I'm happy, but am I satisfied with early retirement?
I enjoy running. Arguably that's a bit weird because it's hard work and it's not like I'm really good at it. I mean, I'm not bad, but I remember a race that kind of sums it up. There was a sprint finish, at least it felt like we were sprinting, nip and tuck, every sinew strained, and I'm proud to say that I prevailed. Yes, a solid mid field 326th place🤣, very far from the front of the race, one wonders why we were sprinting.
Whether I'd finished 326th, or one place lower in 327th, it was a good day - running with my friends, being fit and healthy, the runners high. But for sure, the satisfaction from being one place ahead did feel good.
My mind often wanders as I run, and yesterday it wandered to ask if I'm happy with today's early retirement life? The answer is a very definite, yes. However, there was also a but, which is probably why the question came to mind in the first place. I have a feeling that something's missing, maybe a sense of satisfaction?
There's an instinct that I need to be achieving or making something. I imagine some people will tell me that's what we get from work and it's why retiring early isn't a good idea.
There's logic in that argument. After two years away from work, Sally has recommenced teaching this year because of the demand for online tutoring. I immediately saw a difference, she had a focus and satisfaction from her work.
Does this mean a job is what's needed to find that sense of satisfaction? I'm sure I'd get satisfaction if I worked, but I'd also have less freedom and less flexibility and probably more stress. That's not an attractive trade for me, I'm sure there's a better way.
I just need to figure out what my better way is. Is it my campervan conversion idea (currently my ambition on that seems to be stalled) or something else that I haven't yet thought of?
Of course, there's a good chance that this is simply Covid frustration getting to me. We're stuck at home, not knowing when things might return to normal. We can't even make plans with any certainty. For example, we want to spend Christmas with our kids, but these days that requires having a plan A, B, C and D without much control over which, if any of them, will work.
Maybe this post might lead someone thinking about early retirement to wonder whether it's better to stick with work, to what's known and feels safe. I get that, and it can be the right decision for some.
But I'm convinced alternatives are equally valid. Retirement involves a venture into the unknown, something that is generally interesting. It requires some learning and making it up as I go along, as well as putting in thought and effort to make it a success. So long as I keep doing that, I'm confident I'll find a way to be satisfied. Or I'll find the feeling will miraculously disappear once we return to a post Covid normal.
So, my conclusion is:
Am I happy? Yes.
Am I satisfied? Not as much as I feel I should be right now.
What's the problem? Because this hasn't been an issue in the previous four years of my early retirement, I suspect pandemic fatigue is playing a part. A lockdown, a return to some freedom, a travel quarantine and now another lockdown has a wearing down effect.
What's the solution? Until now, I've always had an event or project to plan or work towards. Right now, that's missing. The challenge is to figure out what event or project makes sense to work towards.
Something to remember: I've done more things during the past four years than in the previous twenty-five! So I can be confident I'll come up with something to fill the satisfaction gap, or it will miraculously disappear post Covid.
Is anyone else feeling like this, or is it just me?
This feels like it's been a strange post. Maybe it falls into the early retirement journal category, or the is normal life better than FIRE? category, maybe even a life sucks during the Covid pandemic category or simply the go out for another run and think of something else category. I don't know which it is, but let's hope the recent news about vaccines means that a return to more normal times isn't too far away.