It was only a matter of time. From a combination of lots of accrued holiday and some compassionate leave, I have been out of the office for three and a half weeks. The clock started ticking about a week ago; a little whisper of “this time next week….” getting louder and louder as the week progressed until now – Sunday – I can hardly hear myself think for the hammering of that blasted second hand, reverberating inside my skull.
Over-dramatic? I’m just being honest.
Maternity leave aside, this is the longest period of not working I have had since I took that first step onto the career ladder and what a ride the last few weeks has been.
From the exhilarating highs of our family get-away to the crushing low of dealing with a family health situation, work has been flung far from my mind. I feel like I have been living “real life”. Spending time with my family in good and bad, no distractions.
It has driven home to me why I am doing this. Why I focus on saving and investing, track my expenses, drive them low and keep them low. Why I monitor my net worth, measure progress and get excited at the month-end to update my spreadsheets. Because constant practices like these, over time, are what creates financial independence and financial independence creates freedom.
I’ve had a taste this last few weeks and it has been wonderful. In years past I would have been terrified to take so long out of the office and my email out of office message would have read, “I will be checking email intermittently”. But having this security nestled away gave me the ability to take a real break and for those precious few weeks simply not give a damn about anything except us.
The Battle Between Lean and Comfortable
The battle that plays out in my brain constantly is choosing between a lean FIRE and a more comfortable one. I could stop working now and have enough money coming in from a combination of rental income, drawing down my ISA and various interest sources to fund a basic lifestyle. Granted, no frills, but a perfectly adequate living and a back to basics mentality. Personally, I am attracted to this simpler life and if I only had myself to think about I would go for it. But there is my family to consider and so the opposing sides fight it out in my brain daily.
If it gets to breaking point, of course I will resign and deal with the consequences. But am I at breaking point now or is this churning in my stomach a bad case of Sunday Night Syndrome? Is this feeling any worse than what the boys will be feeling when they have to go back to school this week? My advice to them is that it will feel better once you get there and so I am taking some of my own medicine and just getting on with it.
Resetting the Mindset
There are a few things I have been doing or telling myself to make the coming days a little easier.
- Make an effort to stop hating the day job. Remember – it is the reason I will be able to retire decades earlier than the norm. Try to re-frame as gratitude rather than resentment.
- Remind myself of my FIRE goals – what were the financial targets I set for myself which need to be reached before I pull the plug?
- List the big expenses coming up in the next few months which would take a chunk out of my FIRE fund if there was no income coming to pay for them.
- Recognise I am not alone in this pursuit even though there is nobody I can speak to about it “in real life”. Take comfort and learn from others on-line who I admire. I love this post from Our Next Life which is about surviving along the way.
- Have some mantras at the ready to pull out if needed:
- Nothing lasts forever.
- This too shall pass. (It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass).
- I’m here because I am choosing to be not because I have to be.
- A year from now, this <particular problem> will all be forgotten.
- I can’t control everything, but I can control my response.
The Other Side of the Argument
Even as I write the above list, the “let’s quit now” army of brain cells is fighting back and demanding I consider their point of view. Experience tells me if I try to drown them out I will feel trapped and that my situation is out of my control. I need to bolster my confidence and remind myself that even if Monday turns out to be a bad day, I have choices – a mental security blanket if you will. So there are a few things I am doing:
- Reassuring myself by reviewing the numbers for a “quit now” scenario, building in all worst cases and seeing that, yes, there is enough.
- Having a look at the part-time finance jobs market just to see what’s out there (reassuringly, I found 2 roles locally that would be perfect).
- Making contact with a couple of ex-colleagues that could potentially pass me some freelance work (which received a positive response).
As I write, I feel a bit like the condemned woman, waiting for the executioner. Swiftly followed by shame for allowing my first world problems to dominate my thoughts. This is how the pendulum swings in my brain – “this can’t continue / get over yourself / I’m so stressed / get over yourself….”.
I’m sitting in my garden enjoying the last of the Summer sunshine. There is a roast in the oven, the boys are happily engaged with their own hobbies, I am free to spend hours however I choose. My castle is secure, everybody is well and I have nothing to worry about.
The pendulum swings but it’s all just noise. Underneath it all – it’s a wonderful life.