Follow your gut. Trust your instincts. Listen to your intuition. These are variations of a concept we’ve all heard about. For many years, I’ve said, “The only times I’ve regretted anything were when I didn’t follow my gut.”
My husband, Michael, and I thought we were lifelong New Yorkers until an article in The New York Times changed that forever. The profile of a dairy farmer living on an island near Seattle mentioned that he had a book coming out soon. One of the traditions that my husband and I have developed over the years and hold dear is that of my reading a food-related book out loud to him many evenings after dinner. We agreed to try this book, Growing a Feast by Kurt Timmermeister, for our next read-aloud.
One morning a couple of days into reading the book, Michael said these innocent but fateful words to me casually over breakfast:
“What about where that guy lives?”
“What guy?” I asked.
“The guy in the book we’re reading,” he replied. Michael had become intrigued by Timmermeister’s descriptions of his farm on Vashon. Together, we googled “Vashon, WA,” and within minutes, we were both exclaiming “Wow—this place looks like it would be perfect for us! Artists, writers, foodies, farmers… 20 minutes from Seattle… let’s check out the housing market just for fun…”
Michael went off to work and I went on Zillow, where I found a house that had been on the market one day—“a sign, for sure,” I thought. I picked up the phone and had a chat with a lovely real estate agent who told me, “If you’re serious about looking at this house, you’re going to have to fly out here this weekend. I’ve been in real estate here a long time, and I can pretty much guarantee you that house will be sold by Sunday.” Without giving it a second thought, I hung up the phone and booked two flights to Seattle for that Friday evening. There were eight offers on the house, and ours wasn’t accepted.
Undaunted, we were back six weeks later, and our agent showed us a number of properties, none of which excited us. At the end of the day, she said, “I think that’s all I’ve got, guys.” Then she paused and said, “Oh, wait, I just remembered one more.” It’s hard to describe the feeling both Michael and I had when she showed us this property, but the way I recall it, the hairs stood up on the backs of our necks. This was the one: an untouched, wooded 5.3 acres at the end of a short, level dirt road, with partial views of Puget Sound. It had the peace and serenity we craved.
That summer was a blur: Listing and selling our house on the East End of Long Island, New York, then saying goodbye to friends and all our larger possessions for an indefinite period of time was quite stressful. The cross-country trip with our two labs in the back seat of Michael’s 2007 Buick was an adventure through what Michael called “the geography of nowhere,” most towns looking much the same as the ones before them, with the same big-box stores, fast-food joints, and chain motels. Compelling us forward was our excitement for our new life in what we saw—and still see—as the best of all worlds. Vashon Island has rural beauty; a small, close-knit, creative community of about 11,000 people; and proximity to a fun city.
Five furnished rental houses and more than two years later, we were finally reunited with our possessions on January 30, 2017. One of our precious labs passed suddenly on election night 2016 and never lived in the new house. But we buried her ashes near the front door with the belief that her spirit guards the house, just as she did in life.
Here are some of the takeaways I’ve learned on this journey of the past several years:
- Follow your gut. Trust your instincts. Listen to your intuition. They will never fail you.
- Take risks that feel right, unapologetically. Your life is yours and you don’t need to justify your choices, especially over age 50.
- There is no commodity more precious than time; make the most of it.
- Be kind to and gentle with yourself, more than ever during a time of transition and transformation. We are often our own harshest judges, and that is no way to take care of yourself.
- Prioritize how you want to feel and your own self-care and self-love. By doing this, you will bring your full potential self to the world and make a difference for others.
- Stay receptive to opportunities that come your way. Be open to the idea that things may work out differently than you imagined.
- Finally, dream big and add the phrase “or something even better” to the end of each dream.
I’ll close with two of my favorite quotes, both from Joseph Campbell:
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
Emily Herrick is a yoga teacher and wedding celebrant who lives on Vashon Island with her husband, Michael, and two lab mix rescue dogs. Emily also works as a key account coordinator for Yin Yang Naturals, a natural and organic food broker, and Michael is a para-educator at Chautauqua Elementary School on Vashon Island. Emily’s website is unionvashon.com. This is adapted from a chapter she wrote for a book called Having It All at Fifty Plus (Lovely Silks Publishing).