Toward the midpoint of 2013, after an extended period of the blues, I finally admitted that there was something fairly wrong with my life.
I was in a rut again, the first serious rut I’d fallen into in over a decade. In fact, the last time I hit a rough patch like this, I was still working for my very first employer, coming to terms with the adult world — a world based on responsibilities that I had trouble accepting.
Responsibility #1: Work forever.
Responsibility #2: Climb the corporate ladder.
Responsibility #3: Spend your paycheck. Not just some of it, either. SPEND ALL OF THE MONEY.
And so on. The only way out, as far as I could tell, was to save and invest continually so that I could eventually buy my own freedom. So I did exactly that, for about a decade.
During those ten years, I didn’t reflect all that much. I figured I’d done the reflecting already, and my conclusion was to work as hard as I could, get FI, and get out. Besides, life was already busy enough with work, family, exercise, and a bit of hobby time around the edges to be bothered with holding a mirror up to my life.
Then something strange happened. In early 2012, I got a job that gave me a lot more free time. It sounds great, but here’s the weird part: After initially feeling much better, about a year after I started, I developed a mild case of depression.
I’m not someone who typically gets down. Quite the opposite — my style is to identify issues and attack them. Refrigerator leaking? Let’s take that sucker apart and figure out what’s wrong with it. Kid acting out? Sit ’em down and ask them what they’re so bothered about, and if that doesn’t work, take them outside to burn their energy off. Job sucks ass? Quit and find a new one. Staying busy solves problems.
So what I was feeling was unfamiliar: a perpetual case of the blahs.
At any rate, six months into this new world of mental malaise, in June of 2013, I recognized that it wasn’t going away. I remember it clearly because it was Father’s day and I was in Connecticut with family, trying to enjoy steak fresh off of a wood grill on a beautiful sunny day and found that it tasted like a sock soaked in vinegar. Everything was off. A cloud of uniform bleakness had settled over my life, intent on taking up permanent residence. I tried to remember the last time something really brought me pleasure and came up empty.
On the drive back home, I decided to finally give the problem its due. As best I could tell, my options were to a) turn to drugs and alcohol, b) move to an undisclosed location without telling anyone, i.e. hitting the RESET LIFE BUTTON, or c) getting a talk therapist to discuss what was going on.
Despite the obvious lure of options a and b, I started looking for an analyst for the first time, ever. I wasn’t sure what else to do, as I couldn’t seem to talk about it coherently with my wife, and I sure as hell didn’t want to get into it with my local friends, none of whom have much resembling my own life trajectory at this point.
I had an inkling that it was simply time to do that reflection that I’d been neglecting to do. The oddest thing about it all? I suspected even then that the problem had it’s roots buried in my FI status, with maybe a touch of Easy-Job mixed in for good measure.
Apparently I can take an inherently great thing like FI and screw it up.
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