I plunged into my retirement with so many lists mapping out experiments and thoughts; future ablaze with potential different lives. Everything looked fun and I wanted it all and I wanted it RIGHT NOW. Predictably, my greedy paws picked up too many shiny ideas at once and now I don’t have enough time to play with all of them. I overstretched. Overreached. My arms aren’t that long to begin with, so I’m not sure what I was thinking.
Each day consists of only two strolls around the clock and no more. My “duh realization” – you can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. Opportunity costs exist. We only have a blink of time. One blink.
Surprising find (#1): I still feel busy even though I’m retired. I’m not sure how I found the time to work when there is SO MUCH I want to do during my blink. Seriously, how do you guys find time to go to your jobs?
I read my old journal entries and laugh at myself bitterly. The incessant worry that I’d waste the rest of my days sitting on my couch and yelling at kids to get off my lawn permeated all my ruminations on retirement. I was so afraid I would waste my life, consuming mindless entertainment and spilling all over myself.
The delightfully surprising truth (#2) is that I watch less TV now than I ever have in my life. In fact, the only time I feel antsy is when I’m staring at that tube. A couple of lifetimes ago, I could pass entire weekends binge-watching something. I’d turn on the Netflix as soon as I collapsed through the door at the end of the night. We were buddies. Unwinding buddies.
Post-retirement, I don’t recharge that way anymore. My brain doesn’t need the time off or the distraction from reality. There’s so much out there and it’s all so exciting. I don’t WANT to sit here and watch this. Let’s go do something else.
Oh, you can’t do something with me because it’s Tuesday morning and you’re at work? Right. Surprising find (#3): The days of the week mean nothing to me anymore. I’m as excited about Tuesday mornings as I am about Saturday nights.
The only time the day of the week means anything to me is because of you; the existence of other humans. I can deduce it’s a weekend if I see many bunches of people when I’m getting in my daily 10,000 steps. Fewer bunches of people means it’s probably a weekday.
My time is my own and I don’t have to dole out portions according to the normal schedule. I can make my own normal.
And my version of normal is writing until the wee hours of the morning. Not really that surprising of a find for me personally, but I’m counting it as (#4): Controlling your sleep is the single greatest luxury in the entire world. I will knife fight you if you challenge me on this. I’m a night owl, so I love staying up late, setting my alarm for a reasonable time (9 or 10 am) and then shutting it off while I cackle in delight and go back to sleep. You already know this. I’m quite proud of it and brag about it frequently.
When I remember all the time I spent laying in bed unable to fall asleep or contemplate how many of my waking hours were suboptimal because I didn’t get enough hours of REM the night before, I cackle again. I love acknowledging how far I’ve come and the cackle prevents me from acclimating.
That’s my definition of success. I go to bed when I’m sleepy. If it’s the middle of the night and I can’t fall asleep, I wake up and do something until I’m tired. If I’m fatigued during the day, I nap. Such power.
Alas, this power doesn’t solve everything. Surprising find (#5): I still have bad days. Sometimes I get so exasperated that I am capable of forgetting the fact that I’m living the life that I’ve always dreamed of living. I have to yell at myself to stop moping and start jumping for joy, dammit. Shut your stupid, ugly face, Precious.
Sadly, financially independence doesn’t magically create this perfect existence. It just makes you a more raw version of yourself. Exposes the fissures. You can’t blame your lack of something on your job. It’s all you.
Not only does FI not solve all your old problems, but surprisingly annoying find (#6): you’ll have ridiculous new problems to deal with. My latest hindrance to happiness is the feeling of isolation that sometimes sneaks up and pats me on my bottom. I find it hard to relate to people still out in the real world. I’m lonely.
So, please, everyone hurry up and join me here in retirement land. It’s awesome, but I bet it would be more awesome with you.
You can do this if you want and you can do it on your own terms chasing your own dream. Money is one tiny part of life that can be either an incredible advantage or a crushing obligation. Don’t take the path of least resistance. Try a bunch of different paths to see which view you like the best.
Sorry, I’m trying to tone down my preachy rants.
It’s just that, I’m so very much in favor of early retirement because surprising find (#7), a shocking percentage of the time, I’m happy. So bloody happy. Most of the time. A higher than normal percentage of the time. A much higher percentage that I’ve been able to claim historically.
When I can dodge the creepy hands of isolation, I pretty much own contentment.