Addressing Our Uncertainty and Failure
a school bus to tiny house conversion story
Throughout this process of converting our school bus into a tiny house, we’ve encountered a lot of questions, uncertainty, and criticism. Some of the criticism and concern has been disheartening, mostly because Jeremiah and I (Alana) are already our own worst critics, (I think that those who know us best are generally aware of this.) and the criticism we’ve recieved mostly feeds our insecurities about this whole process.
The problem is, Jeremiah and I are desperate for more than the status quo life. We’re desperate for more than a 9–5 job, a mortgage, 2.5 kids, and retirement. I’ve seen too many people work for twenty years at the same or similar to the same job only to lose their retirement or not have enough to retire as planned or to die weeks after they retire. Jeremiah and I are convinced that life can be more than that kind of security and that kind of American dream.
Most of the criticism we recieve comes from a place of fear on our loved ones part (we have also received overwhelming support from our loved ones!) But what we’re doing seems risky and unusual. Not only could we fail massively and waste a ton of funds we’ve never really had a surplus of, but we could potentially look like fools. We’ve never gone about things the “normal” way, and I question how we do things on a continuous basis.
Let me list the things I feel uncertain about:
- When we were talking about getting married, we decided not to use birth control and to try natural family planning instead. (I feel certain that this was the right decision, btw, but I’m aware that others thought it was strange.)
- We decided to have children without a financial plan for how we would be able to afford having children. (not the best idea.)
- Since deciding to have children and to live on one income so I could stay at home with them until they were weaned, we’ve lived pay check to pay check and wrestled with the tension of “that other life would be so much easier.” (A result of our poor financial planning. . .)
- Then, we decided to have both of our children at home with a midwife, and we have made many other unconvential decisions in regards to our children’s health. (I feel certain that we’ve made the right decisions here, but am painfully aware that others might not.)
- We’re thinking about homeschooling our kids. (weighing the pros and cons. . . the list of pros is growing.)
- We sold our only car to buy a school bus that we decided to convert into a tiny house. (not necessarily a bad idea, until the car we were given to replace the car we sold to buy the bus broke down after a few months.)
- I decided to start my MFA while pregnant with my second child. (I’ve graduated with my degree, btw, and am so glad that I decided to do it.)
- It’s taken us more than two years to convert the bus because. . . life. (blah.)
- We became vegans. . .
- Jeremiah quit a steady better paying job so we could move in with his parents and live rent free in order to (*cross fingers*) finish the bus faster. (*shakes head* sometimes it feels like we’re failing miserably at life.)
Sometimes I think that when people evaluate us and the decisions we’ve made they think that we’re sad inept and unwise children, but that’s a whole other tangent that I won’t go on right now. I want to appear instantly successful to prove everyone’s fears and uncertainties wrong. I want my dreams to be instantly realized, but they’re not. We’re working towards a lifestyle that takes time to create. I feel brave and stupid so much of the time.
It’s taken me a while to finally be able to say “I don’t know,” when people ask me what my plans are other than “finish the bus” and to accept that that’s a more honest and even a better answer than “I know.” “I don’t know” gives me space to breathe and navigate the questions I’m asking myself about my family’s and my life. We all live with so much pressure to succeed. We’re inundated with other’s successes on a regular basis on social media. But isn’t the better story the one that reveals the massive bravery and willingness to fail that it takes to live life well?
I think about life a bit differently, now, than I used to. I’ve begun to accept (whether true or not) that I only have one life to live on this earth, and living this way allows me to rest in the successes and failures of my life with a peaceful intensity. Believing that my life happens once has given me the space to embrace my sorrows and suffering, and I think that I am the most joyful with that embrace. I do not always rest well, though. Relationships are the most valuable aspect of life, and yet, relationships are often neglected to achieve success, which is why I feel anxious at times, I think.
I’ll always go back to that moment when I was 18 years old, before I leaned out of that gutted out airplane into the sky strapped to the chest of a weed smoking army vet. I’ll always remember how thrilled and terrified I felt when everything stopped in my stomach and I couldn’t breath. That space between certainty and certainty (Being the moment before I chose to fall out of the plane and the moment when the parachute ensured I would live).
That moment I was falling, I felt so happy because I had accepted to live in one moment of uncertainty and let all the air out of my lungs. To rest within that moment of severe uncertainty and hold my heart open with hopeful expectation was one of the most freeing moments of my life. I experienced that moment again when I gave birth to Miriam.
In a way, I believe that all of life is that moment between certainty and certainty and it’s as brief as my expelled breath.
Allowing ourselves to feel and accept uncertainty and failure is much harder than it might seem. Jeremiah and I don’t claim to be perfect at it or at anything. Mostly, we feel extremely imperfect, but we hope that by sharing this journey with you, we can encourage you to embrace your failures and to find joy in your uncertainties. May we all be brave enough and courageous enough to do the hard things that others might think impossible or foolish.