Since retiring, I have been living the life I always envisioned myself living. Country, state and city-hopping. Catching up with old friends and making more new friends than I can shake a stick at. Writing daily and reading even more. Sleeping whenever I’m keen (most importantly). It’s all, ya know, good. Better than good.
A few months ago, I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. He’s basically everything I could ever hope to be. An older, wiser dude version of a younger me. He has also wandered our great planet and loves to write about whatever he feels like writing about. He spoke pretty much directly to me throughout the book.
“As I drowned in my fifty-third, fifty-fourth, fifty-fifth country, I began to understand that while all of my experiences were exciting and great, few of them would have any lasting significance…I was floundering from one high to the next.”
Yeah, Mark, so true. I actually just polished off my fifty-second country and was gearing up for fifty-three when you mentioned this to me.
“Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief or (gulp) one person.”
Crap, I think you’re right. I retired early for the autonomy, freedom, control. I have all that now and yeah, my life is freaking awesome. But, also? It’s really freaking shallow.
A lot of people dream of traveling the world and it’s a super fun way to live. But it’s not all roses and sunshine. It can be cripplingly lonely at times. I’m flailing a bit with the close relationships part of the happiness puzzle.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve gotten fairly good at making friends, finding some way to connect with a person in front of me, striking up conversations with strangers. You can always find something to talk about for an evening or two. What’s hard is building the lasting and close friendships.
Last year, I put up my dating profile on my website and asked you how you do the whole happy, healthy relationship thing. A dear reader wrote me this:
“Being FI orientated = being freedom oriented, and in some important ways, that’s the exact opposite of a relationship. A relationship is a duty, a responsibility, to care for someone in a profound way even where sometimes it might not benefit you, even sometimes where it hurts you.”
You guys are all so smart. She was right and I didn’t answer a single email from a prospective suitor. I am obsessed with autonomy and terrified of the idea of giving up my freedom. Plus, I can’t gauge anything over email. And I freaking hate emailing. It was an all around terrible idea from the start.
More wisdom bombs from Mark.
“People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.”
I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of the dating game for as long as I’ve been retired. Of course I’m losing. I’m faking a knee injury and not playing.
“Depth is where the gold is buried. “
Yeah, this was the most devastatingly succinct phrase in the book for me and it has popped up in my brain more than daily since.
I miss having close friends. The lasting friendships with people you share a history and a present with. The people who get together impromptu. I miss having people to share my daily life with. And dating. I miss dating. The possibility of something meaningful and interesting.
I miss the joy of having a steady book club, my own library where the librarian knows me, the ability to go somewhere without looking up directions and, of course, close friends. Everything feels so shallow and I’m longing for depth.
These nagging feelings wouldn’t stop nagging me. Then I realized that I’m able to design my own story. I decided to do another Operation Enjoy — make a new place feel like home. My two requirements for happiness are a big city and sunshine. No cold please. Also, I would prefer to not pay any rent since I’m going to be spending money on finishing my book. I made a list of a bunch of cities that fit that criteria and let the universe decide. I’ll tell you how I managed that in the next post. I’ll also tell you more about designing your own Operation Enjoy.