Change Can Be Scary… And So Worth It

June 19, 2019

There was so much to appreciate about our old life.

We loved our house and neighborhood in Saint Petersburg, Florida. We were finally starting to make friends after nearly two years there.

Our babies were growing into toddlers who came home from daycare smiling.

My husband Ben had gained momentum with his online business. I had an awesome group of colleagues and was proud of the company we’d built.

I’d found a yoga studio; Ben had his running route along the water.

But underneath all those good things, we weren’t happy.

When something has to change

We were living under the curse of Doing Too Much.

Neither Ben nor I wanted to pull back on our career when we had our kids. The timing just wasn’t right. I’d sold my company and committed to growing The Penny Hoarder a few months before giving birth to our first son. And Ben was eager to build a business he was proud of after years in a corporate job that didn’t feel right.

We both enjoyed our jobs. But with two demanding careers and two kids under 3 years old, we simply could not find our stride. This will be no surprise to working parents with young children, but we were exhausted. All the time.

Ben got pneumonia twice, ended up in the ER, and developed a chronic health condition. I felt resentful and angry about being stretched thin, that no matter how hard I tried or how much we outsourced, I could not stay on top of everything at work and home and take care of myself at the same time. My migraines were debilitating, and I felt terrible about my postpartum body.

Those health challenges were the worst part about the last few years, but they served a positive purpose: they pushed us over the edge. Ben and I realized we couldn’t move at this pace and stay healthy and happy for our kids. We realized we needed to prioritize our physical and mental health.

To achieve that, we knew we had to make a drastic change.

We had to figure out how to do less — even if that meant making hard choices.

And we had to give ourselves easy access to the kind of outdoor exercise and fresh air we enjoyed: hiking and biking and trail running. For that, we needed to move closer to the mountains.

Until now, we’ve each lived in cities of varying sizes, from London to Houston to D.C. to St. Pete, where most everything was convenient except getting into the woods. We wanted to flip that equation and get mountains on our doorstep, even if it meant driving for other parts of our life.

Except… I was out of practice on taking risks. Not professionally — we did that every day at The Penny Hoarder, which was why I enjoyed working there so much. But becoming a mother made me crave stability and routine; I needed it to survive. The big risks I’d taken in life, ones that used to feel so tied to my identity, like leaving my first real job to travel, backpacking by myself through Africa, starting a company — they all happened before I became a mom. They were ancient history.

It was scary thinking about stretching that muscle again, especially with a family in tow. And so leaving my job and selling our house and — this was the biggie — moving to a town we’d only visited a couple of times felt like a massive leap of faith.

And yet somehow we managed to say our goodbyes and pack up our belongings and land in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. This beautiful, historic town is a stone’s throw away from Maryland and Virginia, at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. It’s a mecca for hikers, at the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail.

And six weeks in, it already feels like home.

Harpers Ferry, lower town

The view of lower town Harpers Ferry during a walk from our house.

Finally, stillness

Ben and I never envisioned ourselves making one of those drastic lifestyle changes people dedicate blogs to, like living in a tiny house or homesteading or moving to Alaska.

But now that we are here, living in a house in the woods with trails on our doorstep, it feels like we’ve done just that.

Our boys walk on one of the many trails in our new town

We spend most evenings after the kids go to bed reading on the front porch, watching the moon rise over the mountain. In the mornings, the kids stand at the back door to say hi to the deer in our yard. Ben and I explore the trails, hiking or trail running, almost every day, bringing the kids with us on weekends.

The boys are getting adjusted to their new pre-school. Ben’s got his home office set up and is recording his next course. I found a coworking space one town over, where I’ll grow The Write Life and give myself the space and time to explore new professional projects. (It’s still early days, but here’s what I’m scheming on: offering the workcation I always wanted.)

While moving to the woods set the stage and scenery, the change that has had the biggest effect on our daily life is how I spend my time. Exiting my leadership role at a high-growth startup wasn’t an easy decision; it meant leaving behind colleagues who had become friends, letting go of a company I’d grown from the ground up, and being OK with a drastic slow-down of my personal and professional growth.

The result though, is less stress for me and my family. More sleep, more exercise, more time outside, more play, more smiles. My kids can have a 7-hour day at daycare instead of a 9-hour one. I can spend a few hours during the week on life admin, so we don’t have to dedicate every weekend to chores. Ben can move the needle on his business in a way he couldn’t when I was busy at work and he had to pick up the slack at home. I have the energy and time to read books again!

I still plan to bring in a six-figure income, but in a way that requires fewer hours and less energy. I’ll write more about that in the coming months.

(I have so many feelings about the messy intersection of work and motherhood: anger, gratitude, resentment, guilt. But I need to process more before writing about it, so it doesn’t come out as one big whine. I want to talk about this complex issue in a way that’s insightful and moves us all forward, and that feels more doable every day.)

This change hasn’t been all rainbows — the home we’re renting needs a lot of love, health insurance costs a fortune with both of us self-employed, and living in the woods means ants swarm the house when it rains. But Ben and I look at each other pretty much every day with such awe and joy that we LIVE here.

What if we hadn’t taken the chance?

What if the unknown had seemed too scary?

What if I hadn’t been willing to leave my job?

(And what if Ben hadn’t replied to my tweet seven years ago?!)

We are in such a different place than we were six months ago — literally and figuratively. And we are happy.

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17 Replies to “Change Can Be Scary… And So Worth It”

  • Susan Jordan says:

    Alexis, I am so happy for you and your family!
    AND
    Welcome home:)

  • It’s great to read you again, and to see you happy, taking the time to LIVE YOUR LIFE. ♥
    As a mother of 3 (now much grown up but still needing their parents), I can of course relate about the difficult balance between both work and children, especially when we love both.

  • What a beautiful place to land. My husband and I visited there a few years ago on our way back from a trip up north. It is very scenic. I’m glad you both have re-ordered your lives and things seem to be going at a much healthier pace. I wish you both all the best! Thank you for sharing this life change with us.

  • Lucy says:

    Such a lovely and honest post Lexi! Congrats on your move! xo

  • Heather says:

    Thank you for starting to write again. I read your ebook about being a social media consultant years ago and have been running a six figure agency ever since! Now I have a 5 month son and I’m questioning everything. So tired! I look forward to your dialog about working motherhood and am grateful to be on this journey together.

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Hi Heather — Wow, you just gave me such an ah-ha moment. I was thinking that some folks wouldn’t be interested in this leg of my journey because I’ve become a parent… but I bet lots of my readers from five years ago have since become parents as well. Congrats on your business and your son, and thanks for being here!

  • Lisa says:

    I love that you’ve made such a momentous decision to improve your lives! Your kids will definitely be so much happier to grow up in a natural place like this with you both available to share their childhood with them. My husband and I did a similar thing 15 years ago: we uprooted our frenetic existence in Silicon Valley, CA to move to the South of France. There were sacrifices, such as me giving up my career, but I’ve never regretted it. Our (now) teenage boys are growing up happy, we’re available to be a family, and we are halfway between sea and mountains, so can spend a lot of time in nature. Our quality of life has soared! You won’t regret your choice!

  • Kevin Kermes says:

    Crazy happy for you, Ben and the boys. Congratulations!

  • I’m so, so happy for you and your family. It’s a big change, but it sounds like it’s already paying off for you all. It’s a big leap to decide to live closer to where you play and figure out the rest as you go; I was hesitant to do the same, and we didn’t even have to take kids into account! But it’s working out so well for us, and I’m glad it’s working well for you, too. Hooray for mountain towns 🙂

  • Kristina says:

    This! It’s so refreshing when people do brave things that out themselves and their families first. And it can work! It just requires a different kind of stretching.

  • Bob Gillen says:

    Thanks for sharing, Lexi. I can relate to much of what you have been through. My family and I relocated from New York to LA years back. For us an enormous change, but so worth it. Never looked back. More recently I have become a caretaker for a family member. Trying to balance that with keeping up on writing. Another huge change, but managing it so far. Life goes on!

  • Alice says:

    An honest, beautiful account. It reminded me the importance of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

  • Shayla says:

    This is amazing Congrats to you! I read a lot of blogs, but I saw this email as I was about to clean out my promotions folder. Had no idea who you were but the change(s) you wrote about grabbed my attention. I am in a similar place (funny how we feel it is just us as we are going through life’s trials). I am starting from scratch after a successful 6 figure from scratch business. A homeschool mom of 2 and a husband holding it together as I rebuild my business. After spending 3 months in Thailand with my family as a successful online Entrepreneur, I am excited to get back to travel and the purpose in Entrepreneurship that I know God has for my family and I. Better than ever. It spoke to me when you wrote that you are taking your time. And that you want to share from a place that doesn’t sound like a big whine.

    I will be here to read it.
    PS You are now in my Main Inbox.
    Thanks so much for your courage and for sharing.

    ~ Shayla

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Hi Shayla — Welcome! Wow, I so admire homeschool parents and wonder how the heck you manage to also grow a business?! I want to learn more about that. Thanks for joining us.

  • Susan Shain says:

    Loved reading this! So glad you and Ben made the move that was best for your family. Can’t wait to read more of your writing about parenthood/work — and can’t wait to see what you do with TWL and the retreat!

  • Cate says:

    So glad you took the leap and can’t wait to hear about all your adventures to come! Way to go friend!

  • Nancy says:

    Hi Alexis thanks for your email about the new developments in your family life i really enjoyed reading that part also looking forward for more of that and much more about the business, be blessed.

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