If you were to boil down the multitude of reasons why I quit my job, eventually you’d be left with a single underlying hope: I thought life would be better without one.
Conventional early-retirement wisdom says: You must have some special thing — a second vocation of sorts — before you do something as drastic as quitting — i.e. leaving your first. You can’t just retire FROM something!
But I did: I went ahead and retired FROM work anyway, despite having zero serious ambitions for my future. Sure, I have a long list of Things to Do, but that’s very different from having one specific goal to retire TO. For a long time, it’s been my opinion that it’s simply not necessary to a) go into an office, b) make money — at least, once you’ve already accumulated a certain amount, or c) have a large number of obligations to contend with every single day in order to live a satisfying existence on planet Earth.
So how’s that going for me, anyway? In this post I’ll start getting into it.
A Typical Day
Typical days are for people who have mandatory scheduled events every day. I do not. Still, it’s worth reviewing some amount of detail regarding where the actual hours are going.
The first four weeks or so I moved. These days I was all over the place — lawyers’ offices, bank lobbies, packing, painting, cleaning, craigs-listing, fixing random stuff, sleeping, talking on the phone with service providers, cooking, planning, and then finally, on the other end, unpacking.
Since then, virtually every day starts out wide open.
Oh sure, I’ve made some solid plans with people here and there, locking myself into one get-together or another — a friend’s 40th birthday, a visit with my mother, a barbecue in someone’s backyard.
But most days have been pretty lazy so far. The first week after the move, I was, to my surprise, completely lethargic — my wife and I had been going pretty hard during that whole moving process I’d mentioned, and apparently it’d taken its toll. So I’d wake up late by my standards — eight thirty instead of six thirty. Then I’d read news, go for a short walk, crack a book open, listen to music. Or I stroll into a coffee shop, park myself at a table with a laptop or a book for literally half a day, at turns reading and watching. All of these people getting caffeinated, getting ready to go somewhere. Stay at home parents and working professionals and dog walkers with canines tied to street signs outside. Then me, just hanging out.
After that initial week of sloth, I started to get up a little earlier, seven A.M. or so, taking off for a run down the main drag in town, watching commuting vehicles zip around, aware that most of these folks are traveling to wherever it is they work, incredulous that I never have to do that again. It didn’t seem real.
I’ve lifted weights and begun training for a half marathon. I’ve gone for a few 25 mile bike rides. (As a general note, you might be surprised at how much time exercise can fill on any given day.) I’ve made some killer meals and done a fair amount of housework. I’ve napped, I’ve watched a dozen movies, and I’ve spent more than a couple of days with my nephews, who are out on summer vacation. I now have something new in common with them: We both have absolutely nothing to do but mess around.
Despite the differing consistencies of the days, they all have one very, very awesome thing in common:
I am doing whatever the hell I feel like doing.
And so far, I feel absolutely no drive to do anything all that special other than 1) hanging out with people I care about, 2) engaging in leisure activities, and 3) resting and enjoying the world.
Actually, now that I think about it, that stuff is pretty special.
Although universally happy for me, a few are confused regarding the details of how I actually managed to pull it off. And most were actually surprised when I broke the news that I’d finally pulled the plug on employment, despite the fact I’ve been broadcasting my intent to leave the workforce for years.
Lesson learned: No matter how many times you tell your friends exactly what you’re doing (read: your genius mad plot to retire early), many of them will not take you all that seriously until they bear witness to your own Quit Event. People tend to adopt an I’ll-believe-it when-I see-it-type attitude when someone announces a crackpot scheme like this one. Well, now they’ve seen it.
- One treats me as though I must be the loneliest person on earth now that I’m no longer socializing with co-workers all day. I find this to be pretty funny, actually — I feel less lonely now – I’m generally peaceful instead of experiencing the standard work cycles of boredom, irritation and stress. (Full disclosure: I frequently felt out of place in the office.)
- Another has suddenly been asking me to play online games with him because — his words — I must have a lot of free time on my hands now. (I’ve accepted, with the restriction that it doesn’t take up more than an hour or two a day, and isn’t every day. Turns out, it’s kind of fun. We’re playing League of Legends, which is free, a sort of real-time-strategy game with superheroes.)
- “Dude this means you can finally come out to visit for like three weeks straight, right, like we talked about before?” Yes, it certainly does, d00d. I have a flight to California scheduled for September now.
- My sister-in-law suggested several new employment opportunities for me. Although I’m flattered that she’s, uh, “looking out for me,” I had to gently (and repeatedly) tell her that I really, really, really am not looking for work and would you please stop. Appreciate that.
- Another one, this one a Googler, thinks I quit way too early. “You’ll regret it,” he says. “You could have earned a lot more money.” Yep, I definitely could have, but I would have simultaneously earned more boredom as well. No thanks. I’m done trading my time for money.
- A friend that’s been out of work on maternity leave for about two months revealed that she’s jealous. “It’s weird,” she said. “Despite being super-busy with the baby, the first couple of weeks off I thought about returning constantly — about all of the work I was missing, all of the things that other people had to do since I’m out. I felt guilty, I felt responsible, I felt conflicted. So I thought I wanted to go back as soon as possible to fix all of these things. But now that I’ve been gone for ten weeks, I’ve pulled a 180, like: Maybe I don’t want to go back at all. I’m enjoying being around for <kid’s name, unfortunately not Thorin> constantly, just being a parent. I can barely remember why work used to feel important. But I sure can remember how much of my time and energy I used to put into it.” I said: Exactly. Couldn’t have put better myself. And this came from a very intelligent and driven woman, a mechanical engineer — someone with a so-called dream job, someone who has generally enjoyed her work, certainly more than I did anyway. I’ll be curious to see how it goes with her when the time comes to return.
An End to Mindless Internetting
I have found I don’t like spending a whole lot of time on my computer anymore. I now go days at a time without checking in, and sometimes even when I do, it’s just to play that League of Legends game I’d mentioned for an hour or two or scratch some notes in a blog entry before logging off and going to do something in the physical world.
I like this. Being stuck to a screen for too long starts to make me feel gross, like my brain is covered in Wesson oil or something. My guess is that it reminds me of work on some primitive level, days when I was compelled to stare at monitors for ten hours or more straight before going to sleep and dreaming in pixels before getting up to do it all over again.
So I’m finding that I just don’t miss it. What’s great in 10 minute bursts during a workday feels like a low-grade form of torture when you could be living real life instead.
Example: Someone mentioned Amazon Prime Day to me yesterday and I was like What The Fuck Is That? (Apparently it’s Amazon’s version of Black Friday, designed to boost sales in the middle of summer, and a lot of people bought a lot of stuff.) I asked how he learned about this, and he said: Oh, there were ads on the internet.
How about when? When did you learn about this?
Oh I don’t know. Middle of the day yesterday. (I realized this was a Tuesday)
Weren’t you working?
Yeah. But you know how it is. You have 10 minutes between meetings, you’ll do some web browsing to kill time.
Yep, I used to do a lot of that actually. Did you buy anything?
Uhh, yeah actually I did. There was a good deal on a vacuum and we needed a new one.
My immediate thought was that our newish knowledge based jobs — you know, the ones where white collar workers bang on interconnected computers all day (at least when they’re not in meetings) — must be really good for companies selling product, because people are now buying stuff even when they’re in the office, ostensibly working. And it’s a perfect environment for sales: People are trapped (i.e. they find it difficult to pursue any genuine personal interests), bored (fantasizing about doing something else that might be more fun), and earning money (which immediately justifies practically any purchase they might want to make).
But my second set of thoughts was much simpler. I don’t miss the internet. The new-age, 2010-ish web part of it, anyway — the one with a billion advertisements that seems to know more about me and my desires than I do. The one that pops up tempting pictures of the xbox one and announces that Gamestop is now selling retro games and follows that up with an invitation to watch Fuller House. Of course I want to watch Fuller House, goddammit! Bob Saget is AMAZING. Screw you for knowing so much about me, internet!
Ugh. Look, in all seriousness, I’ve found that the distraction of the internet just isn’t all that compelling anymore. So nowadays when I go online, I do it with a lot more focus. (Also with a clean browser, which eliminates targeted advertising because: no cookies.) I know what I’m going to do before I hop on — and then I get on, do what I need to do, and get out before it hooks me. Don’t want to have another angry incident, now, do we?
Changing Perspectives on Family Responsibilities
So I hinted at this in my last post, but it’s worth mentioning again: It’s easier for me to spend time with my parents. My folks are just like everyone else’s, after all . They ask: When are you coming to visit? While I’m there, they’ll follow that up with Why can’t you stay longer? And then they’ll be asking, before I’ve even hinted that it’s time for me to leave: When are you going to come see us again?
Anyway, I’ve managed to increase the frequency at which I both see and talk to my (divorced) parents. Example: In just two months I’ve driven down to my Dad’s place three times, with another visit scheduled for next weekend. He enjoys showing me his garden, complete with accompanying stories (ya gotta hear about this woodchuck I trapped), then moves on to complaining about the Boston Red Sox (terrible! they outta fire the manager!), and then tells me I need to come back in three weeks — absolute max! — so I can taste his world-class cherry tomatoes.
These are terrific developments. I’m grateful that I finally have the sort of lifestyle that allows me to dump hours into their lives (our lives!) without constantly worrying about where that time is coming from. Is it coming from time with my own wife? Am I taking it out of personal care — did I forgo exercise in order to squeeze in a trip to see my in-laws? Or is there something around the house that I’m punting? Maybe it’s even something selfish: I wanted to see a friend that weekend but instead I’m puttering around with one of the ‘rents.
Welcome to the new era of your life, where time is no longer a scarce resource.
Other Awesome Things In Bulleted List Form
In the interest of preventing this post from becoming too long, let’s move to a list-format to quickly run down other life improvements that are a direct result of being retired.
- I am no longer jolted out of bed at a predetermined time by an alarm clock that sounds as though it is announcing intent to kill me. In other words, I get exactly the amount of sleep that I seem to need on any given night instead of just kind of hoping it’ll be enough. And it feels fantastic to be completely rested every day.
- I don’t worry about “fitting everything in” the way I used to. There just aren’t as many things to juggle any more, which means there’s plenty of time to do the stuff that does need to be done at a relaxed pace.
- All I have to do to get an instant mood boost is to close my eyes and picture myself back in the office. Do I want to go back to a cube? Hell fucking no I don’t. This works regardless of the level of task mundanity: washing dishes, chopping onions, you-name-it.
- I no longer feel as though I’m living life around the edges of my job.
- I mentioned this in my last post but I’ve been able to spend significantly more time with my nephews. They’re off school now and it’s awesome to show up at their place mid-morning, go for a swim, have lunch, play video games, whatever. (They currently enjoy destroying me in Super Smash Bros while shouting things like “Get WRECKED,” and “I went beast mode on Dr. Mario, did you see that?” Yeah of course I saw it — I was Dr. Mario — no need to rub defeat in my face, holmes). It’s cool — they’re still in that age group that enjoys spending time with adults (11 and 9) and I want to take advantage of it before they become assimilated into the ranks of authority-hating teens.
- Speaking of authority-hating, it’s occurred to me that one interpretation of retiring early is that it’s the ultimate act of defiance — to break out of the so-called system once and for all. As someone who has played it pretty safe throughout his life, I like this thought quite a bit: I’m finally a total rebel.
- I’ve recently noticed that I am slowly losing interest in talking about work with other people. I mean, I haven’t lost my sensitivity to the situation — I can feel the anxiety shimmering on their bodies like superheated air coming off the hood of a car on a scorching summer day — believe me, I understand employment-related challenges. But at the same time, these sorts of conversations no longer grab me — Now that I’m no longer immersed in the grind, they’re all starting to sound the same: blah blah bad manager and dumb politics blah blah stupid coworkers blah blah ridiculous expectations. Question: Am I the only early retiree who feels this way? Followup: Did everyone else feel the same way about me when I went on and on about my own job-related experiences?
- Co-workers: Hmm, let me check. Nope — I still don’t miss them.
- Loss of Identity? Not that I’m aware of. I’ve read that some people — particularly those who are heavily invested in their jobs, e.g. business owners and CEOs, anyone who works 60+ hours a week, and so on — are more likely to struggle post-retirement because of a potential loss of self; the more of yourself you pour into your job, the more likely it is that this could be a pitfall for you. Thankfully, this hasn’t been an issue for me personally. If anything things have improved in this area. And I’m very happy about this: I no longer feel compelled to adopt behaviors in order to adapt to office culture and standards; I’m not being phony any more, i.e. I’ve reverted to something closer to my true identity.
- Related: I’ve reclaimed my brain. I really cannot overemphasize how incredible this is. It might be the single best thing to happen as a result of quitting. The Have-To Train of Thought has pretty much disappeared — you know, that constant chatter that tells you what you have to do in order to be prepared to competently function every day, in order to hold things together as a Responsible Adult. Instead it’s been replaced by a) nothing, at times. Blissful, blissful nothing. And b) stuff I want to do. Like: It’s nice out, let’s go to the beach and throw a ball around. Sold!
- Also related: I no longer worry about all other miscellaneous aspects of Jobdom that took up space in my brain, like learning <new thing> (read: “Sharpening the Saws” in the professional toolkit) or figuring out how to skip the departmental IT meeting or whatever. I don’t worry about my “hireability” anymore. I don’t care what my resume looks like. Instead of feeling threatened by outsourcing and H1-B programs — instead of worrying about my job security — I can honestly just say: IDGAF. I don’t care if computers eventually learn to do what I used to do and start programming themselves, troubleshooting themselves, whatever. In short: I no longer care if I become professionally defunct. I’ve been planning self-obsolescence since 2003 and now it’s arrived. Sweet.
- Improved Personal Care. Not that I was a total slob or grossly mistreated myself prior to retiring — I generally exercised, ate well, avoided drinking, saw doctors at regular intervals, those sorts of things. But since, I’ve already been able to fortify a few habits. Examples: I can exercise any day I want, for as long as I feel like it. I’m not as rushed or exhausted flossing and brushing my teeth. I no longer feel even the slightest bit tempted to have gross food for lunch because I’m unhappy at the office — my diet has improved. And, as I mentioned before, I’m consistently getting enough sleep. You get the idea.
- I’ve been pretty lazy, overall. People hit retirement with a variety of differing approaches — some launch immediately into travel. Others embark on large home improvement projects, jump into a non-profit venture, or go full-bore into a time consuming hobby or sport (or both!) Not me, though. So far, I’ve been firmly in the ‘take it easy’ category. I do some exercise, some reading, maybe practice some guitar, do some socializing, and that’s that. (Aside: So far, reading has topped the charts at least in terms of the raw number of hours dumped into the activity.) I spend a day or two at home, and then a day or two outside visiting people — I’m enjoying being able to mix things up and have a little bit of fun. Although travel exists on my life agenda, the out-of-country stuff is going to be punted at least until next year.
The TL;DR version: I am continuing to detox. Work crap is slowly leaking out of my brain, and I’m learning how to slow down and enjoy unscheduled leisure.
Over the course of running this blog, I’ve come to believe that part of my role as a slightly-neurotic and completely anonymous early-retirement writer is to talk about things that either didn’t affect other bloggers, or they simply don’t want to touch — like potentially nasty parts of early retirement.
But before I share my thoughts on the subject, let me just say that experiences vary wildly: there is a spectrum of response.
Some people encounter zero downside. For others — it does seem to be a rare thing, but it happens — early retirement is completely distasteful and they find that they need to return to full or part time employment. Fine. To each his or her own. I don’t pretend that everyone is exactly the same as me. If someone needs to work for personal reasons — i.e. if they feel healthier, happier, more secure, and freer working — they should probably continue to work in some capacity.
Thankfully, though, I fell close to the ‘minimal downside’ extreme of the spectrum. Additionally, most of the negatives were temporary, leaving the gold nuggets after the silt had shaken out. But let’s get into it.
After my wife and I had completed our move (we sold our house and downsized) I went through a good two weeks of “Holy shit, did I make a big mistake by quitting?” These thoughts were by no means present at all times — they’d come and go. But I will confess that when they came, they were pretty uncomfortable. They’re fear-fireworks, little blasts of animal illogic flooding my cranium. I made a big change in my life — completely destroyed certain routines and rhythms (unhealthy and monotonous as they were) and primitive parts of my brain periodically became upset that I was mixing things up. Why did you have to go and change anything? We were surviving just fine with things the way that they were!
Sitting down and reminding myself how nice it was to not be in the office and concentrating on my breathing for a few minutes allowed me to become relaxed again every time. (I just knew those books on mindfulness I read would come in handy!)
In the end, most of these thoughts were simply a rehash of topics that I’d already covered in my leaving-the-cushy-job post. There’s not much new here — although I will say that having to work through this yet again was very unexpected. I thought I’d completely resolved the whole “Am I going to quit my goddamned job” debate with a resounding “Fuck yes!”, and yet there I was, post-quit, my brain was doing whatever it could to try to get me to re-examine the issue. (Stupid brain! We’ve addressed all that stuff already!) Anyway, from what I understand, this is normal for many people — the feelings typically go away after a period of time.
I Do Not Suddenly Have A Perfect Life
A while back, I wrote a post called The Litany of Office Hate. This outpouring of office-related grievances prompted a concerned reader to urge me to not quit because I am, according to their assessment, a miserable human being at my core and without my job, I will just be left with my own miserable self — the job was, apparently, keeping me from hanging myself. (Holy shit — judge much?)
Anyway, the point was: Retirement doesn’t change your core personality and makeup. Either you’re happy with yourself or you are not. And on this point, I completely agree with the reader. I still feel exactly like myself, other than having a little more energy and optimism. If the weather is hot and muggy outside, retirement doesn’t suddenly make me register that as a cool and breezy 65 degrees. I still have trouble listening to Bette Midler without running screaming from the room, and I still like eating half a box of Fruit Loops once in a while, even though I’m aware this act temporarily turns my insides into a synthetic rainbow puree.
At any rate, I’m listing this in the ‘negatives’ section because I do sometimes have concerns about some folks developing unrealistic expectations of how amazing life will be after they retire.
Life doesn’t instantly and spontaneously become amazing. You make it amazing through your own construction and vision — through your decisions about how to use the additional time available. Without work, you are simply allowed to live much more of your life on your own terms, instead of spending the majority of it on someone else’s. You can truly choose to be happy by putting yourself in situations that generally bring you satisfaction, pride, and pleasure.
Look, if you generally like yourself and enjoy your life and identity outside of work — and expect early retirement to basically be more of that, with increased hours and flexibility at your disposal — then you are in for a terrific ride. Or, related, if you are ready to put time and energy into living your dreams and developing yourself into the person you really want to be, things will also surely work out.
On the other hand, if your dream of a perfect life is to travel the world or become a fantastic oil painter but your ass is regularly glued to a couch watching the Game Show Network all day instead of drawing up plans to accomplish these goals, well then! Your retirement may not feel as special as you thought it would. (But then, that would be your fault, now wouldn’t it?)
At any rate, yeah — although my life isn’t perfect, (I’m still me!) it is a massively upgraded version, like v.3.0 to v.7.5.1 or something. I’m now living the low-hassle life of exploration and community that I wanted.
Adjusting to Existing Without Work
Nothing can really prepare you for the realization and knowledge that you will never go back to work. Nothing — really. I’m convinced of this. Not reading this blog, not sucking down retirement books at the library, not scouring forums — nothing. It will hit home only after at least a couple of months have passed and you’ve not yet returned to your office building.
You will wake up every day and think: Jesus, I’m off from work again???
But even that thought isn’t really accurate. Because you’re off forever.
Last year I took three weeks of vacation in an attempt to understand how I’d do with extended time off. And I had a terrific time away from the regular day-to-day grind. But underlying my thoughts was an innate understanding that, soon enough, I’d be back at it.
I must confess that was initially a very strange feeling to really confront the fact that I no longer have to serve another person or entity. I imagine that I’m a little like an animal that’s just been let out of the zoo, suddenly released into the wild after being confined for many years. Some of them don’t adapt to living in nature — they are missing critical skills they need in order to survive and be happy. They don’t know what to do with themselves. There are elements of confusion in play.
Even now, three months out, I still feel sometimes as though I could go back any day now. I could just waltz in there, turn on my old laptop, log into terminal systems, and start up the ‘ol engines again.
Luckily, I’ve been quickly adjusting to the new reality — the one in which I do not have to wake up every day, check my work calendar, get on conference bridges, and generally scramble around to complete tasks and Keep Projects on Track. And unlike so many of life’s necessary adaptations, I’m not simply learning to live with something that sucks, like, say, getting used to a new manager, who is just as shitty as the previous one, just in hellishly different ways.
This is exactly the opposite: I’m removed the suck, and I’m learning to just exist instead. But it was weird for a while.
Might sound corny, but at age 38, I feel as though I’m finally learning to simply live life.
Some people have difficulty adapting to the loss-of-steady-income, particularly in economic downturns when asset levels are dropping.
FI’ers typically take a great deal of pride in continually piling cash onto their pool of assets during their accumulation years. For most, it becomes a source of ego and fulfillment to build personal wealth. When the rapid forward progress suddenly comes to a halt, it can be jarring. Some even view a dropoff as a blow to themselves — it feels deeply personal. Or, related, others see the lack of continual and dramatic growth to the stash as somehow feeling like a lack of progress is being made in their lives. As though they’re no longer going anywhere.
And I understand this completely: There’s this challenge right at the tail end of the ER journey to shift your thinking from constantly thinking about the future to living in the present instead. (A bit more on this later.)
If this seems to describe you, try repeating to yourself that you are not your job, that you are not the sum of assets you’ve collected, and that you are much, much more than your bank account statement. (Consider watching the movie Fight Club for additional inspiration.) Although they are indeed bound together, your money isn’t the same thing as your life.
Bottom line: If you end up spending most of your retirement worrying about money instead of living, you’re doing this whole thing wrong IMO. Find alternate things to think about — develop additional interests, sign up for something. In the worst case scenario, it’s better to find enjoyable part-time work to take the edge off your financial concerns than it is to continually ruminate over the health of your stash.
Peeling Back Layers of Problems
If you’ve got a job and it’s the worst part of your life, when you remove it, the second-worst part will immediately take the place of the first. This may be good or bad — I like to take the optimistic view that without your job you will have the time and energy to focus on any remaining issues, if you so choose.
But on the other hand, if what you really wanted was to continue ignoring these other issues, then not having to work may not be such good thing.
Look, I used to see the following situation fairly frequently in the office: Some guy (yes, it was always a man) would constantly work late, throwing himself into the job in order to avoid going home to a wife that he complained about, loudly and regularly. Sure, he’d moan about the job, too, but it was also clear that he was using it as an avoidance mechanism, so he didn’t have to address other areas that desperately needed attention. (This is the type of person that will also immediately run off to play golf on Saturday with a group of male friends in order to continue patterns of home-avoidance, even though he doesn’t really like golf all that much.)
If this particular kind of person retires, then immediately those issues at home will grow larger.
The point is that we all have problems. If work is one of yours and you remove it, your natural inclination will be to more closely examine whatever remains. Maybe you’re unhappy with your weight, or your neighbor is driving you crazy. Maybe you’re suddenly confronted with the fact that you need more friends outside of work. Hell, maybe you’re even that guy that I just described above.
It’s best if you’re up for the challenge.
The Future is Now
Early retirement-type people are, generally speaking, forward-looking people.
The sort of person who wants to retire early is the same kind of person who frequently looks ahead ten or twenty or even thirty years and asks themselves tough questions.
What will my life be like? If I stay on my current trajectory, will I be satisfied with how things are going? My job, my choice of partner (if any), my general state of happiness and satisfaction — will all of those things be okay?
If the answers are unsatisfactory, they will actually make changes to their current behaviors which they believe will address the perceived longer-term issues.
Although this is generally a great thing, this Future Vision, there’s always a danger when pursuing early retirement that you become too focused on the future and forget how to live in the moment.
But this can be a real problem, because the skill you will need the most after retiring is choosing to make yourself happy — and a large component of this is living in the moment. (Actually, living in the moment is sort of code for understanding how to build happiness into your days. )
Once you fulfill your fantasy of early retirement and finally leave your job, it’s up to you to be satisfied. If you’re the sort of person who is unable to relax and be present — if you always need a new big goal to look forward to, some massive ambition to drive toward or grand problem to solve — then you may need to create something along these lines for yourself in retirement.
Otherwise the hours may begin to look oppressive rather than fun. Daunting instead of relaxing or exciting.
I know it’s cliche, but all we really have in the end are these strings of moments. Post-retirement, you need to learn how to enjoy them as best as you personally can. If you’ve lost that ability somewhere along the way, it may be rough going. (Consider taking a class in meditation or reading books and blogs about mindfulness if you would like to work on this area.)
All of that being said — I do occasionally project outward into the future. It’s in my nature. Although I’m capable of living day-by-day and enjoying what life has to offer (and indeed, this has been my focus since quitting), at times I can’t seem to resist anticipating what’s to come.
The best way I can describe how I feel about this is to rehash a scene from Office Space.
The main character, Peter Gibbons, is a software engineer for a faceless MegaCorp and he’s unhappy and depressed about work. But everyone around him is utterly confused by his attitudes; they believe work is simply a necessary component of life, no big deal. His girlfriend goes so far as to think that Peter needs ‘corrective’ action in the form of therapy and hypnotism to adjust him to his job — to make him feel the same as everyone else.
So it is that Peter finds himself in a tastefully decorated office, describing his relationship with work to a licensed professional.
Therapist: What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?
Peter, nodding: Yeah.
Therapist: Wow. That’s messed up.
I’m not going to claim to have disliked work as much as Peter did — If I did, I would have left it much earlier — but the underlying sentiment felt roughly the same.
But nowadays I feel exactly the opposite. The new life — the no-job, completely free existence where I can pick what I want to do every single day — well, other than a couple of wobbly days at the outset, it’s already incredible. I don’t suddenly walk around with a perpetual smile on my face but there is a deep personal sense of satisfaction. I am empowered to make my own decisions for the remainder; I’m completely free.
And the really amazing part of this is that things are still improving. Every morning, I wake up stronger and healthier than the one before it. I’m actually surprised at how nice it is — Although I had a feeling that a life without a 9-5 job would be a better way to exist, I did not anticipate the magnitude of improvement. And I’m just getting started.
It occurs to me that in the end, I didn’t quit just to escape FROM work. I quit so I could transition TO living my own life. I decided TO make things up as I go along. I quit TO be happy.
Each time somebody sees me now, when they ask how I’m doing, I tell them the truth with a level of sincerity that’d sound like sarcasm to my ears coming from practically anyone else.
It’s the best day of my life.
**I’d love to hear experiences from retired readers about how the first few months played out. How’d you feel? Did you jump right into travel and activities or lay low for a while? Any specific challenges, or was it smooth sailing the whole way?