional success, I had no real life skills. I was a decent cook and had been self employed for years, but in any real emergency I would be in trouble. I saw for the first time that I had filled my time with irrelevant things, and none of them made me happy. I realized that although I had a great social life, my life felt small.
Even now I would say that I’m certainly not someone others would consider a hippie or environmentalist. Just like in those days, I love girls nights, the next party, and luxury brands. But at that moment, I found my drive for self-sufficiency and happiness getting in the way of what looked like a fabulous life. I craved independence from stress and exhaustion and meaninglessness. The evolution of this understanding started to wreak havoc in my life as my old thought processes crumbled and relationships changed. Many people left my life at this time. Everything I knew about myself was changing, and all that seemed to be left was fear and uncertainty.
One day I asked myself the simple question, "What makes me happy?” That should have been easy to answer, right? But at first, I couldn’t think of a single thing. I sank deeper into depression and fear. Anxiety felt like a boulder on my chest. This went on for a while. One day, while making my morning tea I recognized how much I enjoyed the ritual of making tea every day. I looked forward to that warm mug and first sip of fragrant liquid. This was one small happy thing that I held on to, and this was the catalyst for the big change in my life. I finally had one little daily thing I could count on to bring me joy. At first this concept felt silly, but it was an important first step towards recognizing my blessings and finding happiness. I found myself dreaming of an “unbusy” life where I would actually enjoy my days and not dread Mondays.
Within months the opportunity to move away from the city into a rural life presented itself. It happened well before I thought I was ready, and it seemed like a crazy decision to leave all I’d known for an uncertain future in a lifestyle I’d never experienced. Doing it on my own made the decision all the more daunting. I decided that instead of being fearful, I was going to be curious. I was going to lead my life by my heart and have the courage to follow it even if it meant leaving everything I’d known far behind and at the risk of people thinking I’d lost my mind.
Leaving the comfort of the city, relationships, and other worldly addictions wasn’t easy. In the midst of moving I experienced significant anxiety, wondering if I was doing the right thing and waiting for major regret and panic to kick in. It never did. Instead I found serenity, creativity, excitement and a constant stream of things to learn and get lost in. Since moving I haven’t had to maintain a gym membership because the farm life is so active. My skin and overall health has improved, and I’m rarely bored. I’ve witnessed my own complete and continual transformation and have relished learning new skills and being closer to nature. Authenticity and faith have become the hallmarks of my new life.
I’ve discovered that people who live rurally are resourceful, creative and generous. It’s difficult to be distracted here when you’re surrounded by the natural world. Distance from easily accessible stores forces you to be imaginative and use what you have available. Living rurally makes artists out its inhabitants.
My lifestyle has given me the peace and happiness I never knew was possible. But it would have never happened if I hadn’t had the courage – even in some really dark times - to say yes when the opportunity presented itself. Throughout the process of learning how to live this way, I learned that the more I trusted myself and had faith in the process, the easier it got to move forward. This is when my life became fun again.
I’m Jake Keiser, former city girl seeking a fabulous farm life in Oxford, Mississippi . You can follow me on Facebook by searching Gucci to Goats or Instagram @Gucci_to_Goats. www.GuccitoGoats.com
What would fill the hole in your life? What would it take for you to make a change? We would love to share in your journey.