Depth is where the gold is buried

By | May 25, 2017

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.


Let’s jet-set

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.

the view from a sail plane in Santiago

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. “

The view of the Sydney Opera House taken from between slats while walking on the Harbour Bridge.

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.

37 thoughts on “Depth is where the gold is buried

  1. Amber

    Ugh, we are so alike! I’ve been choosing to sit on the sidelines and not date for a while now. I’ve been using a variety of excuses (I just got out of a relationship (in October), I’d rather focus on paying off my school loans than spending money on dates, I want to focus on getting a promotion (more money to invest!), etc). But mentioning freedom, that hit home. I LOVE being the only person I need to think about day in and day out- it’s easy and that leaves me more energy to focus on other things (and maybe that’s selfish too).
    I’m looking forward to reading more about Operation Enjoy 🙂

  2. DC

    I went through this entire process when I was living in Berlin and then out of a backpack in SE Asia. That’s why I moved back to Brooklyn, because I wanted to be around friends again, long-time friends.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’ve met a fair number of people who have come to the same conclusion. Thanks for chiming in.

    2. classical_liberal

      I have also met at least a half-dozen folks who I deeply respect who been in Thrifty Girls situation as well. Most eventually tire of the total freedom of time and location. Frankly, this scares me a bit since it’s one of my main motivations for FI. As a matter of fact, for awhile, I actually began to doubt my desires. In the end though I have to discover this for myself. Even if my goal is to simply find a place to call home, I still have to visit enough places, for long enough, to find it.

      I used to read Mark Manson’s blog a couple of years ago, I kind-of forgot about him. Didn’t realize he wrote a book, its on my list.

  3. Karen

    Most people in your age group work. Already you have nothing in common with that part of their life. They spend their money on rent. You couch surf in their apartments. Again in terms of responsibility you have nothing in common with them. True long lasting friendship is based on shared experiences. You live on the periphery of people’s lives, stay for a bit and then move on. They go back to working and raising families and maintaining their houses and cars and probably feel they have nothing in common with you until you show up again to sleep on their couch and tell them how wonderful your carefree life is.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Rawr! Saucer of milk to table four, please. (That’s how a friend of mine says someone is being catty.)

      And nope, not couchsurfing! Although I think couchsurfing is pretty awesome and did it a good amount in my 20s. I like meeting up with people using that website, but it’s no longer a place for me to find a happy place to lay my head at night.

  4. Daniel Manfre

    Deep thriftygal, deep.

    I’m looking forward to hear how it goes, thanks for sharing.

  5. M.B.

    I just read that book myself and I liked it. I’m a sucker for good writers who curse. Anyway, I’m in a similar spot and narrowing your options is pretty scary when there are so many possibilities that would be amazing we can imagine. The author says, could have provided one more chapter about how to make sure those limiting choices he talks about are the right ones!

  6. Juanita Martinez

    I like being freedom oriented but I’m never giving up the possibility of finding that one man who would be my best friend for life. Think of it as just the greatest friendship you will ever have. My last relationship wasn’t, that’s why it ended. I do like doing things on my own, it’s great!

  7. Furd

    Just like Dorothy, you have to work your way through the Land of Oz before you realize there’s no place like home.

  8. Jerri and Tom Jones

    I’m on the edge of my seat until your next post!

  9. Robert

    So well written! Such a pleasure to read your musings. Keep it up! Thank you.


  10. Emily Chang

    Thanks for sharing, smart lady. Your future friends and partner await. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are so brave. Lots of compliments in this comment. Oh well… Can’t help it. You do such a good job putting vulnerability and honesty into this post that I want to reach out and give you a high five or something.

  11. Brian

    I like the traveling but need a home base. Can you rent a place near friends and travel out from there?

  12. Matt

    The level of introspection and wisdom in this post is remarkable. Wherever you end up, please keep writing for us!

  13. someone

    Whereever you go, there you are. If you have no other place to be, why not start with family?

  14. Jeremy

    Love isn’t a checkbox. And as much as you may want it, if you aren’t ready for it yet, you aren’t ready for it yet. I’m in the exact same situation as you (on my 11th month of travel and 31st month of early retirement! Yay!) and am encountering the same obstacles. I figured travel would open up vast opportunities for finding someone (it has), but I’ve come to the realization that the problem is me, at least in part. Having more options doesn’t make the choices any easier.

  15. snowcanyon

    I’m excited by the not paying rent part of the equation- dying to hear more! If you find a way to not pay rent in NYC, let me know.

  16. tt

    “I am obsessed with autonomy and terrified of the idea of giving up my freedom.”

    This does make that awkward ‘where is the relationship going talk’ a LOT easier! 🙂

  17. Taylor

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I fiddle with the idea of early retirement all the time, but then I question it because I don’t think I could give up the structure and the social network. Structure and routine are in large part what make me life feel memorable, important, and productive (even if I don’t always enjoy or appreciate them. Plus, my coworkers and extracurricular social network are a very, very large part of my fulfillment with my life, and I’m not sure I could ever give them up. I don’t see myself forming as strong of friendships outside of my workplace and daily routine/cultural institutions that I subscribe to because I think so much of having “deep” relationships is having a basis of shared experiences. Overall, early retirement sounds isolating because you have so little steadfast, regular exposure to the same people.

    Thanks for writing this! It was great to read (as are all of your posts) – you’re very eloquent with important topics, and I look forward to your next post!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Sometimes I wonder if the answer isn’t a commune with a bunch of other early retired people. 🙂

      1. Jeremy

        Shh! You’re forgetting the first rule of Early Retirement Commune Club.

  18. financeswithpurpose

    Some great wisdom here. As for relationships, our culture tells us that they can be stifling – and most of us have been in a relationship or two that can be that way. But some relationships, indeed, some *commitments* can actually *enhance* your freedom. I’m finding marriage is that way. It can be challenging to maintain, but, overall, it has enhanced my freedom rather than diminished it, and, it has opened tons of cool new doors as well. Sounds like you’re well on the road to agreeing, based upon the wisdom here.

    I also happen to believe we’re all made and designed with a purpose, and the more we lean into that purpose (which typically involves doing some good things that enhance others’ lives) the more fulfilling life is. It has definitely proven true for me…and I’m still working out exactly what my purpose is (and who knows if I’ll ever totally work it out, or if it won’t change at some point!)…


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