The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #3


At this point I’m closing in on the end of the year. Unfortunately I’m essentially back to where I was just prior to joining Friendface’s team. It’s as though I’ve lost six months of my life.

This means I need a change.  Big time.  It is precisely at this point I realize that no one is going to take control of my life but me.  If I don’t do it, I will be ground into dust.  And not just any dust — dust with serious depressive issues.  This would be dust that needs prozac and zoloft mixed with booze and opiates just to make it through the day.

I finally started treating my unhappiness with my employment like the ultra-serious emergency that it was.  After being returned to Mr. Data’s team, I immediately took a full week off of work, which was most of the time I had available. (We only received 12 days a year.)

I called my parents and told them I was unhappy.  I called my friends.

I wasn’t complaining, exactly.  I was looking for advice, of which I got a broad range.

Dad:  Work is a misery and you’d best get used to it.  I been at it twenty five years and nothing’s changed.

Mom:  You should quit.  No son of mine should be so unhappy.  God has a plan for us all and it’ll work out.

High School Friend:  Dude you should totally just go to work but don’t do anything, don’t travel, just sit around and surf netscape until they lay your ass off.  Make them dump you, then collect unemployment.  That’d be pretty kick-ass.

I rejected all of these options because they sounded ridiculous.  I did not want to live my life in a state of misery as my Dad suggested.  I wasn’t sure I’d make it.  I also didn’t believe that there was a higher power guiding me through all of this.  I’m not saying God does or does not exist, but rather that if he does, he doesn’t really give a flip about what one of his little humans is deciding to do, career-wise.  Besides, if He did care, how had I ended up in such a crap job in the first place?

I started thinking that maybe part of the reason I disliked my job so much was because I didn’t take control of my professional life when seeking employment.  I had called a head hunter and passively left the selection process up to chance.  I took the first interview that came, and accepted the first offer made, without a single thought spent on whether or not I’d like support.  And I discounted my friend’s suggestion to do nothing out of simple pride.  I didn’t want to do nothing.  I wanted to work.  I just didn’t want to be so crushingly unhappy.

I finally got some good advice.  It came from my sister, who is a bit crunchy if you catch my drift?  She didn’t beat around the bush.

You’ve been doing what other people told you to do your whole life.  You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.  This is the time.  

She went on to say that I should start reading self-help books and exploring my own wants and needs.  I asked her what she recommended, she said Anything — whatever catches your eye, just go to the library or a book store and stay there all day.

I did one better, taking a full week off of work, spending it in the San Francisco public library.  It was an incredible week, frankly, and reminded me of college.  Just three years ago, my mind was allowed to think about things other than work — philosophy, art, history –but since graduating and taking this job I hadn’t been feeding it much other than tech talks.  It was fascinating to get back to other subjects.  I found myself reading all sorts of stuff on career building and entrepreneurial  pursuits.  I read about Buddhism and the mind-body connection, about desires and wants, about co-dependence with work, co-dependence with management, and workaholic-ism in general.  After a while it all started to run together.

Toward the end of the week, I found Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

With most of the books, I read a few chapters and moved on to something else.  Not with this one.  This one I sucked down cover to cover.

It had a message like none other.  At the time, I interpreted the primary lesson as follows:

 You don’t have to find a perfect career fit.  You may never find something that you love.  That might not even exist for you.  Instead, focus on saving money.  Once you save money, you have freedom.  And that freedom includes the option to never work again.  If you want to work, great!  You can spend time finding something more meaningful to you, with absolutely no risk or obligation whatsoever.  If you get a new job and don’t like it, you can leave it.  

If, on the other hand, you simply don’t have a calling in the business world, you can raise your middle finger high to corporate america and say goodbye forever.

You’ll never feel trapped again.

I was sold.  It took me a while to internalize some of the lessons and implement them in my real life, but everything about the message felt right to me.

For the remainder of the week, I read books on personal finance, since I had to start a) understanding where my money was going, b) reduce spending, and c) determine how to best invest so I could start generating passive income.

There was a lot to learn, but I didn’t mind.  I felt better than I had in months.

Suddenly, I had real hope again.

The next year — Year 4, starting in September of 2002 — I began to excitedly implement the lessons I’d digested in YMOYL.

I’d bottomed out.  My trendline of happiness started to march steadily upward.

Mostly, anyways.

 Year End Financial Summary

Net Worth at Start:  -25K.

Net Worth at End:  -10K


My salary went up from 66K to 70K, despite the fact that we had a wage freeze. This was due to my so-called promotion to Friendface’s team. As it turned out, HR never did dial my salary back down to its former level, even when I returned to work for Mr. Data. Lucky me.

I dumped another 15K into my Orange Savings account, giving me a total of about thirty thousand dollars in positive cash assets.


Still owed the 40K balance on my loans, and no 401(k) account.

The Job Experience:  Tech Support, Year #2  <<   >> The Job Experience:  Tech Support, Year #4

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12 Responses to The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #3

  1. I still have never read YMOYL. Not sure if I’d get anything out of it at this point, but it’s impressive the number of people for whom that was THE book.

    Financial epiphanies like this, to my mind, are vastly more transformational than any religious conversions (or deconversions, in my case).

    • livingafi says:

      Hey GC, thanks for stopping by. Yes, you could probably skip reading YMOYL because it’s just a reinforcement of things you already know and do.
      If I got my BS in 2009 instead of 1999, I surely would have found MMM’s blog instead of YMOYL. Might not even know what that book was! The internet’s really changed everything… the vast majority of people seek answers to life problems online nowadays. It’s probably for the best –more efficient this way, with search engines and all.

      • Gamergirl says:

        I actually found YMOYL back in 2005, I wish I’d found it earlier, before I went back to school for my masters degree. After I got my bachelor’s degree, I was saving 90% of my income from my job. I thought I was doing something wrong! So I went back to school for my master’s degree. Then I met ex and let him lead me down the path of spending all my money.

        I still love YMOYL and recommend it to people who don’t like blogs.

      • livingafi says:

        I think “I wish I found it earlier” is the number one sentiment from folks who find MMM, EEE, YMOYL, etc. It sure would have helped me in Year 1 as well — although, the counter argument is that people aren’t necessarily looking to overhaul their lives until they’ve identified that they have a problem. It’s sort of like the AA thing: If you don’t think it’s an issue (yet), you’ll never look for a solution. I still shudder to think where I’d be had I not found YMOYL when I did. BTW, super-glad to hear that your spendy and destructive ex is just that — an ex. Without him weighing you down, you’ll get where you want to go for sure.

  2. I’ve picked up bits and pieces from all over, some of YMOYL works and some doesn’t for me (every dollar and every year is not created equal, but I can’t exchange future dollars for earlier years). Probably why I’m still wandering the internet, there are gems everywhere, but no-one source has The Answer. Before YMOYL, I had a ‘Rich Dad’ phase. Although I didn’t want to get into real estate, I did like the concept ‘before you buy a Porsche, buy cash-flowing real estate yield and let your investments buy you the Porsche’. Of course, I dialed it back to a used MiniCooper and a mix of dividends and bond interest, but the general idea was sound 🙂

    • livingafi says:

      Another part of YMOYL that sucks: All investment advice. Completely agree that there are wide differences in opinion when it comes to certain details in the FIRE journey. Some folks like DRIPing, others all paper, some renting, some quit early and find part-time employment just to ‘get them by’ while their initial pile of assets grow. There’s really no single right path and the best thing to do is gather as much data as you can and make an educated decision that works for you. I’m also extremely reluctant to be a landlord. I don’t want the hassle, but some many people on the forums really enjoy it.

  3. Gamergirl says:

    I LOVE this series, and I agree with another poster about the layout being very nice. It is long, but the images and the breakup between pages really aids in readability.

  4. Dwayne Hoover says:

    I really enjoy your blog, and particularly this series. Great stuff.

  5. MilDoc says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of FI / RE stuff for awhile now. Yours is the only blog that I am reading from beginning to end (I came close with MMM though). Your POV just seems to resonate with me the most, though my prison seems much more gilded than yours was. Still, freedom is freedom.

    For some reason, I HATED YMOYL. I sensed there was something to the underlying premise, but the style and diction (it seemed overly sentimental or patronizing or something) made me want to vomit so much, I could not get through it.

    One thing I have noted is that those who “see the light” wrt financial stuff later in life (like myself, though I am not that old but do have a wife and kids) have a more uphill battle with the consumptions side of the equation. It’s not like I can just rip my kids out of their expensive extracurriculars (which easily cost as much as owning an additional unnecessary car) without significant relational and societal repercussions. But there is more than one way to skin a cat…

    • livafi says:

      I didn’t like the writing style in YMOYL either. But I read it for the content and suggestions.

      One of my friends who is my age — 39 — has also been trying to scale back and he is running into some of the same problems you’ve outlined. E.g. Downsizing the house, he will say things like: “Are you kidding me? With a wife and three kids who each need their own bedroom and are used to an abundance of space in an affluent area? Dad will be viewed as crazy and subsequently hated for uprooting everyone.” It seems impossible (although it’s not), and as a result he’s sort of giving up on it. I do see his point of view. It is difficult. People who pretend there is no cost associated with making these sorts of choices are lying to themselves and their readers.

      But there is also a cost in continuing to do what everyone else is doing. These are tough decisions, there’s absolutely no question about it.

      The worst part of the giving up is that he’s going back to his old investment patterns. “Won’t ever be able to have 15% of saved income grow enough in the market with measly returns to enable retirement — need to hit it big” is what goes through his mind most of the time. So he’s doing things like putting money in VIX and hoping the market explodes and buying covered call options… I am aware the entirety of the market resembles one big casino, but that being said, some investment approaches are significantly more likely to result in losses than others.

  6. Vic says:

    Going through burnout right now and I needed this. You are an absolute artisan with words. Thank you so much for writing this account, it makes me (and i’m sure so many others) feel less broken.

    • Mr. RTFM says:

      Keep it up. I re-read his job experience series at least once a year, and recommend it for friends who are looking for a way out, or feeling burned out. His voice really helps.

      I actually just left my job for a higher paying one, mostly because of his posts. If he could manage the Goblin hordes, so could I. by my estimate, this move will shave off about 3 years of my original 15 years to retirement timeline. Hopefully more, when I pay of my mortgage and car in the next 1-2 years.

      The best advice i found in these posts is the daily exercise, after I put in my morning exercise, I found that the problems that used to make me want to vomit, suddenly seem like – if not easy- but at least solvable. On the down side, when I can’t follow my workout routine, I’m just dragging through my day…

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