• Kristi Burke

Why I'm Selling Everything And Moving Out Of The States

I have depression. The can't-get-dressed, won't eat, anti-social, couch hugging, grey cloud-over-my-head kind of depression. But it isn't constant. When I'm not trapped in a melancholic haze, I have anxiety that sends me into manic frenzy. I rarely feel normal. I'm either extremely up, or terribly down. Although I've experienced these symptoms since childhood, It wasn't until recent that I've been given a diagnosis. And it wasn't until this year that my symptoms reached a tipping point from functioning to completely out of control. I would imagine with it being the year that it has been, a lot of people feel the same way. I'm sure most of us have found ourselves much less capable of managing our mental and emotional struggles, and have even developed new ones. 2020 has not been kind- and if I can just be candid, she's been a real bitch. We are each trying to find our own approach to surviving her abuse. Some methods may be more extreme than others. I've decided to go with what some might consider the extreme route.

My husband and I, planning our move

I'm packing up my clothes and art supplies, selling almost everything I own, and moving with my husband and four cats to a country I've never even been to in hopes of starting a new life and finding out what it means to live authentic and free. I don't know what to expect. I don't know how long I'll stay. We don't even speak the language (although we're working on that). But I do know that life is too short to not take big risks and find what fuels the fire in my soul. I would argue that there is nothing more important in life than finding purpose.. And that purpose may look different for each and every one of us. Which makes finding it so much more paramount.

WIP at Florida Craft Brewery in Sanford, FL

Professionally, I've had a surprisingly successful year. I've been fortunate enough to have maintained steady, back-to-back work during a pandemic. I moved in to a bigger house after five years of living in a cramped home. I painted a mural for Mayor Dyer in City Hall. I added Publix to my client portfolio. I was commissioned by Red Bull for a digital illustration. After three years of working hard to build an art career, I was finally making it over the hill and reaping the rewards of my efforts. Although my husband lost his job when the pandemic hit and we did experience some struggle for a short time, I was fortunate enough to have enough work to keep us afloat, and he started working as my partner. It seemed as though everything was falling into place for us, regardless of his job loss and the uncertainty of our finances. I recognize just how lucky I have been to make it through this year, as so many others have not. My heart goes out to each and every person who has struggled financially, experienced homelessness or other hardships, contracted the virus, or lost someone to it. It has been such a difficult year for all of us. And we've all been struggling in some way or another. 2020 has given all of us a wake up call. It's shown us just how easily our comfortable lives can be shaken up and changed forever. It's given us a new perspective on life and death, and made a lot of us realize just how lucky we are to be here, and what we need to change to make the most of it. I've certainly realized what needs to change in my own life.

A digital design commissioned by Red Bull

It started with back pain and teeth grinding years ago. I started noticing symptoms of TMJ, a pain disorder in the jaw caused by constant clenching and grinding, and they've only worsened over time. Earlier this year, during a period of prolonged stress, I threw my back out for three days by simply moving too quickly. My asthma, which I grew out of during childhood, returned in full force. Headaches became more prevalent. My hair started thinning and even falling out. My appetite would waver, causing me to gain and lose weight on a constant basis. Shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain and sometimes even chest pains become common. Just a few weeks ago, I experienced fainting spells caused by standing up too quickly. I realized that I cannot keep living this way. I am 29 years old and already feel as though my entire body is crumbling beneath me. This isn't living. It's survival. So what's causing this, and how do I change it?

After a lot of introspection, self reflection, and a good bit of therapy, I've come to realize that I've neglected myself for too long. And I may have never truly cared for myself in the first place. I was raised in a very conservative, religious home. I was taught that there was one correct way to live, and that to achieve that life I was supposed to follow the rules, to avoid taking risks, and to find freedom in submission to societal guidelines. I was made to distrust myself, my intentions and my feelings. I was conditioned to please others and suppress myself to make those around me happier. Although I left home ten years ago and learned a new way of living, I did not realize that the guilt, the shame, and the deep-rooted beliefs still lingered somewhere deep inside, and were manifesting themselves in other ways, like demons in disguise. I became a one-track-mind, a robot for success. I thought that if I could exceed the expectations of those who wanted to see me living a different life, I could win back their approval and prove, once and for all, that I could make it my own way. But somewhere along the way I lost myself completely. I became what others wanted me to be. I stopped creating for fun. I quit having hobbies. I couldn't sit still. I wouldn't allow myself to take days off. I couldn't even sit through a 20-minute television show without the art tablet in my hand, trying to create the next piece that would boost my career even further. My mind turned to chaos. My life became a funnel for success. And when I found the bottom of the channel, I realized the journey down was entirely useless. Because I still felt empty.

So my husband and I are giving up our comfortable, easy life here in the states and moving to Costa Rica; a third-world country without A/C and some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. We made the decision to leave the states earlier this year, when we'd both realized we'd simply had enough of the American way of living. We started looking at countries most suitable for expats, but didn't consider Costa Rica until a friend of ours, who lives in Colombia, suggested it. After doing a lot of research and spending hours down the YouTube rabbit hole, we settled on the "pura vida" vibe in Atenas, Costa Rica. A city that boasts of having the best climate in the entire world. We'll be giving up all of our furniture, non essentials, and even our car. We'll be using public transportation, walking, riding our bikes, and occasionally renting vehicles to get around. Our days will be spent making music and art, hiking volcanoes, swimming in waterfalls and searching for sloths. We'll be working online, and I'll be offering digital art services to maintain our income. Costa Rican life is much less expensive than American life. Which means we can work less and experience more. We can finally take the time we need to discover what really matters in this short time we're given here on earth. We want to face the uncertainty and find that we have the power within us to do anything. It's a huge risk, and we don't have any idea what will become of it, but the unknown is what excites and motivates us to turn this dream a reality.

Maybe you've been feeling the same way I have, or even worse. Maybe you feel like you're just surviving right now. Like you don't know what it feels like to live. I want you to know that you're not alone. And that my solution may look very different than yours, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't chase it. It's never too late to change your life. It's never to late to reinvent yourself, discover new hobbies, change the way you act, alter your beliefs, and question everything. If you were looking for a sign to chase that spark you once had, or find it for the first time ever, here it is. Make finding your purpose the top priority in your life, and never confuse it with the plastic purpose others have tried to build for you. Don't let your friends, your family, society or anyone else tell you what your purpose is. Don't settle for their version of your life. Chase your dreams. Take risks. Make yourself happy. Do the thing that, deep down, you want to do. Live authentically, whatever that means for you. Trust yourself. Love yourself. Let yourself be free.

If you want to follow me on my journey into the unknown, be sure to subscribe to my blog for email alerts. I'll be using this blog as a place to pen my stories, thoughts, poetry, dreams and art. What you'll see here, and on my social media, may look different than my murals and art over the last several years. I'm getting back to my roots. Learning the fundamentals that I skipped, and indulging myself in creative activity that fuels my soul. I'm letting go of the need to impress or please others, and I'm learning to be perfectly content with just pleasing myself. I'm starting fresh, and allowing myself to live the life I've been holding myself back from for so long. I hope my journey will inspire you to do the same.

Yours Authentically,


(Because we are in a pandemic, we are taking every possible precaution to stay safe and keep others safe too., and want you to know that we both take this virus extremely seriously. We are not gathering with friends/family before we leave, we will be avoiding groups, congested public areas, and having all groceries and necessary items delivered to avoid public contact. We will be utilizing effective masks and social distancing throughout the duration of our travel to Costa Rica, and maintaining a close watch on any potential symptoms after we arrive. We feel much safer from the virus in a spread-out country like Costa Rica, than the hot spot that is Florida.)

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