If I kept a gratitude journal, the first item listed every day would be to thank people in my life for being there for me. My wife. My parents. My siblings.
But a close second would be a big thank you to myself, for taking the time and effort to build up a pile of sweet, sweet money. Because that money allows me to responsibly quit.
Every day at work, good or bad, no matter how things go, I think: I could quit.
I’m just about there. I don’t have to do this anymore. Unlike virtually everyone else in this building with me, I’m not trapped.
It’s my choice, after all. I could quit.
Knowing that it’s a personal decision to go into work everyday makes a potentially unbearable situation feel much, much better — at least tolerable, sometimes even good.
And it’s been like this for two years or so. At age 35, in mid 2012, I plugged my numbers into the FIRECalc retirement calculator and it told me that my working career could be over if I so chose.
I’d passed the finish line: I could quit.
It’s been over seven hundred days since hitting that initial ‘bare-bones’ mark of FI, and I still think about the possibility of quitting nearly every time I go into the office. Now, maybe this is a good thing, and maybe it’s a bad thing, but no matter what kind of thing it really is, I can’t deny that it is one — A real thing.
Much like a teenage girl that can’t go more than a few hours without thinking about Justin Bieber, so am I unable to make that particular thought depart. It’s always banging around in my head somewhere or other. You know — that one. The one that says I can quit.
Sometimes it stays hidden until early afternoon, when I’m tired and wish I were home instead of in a cube. Other days it might not pop in until nightfall, when I’m close to the end of a book I’m reading but realize I have to go to sleep so I can make it to work on time. If I quit, I wouldn’t have a schedule. I could afford to stay up an extra hour on weeknights. Or two. Or four. Whatever.
Most days, though, the thought hits me first thing, during the commute, because I bang around with other cars on cramped New England streets, total anti-fun.
Seven hundred days and you’d think I would have adjusted to this feeling, but somehow I haven’t. It has something to do with the weirdness of the situation. Nobody quits good jobs without another lined up. Nobody says no to more easy money. And yet, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It hardly seems real.
At any rate, the apparent strangeness of it all is a huge contributor to the frequency of the quit-related thoughts. Whether I like it or not, the ability to retire early has become one of the defining characteristics of my life, as much a part of me as any other passion. If it was common, for example, for people to take extended sabbaticals, then what I’m about to do would seem more normal and probably less interesting to think about — Not a Big Deal. People would be moving in and out of offices constantly as they took extended breaks from formal work. I’d be just another guy giving himself a breather from the grind.
As an added bonus, you’d be able to openly talk about your plans for your next 6-month hiatus with other coworkers, because they’d be sharing their own with you.
But that isn’t the present reality. So I’ll confess here that quitting is my go-to thought whether things are rough at work or they aren’t. It doesn’t makes a difference. With my own leave-work-forever date looming, I’m in a semi-daze most of the time, mentally saying goodbye to things I don’t like.
Seeya later, beaten down pile carpet. Gotta run, meeting room with conference phones atop maple-veneered tables. Hasta La Vista, dirty kitchen refrigerator that smells like moldy bread.
It’s as though my brain is narrating an updated version of Goodnight, Moon, revised for early retirees.
Irritating co-worker? That’s okay. I’ll be leaving soon. Confrontation with management? No big deal, I’m just about out the door. Boredom? I’ll be saying goodbye to that in two months as well.
Because I could quit, you know. And I’m damn well going to.
April 2015, here I come.