“Build a life that you never need to escape from”

Brande Plotnick’s escape story is still being written.  It began several years ago when she started to feel like something was missing. Brande was busy doing what people are supposed to do.  She was working at a respectable job for a big company, spending money acquiring grown-up furniture and housewares,
living for her two weeks of vacation every year (You know, those vacations where you still need to check e-mail and join meetings by phone?), and making minimum payments on her six-figure student loan debt that barely shrunk year after year. “I had no hobbies to speak of, no local friends, a waistline that got bigger every year from sitting at a desk all day, and almost no free time. This discontent caused me to question everything I’d learned about work, money and time”.

Brande began to explore her interests, going back to a love of nature that started when she was very young. She started growing food and learning adventurous new ways to cook food from scratch. Brande started to read and study about sustainable living. She also hired a wonderful business coach, Susan Baroncini-Moe of Business in Blue Jeans, to help her figure out if she could somehow build a brand and business around gardening, cooking and green living. “That’s how my blog, Tomato Envy (www.tomatoenvy.com) was born in 2012. Finally, I had an outlet for my creativity and something to work outside of my job. This new project helped me to better cope with the challenges of corporate life, but it also made me think that perhaps there was another way of life for me”.

As part of her journey, Brande’s entire relationship with money and time had to change.  Her time became much more valuable and she became less willing to trade it for money that she would just spend on useless consumer goods. She didn’t stop spending but she was much more mindful of her spending. Brande did a money makeover by creating a reasonable budget and found that she could live on far less than her salary. “I stopped thinking of my student loans as something that would be with me for the rest of my life, I simply refused to believe that and I paid them off in 2015 with the money I was now saving. I found happiness that didn’t depend on things and stuff. Although I wish I’d learned these lessons sooner, I realize now that I needed to go through what I did in order to understand what I want and don’t want. I needed to waste money on expensive clothes that would soon wear out and gadgets that would quickly become obsolete to learn that those things didn’t bring me true happiness”.

Just before Christmas in 2015, Brande lost her job. Just a few years ago, this would have turned her whole world upside down financially since she was a slave to her debts and her way of life. It also would have challenged her ego since a good part of her self worth was tied to her work and salary. Today, her blog is still growing. “While it is not a viable business yet, it’s my intention that one day, it will be a part of my overall portfolio of income streams. I eat healthy food that I cook using organically-grown vegetables from my own garden. I use both my body and my mind to create. My personal escape may take a few more years to complete, but now, where I used to see only limitations for me, I see possibilities”.

Brande has also started taking on freelance writing assignments, mostly from corporate clients. A big part of her corporate career involved creating messaging for highly complex products such as medical devices and diagnostic pharmaceuticals. “Making the complicated simple is one of my biggest strengths. It makes sense that I should leverage this as a “meaningful side gig as a freelance writer”.

Brande knew that having a “9 to 5” job is never really just 9 to 5. It often becomes more like 8 to 6:30 or 7, not including commute times to and from the office. Work at the wrong place, and even once-sacred evenings and weekends could be interrupted by the expectation to reply to e-mails or travel for business. The paychecks are a wonderful thing, but it’s possible that they could start costing too much in terms of time, sanity, stress, and health.

In her new life, Brande values the flexibility of her time and the ability to work on her own terms, taking on work she feels she is being paid sufficiently to do and that interests her. She still takes on work that’s not interesting, but she does so with the understanding that it allows her other kinds of freedom.  “I also value the ability to focus on my personal results without having to worry about what others think when I stop working for the day. There was an executive at one of my jobs that would walk around the office at 6:30 and take mental note of who was still at the office and who wasn’t. I feel that this is a focus on exactly the wrong thing, but this mentality is still prevalent at too many workplaces. Efficient workers are penalized in this environment but they will thrive in their own businesses!”

While she would still be open to the right corporate job opportunity, Brande knows that ultimately, it’s not her destination. Going forward, she will still always have a side gig as her insurance against job loss and economic challenges. “I’ll also use my side gig to fuel the creativity I’m often missing in a corporate workplace. These days, I eat healthy food that I cook using organically-grown vegetables from my own garden. I use both my body and my mind to create. My personal ‘escape’ may take a few more years to complete, but now, where I used to see only limitations for me, I see possibilities”.

Brande R. Plotnick
Tomato Envy
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