The Path To Freedom
Sometime between knowing I was going to leave SoftwareCompany and actually turning in my notice, I debated what to do next.
I called old friends from college, people who made it through a bachelor program alongside me.
Long story short, they were all in the same boat. Some of them were already on job number two. The common issues were overwork, lack-of-balance, and powerlessness.
I heard variations of the following: It’s not so bad, and besides, even if it is, you can’t do anything about it. And being that this is as good as it gets, you should take what you can out of life during your 12-15 days off every year, go on cruises and get drunk and fly to EU and get drunk and go to Vegas and get drunk, and just make the best of it.
Live hard, play harder, spend money hardest.
Although I didn’t say this directly to anyone, it appeared to me that work was the primary source of misery in their lives, rated above problems with a significant other, or family members, or lack of money.
Once I started asking people about the nitty gritty details of their days at their own SoftwareCompany or any other place of employment, I found the same running themes of overwork, boredom, stress, frustration, and intense dissatisfaction. Folks were always quick to point out whatever positives there were, too — (e.g. I really love coworker X, My salary is terrific, I occasionally solve a tough problem or finish a challenging project and feel good about my contributions momentarily) but the overwhelming sentiment seemed to be something along the lines of I actually live for the few days off a year that I’m granted.
I felt lucky to have friends who were so open and honest with me, instead of giving me the standard PC reply of “Yeah things are going well, the work is fine,” which is what most of us reflexively (and correctly!) do when asked. Their honesty helped to cement my opinions regarding work and my industry — it wasn’t just me who felt this way, saw the insanity, felt trapped and hopeless about being a part of a system which expects us to work until we’re 65, basically straight through after graduation.
And then I reflected. My friends’ comments completely finalized my personal goals. I would not be working for four and a half decades. Period.
I thought about my sister’s words. We had spoken during my low-point in Year 3 of employment. She’d asked me what I really wanted in my own life. I answered her questions anew.
Freedom. Flexibility. The means to do what I please. To pursue my own interests.
And what are those interests?
It doesn’t matter right now. Let’s work on freedom first.
How do we earn our freedom?
We make enough money so that we can live on passive income.
And how can we speed this process up?
Cut spending while increasing earnings.
Right. I’ll get on that.
The second part to the question’s answer — what do you want out of life — was to be happier every day, even while I was working.
In practical terms, I needed more than just the damned job.
And what made me happier on a day-to-day basis? Connections to other people. Specifically people outside of work. You know, like, relationships and stuff. The good ones make life really awesome. Duh.
My family was on the east coast, in New England. If I targeted jobs in the area, I could see my mom and my dad again.
The other big thing was my old girlfriend, the one I’d left in Year 1 when I set out to San Francisco for work. We’d done the long-distance thing for the first two years or so, but then it petered out because, as every adult knows, that form of relationship always breaks over time. But I never got over her.
So I called her, nervously, to see what she thought about me moving back to the Boston area.
Was she single? Would she be interested in seeing the scoundrel known as <livingafi> again? We hadn’t spoken in a year and the last time we’d seen one another, we had not parted on great terms. I expected a response along the lines of go-fuck-yourself but instead she warmly asked me to call her once I was in town.
Let’s get together and catch up, she said. We’ll see how it goes.
I was ecstatic. Things seemed to be lining up for a return to my college stomping grounds, my friends, an ex-lover, and my family. I had a plan to take both my life and my freedom back, bit by bit.
Now I just needed a job.
I’m really loving this series. You have become one of my favorite bloggers up there with others on your blogroll. Keep up the great writing.
I really appreciate the comment, which is about as nice as they come. I don’t know what to say other than thanks(!) and I’ll keep the posts coming.
Where can I get that Clippy? Seriously though, I think changing jobs and locations has helped me tremendously. Sometimes you just need to shake everything up and see how it falls out. Tough to do ‘on purpose’, but necessary. I look forward to seeing where this is going…
Hey EV, nice to see you stop by! I totally agree, mixing it up by going to a new employer has helped every time except once (in year 11 I picked a real dud), and many of my friends and peers have similar comments — that it’s like hitting the reset button on job stress, at least once you’ve made the initial transition. On that subject, FinancialCompany turns out to be, like most jobs, good and bad, but mostly just different.
If this series were a book, I would have read it in one sitting. Keep up the great work, and I’ll do my best to patiently wait 🙂
Good call: given the insane length, it practically is a book. Thanks for sticking with me on this.
Hah. I love the fake enthusiasm you added to your resume…and the fact that it worked! I really love this series. I can really connect with the emotional roller coaster you seem to have gone through, although I think my burn-out rate is much faster (a year and a half).
Right, cover-letters really are effective for many places to try to differentiate your application from others. Of course my actual suck-up language was a little more tactful but that doesn’t change the nature of it all, which is gushing over your new company. Like you, I’m burnt at FinancialCompany after 1.5 years but I gutted it out a little longer anyway. I must like suffering 😉
This post is sooo good. Shared it with DW, because I think your analysis of corporate life-suck really nailed what she’s going through this year.
I’d buy the e-book of this 😉
Awesome! Hope you both got a couple of laughs.
Pingback: Confessions from a High-Paying Job | microBillionaire
I’m one of those rare unicorns that actually did love my job… and you’re notes are spot on:
1) It was my first job so I loved learning about all the cool technology in the field
2) It was a startup company making a new product, so I had a ton of flexibility and creative input that made it into the product
3) I was just out of school with no family while living abroad, so putting in extra hours because I was enthusiastic didn’t create personal conflicts
However, after 5 years, things change. The industry takes a downturn and budgets get slashed/projects cancelled. Your boss changes. You’re asked to do tasks you don’t like on top of the ones you do. Customers relentlessly attack like angry goblins. The list goes on.
The state of loving your job is so fragile. Luckily I found FI or else I’d be the most depressed person on earth having seen how fun it can be only to then be stuck in a more typical situation.