Freedom. Freedom to choose, to set your own schedule, to see the world, to pursue new passions, to experiment, to conquer challenges in your own way. Freedom.
It’s a place that most yearn to be at. People want to control their own lives. What most don’t understand is the dedication and commitment it takes to have that much authority. My husband, Matt, and I are both farmers. I’ve been told several times how nice it must be to be able to take my mom to a doctor’s appointment without having to take time off work, or go shopping in the middle of the day when it’s not peak shopping time, or not wake up to an alarm, etc., etc., etc.
What they don’t see, and what you already know, is the flip side of the coin.
They don’t see the hours we put in — the evenings and weekends we are working when they are playing. They don’t see us paying our own health insurance and avoiding the doctor at all cost because we’re self-employed and know how expensive it is. They don’t see we don’t have a company funded retirement plan. They don’t see that most farmers think retirement is a joke. They don’t see the daily stress of time sensitive work that never ends and how we don’t need an alarm to wake us. They don’t watch the skies praying for rain, but not hail or winds. They don’t see us taking babies of all sorts of livestock into our own homes and kitchens trying everything we can to desperately save them.
They don’t see these things. They see the “freedom” we have and pine for it.
Just the other day I was reading an article about how many people have never seen the oceans or mountains. The author referred to Kansas, my own state, and how it’s not supposed to be a permanent address. I thought about it long after I was done reading. I have seen mountains, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, as well as the Gulf Coast.
But I know people who like exactly where they are here in Kansas with no desire to go see those things — my husband would be among those, but marriage is about compromise, so he’s seen more than he would if I wouldn’t make him leave the farm once a year.
Our world is a crazy place to be right now, but the world has always been unstable, yet it continues turning. People live, people die, new people are born, and those people die, too. With an ultra connected world that we have now at our fingertips, it’s easy to see other’s highlight reels and wish for their lives. Nobody’s life is perfect. Nobody has it figured out all the time. In a society screaming inclusivity, we’ve forgotten how different we are and how beautiful that is.
Not everyone wants to travel the world; some are content in their small corner of it. Not everyone wants to live in the city, big or small; some just want their acres of land and their privacy.
No matter where we are, or what makes us each uniquely happy, the key is respect and love. My heart fills up on wide open spaces, sunrises and sunsets, a sky full of stars, cows to care for, and a husband who never knows when to stop working. Maybe your heart fills with travel and the bustle of cities. Life experiences change each of us differently. Each perspective is distinctive — not right or wrong, just individual to us. As we grow and change through life, so does our perspective.
The thing I hear is that when we’re standing in front of the pearly gates, we’re not answering for anyone else, we’re answering for ourselves. Choose to live your life in a way that lets you sleep peacefully at night. Love more, judge less. Rural living is not for everyone. Farming is not for everyone. There are so few I meet who are living that life and who say they would trade it, though. It truly is a way of living for so many.
Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.