The post-FIRE1 day euphoria lasted two weeks. My spirit level of happiness flattened out after a fortnight.
At that point I realised the novelty of life without work had worn off.
So this was it. The place I’d spent seven years dreaming about.
Was it worth it?
Oh god, yes.
I go to bed happy. I wake up excited. Sometimes I catch myself smiling for no apparent reason.
Close friends ask me what I’m doing. There’s a faint sub-text of: “Well, tell me what life in seventh heaven is like. Tell me about the harps, the ambrosia, and bungee-jumping off the Burj Khalifa.”
“Well, GO ON THEN!”
It’s difficult to explain. Life post-FIRE is simultaneously very ordinary and extraordinary.
I haven’t boarded a log flume ride of perpetual hedonism. But I have found joy in the everyday.
The border fence between work and play has come down. Stuff I’d previously classify as a chore no longer seems like an obstacle between me and the good life.
That’s because I’m a sucker for flow. That serene mental state where you’re completely immersed in a task. You come to the surface after what feels like minutes, only to discover time has passed without friction, as if you were in hypersleep.
Now I slip into flow easily because I can do things at my own speed, in my own way, and to the standard I want.
It doesn’t matter what the task is. What matters is that I choose to do it. And that I’m not under some crushing deadline to get it done.
If I can strap the task to some notion that I’m making life slightly better for me, or someone I care about, then I’m happy.
Flights of fancy
In this way, I’ve inhabited a surprisingly small world so far. But my imagination has been free to wander via podcasts and books.
I can lodge my mind in space travel, politics, quantum physics, genetics, the evolutionary history of the octopus, or whatever else fires my curiosity neurons.
I’ve always had a broad range of interests, but there was never enough time in the day. Now there still isn’t enough time, but I don’t want the day to stop.
I’m both less focussed and less distracted. Less focussed because there isn’t a ton of BS (client, business, and asshat-related) to deal with every day. Less distracted because there isn’t a ton of BS to deal with every day.
Humans reputedly thrive when they have mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
I don’t know about the mastery part. But autonomy and purpose mean everything to me.
Other good things about FIRE
I sleep better.
That low-level, chronic stress that afflicts every contemporary workplace: it’s gone.
My physical health is better. There wasn’t much wrong with me that not sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day wouldn’t fix. Now I don’t do any single thing for 10 hours a day.
I’m not worrying about money. I’m not obsessively checking my portfolio or fretting about spending.
I feel carefree again. For the first time since leaving school.
I’m staying in touch with people. Jumping on my bike to see old friends, catching up for breakfast, or having a natter in the garden.
There’s no fixed routine. No longer do I just ‘work, eat, sleep’ repeat.
Mrs Accumulator is happier, she reports. (I didn’t make her fill in an extensive questionnaire, I swear!)
We get to spend proper time together every day, instead of only at weekends and holidays. The weekdays when our only exchange was a bleary, “My god, what time is it?” at stupid ‘o’ clock are but a memory.
So it’s all rainbows post-FIRE?
Like anyone, I’m subject to negative thoughts even when quite content. They turn up like trains at my mind’s central station.
These trains may be on their way to You Should Be Earning More City or You’ve Given Up Street. The doors open, I decide not to board, and the train of thought departs. It’s followed by another one – usually more positive – seconds later.
I think this is normal? It’s part of the human condition, at least as I experience it. As long as I don’t take these thoughts seriously then they disappear.
Maybe I’m fooling myself. I could still be on a Financial Independence high. The real test could be lying in wait. Perhaps in six months, as the seasons turn colder.
We’ll see. Right now I think FIRE is the right prescription for me.
Hopefully I don’t sound too giddy. I genuinely don’t feel that way. I’m just in a good place.
Take it steady,
- Financial Independence Retire Early. [↩]