And then, we moved to Borneo.

by Janelle Hanchett


Houston, we have a problem.

Janelle is out of shit to say.

NOOOOOOO!!!!! (voice fades off into the distance…)

There’s no way.

OR, she has so much to say she doesn’t know where to begin.

Enough with the third person.

Ever feel like your life is one giant holding pattern? Only you don’t know what it is exactly you’re waiting for?

For things to settle down, maybe. Get stable. Easier.

For more money to come around. For the real career to begin. For the kids to get bigger.

(Even though you nearly cried when your boy showed you his first loose tooth yesterday.)

For life to start fulfilling you all the time, for the vision to become reality. For the image you held of adulthood to become what IS.

Yes, please.

I’ll take some of that.

And I know what y’all enlightened people will say… “Live in the moment, Janelle. Wake up! Be present! Be conscious! Don’t waste your life!”

But none of that self-talk changes the fact that this shit is really hard. And sometimes it appears REALLY QUITE MEANINGLESS.

I mean check it out. We get up. We go to work. We drive around. We do shit. We eat. We sleep. We have fun occasionally. We work and work and work again. My husband works and works and works, pretty much 7 days a week.


So we have a house and a car and food and some “savings” and retirement money and an occasional vacation somewhere, so my kids have an opportunity to misbehave in a new environment.

And my kids go to school so they can become good working Americans.

And we go to work so my kids can go to school to become good working Americans.

But what about living?

When do we do THAT? When do we get to just BE? When do we get to stop struggling for the bigger house and bigger car and better clothes…For the time and date when we look around at our lives and say “Sweet. We have ARRIVED.”

I lived in Barcelona for a year (studied abroad in college), and my Spanish friend told me an expression they use over there: “Spaniards work to live. Americans live to work.”


That’s true.

I’ve never forgotten that. And I saw it when I was there. I thought those Spaniards just didn’t have any drive – I thought they lacked ambition, the way they just kinda hung out and worked as little as they could, spending much more time in cafes and bars with friends…not really concerned with getting ahead or getting rich…leaving work at 3pm in the summer cause it’s just too damn hot, taking 2 months of vacation a year…closing their businesses for the afternoon siesta…every day.

But even then, I had to admit: those people seemed HAPPY.

I’m not trying to stereotype an entire nation. Those were just my general observations, of a culture I was living in for the first time.

But I think they have a few things figured out. I think their priorities make sense: do what you have to do to enjoy your damn life. Then, enjoy your damn life.

Because this is it, folks. This is the only chance we get.


Am I going to give a shit how big my house is when I’m 80 and dying? How nice my cars were? How much money my kids make?

Probably not.

I will, however, probably feel it deeply if I wasted my life in the ego-driven pursuit of STUFF, buying into the well-established fallacy of the American Dream, at the cost of my contentment, my time, my joy.

My life.

Part of me wants to fuck this whole deal, move elsewhere (Borneo, perhaps?), run some goofy dive shop or café and just live. Let my kids run around. Let my mind run around. Stop seeking earning running.

Sit in cafes with friends. Make enough money to get by.

Work to live.

Clearly it’s too hot. I’m losing my damn mind.

Or, I’m ready for a change. I think I’m on the brink of change.

I just don’t quite know what it is yet…

what it is exactly I’m waiting for.


  • eringirl

    Oh you HAD to go and bring up Spain. A friend in Spain told me the exact same thing your friend told you. After a year living the Spanish life, I had reverse culture shock when I returned to the US. Nearly 10 years later, I still miss it like crazy.

    I can’t really add to what you said… we live to work here. Some days when I am driving around like a crazy person I think about enjoying a beer and tapas in a plaza. I dream about sitting with my cafe con leche while enjoying a pastry with my friends instead of getting a cup to go and skipping breakfast. I wish for a lingering lunch that turns into several hours. I wish that others would appreciate life more and work less.

    While there are whole countries and cultures that understand this better than we do, I still hold onto hope that we can do that here too. I hope that BG and I live our life in a way that values living over working. I hope that we will raise our children that way too.

    And I hope that every few years I can go “home” to Spain for a small reminder of what living is like.

    Oh ya, and it is fucking hot. It fries brain cells.

    • renegademama

      This almost made me cry. the cafe con leche! MY GOD! Be still my heart.

      I love Spain.

  • Christina

    Its sort of like you were in my head again. Kindly stop doing that. hehe.

    My husband and I have had this conversation many times. This morning being one of them. ~sigh~

    One day!

    • renegademama

      we still need to hang out. we got close a couple times. story of my life: lots of “almosts.”

      incredible though that you had that conversation this morning. that is a little coincidental. or maybe it’s because i stalk you.

      in an entirely non-creepy way of course.


  • Quiet Monsters

    It’s nice to hear that a ‘normal’ person thinks these things too…I use the word normal to describe anyone who is not stuck in my MS prison 🙂 I watch the world and my family fly by me every day in pursuit of busy-ness, and figured that it was just me thinking about all this running and non-living shit. I mean, I had no choice-I was stopped mid-run by MS, and had lots of time to rethink the stuff we deem important and necessary…in other words, my priorities changed big time, while the rest of my crew kept on keepin on. I gained some patience with myself, and that in turn annoys the hell out them when I bring up stuff like this.

    And ya, many enlightened ones have murmured their fluffy, zen riddled words of wisdom at me…to them I say, “Shut. Up.” At best, they are running around with wisps of negativity-repelling incense clouding up their brain. I figure one day, they will wake up and realize that they have been chasing a dream that clearly was not theirs–by the way, whose friggen dream is it to work yourself to the point of drooling idiocy… just so you can have a red sports car at 70, so all the younger generation can yell, “Sorry about your penis!!” as you drive by with your toothless grin??! See? Pointless…and apologies to all the men I clearly mocked-but it is kinda funny.

    I have no zen answers, (or smart-ass answers) either–just cynical musings of horny old men in red sports cars…but I know for sure that there has gotta be something more to life than just working and chasing security. Honestly, I think we need to relearn what it means to appreciate…then we would have to slow down and see that the little things can be just as important as keeping those medical benefits or having a bigger house. Okay, I’m getting pensive here, gotta go before I start sounding like an old 70’s song 😉

    • Quiet Monsters

      sorry about the bold italics-not sure what the hell I did there!!

  • Wendy

    Working to live sounds like an amazing concept. I need to sign up for that one! 🙂

  • Lesley

    Working to live sounds too, like a cage. Like we have to work in order to live. I love my life being about work (family, midwifery, love, house & home, learning more and more and more). I love not ever being satisfied and digging deeper, striving to be better. Being discontent is not a BAD thing – it is keeps us moving forward and movement is energy and energy is LIFE. This is, the laws of the universe according to Lesley (actually it’s according to a guy named Sterling I knew when I was a wee lil’ barrista at the age of 26 and he blew my mind when he talked about riding his bike and how when we stop moving, we start dying….).

    And yes, siesta’s need to be implemented forthwith in American culture.

  • Shan

    Dude, I’m Spanish. Who knew? Now how to explain this to my boss?

  • Sara

    Janelle get out of my effing head! You word for word spelled out the conversation I’ve been having with myself and a few select others for the past month. I feel the need for an adventure or at least something other than 8-5 five days a week. And with Husband still gone, I think I might be experiencing true cabin fever and I’m dying to run off. But not to Borneo. Just to Oregon, where I can paw my Hubby and not pay sales tax.

  • your spanish travel partner

    Time to live off the grid, man.

    • dani

      I talk of going off the grid at least once a week.

  • dani

    The Mr. and I have this exact conversation at least once a week while drinking cheap Texas beer out on the porch.

    Sometimes he sees my stress and unhappiness with trying to juggle everything and he says: Fuck it. Let’s roll the dice and you stay home. You can grow most of our food and we can eat beans and cornbread the rest if the time.

    And then I remind him that I’ve never actually had a garden. If my house plans are any indication, we will a starve.

    But we are working (ha!) toward it. We love our house. It’s not fancy, or big, but we love it. I’m fine with buying my clothes at Target. As long as I don’t ave to eat dog food when I’m an old lady, I’m ok with a modest savings.

    Maybe that’s all pie-in-the-sky cheap TX beer talk. Or maybe I’m really a Spaniard.

  • dani

    *house PLANTS*

    Not house plans. Fuck auto correct.

  • Andrea

    This is what I think about every night laying in bed…

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