This is a living document and is the result of loosely following the Get-A-Life tree methodology to examine interests and build a vision of the future.
I’ve converted everything to ‘future me.’ In effect, I’ve applied a filter to the brainstormed list of items generated on the Get-A-Life-Tree such that all that remains are things I’d like to do.
All Versions of Me (Composite)
|Portugal Trip||1-2 months, Wife’s Family Lives There, 2015|
|San Jose Trip||1-2 months, lots of old friends in the area, 2016|
|Winter at Ski Resort||See if you can get PT work to support this, 2017|
|Slovakia||Dad’s side of the family, 2016, potentially with Dad|
|Germany||Mom’s side of the family, 2018, potentially with Mom|
|Niagra Falls||This is road-trippable, 6 hours. Bring camping gear – there are affordable sites nearby. Stay a couple of weeks. Look for places where they shot the Superman 2 scenes. (Apparently some of it’s been rebuilt but you can still recognize areas. Cool.)|
|Jacksonville FLA||Good place for a winter trip when MA is freezing. Friend grew up there, have him show me around. Ain’t never been to Florida.|
|Mexico||Whenever. Word is, it’s cheap, and it’ll be an experience.|
|Denver, CO||Visit old friends in the area.|
|Chicago, IL||Galloping Ghost arcade, one of the best in the country. Can stay with <anonymous friend>|
|NATIONAL PARKS||Catch all for all national parks. I’d like to visit one at least every other year, starting this year (2015) with Acadia in Maine.|
|Hiking/Trail Running||Time to make my standard running routines more interesting. Tons of trails in the area. Can bike to them, run for a while, bike home.|
|Complete Full Marathon||2017. I’ve done a couple of 1/2s and would like to do a full.|
|Tough Mudder||Mudders are crazy-person events with challenges named “Shock Therapy” and “Fire Pit.” Let’s do one.|
|Media: Watch full series of good shows that you haven’t seen yet||Dr. Who, 30 Rock, Parks N Recreation, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Dead Wood, Rome, True Blood, The Wire, West Wing, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound & Down, Entourage, Simpsons, The Walking Dead, and a Billion Others|
|Media: Full Anime Series||Full Metal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, Baccano!, Psycho-Pass, SteinsGate, Spice and Wolf, Death Note, Shinsekai Yori, Shiki, Kino’s Journey, The Eccentric Family, Ore Gairu, Madoka, and a Billion Others|
|Media: All Best Picture Winning movies||1928 to current, the list is largely occupied by films I haven’t seen. Also check out nominees.|
|Media: Listen to all Best Album Grammy winners||1959 to current. Consider also checking out nominees.|
|Graphic Novels, haven’t read yet||Tank Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Astro City, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, New Avengers: Breakout, Batman: The Killing Joke, Ghost World, Hellblazer: Original Sins, League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Moore), Batman: Arkham Asylum, Maus, Batman: Dark Night Returns (Miller), and a billion others. Bonus: Sketch and ink favorite frame from each.|
|Person Piggyback: Wife||Get those sick thoughts out of your head — it’s not what you think. My wife has her own list of Things She Wants To Do and I will be actively involved in many of them. Person piggybacking is a great way to dramatically change your perspective on life by shadowing someone else. Bonus: You will definitely get on their nerves after a couple of days.|
|Donate Blood 5x year||charity|
|Give time to Clearwater Initiative, work on website||Charity. My role with them may expand in the future.|
|Learn how to long-distance bike. Goal: Across MA||Wife will do this with me|
|Ramp up hiking, backpacking 50 mile treks over multiple days||If this turns out to be fun, I will extend the trips to be longer and longer each year. Would consider hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail. (It does not have to be traversed all in one season.) There are also some great lists of long trails in the states that I can check out.|
|Day to Day Goal: Min 1 hour of active time||On so-called lazy days, I will take care to get at least an hour of activity in — minimally walking at a brisk pace, ideally some heavy lifting or body-weight exercises.|
|Try writing. Investigate journals that will publish.||This falls under my “do something that scares you” category of stuff.|
|Travel: Allentown, PA||Extended family would take me and the wife for a month literally every year.|
|Do a short Triathalon||There are multiple events every year in my state – check them out, sign up for one, train.|
|Provide care to mother as needed||Falls under “Charity” and “Being a decent son/human being”|
|Get involved in <anonymous friend’s> band.||Learn to play more jazzy stuff on guitar so I can join their sessions. If this goes well, see if you can gig with them.|
|Learn bass guitar||Can’t be as hard as real guitar — can it?|
|Write some actual songs of your own.||It’s pretty straightforward to learn songs other people have written. But can you compose? Learn some software, try to put things together.|
|Media: Video Games||This is another never-ending-time-pit bucket. There are about twenty gazillion video games out there, and most of them cost next to nothing and provide dozens of hours of entertainment. Short list of games, off the top of my head, that I’ve never had the chance to play and are amazing: Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Grand Theft Auto IV, Bayonetta I and II, Dragon Quest 8, Phantasy Star IV on Sega Genesis, Yakuza, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Shovel Knight, Chrono Trigger, etc. You can google “top genesis games” or “top PS2 games” etc and get lists of the absolute best stuff available. There’s also a ton of stuff on Steam for just about nothing. And there’s constantly new stuff released.|
|Media: Books||Ahhh, reading. Remember when you were in your teens and all you did was program and read in your free time? Life was so much better then. I can take pleasure in just about any book. Example: In middle school I was the only person in my Lit class who enjoyed Ethan Frome. With unlimited time available, I could get lost in whatever I liked. Some fun ideas: Read everything the following authors have ever written: Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Asimov, Bradbury, <etc, more authors>. Read more of the Russian classics. Read every Hugo award winner. Re-read Tolkien and R.R. Martin and Raymond E. Feist. Discover younger authors, read the new generation, Safran-Foer and Eggers and Dave King and Donna Tartt and Zadie Smith. Read all Pulitzer prize winners for fiction.|
|Cooking:||I enjoy cooking but frequently get stuck in routines for two reasons: 1) I like cooking from staples, which is faster and usually more cost-effective and 2) If I’m really into something else, I view eating as less-pleasure and more-functional. That being said, it’s lots of fun to cook new stuff. Could establish one month every year to try lots of new dinners and desserts. The library has loads of cookbooks to provide ideas.|
|Tutoring||Wife’s sister works in high school and has asked if I would consider being a math/science tutor. Answer: Absolutely.|
|Family: nephews||I have two nephews, currently age 8 and 10. I’d like to spend more time on weekends doing whatever it is that they’re doing. (read: piggybacking on their activities, just hanging out.)|
|Family: canine||Not in year 1, maybe not even in year 2 or 3, but eventually — eventually!! — I’d really like to get a dog. I’m guessing I’ll get most of my travel out of my system over the next 10 years and then I’ll settle down a bit more, making the logistics of owning a completely dependent drool-factory much more straightforward.|
|Guitar:Learning Songs||There’s a long list of songs that’d be fun to learn. I’m a competent player already but it does take time to memorize lead on rock songs. Solos in particular take hours to get in your hands and play at speed. I’d love to sink into this further.|
|Guitar:Finger-style||I currently play with a pick but would like to learn finger-style picking like Jeff Beck.|
|Video Game Dev: SHMUP||I’ve always wanted to make my own sidescrolling spaceship shooting game. At some point in the future, years after my current job has faded into memory, I’ll probably give it a shot.|
|Gardening||All my life, I’ve admired people who can conjure living things from the ground. Maybe I could be one of them, too.|
|Assorted DIY||Of course, I’ll be continuing to maintain and fix my residence and property. I’ll learn skills as-needed to keep costs down.|
|Photography||All my life I’ve avoided photos. Dad traumatized me while growing up by taking about ten pictures per hour of family during any outing. “Just another picture. Wait, just one more, Ruth was blinking in that one.” And so on. I think I’m finally over my dislike — it’s time to learn how to take decent shots of the world around me.|
|Misc Get-Out-Of-The-House Days||Spend a day at the library. Go to a coffee-shop you’ve never been to before and park yourself there for half a day and people watch. Also: Book stores. Or: Find a new local museum or wacky sightseeing thing you’ve never heard about. (Someone just told me about the Paper House, for example.) Actually attend some of the town theater performances — go to the high school plays, or shows being put on by colleges.|
|Get involved in city council||File under: Scary. Consider after a couple of years in the new town. Most councils have residency requirements.|
|Ballroom Dancing||My wife wants to learn how and I’ll be joining her. There are also elements of fear here for me. I’m a massive nerd with great hands for things like typing, pressing buttons on video game controllers, and picking guitar strings at high speed, but the rest of my body doesn’t always work so great. I bump into the edges of doors and things. So this will be interesting.|
|Learning: Portuguese||My wife was born in Portugal and I’ve learned just enough of the language to make her sad – perhaps 500 words. I’d like to become fluent.|
|Travel: Japan||An old high school friend that I stay in touch with is half-Japanese and has been asking if I’d go to his half-homeland with him someday. (He’s gone several times already.) Yes, I will go with you, sir. (Note: This isn’t cheap, really no getting around it. Ideally we work this out, say, 10 years from now, and assets have gone up. If not, I can always pick up some part-time work to fund it.)|
|Learning: Random||There are a constant stream of classes offered by community colleges and local high schools for all sorts of things. Take some. Acting for Adults (scary!).|
|Teaching||Research what it takes to actually provide a course at said community colleges or learning centers. Consider teaching programming or other computer classes. (semi-scary!)|
|Travel: St. Louis||Another friend’s hometown — he visits family occasionally for a week. Piggyback on one of his trips, visit the area, we’d both love it.|
|Travel: Newark, NJ||Wife has family in Newark. We could spend an indefinite amount of time there. No New Jersey jokes, please.|
|Travel: Canada||Cousin lives somewhere around Lake Nipigon and has an open invite for me to come up.|
|Travel: Follow a Crappy Band||I like a lot of heavy metal bands that are struggling to make it. (Examples: Swashbuckle, which is a sub-genre called ‘Pirate Metal’. Hit song: Bringing Scurvy Back, written as a poetic refutation of Timberlake’s Bringing Sexy Back. Pure beauty.) These types of bands commonly do East Coast tours which start in Boston, move to Providence RI, wind down into NH, CT, and eventually end in NY, NJ, or Philly. It’d be a ball to follow them all the way up and down the coast. Tickets are affordable (in the $10-20 range) and I could investigate Air BB for overnights.|
|Travel: Britain||Land of John Oliver. I will go at some point. This may be later in life, 50s. I’d like to stay in the countryside for a while during the summer and maybe spend just a couple of days in London.|
|Travel: All other stuff||Bucket for any other trips.|
|Person Piggyback: Dad.||My Dad likes to fish, but I’m not all that into it. Still, he’s retired, and I’ll be retired, and he’d love to spend a whole week together doing nothing but light walking and fishing. Might try to squeeze this in this summer (2015) — At 72, my Dad isn’t getting any younger. He also likes to refinish discarded or damaged furniture. We could do a project together.|
|Person Piggyback: Sister||Sis is kind of a free spirit. Lives in the Pacific Northwest, does energy massage (Reiki). I bet you get the idea. We have a lot of fun together – girl’s got a wacky sense of humor and a loose… schedule. Go visit her, see what she’s doing. (I’ve been promising for a while, and never. have. the. time.) Or have her over for an extended period — she can swing it. As a vegan, she cooks a lot of interesting stuff, have her teach you new things.|
|Useless But Awesome Skills:||Juggling, unicycling, balloon animals, magic tricks, hand whistling, reciting lists of things in order or reverse (all of the US presidents, vice presidents, alphabet backwards, etc)|
|More cooking:||Bread baking, pasta from scratch,|
|Media: All movies by <awesome director>||Hitchcock, Coppola, Scorcese, Kubrick, Spielberg, Woody Allen, Chris Nolan, Bergman, Ridley Scott, Eastwood, Burton (I’ve missed a few over the years), Polanski, Lynch, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone, and on, and on.|
|Media: Mystery Science Theater Movies||Too many of my media lists contain movies that are actually good. By watching Mystery Science Theater fare, I’ll get occasional doses of comically bad productions. This is necessary in order to bring balance to the force.|
|Person Piggyback: Brother||Brother needs more skillz in Linux, might even help him with his career. Could spend time working on projects with him to simulate real-world job requirements.|
|Guitar: Spanish-style||Get a nylon-stringed instrument and go to town|
|Music: Random||The library has a billion CDs. Pick out some artists you’ve never heard of and make their music the backdrop of your day.|
|Travel: Conventions||Maker’s Faire, E3 or other video-game/tech shows, PAX, Comic-Con, damn, I’ve never gone to any of this stuff. Find affordable ways to go to some of these events.|
|Skills: Canoeing, Rafting, Lumberjacking||Another of my idiotic friends lived in Maine for a long time and picked up Paul-Bunyan type skills. Force him at axe-point to teach me these.|
|MOAR STUFF GOES HEER|
Tough Mudder – very fun! Another great obstacle name is the “Arctic Enema.” I enjoyed the TM in 2012 that I did and would recommend them as a groups-of-friends activity. Name your group something silly with the word “Badass” in it, or some word play on “Doom.” And then laugh your butts off all the way through the event.
Nice to hear you survived a Mudder — that sort of builds confidence that I’ll be able to handle it myself (I think?!) Is Arctic Enema the dumpster full of icewater? That’s the event that scares me most, I’ve heard you have to not only jump in but then duck under once more (after gasping for air) and swim under some obstacle. I’d rather get shocked, burned, and covered in filth… although, pretty sure those things will all happen too.
So, I’m going to person-piggyback on you. Great list.
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Well, maybe you’re different, but things that sound like fun hobbies when you’re working turn into mindless procrastination when you’re not. I’ve done a bunch of this stuff, basically having the adolescence other kids got, and woke up one day saying “I haven’t done one thing today that challenged me or made me feel productive or engaged.” I cooked, I took modern dance classes (scary), I learned about classical music and listened to it. I got out of the house and engaged with other human beings, but I was bored. Was I depressed? Did I hate the irresponsible artists and 70year old retirees I was spending time with? There was no beer or TV involved (those came later) but I could have been your uncle. I’m sort of sad for you because I think university is a great environment to stay mentally engaged and also join some random activities with smart adults. I like the mmm community but I’m unlikely to run into them at the grocery store whereas you knew a bunch of smart people who have a good work/life balance and flexible schedules.
>>mindless procrastination when you’re not.
Procrastination from what? I’m not sure I understand this comment?
>>I’m sort of sad for you because I think university is a great environment to stay mentally engaged and also join some random activities with smart adults.
People are different. Jobs are different. Keep that in mind when you make assumptions about my work environment and mindset, please. Why would you feel sad for someone who is generally as happy as I am?
Look, I’m in IT. This is an industry which applies relentless pressure to workers. (See: outsourcing. See: H-1B visa abuse. See: afterhours work and other schedule-related inanity. See ageism. See the constant insistence on learning new technologies yearly and then supporting them during intense production outages which occur at inconvenient times, maybe 2PM on a weekend when you’re out and about pursuing other things. (Medical equivalent: Here, doc, use this textbook to learn about Romulan physiology, read it during the week and then on the following weekend we’ll put you on EMT duties for their species.)
I will not be performing this work simply to gain perhaps 20 minutes a day of socialization. Because of the field I’m in, it hardly matters that I work for a university — the scheduling of events, on-call, etc mean that the demands of the job continually threaten to run your life for you. There is no escape from this — only pushback and continual monitoring and managing of the situation.
I have friends and family outside of work to keep me engaged and interested in life.
I won’t be returning to my industry or regimented office work of any kind. If I can’t find something else to properly engage me, so be it. There’s zero difference in my mind between wasting my life in an office and wasting my time pursuing leisure in its many forms, and occasionally doing some volunteering to feel as though I’m giving back a bit. And to clarify a bit: I’m not opposed to finding engaging and meaningful work again in my life — but I’m not going to actively seek it out, either.
I wish you the best figuring it out for yourself. Early returns on my own life without the presence of a manager or 45+ hours of weekly obligations are fantastic. I know that this can get old for many people, but in the unlikely event that it does, eh, I can always find a job to eat hours. Lots and lots of employers out there would love to eat my life hours up.
>>I got out of the house and engaged with other human beings, but I was bored.
Maybe your work interested you more than you thought. If I was in that boat, I might try freelancing so I can do what I love without doing it for more hours than I would love to do it. And I do think there was something to your comment about not really connecting with the “artsy” people you found to hang out with. Not having meaningful relationships can be a real problem. Humans are not meant to float around without a “tribe” of sorts that we feel connected to. We’re evolved to want to be a part of a group and help people out, get affirmation, feel like we’re contributing. I put some of this drive into friends and family, and the payoff is that I feel appreciated.
I’m taking the long way around to saying that I just don’t identify that strongly with my work, and I’ve found it boring for years. Honestly, it’s been an incredible thing to not have to do it anymore. Just. Incredible.
>>woke up one day saying “I haven’t done one thing today that challenged me or made me feel productive or engaged.”
BTW, when you say “woke up one day” — how long did it take for you to reach this state?
Also, if you want to talk about any of this offline, feel free to use the contact form on the blog to send me direct mail.
Woah, sorry if that came across judge-y, I think I just meant that academia plus work/life balance sounds like a long term happy place. I do understand the issues you speak of, my brother is a programmer and I heard about the instability and outsourcing. He has a job like your last one, good manager, sane hours, ability to surf internet between emergencies, paid training. I have a nominal job at a university and I still love the kind of people it puts me in touch with. I’m assuming you will be happier in FI than I was due to 1. Marriage and 2. Longer time in job hell. It depends on how you measure the time away, it probably took me a full year to detach from my lifelong goal of being a theoretical mathematician and maybe 18 months to reach the “I need more” stage. Yeah mindless procrastination was poor writing on my part, I guess I mean that when I was thinking about hard math 12 hours a day, spending a day hiking was rest, like sleeping, it wasn’t a waste of time. There came a point where these hobbies, individually meaningful, were a distraction from living rather than a way to decompress or adding more happy to my life. I’m still not expressing myself well because I don’t understand what happened exactly.
>>Woah, sorry if that came across judge-y, I think I just meant that academia plus work/life balance sounds like a long term happy place. I
In turn, I’ll apologize for being defensive. Although I have the power to delete this whole semi-awkward exhange I’ll let it stand, proof (as if you needed any) that internet bloggers can overreact just like everyone else. Apparently I missed your tone — it sounded like you were becoming one of the so-called internet retirement police for a moment there, which may be what triggered my response. But I was, thankfully, wrong.
>>He has a job like your last one, good manager, sane hours, ability to surf internet between emergencies, paid training.
Yes, it does sound like a decent gig. These are all the reasons I took my own (final) job in academia. It was a place to hide out — to do some work that I find, at least occasionally, interesting, while not being abused.
So you can imagine my own surprise when I found that even this sort of position was rapidly growing intolerable. When I took the position I initially thought “I can just do this indefinitely and be happy.” I was wrong. Being FI eventually exposes exactly how you feel about what it is that you’re doing. You just can’t play make believe (read: practice cognitive dissonance, at least when it comes to your job) when you know you can walk out the door and never come back.
>>Yeah mindless procrastination was poor writing on my part, I guess I mean that when I was thinking about hard math 12 hours a day, spending a day hiking was rest, like sleeping, it wasn’t a waste of time
This makes perfect sense to me. You had a driving alternate goal — something specific ambition you were retiring to — and felt you had to work on this (theoretical math) at all times. When you weren’t working on it, you felt like you were not doing what you should be doing, hence, the sense of procrastination.
And most troubling of all, you gave it (the dream, the thing you retired to) up for whatever reason. In the absence of that goal, you evaulated your time away from formal work differently, and it began to come up sorely lacking.
That’s painful, and I don’t say that in a patronizing way. It just sounds hard to deal with – I’m sorry.
>> I’m still not expressing myself well because I don’t understand what happened exactly.
OK. Thanks for making an effort to share — I’m at least getting an inkling.
Look, there is a hidden truth of ER, which is that without lots and lots of work drama and crap to keep you running on that treadmill, you are forced to take an unfiltered look at what you are living for — what you are doing. I’m already seeing it just seven weeks in. When you’re so busy you can’t see straight, you can’t — don’t — think about these things all that much — you consider the deeper meaning of life in passing, maybe some Saturday night when you’re (amazingly, uncommonly) at peace with the world and you have free time. But then before you know it you’re off doing (work and family stuff) which prevents you from really getting to the bottom of the whole meaning question; you’re distracted. You won’t think about this thing again for another month.
With limitless time and not enough to keep us busy, us humans can’t help but return to that central question: What is the point of all of this (life?).
I’ll end this enormously long comment (which probably no one will read) with a Vonnegut quote:
“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”
FI gives you a lot more time to wonder why, why, why, and this is honestly not a good thing for everybody.
PS, I made the mistake of letting my family convince me to make a major move which I think delayed the “I want more” by a year, and then delayed my finding a job because 1. Recession and 2. No local contacts. I think it is good to put a temporary physical separation in, but wish i’d done a 3 month vacation. I think everyones timeline is different, and I have no judgement on someone who is happy to be FIRE. My other thought was that I might be happier in Europe where work/life balance is a cultural mainstay.
The wife and I have been doing 30-day challenges this year (giving up sugar, learning how to draw a face, 10 extra minutes of core work, etc.). We will add this to the August challenge. We both need to further define what we want life to look like. Cheers.
Thanks for sharing this list, it takes more courage?… something, anyway, than I have to put something personal on a public forum. So I feel like a jerk for making this comment but it comes from the same place that wanting to share MMM’s website comes from when talking to an indebted friend. Here goes: your Media: Books and Media: All Movies selections seem to be heavily skewed white, male, American. That was me a year ago, but then I heard an interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, cursed myself a bit for not paying attention to who wrote the books I was reading, and made a deliberate effort to read more books by people from other countries, and women. It’s been a year of great reading. Personal recommendations: Kate Atkinson (writes sentences so good I stop and re-read them), Karl Ove Knausgaard (you might share some musical interests), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Garner, Richard Flanagan, Helen Macdonald. For light relief, The Rosie Project, but not the sequel ‘cos it sucks.
I love this list, and am loving your blog posts! Fortunately only work part time and can binge read 🤓 When I read on your list you might be visiting Germany, I thought, of course, he and his Mom can stay with me. But I guess to you I am a random stranger while at this point I feel I know you better than some of my closest family members. I am really thankful to have found your blog; thanks for the effort in writing it!
My wife and I just completed a year of Get-A-Life goals. We are now working on updating the list to keep the fires burning. It has really been helpful to us to check in every six months to see our progress. Actually, we’re such nerds we have Monday morning status meetings to make sure that we’re milking the most fun out of this early retirement thing. Our friends laugh at our office meeting parody. Thanks for the suggestions regarding goals. I’m curious to know if you’re updating your list every so often but I don’t want to disrupt your retirement bliss so please carry on without replying.