For the 29 years from 1987 to 2016, a normal day was at work. I was dependable, a hard worker and I like to think that I made a positive contribution. In turn, I received some job satisfaction, a few promotions and a monthly salary. All in all, it worked pretty well.
Early retirement changed what my normal day can look like. Although I like routine, I now have a number of different normal days. Yesterday went like this...
It started slowly, sleeping in until 8am, quite late for me. Breakfast, the news, unload the dishwasher, take out the rubbish, sort the laundry and make granola (super simple, plus homemade is much better than store bought). I know, it doesn't seem too exciting so far, but I don't mind doing these things. They're less of a chore now I have more time.
Next, running gear on and podcast picked - I'm new to podcasts. This is where my day changes direction. It was a podcast about Anthony Ray Hinton.
Hinton is a black man who spent 30 years incarcerated (more years than I worked!), 28 of them on death row. Wrongly convicted of two murders in Birmingham, Alabama, he's certain race played a major part in his conviction. Wikipedia describes his public defense attorney saying "Y'all blacks always say you didn’t do something." and "Y'all blacks always sticking up for each other." Assuming that's correct, it's difficult to imagine race wasn't an issue. In 2015, his conviction was overturned, the State dropped all charges and Hinton was released.
Listening to things like this wasn't part of my old work based normal day. I'm glad they now are, even if it is a troubling story.
Running not only keeps me fit, it's great thinking time too. After the podcast, this is what I thought about as I ran. It wasn't about financial independence or retiring early, but I hope you'll stick with me on this.
The podcast subject fits with the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Hinton's story was 35 years ago, it seems insufficient progress has been made in the time since. There have been improvements but the evidence is that much more is needed.
I also thought of the Me Too movement, something I barely hear of these days. Or how about Yemen, where the population is suffering unimaginable hardship. Those issues haven't disappeared, but they barely make the news now and quickly fall from public consciousness. How do these and other issues regain the attention they need for change to happen, and how does Black Lives Matter avoid the same fate? It seems that it's already starting to feature less in the news.
My next thought was what should/could I do? It's where things get a bit awkward, it's easier to leave the doing part to someone else. A partial answer is to stand up and be counted when I see something that isn't right. Not to let it slide because it's a bit uncomfortable, it's not the right time, or because someone else can do it.
As I continued to pound the trail, two personal examples came to mind.
The first relates to when I worked in the Middle East. Employees doing similar jobs could be paid vastly different salaries because of where they came from. An accountant from India or the Philippines often earned less than the same accountant from Europe, North America or Australasia. Is that not a definition of discrimination? Did I see this? Yes. What did I do to try and change it? - honestly, not enough, perhaps even not much. Being an institutional problem made it difficult to influence much change, but that shouldn't be an excuse not to try.
The second example is more recent. I was in a conversation where a person was speaking inappropriately. Actually, it was racist - I should call it what it is. I was offended by what was said, but I didn't do anything. I didn't call them out on it - that would have been awkward, uncomfortable. But that's clearly not good enough. Afterwards, I told Sally how disappointed I was with myself to not have had the balls to stand up and call out the behaviour, but what good is that after the event.
My lesson from yesterday's run was not about controlling my pace or monitoring my heartrate, it's to be personally braver, to call out wrong behaviour, to take action, even if that makes me uncomfortable and maybe unpopular. If we all make that commitment, would it help change things? Surely it has to help.
However, it's not surprising we find it difficult, we only have to look at the behaviour of our so called leaders. I'm not American, so whether a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House has little impact on me, but how can it be acceptable for that person to be someone who labels Mexicans as rapists, mocks people with disabilities, disparages women, refers to countries as s***holes and tells four minority congresswomen to go back to the countries they came from (despite the fact that three were born in the USA!). That's discrimination on steroids. And from his peers, other world leaders, virtual silence. They keep quiet, not wanting to risk wrath or retaliation. I understand their rationale, but I don't condone or accept it. How can systemic or institutional discrimination be eradicated if the ultimate leaders of the institutions don't act to call it out?
As I often say, I could think about these things when I still worked, but there's no doubt I do this more since retiring early. Having the time to think and reflect is a big positive of my early retired life. We had a family discussion about these issues last night too. Clearly I'm not an expert on the subject, so I'm sorry if I've misspoken or used some incorrect terminology - I hope I haven't. And if you're reading this sentence, thanks for sticking with this different type of post, it's clearly a hugely important subject.
And today, I'm going cycling, Snow Patrol is what I'll listen to, so I'll be off my soapbox and back to FIRE posts next week.