THE 10-YEAR GAME

Re­becca Hayter re­flects on her first year as a fence-mend­ing, chain­saw-wield­ing Golden Bay lifestyler.

North & South - - High Heels And Gumboots -

As I ap­proached the oneyear an­niver­sary of mov­ing from Auck­land to Golden Bay, I sat my­self down for an ap­praisal.

On one hand, it was ter­ri­bly clichéd: giv­ing up the cor­po­rate life­style of car horns and meet­ing sched­ules for a 10-acre block on the Main­land – daf­fodils, lambs and trugs of freshly picked herbs. Even I was ex­pect­ing me to say, “It’s been the most amaz­ing year of my life...”

But, in­stead, I man­aged: “It’s been okay.” Oh dear. When I first told friends of my plans to sell up and move south, I’d been as­sured, “If it doesn’t work out, you can al­ways come back.”

Ex­cept that I couldn’t. Apart from prac­ti­cal rea­sons like pride, em­ploy­ment and the lo­gis­tics of sell­ing up and buy­ing again, my rea­sons for leav­ing Auck­land were still valid. If I went back, I’d only want to leave.

Even so, my self-rat­ing of “It’s been okay” spun me into a panic. Part of it was money, of course. I’d given up a salary that dec­o­rated my bank ac­count ev­ery month. These days, my fi­nances were rather aus­tere. There were costs I had ex­pected, like Char­lotte, my new 4WD, and costs I hadn’t: farm­ing-type hard­ware such as a chain­saw and line trim­mer, re­pairs to the trac­tor and ride- on mower, fenc­ing re­pairs, se­cu­rity cam­eras and experts to tell me what I was sup­posed to be do­ing and how much it might cost.

A wee panic fol­low­ing a big change is per­fectly nat­u­ral. I re­minded my­self of my favourite para­phrase of Thoreau: “I left the woods for the same rea­son I went there; I still had more lives to live.” I even quoted my­self: “If you don’t leave, you stay.”

In Auck­land, I’d lived in a nice apart­ment, owned a quar­ter-share in a yacht that raced reg­u­larly on the har­bour, and I drove a com­pany car. It had Blue­tooth, so I could talk legally, hands-free, while crawl­ing through traf­fic. I loved the peo­ple I worked with, but the cor­po­rate rou­tine was drain­ing my soul. And as I looked out my apart­ment win­dows to see houses upon houses, it drove me crazy – silently deepin­side crazy – that I couldn’t go for a de­cent walk in the bush with­out driv­ing for an hour and a half.

I of­ten play the 10-year game: when I look back 10 years from now, what do I want to see? I had lived 33 years in Auck­land; I didn’t want it to be 43. Ten years ahead, I wanted to look back on a decade of me in a ru­ral life, gum­boots push­ing through long wet grass on a win­ter’s morn­ing.

This lit­tle chat with my­self helped me through a small but cru­cial shift. I stopped feel­ing like the hes­i­tant guest and started feel­ing like the owner. After all, I’d been here through a whole run of sea­sons; I knew what would hap­pen next.

Well, not so fast, kiddo, be­cause you can make big changes in life, but you can’t pre­dict where they will take you. That’s why we make them. +

As I looked out my apart­ment win­dows to see houses upon houses, it drove me crazy – silently deepin­side crazy – that I couldn’t go for a de­cent walk in the bush with­out driv­ing for an hour and a half.

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