Eve After Eden: Decision Maker
Kaye Moore is a woman of action. In 2021, the 25-year veteran of marketing and communications upended her life and joined the nearly 9 million Americans living abroad.
“I had to blow up my entire life to get somebody to listen,” said Moore. What seems like a series of sudden decisions turns out to be a long time in the making.
We are meeting by video conference call one wintery morning. She is in Belize experiencing 70 degree days in a house that has hummingbirds flitting about on the balcony and coconut trees offering shade in the backyard. Her windows are open and a breeze blows the dreamcatcher resting behind her on a wall. As she settles into her chair for what will be a two-hour tour de force of catching up and “spilling tea”, Moore tells me this is the rainy season in Belize and the perfect time for cut offs, crop tops, and a flowing wrap.
I am in the U.S. experiencing 15 degree days in a house with the heat on hell, dressed COVID-chic in an office-worthy sweater, jogging pants, and the thickest socks known to man. I inform my very relaxed mentor that, here, it is winter.
She sees the humor in our now very different lives and the stylish sophisticate I have always known her to be lets me into the process she took to deconstruct her life. (Yes, even in relaxed wear, Moore is snatched!)
At 51, the life Moore built became too much. In a nutshell, she took a leave of absence from her career, began divorce proceedings to end her nearly 10 year marriage, sold her assets, and chose to travel the world. All of that was covered in our impromptu chat exchange just one week before our interview. What was not covered was the slow realization that what Moore was expected to be and do was far different from who she has always been and needed.
The youngest of three, Moore grew into the role of a high-achieving, reliable, and stable person when her mother died just as Moore was entering her junior year of college. Determined not to fail or fall short in anyway, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Morgan State University followed by a Master’s degree in Communication from Trinity University and then went straight into the workforce.
She excelled in her career, becoming the go-to person for communication strategies, strong messaging, proper positioning, and even educating senior leaders of organizations on the long-term impacts of one decision over another, often to the relief of her clients. She was earning six figures by her early thirties.
“I think I was really good at finding really smart people and building good teams of people to support me,” said Moore of her career. “But, everything I was doing in the U.S. was in service to capitalism and in service to keeping a roof over my head and in keeping up the facade of living in the right neighborhood, driving the right car, having the right things, looking a certain way.”
She married at the age of 40 to a man who was kind to her and had professional aspirations. In her mind, she could help him bring those aspirations to fruition. And so, they worked together to build a home, a lifestyle, and a future.
On the surface, all seemed well but Kaye was not. Her life seemed contrived. Someone else had planned this existence and she went along with it even when her life felt off, wrong, uncomfortable, or just did not fit her.
As time moved on in her marriage, Moore began to feel like she took on his aspirations for a quality life.
“To be honest, it’s not that he asked for that. I took that on because I’m good at it,” said Moore. In fact, she earned the higher salary and could afford their life without him.
Then, COVID-19 hit and Moore’s ability to empathize with her staff, manage her clients, and keep her company appeased was tested for two consecutive years without reprieve. An ill-timed request was the final straw. Moore calls it her Newsletter Moment.
Her client wanted a newsletter to supplement another newsletter. Data showed that no one in the organization was actually reading the larger newsletter and far less would read, let alone open, the newsletter the client wanted to create. Her company agreed with the client and urged her to create the product but Moore knew that adding a newsletter to the workload of her team during COVID would be a crucial misstep. She had team staff members who could not get home to see elderly parents, had children who required their time during traditional work hours, were isolated and living alone. One more thing, especially a newsletter no one would read, could not reasonably be added to their collective plate. Moore pushed back showing the number of man hours each month the newsletter would take to create, the impact on the bottom line, and where her team’s time could be better used for the client with measurable impact. The newsletter began to dominate her conversations outside of work. She was so frustrated at the request for a superfluous document during an international pandemic that even her personal therapist encouraged Moore to take a step back from work for a while. She declined until one morning when she burst into tears simply opening the door to her home office.
During COVID, Moore followed all of the popular psychology tips and tricks to separate work and home life. She set up her spare bedroom as a home office. At the start of the day, she would open the door, turn on the light, and go to work. At the end of the day, she would turn off the light, close the door, and be present at home.
“I woke up one morning. I opened that door and walked in. I looked at my laptop and burst into tears,” said Moore. “It was 7:45 a.m. and I had an 8 a.m. meeting.”
Her husband at the time heard her crying and came to check on her.
“I was like, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it today’. I just kept saying, ‘I can’t’,” explained Moore.
She was finally able to gather herself enough to call a co-worker to explain what she was experiencing. Moore asked her co-worker to let her team know she would not be in that day. Then, she reached out to her boss and apologized before saying she would be out of the office.
Moore thought she had a panic attack. Her heart was racing and at the same time she felt like she was having a heart attack. She was crying uncontrollably and Moore seldom cried.
That was the beginning of what Moore calls blowing up her life.
It started with her career. After describing the early morning breakdown to her personal therapist, Moore was once again encouraged to take a break from work. She took a leave of absence to not only decompress from work but also properly grieve the loss of her father who passed in 2020.
She held his funeral then and settled his estate but pushed grief aside to get back to work and her life in D.C. In her mind, she was determined to find a proper time and place for grief. The time was 2021.
She continued marital counseling with her husband through the end of 2020. Then, an assignment made her face her true feelings on her marriage. She and her husband were asked to write down what they wanted to accomplish in the next year. For Moore, there was nothing. She did not want to be married.
“It’s difficult to uncouple from someone and your only reason is, ‘I married you for all the wrong reasons and I’m sorry’,” said Moore. “Prayer and therapy only go so far and then, you have to pray and ‘therap-ize’ yourself.”
Aside from marriage, Moore did not want to continue in any non-reciprocal relationship. She put down the load of nurturing relationships with family, with friends, with anyone, who would not put in the same effort to grow or simply maintain the relationship. It was a conscious decision to conserve her energy and place it where it would be mutually beneficial.
“I think me saying over and over again, ‘This is too much. This is too hard’… You get to a point where you’re exhausted and you’re tired and you just say ‘I don’t want to anymore’. But, [the people around you and those you support] don’t know what ‘I don’t want to anymore’ looks like,” said Moore.
“What it looks like is, ‘I’m taking a leave of absence. I’m going to sit in a room by myself, be quiet, think about all of this, and you are going to handle it. You are going to do it’,” she explained. “After you sit in the room a little while you go, ‘Hmm. I don’t want to do [any of ] this anymore”.
That realization made her next move mush easier to take.
Moore sought out a financial advisor to help her look at the prospect of moving abroad.
Where could she go?
How would she live?
What would her expenses look like?
“I went to a financial advisor and said, ‘Here are all of my assets. Here are all of my debts’. She and I put together a plan,” said Moore. “After paying off all my debt, I needed three to five years of not working if I don’t want to. We figured it out.”
Moore wanted to be able to live a good life on $25,000 a year. She learned that Belize was a great option for her. She traveled there on vacation once before and felt comfortable in the country. Among its eight languages, English was fairly common. The economy was stable. The U.S. dollar was accepted and the currency exchange rate was two to one. For every U.S. dollar Moore spent, she could purchase something worth two Belize dollars. The country was diverse so she would not stick out too much based on her appearance.
“I’m fine until I open my mouth,” laughed Moore.
Moore sold her assets in real estate and furniture as well as luxury handbags, shoes and housewares. She liquidated her savings and assessed her retirement accounts.
She found a rental unit in a coastal community of Belize and gave herself six months to rest.
Moore uses an app on her phone to keep track of her finances on a daily basis and regularly checks in with her financial advisor. Together, they assess if she is on track or if they need to adjust their projections for the next few months to keep Moore within her desired annual budget.
Ashleigh Brooker, a certified financial planner and the owner of A. J. Brooker Financial Associates, has worked in the finance industry for 16 years. Although she has not worked with Moore, she is familiar with the preparations a woman in her fifties should make to maintain financial security.
“With someone in their fifties, there are a couple of things that I think about”, started Brooker. “If you are in your fifties, for all practical purposes, you have worked the majority of your career and you’re in the last stretch of your working years. These are the years where you really need to be pumping it up and getting aggressive with what you want for the next step. You’re going to shift from going to work and earning a paycheck to not going to work and maintaining a lifestyle.”
Brooker advised that women in this age group either begin contributing to their 401(K) or increase their contribution beyond what their employer is matching. The maximum annual contribution to a 401(K) is $20,500.
She also encourages women nearing retirement age to invest for growth.
“Make sure you’re contributing to your retirement accounts but also invest it for growth”, said Brooker. “People don’t like to see the ups and downs [of the market]. I think if they educate themselves about investing and how it works then they become more knowledgeable and understand that this is how it goes. They accept that it is normal, they stay the course, and see their accounts increase as they invest over time.”
Her next recommendation is to do just as Moore did and pay off debt.
“When it comes to preparing for retirement, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to get rid of the costs that you can get rid of before retirement and those are your debts. You’re never going to get rid of your utility bills but you can get rid of your mortgage,” said Brooker.
Lastly, Brooker encourages women to consider options for life insurance.
“Your needs shift as you get older and your children grow up; from ‘What if I die too soon and need care for my children’ to ‘What if I live too long and need care for myself?’,” explained Brooker. “We’ve all had someone we know or love have to go to a nursing home or have someone come in and care for them. That’s why you need to look into long term care insurance or [determine if] you have enough wealth to cover the cost [yourself] if that need ever happened.”
Moore covered all of Brooker’s recommendations in her sessions with her financial planner prior to moving. She feels like she made the right decision.
Between college and her early fifties, Moore had never taken the time to step back and rest. Instead, she pushed through hard times. She found ways to cope with stress. She looked forward to good times and great friends. But, she never rested with the intention of restoring herself.
In Belize, away from the expectations of others and the pull of unfulfilling relationships, she is doing just that: Resting to restore herself.
She laughs now at the “Newsletter Moment” that triggered her. On the other side of it, she understands the company wanting to please its client but she knows the client is not always right. She understands the desire to be married but wants more than a kind man. She wants the perfect man for her.
When asked about leaving her siblings behind in the U.S., Moore is content to know they are happy where they are just as she is happy where she is.
“My sister bought a car with cash and gets her hair and nails done every two weeks. I realize now that people spend money on what they prioritize. I prioritized flying to see my sister, brother, and nephew when I lived in D.C. Now, I’m prioritizing me,” she explained.
Moore feels emotionally and physically safe in a new place. Her creativity has returned and so has her spiritual thirst. She practices yoga now and is exploring the connection between Christianity and methods of honoring her ancestors.
Along with rest, there is exploration, adventure, fresh food, warmth, sunlight, nature, space, community and a slower pace.
For Moore, the right decision for her began with leaving what looked right to everyone else.