“What’s being FIREd like?”

–Eventually FIRE stops being “like” anything. It simply becomes the norm. But I live within walking distance of downtown in a mid-sized city, and when I see people in suits/ties/etc. I can’t help comparing my life to the monotonous hell I imagine their lives to be. And I shiver a little: “Thank GOD that isn’t me.” Which is projection, of course. I stress the word IMAGINE.

–Sure, there’s sometimes boredom. My kid goes to school at 9:30 and gets out at 4:30 (it’s a STEM school at a local community/tech college so the hours are more tied to the college’s rather than to the county school system’s.) In between those times I have some hours to kill.

How? I lift, take jiujitsu, and run. Three hours of working out isn’t unusual–happens twice a week, with at least 1.5 hours on other days except Saturday. Take care of errands. Write a lot. Game. Read. Every so often take a two-week road trip. Four Corners, a bicycle tour, backpacking, or whatever

–You might ask “What about volunteering? That all sounds kind of selfish.” But I moderate and contribute to Reddit’s financial independence sub, which can take upwards of a couple of hours a day. I do that because I’m passionate about giving people hope that there exists a life track apart from “birth-school-work-death.” It’s a main reason I run this blog. (For damn sure it ain’t the pittance of money.)

–I’m about to turn fifty and I’m trying to relax into being a mentor. I have a couple of younger guys–one forty and one nineteen–who regularly ask me for life advice/perspective/etc. Spend an hour or so on the phone with them each week. This makes me very uncomfortable, because 1) it’s a heavy responsibility, and 2) it’s an admission of aging.

So while that’s not volunteering in a traditional non-profit organization sense, it’s still trying to improve the human condition and leave the world a little better than I found it. And of course I try to gain humility/knowledge/etc. from these activities.

–I also look at raising my kid as volunteering. I’m a strong believer that instilling solid values in young people during their formative years is one of the most worthwhile activities there is. Imagine the ripple effect of even one life well lived. One life can touch many thousands of others.

–Something about mentoring that I wasn’t expecting is that I’m starting to hear stuff like, “I hope I’m as active as you are when I’m your age.” Well…fuck you, you little bastard. 🙂 Good on you for being active now, but don’t assume that having grey hair automatically makes a person weak. Again, 🙂

–I shop during the daytime. Gotta confess there’s more schadenfreude here than there oughtta be.

–Another unexpected benefit is that I think I have more of an opportunity to get poison out of my system than somebody who has to subvert their personal problems and even identity to a corporate mission for the majority of the day. If I need to rage/cry/vent/whack a tree with a baseball bat/talk to a therapist/fight with my wife/make up with her/whatever, I don’t have to wait. I can get it out of my system right then.

–I don’t have to put off doctor/dentist appointments.

–Our disaster recovery plan has reduced to “We’ll figure out.” In “The Screwtape Letters“–a must-read–C.S. Lewis wrote about how attempting to reconcile yourself with an infinite number of negative futures (in the sense that “if A happened I could always do B, but if C happened I could try D and E.”) is futile and destroys your enjoyment of life. Your resolve gets honeycombed with all these little pockets of fear. Our FIRE survived the housing bubble collapse, which has given me more confidence in its sustainability.

–More time for sex. I mean, hey, let’s be honest: if you want to get shagged out you have time to get shagged out.

–A few weeks ago I realized my beloved 2011 Long Haul Trucker touring bike wasn’t shifting correctly no matter how much I fine-tuned it. Took it to my local bike shop for a look-see and the head mechanic told me that after thousands and thousands of miles I’d finally worn out the drive train, especially the chainrings. So I ordered the parts I needed and rebuilt the entire bike pretty much from the frame outwards. Drive train, cables/housings, a detailed cleaning, framesaver, you name it. Took me twenty or thirty hours because I took my time and was an extreme perfectionist about it. Spent probably $400 on parts, but the bike now rides like new.

–Gaming. I’ve gotten OK at PUBG. Although I still suffer from potato aim, on a good night I’ll have a game where I have at least a couple of kills. Had seven in a custom match the other night. I think that was a PR.

–Chores. I don’t carry as much weight around the house as I should, though. It’s an area I need to improve in.

So I don’t know, man…being FIREd is all this and more. Good and bad things, but on the balance I’m glad I escaped. Hope this list inspires you in your own pursuit of–what, happiness? Yeah, that’s the right word. You have to know the darkness to appreciate the light, but on the balance I’m appreciating the light a lot more than I used to.

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit http://EarlyRetirementDude.com or email EarlyRetirementDude@gmail.com.

14 thoughts

  1. Love your posts ER Dude.

    I think that you’re totally right that the pursuit is of happiness. It’s as simple, and as difficult as that.

    I also find the whole judgmental aspect around giving (of money or time) in the FI deeply disquieting. Maybe its because I’m British but there can often seem to be a big element of virtue signalling around it. Not only do you need to do it but you need to be seen to do it. I don’t get that.

    The way I see it: Volunteer, donate, or don’t. It’s no one else’s business – and you certainly shouldn’t feel obliged to justify it one way or the other. Isn’t making up our own minds one of the lessons on the journey to FI?

    Anyway rant over!

  2. Another great post. I too fall prey to the weekday shopping schadwnfreude. I also appreciate the indirect CS Lewis reading recommendation. I’ll definitely check that out

  3. Not a bad day-to-day at all! I’m on a mini-retirement this year and am finding myself feeling wealthy AF with all this spare time on my hands, even if I haven’t yet reached my final FI number. I have enjoyed mentoring a college student each year on my same career path in event management, so I hear you on the idea of giving back. I’m also getting the blog together which is helping me find focus in what could otherwise be aimless days of travelling around USA – as fun as that is, I am happier having a project or two to work on. I like that this feeling of FIRE has become my norm for the last 8 months, but it is going to be hard to go back to the grind!

  4. Ok, now be fair. I have been retired for three years now but I’m writing this from a hotel room on a business trip. In a few minutes I’ll put on a suit and drive over to my lawyers office and we’ll set up my consultancy for one more year. I’m only doing this because it adds to my life. My kids are grown and gone and while I have a lot going on in the volunteer space and with many active hobbies, including distance running with my wife, my life is better with a day or two of paid work mixed in. By no stretch of the imagination do I need another dollar in my bank account or stock portfolio, but my brain needs the stimulation of meeting a deadline or two and of absorbing and interpreting maddeningly complex problems. I have a lot of retired friends who no longer have any work in their lives and when I tell them what I’m doing I usually catch a look of envy in their eyes. OK, it isn’t for you, but not everyone you pass on the street in a suit is living in a monotonous hell, some of us are having the time of our lives! Oh, and while I’ve run well over 20,000 miles so far I still wake up every run day at 4:50 AM hoping it is raining and I can skip it. People that enjoy running have something wrong with them, and that includes my wife who loves it! I can only say that because I won’t tell my wife what my blogging name is.

    1. >Ok, now be fair.

      Oh, I am. Or at least trying to be, which is why I said:

      >Which is projection, of course. I stress the word IMAGINE.

      I recognize this may not be a healthy thing to do. A better way to say that, I guess, would be something like, “Regardless of who these people are and how satisfied they are with their lives, I wouldn’t want to change places.”

      >People that enjoy running have something wrong with them,

      From one runner to another: don’t I know it.

  5. “I have more of an opportunity to get poison out of my system than somebody who has to subvert their personal problems and even identity to a corporate mission for the majority of the day”

    I love this quote because I worked in startups for years before FIRE and all of my corporate friends who stuck it out touted all the benefits but I never felt like they properly weighed the cost that in order to really be successful in a corporate setting you need to have good relationships with all the other leaders, some of whom just by a bell curve distribution are going to be assholes. So it seems to encourage taking on a generic friendly personality and I question if after doing that for years it can ever be shut off when you go home at night or if one risks just becoming generic?

    Thanks for the snapshot ER dude.

  6. Do you get anxious about being productive in the time you have to yourself (time not specifically dedicated to earning money or sustaining your life/family/household)? Do you develop guilt around “wasted time”? What even qualifies to you as a waste of time?

    Sometimes I feel like time scarcity, and the resulting guilt, is a prison I’ve built around myself… to the point “free time” gets scheduled/structured so it can be maximized… and as a result becomes a chore… and you see where I’m going with this? Its turned into a ridiculous Russian Doll situation.

    Do you feel like you’ve struck a balance? How so?

    1. >What even qualifies to you as a waste of time?

      So so so so hard to define. Like: for the last year I’ve been spending from two to four hours a night gaming online with my friends. I look at that time and think, “Damn…so much I could’ve accomplished. Could’ve learned a foreign language, could’ve etc. etc. etc.”

      But then again, early retirement can cause a lot of isolation. Your friends simply don’t have the free time you do.

      Where’s the middle ground? Well, the main guy I game with–my best friend–lives in another city. We rarely get to see each other in person. We’re both night owls. We both like gaming (specifically PUBG.) And I have a number of other good friends who are the same. So how many people can say truly say they get to enjoy the company of friends for several hours a night…almost every night? Not too many.

      Is gaming really wasted time, then? To answer that question correctly you gotta consider that these relationships would all dwindle away if we didn’t get to spend time together. Losing my best friend would be fucking devastating. We really are brothers from a different mother.

      Gaming, to me, is therefore “productive.” Maintaining these relationships is more important to me than, say, learning Portuguese.

      >I feel like time scarcity, and the resulting guilt, is a prison I’ve built around myself

      I’m paraphrasing David Foster Wallace: the first step in escaping a cage must surely be recognition of the cage’s existence.

  7. Good read ER Dude.

    I wouldn’t classify playing games with your Best Friend as potentially wasted time. If this is what makes u happy go for it.

    I have been mentoring for a few years now even during my work days. I truly enjoy that bit of my life. Feels great to see others win as a direct output of my input. Plus it opens my horizons too to learn about their thinking.

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