I thought things were going well. I thought I'd figured out the recipe for a successful early retirement...a good routine, doing some exciting things and keeping on top of the finances.
So it was a shock to discover that I need to get a job. What happened? Have the finances fallen apart, am I bored, has one more year syndrome snuck up with a job opportunity too good to turn down?
Actually, none of those things, instead something simultaneously far simpler and more complicated. Sally (my wife, in case you're new here) pronounced "David, you need to get a job!". Fateful words that were spilled hot on the heals of "you know what your problem is". Ouch!
So why does Sally say I need a job? In a nutshell, because she thinks I'm bored. Her evidence: I keep coming up with stupid (her word...although she denies it) ideas which she sees as proof that I have too much time on my hands and therefore I'm bored. Her solution, I should get a job.
The trigger was telling Sally I was considering transitioning from my current vegetarian diet to a vegan/plant based diet (I'm still deciding¹). She's added this to my previous decision to be alcohol free (I'm not saying for ever), my camper conversion plan, and no doubt some other things. It seems she views the vegan idea as the straw that breaks the camel's back
Sally believes that I'm depriving myself with these choices. She can't understand why having got to FIRE through working and saving hard, I would choose to go without things instead of enjoying the benefits. Following a vegetarian or vegan diet means missing out on food that I've previously enjoyed, going without alcohol is abstaining from something fun, and why would I want to do a camper conversion if I can afford to stay in a hotel?
While I understand her thought process, that concept sounds too traditional and unimaginative to me. Work hard, save hard and get to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Oh, and remember to have 2.4 kids, buy a bigger car and a bigger house with all the paraphernalia that keeping up with the Joneses entails. In essence, live life according to the rules that society and the marketing guys and girls tell us is normal.
For most of my life, that's what I've done. I've followed the rules. But now I'm enjoying looking at some different paths and realising that those rules and norms can be limiting. So while Sally thinks I'm coming up with stupid ideas because I'm bored, I'd argue the complete opposite. Becoming financially independent and then retiring early has somehow woken me to opportunities beyond traditional or normal. While Sally sees some of my ideas as "stupid", I see being intrigued by alternatives and thinking through some moral and ethical questions as an exciting part of my new found freedom, not something I do because I'm bored.
I've spent most of my forty seven years until retirement being programmed to follow society's norms. Now I'm questioning whether every part of that programming makes sense. Where it doesn't, I can consider re-programming to something that feels better. For now, this includes questioning whether I need alcohol to have a good time (surely not), whether I feel it's ethical that an animal has to die or suffer for what I eat (applying my conscience, it's difficult to answer yes to that), and whether converting a camper really will make me young and good looking!🙄
I must confess that even thinking about adopting a plant based diet seems a little daunting (I love cheese and chocolate!). But whether or not I go that route, I take Sally's occasional exasperation about my "wacky" ideas as proof that I'm exploring outside the lines. I'm happy that I am and hopefully, deep down, Sally understands my rationale. No doubt I could have considered these things before, but it's only since retiring early that I've found the headspace to think about what and why I do things and question if it makes sense. I love that, and believe such introspection and inquiry is the opposite of being bored, and there's no way I'm going to let a job get in the way of it. Sorry Sally, I ain't going back to work!
¹ Separate from this blog post, I'm still working through the vegetarian or vegan diet decision. I understand why the YouTube or Netflix documentaries I've come across push a significant agenda or bias but I'd like to also see something with a more balanced/objective approach. If you have any suggestions, please could you let me know in the comments...thanks😀