I seemed happy when I wrote it. I’m happy now! So far this thing has not grown old.
I was outed recently at a friend’s birthday. I was among peers I hadn’t seen for ages, but have known for years.
Word had gone round: TA is ‘retired’.
- “How does that work?”
- “Are you really retired?”
- “What do you do all day?”
Under this intense interrogation, I finally found a way of explaining FIRE that seemed more relatable:
You know when you’re on holiday at home? You don’t go anywhere fancy but spend more time with family and friends, doing the things you want to do.
The pace of life slows down, you relax, and even chores don’t seem so bad.
It’s like that. All the time.
Ding! That made sense to people. Now they could imagine it. Most of them had lived that for a few days over the summer and they wanted more.
Instead of puzzlement, I now got smiles. And stories about hiking trips to the Lakes, lunch dates with friends, and time to be yourself.
That last point struck home for me. I had a work persona that I donned like a suit of armour. The slings and arrows of the office mostly bounced off, but the odd potshot got through. Each hit taking another nick out of the me inside.
Wearing that persona made me feel hollow, like The Tin Man.
After a week off, I’d feel like I was just about emerging from the shell. Then I had to strap it back on and rejoin the fray.
Floating in space
I feel so much lighter now. I haven’t felt this free – or as excited about what’s around the corner – since I was a 21-year-old entering the workforce.
It’s amazing to have that feeling back. Tempered by grizzly/grisly experience, of course!
Mrs Accumulator and I met at uni. We’ve spent more time together this summer than at any point since those student days. That’s been wonderful.
Something that’s very little talked about is the emotional wrench of leaving your loved ones for 10 to 14 hours every day of the working week.
We don’t talk about it because we all do it. It’s normal. But it wasn’t so before the industrial age. I don’t think many people are really built for it, and that’s partly why Monday mornings feel soul-destroying.
We’re in Monday mourning for family bonds that cannot be replaced by office perks like a coffee bar or table football (because this workplace is sooo much fun!)
Now that’s in my past, I’m scaling the far side of the happiness U bend.
Rediscovering the lightness and sense of possibility from my youth is an unexpected gift.
Maybe now I can have another tilt at being an astronaut?
Okay, maybe not. But I can have breakfast in the garden just because it’s sunny.
Or enjoy a conversation with a neighbour because I don’t have to hurry.
And I’m not on the verge of a minor meltdown just because a bin bag burst, I’m knackered, and I can’t take it anymore.
Too much? Don’t I have anything negative to report?
Or is FIRE like living in a Hovis advert, 24/7?
I’ve come to realise that I still need to protect my time a bit. Before financial independence I dreamed of endless days when I could do everything I wanted and still have time for tea.
Clearly though, that was the babbling delusion of a fantasist.
I can’t squeeze it all in and some of the wrong things have been squeezed out. My physical fitness has dropped off a cliff.
There was always a place for it in my work-life routine. Now that’s fallen apart I haven’t found a new slot for exercise.
So I need to sort that out.
Otherwise all that sustainable withdrawal rate (SWR) planning for a long and happy life will be for nowt. Tut-tut!
Take it steady,
- Financial Independence Retire Early. [↩]