On Choice

April 2nd, 2013 | Rachel

Wow, is it April already? I’m sorry, I know I have been neglecting you.

It’s been a weird time for me the past couple of months. I officially announced my new business and celebrated my 30th birthday at the end of January and then took the California bar exam (again) at the end of February. I won’t even pretend to predict how I did because I thought I did just fine last time, but I’m comfortable with my performance. I won’t find out the results until mid-May, and I’ll be two busy slingin’ fried chicken by then to care too much (which is a lie, I will inevitably care a lot while pretending not to). Then last month I had the mixed experience of breaking up with my boyfriend and moving to a new city. Despite this being my personal blog, I’m not going to say anything else about the former, but I will speak at length about the latter.

Yes, I am now a resident of the beautiful Sonoma, California!

Capitola, California

Farewell to the prettiest town on the Monterey Bay: Capitola, California

Plant babies

My plant babies are all packed up and ready to go

Valley of the Moon Winery

Hello, Sonoma!

Boyes Hot Springs

A sneak peak at my new house complete with an awesome backyard!

Unpacking :-(

Oy, lots to unpack

In case you are late to the show, the reason I left a perfectly delightful coastal town on the central coast of California is that my business partner, Arthur, and I realized that Sonoma County would be a much better place to launch our food business. I was just past the one-year mark in Santa Cruz County when I left, so it was definitely bittersweet. I’ve always thought it takes a solid year to really feel like you live somewhere, and the past year was no exception. The thought of having to wait another year to start to feel like I finally belong somewhere again is a little tiresome.

Nonetheless, here I am, and both the business and I will be better off because of it.

I moved into a tiny house in the tiny census-designated area of Boyes Hot Springs. The house was built in the 1940s close to the shipyards on the bay but was later moved to this area. The whole neighborhood is made up of those cute, old houses. To complete the whole Mayberry-feel, I don’t even get mail service and had to get a post office box, which is within walking distance. In fact, I think I could get by with just a bicycle quite easily.

Arthur is now my roommate. His plan is to grow the business enough to get him back to San Francisco, although I can tell he appreciates the small-town life more than he thought he would. Its always interesting to live with a new person, and Arthur is no exception. Drawing the line between business and personal life is going to be tricky since we’ll both be working so hard and in close proximity, but we are trying to keep the business talk to formally scheduled meetings, most of which have occurred at the coffee shop down the street. Personally, I am trying to be more intentional with my personal time by engaging in certain hobbies, including cycling, gardening, and playing the guitar. I’m still wondering if I’ll ever meet anyone in this town who is my age. The predominant demographics in Sonoma are families and retirees. There’s not a lot going on job-wise for the young professional crowd.

On the business front, things are getting really exciting. We have been working with a graphic designer the past month or so to develop a logo and a design scheme. We made the final decision today, so I’ll be introducing all of that pretty soon. We battled the state for a couple of months to get a limited liability corporation application processed and finally prevailed. Right now I am working on the dozen or so other permits and certificates we will need. We’re also working with a bank and a lender to get a loan to purchase a food truck, and we are trying to get a commercial kitchen nailed down this week so we can work on our recipes and procedures and do a few catering gigs later this month. On top of that, we’re also figuring out the content for the website and are in communications with several local farms regarding our ingredients. Yeah, its an exciting and busy time. Over a semi-celebratory dinner of Mexican beer, tacos, and enchiladas, Arthur and I were discussing how it was hard to feel like we are accomplishing anything because the to-do is growing a lot faster than we are crossing things off. Arthur says it was a sign we were doing something right.

I had been wanting to write an update on this blog for a few weeks now but couldn’t decide what to write about. I was finally inspired to sit down and write this post after I read this article about living by “default”:

So much of our lives consists of conditions we’ve fallen into. We gravitate unwittingly to what works in the short term, in terms of what to do for work and what crowd to run with. There’s nothing wrong with living from defaults, necessarily, but think about it: what are the odds that the defaults delivered to you by happenstance are anywhere close to what’s really optimal for you?

In other words, we seldom consciously decide how we’re going to live our lives. We just end up living certain ways.

In all likelihood, what you’ve inherited is nowhere near what’s best for you. Chances are very slight that there isn’t a drastically better neighborhood for you out there, a more kindred circle of peers, a much better line of work, and a much more rewarding way to go about your day than the way you do. Your level of fulfillment and sense of peace with the world depend on how well-matched your values are to the life you’re actually living. There’s no reason to believe they’ll match well by accident.

I’d rather be in France. started when I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live. I went to law school out of academic curiosity and sort of fell into a pretty good job at a large law firm in New York City. It was not a “bad” life by any stretch of the word. I made a lot of money, lived in the greatest city in the universe, met tons of brilliant and talented people, and garnered a lot of undue respect due to my job title. Still, it all happened as a default and not as a choice. Today I remembered a conversation I had with a law school classmate after I decided to move to France and open a bed and breakfast. She responded by saying she had been waiting to hear what I was really going to do with my life. I guess I had been waiting too.

I found it interesting that the writer of that article mentions the lack of conscious choice as to where one lives. That is something I have explored myself and has been a recent topic of conversation with friends. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to move 3000 miles away to a city they only visited once and where they don’t know a soul — only a crazy person would do that. However, I am suggesting that you should live where you live by choice. Similarly, you should do what you are doing by choice. Maybe you would choose the very occupation that you “fell into,” but even recognizing that you had a choice and you made it can add a lot of meaning to your life. I had a therapist in New York who told me she always told her clients who complained about their jobs to start looking for a new job. Most of the time, they would realize that even though there were other options out there, they were already in the better situation. As a result, they were happier with their jobs even though nothing changed. The emotional and psychological difference between activity and passivity is pretty profound.

Anyway, I’m going to stop typing before I start going on a rampage, but I implore you to actively make choices.

3 Responses to “On Choice”

  1. Josh says:

    Your aritcle exert forgets the grass is always greener on the other hill. I think your life to date has been much more intentional that you seem to think. Just because where you live is a compromise between culture, family, and occupation doesn’t mean you didn’t make that value judgement. There will always be Cons to any town. You will find people that agree with your values where ever you live. You will also always find people that disagree with those values where ever you live. The more I move around this country the more similar it starts to look social values wise. Individuals maybe extreme or enfatic about there beliefs but the community as a whole hover around the same middles. The ones that don’t don’t last very long. I hope you find what you are looking for in Sonoma. It looks beautiful.

    • Rachel says:

      No, I consider the possibility of choosing to be where you already are. That’s why most people keep their jobs even after finding other opportunities.

      And as for a market for delicious organic fried chicken and a channel into the San Francisco market, I hope I find it here too.

  2. Lucie says:

    Rachel, I have been thinking about choices for a bit. I think it’s time for me to realize my true potential, whatever that is. I know it’s not sitting at this office. Your articles remind me of this, and I will take the next six months to volunteer and research different areas of my interest to see if I can make any of that my new journey. thank you as always to place your thoughts so eloquently where I find it with ease to access and apply to my life. Here is a article from a next door neighbor in our office building that spruced up some of my initial thoughts of the same kind, choices.

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