This Is Not My Beautiful House // This Is Not My Beautiful Wife

last week, while on an early morning flight, i flew over a line of cars on a major commuting artery in the city where i was landing. it was barely 6:30 a.m., the sun was just starting to peek above the horizon, and already it was bumper-to-bumper headlights for as far as i could see.

and you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

that road full of cars in the early morning led from the suburbs, with their large homes and manicured lawns, to the urban core where the jobs are.

and you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

and i wondered: how many of those people, as kids, dreamed that, one day, after slaving away at school for more than a decade, going to college and doing all the right internships, their reward would be this: soul-crushing traffic? that they’d rise before the sun for the privilege? that their quest to live the same way they grew up, or how they wish they’d been able to grow up, would force them to live far from where they work, and would dictate nearly everything about their existence? that this would be their destiny?

and you may ask yourself, “well…how did i get here?”

i realized, then, that i’d started singing the talking heads’ “once in a lifetime” to myself.

letting the days go by. let the water hold me down.

immediately, i felt sadness for the people that each pair of headlights represented. were they really just letting the days go by, leading lives that could never measure up to childhood dreams? suffering through a long commute, maybe also an unfulfilling job and certainly little time for fun, in hopes of what? a promotion, more pay, and the promise retiring at 65, moving to florida, and riding out the rest of their days on a recliner in front of the tv? maybe some of them love their jobs, but they’re stuck in that traffic all the same — is that worth it? for everyone else, is this the life they actually chose, or is this just what happened to them, the life they slouched into? and will they have to keep doing this same commute forever, day in and day out?

same as it ever was. same as it ever was.

what makes people willing to sit in a predawn traffic jam every day? societal expectations, the pressure to keep up appearances, the crushing debt of our consumerist culture, or fears about the future resulting from all of the above? or maybe, just maybe, some among those tired commuters were actually like me, aspiring early retirees in disguise, acting just as beaten down by the daily commute as everyone else, when in fact their heart leaps at the knowledge that they only have so many days left of pretending. after all, here i was, an equally beaten down business traveler, taking the same 5:30 a.m. flight that i take at least once a week. the person sitting next to me would be forgiven for mistaking my tiredness for hopelessness.

under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

our outer rocks and stones hide the truth: that excitement and stoke just below the surface. the thrill we feel when we think about the freedom we’re so very close to achieving, and which runs so counter to everything we were taught as children. one of the very best parts about planning for early retirement is this feeling of shaking the machine. unplugging from the matrix. breaking from society’s expectations.

and you may tell yourself, “this is not my beautiful house”
and you may tell yourself, “this is not my beautiful wife”

we don’t ever want to have that realization, of knowing that our life happened to us, instead of living the life that we created for ourselves. that the house we live in is the one we were supposed to buy, because that’s what one does. that the way we spent our best years was trudging through a career we never wanted because we needed that money to pay the bills for the things we felt like we should have because our friends and neighbors have those things. so, instead, we rattle the cage. we ask if things have to be that way. those of us on this path are doing everything we can to avoid looking back on a life that we ended up in by default, because we never questioned the conventional wisdom, wondering my god! what have i done?!

we want to opt in affirmatively to the life we choose, not default unthinkingly into the life we never opted out of.

once in a lifetime

on life’s big questions — what do we want from life? how do we want to spend our time and our life force? — it’s so easy to punt. to never really ask ourselves the question, never really answer it, and slide into a default life. while it’s never too late to decide to make major change in our lives, some of those changes do get harder over time. certain decisions become impossible to reverse. certain habits become entrenched, and we get used to a certain way of living. the earlier we can ask ourselves those key life questions, and the earlier we can answer them with brutal honesty, the better chance we have of creating lives that match what’s truly important to us, not just what society says we should want.

that morning, as the wheels touched down on the runway, i felt more committed than ever to asking the tough questions, questioning the conventional wisdom, and forging a life that fulfills our dreams. if that means saying goodbye to the beautiful house, so be it. same for the large automobile — we can live without it. (but not the handsome husband — that’s a deal-breaker.) this is our once in a lifetime moment, and we’re seizing it. we hope you’re doing the same.

have you ever found yourself in a time in life and wondered, “how did i get here?” what helped you shake free and realize that there’s another path? how are you crafting the life that you are excited to get out of bed for every day? we’d love to hear your always-inspiring thoughts!

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73 thoughts on “This Is Not My Beautiful House // This Is Not My Beautiful Wife

  1. I remember singing that song as a kid, has a lot more meaning today. We had our wake our moment back in 2010, when we took control of our finances.Once we did that we have more purpose and meaning to our days because we are truly working towards something.

    1. Isn’t that the truth! The song has about 10,000 times more meaning now! And meaning — I think that’s the key! Anything can be a good choice if it has meaning for you, but doing even a good thing in a meaningless way is a waste and a shame.

  2. Oh yeah, I was there. In fact, I remember the day when the light finally came on for me. I was standing in my garage – attached to my house in the suburbs, and looked at both my Corvette and my sport motorcycle sitting in there, both of which were next to my brand new Cadillac CTS.

    I stood their for a moment and began to consider the implications of having such “nice” toys, being able to drive the automobile that precisely fit my mood for that day. I then remember asking myself something like: “But where am I actually going”.

    It took some time for me to fundamentally change my lifestyle, but that moment a couple years ago was the start of what I would call the metamorphosis of my life from one that honored expensive toys to one that appreciated financial independence much, much more.

    But let’s be honest – did those toys make me happy? When I drove them, honestly, YES. Imagine tearing down a deserted road out here in the desert on a 1000cc race motorcycle, seeing the dotted road lines become just one solid line, the roar of the engine underneath me, the adrenaline coursing through my veins.

    Seriously, it was a lot of fun. But in the end, that fun really wasn’t getting me anywhere. The fact was I was paying dearly for those temporary moments of happiness, and I grew increasingly concerned that I NEEDED something like a motorcycle or a supercharged car to feel happy in the first place.

    And worse, I was paying for those toys by working a job that I didn’t like. Back then, it was true, bona-fide hatred of the job. Today, I’m merely indifferent, but back then, I didn’t like each and every day that I had to commute into work. I had to make a change.

    What a distance I’ve come since then. What a distance.

    1. Of course those toys made you happy! Why would people buy them if they didn’t?? Same as all of our extravagant travel and dining out made us super happy. :-) I think none of us should have any shame for having once had a different definition of happiness that required more spending. Especially since, if you’re already able to be so close to FI, you clearly didn’t sink your finances to have our bike and sports car and big SUV. Same for us with our dining and travel. And we’re GLAD to have spent that money for all those years, because they were a ton of FUN, we have great memories from them, and we don’t have to worry about that “grass is always greener” thinking creeping into our minds as we get to year 10, 20, 30 of frugal living. We’ll always know “we did that stuff, and it was great, but we don’t need it to be happy.” Same for you.

      Wow — I didn’t know that you had such a start “aha” moment! We didn’t have one of those, but it must have been powerful. Our realization was more gradual. Of course we’d have those intense “we hate working!” or “we hate our jobs!” moments, but never that single, crystallizing moment . You should write about that! :-)

  3. Same as it ever was…. Same as it ever was… :) Great post!
    I love what I do, and the people I work with, and the way my job challenges my brain everyday, and yes, I am probably one of those schmoes in their car hoping to not get rear ended or worse on the way to/from work. Inside, I count down the days until I can enact our Lifestyle Change, like a kid waiting for Christmas. I’m fortunate I have such a great job, in SO many ways, and yet, if I could make the Lifestyle Change happen today, I’d smile and walk out a happier man and not look back.

    One of my favorite radio personalities, Tom Magliozzi from NPR’s Car Talk talked about how he realized there was more to LIFE than the path he’d chosen. After working his butt off getting a degree at MIT, and getting a great job, he almost died in a car wreck on the way to work one morning. That was his wake up call and he was worried he’d miss more LIFE by sticking to the path he made, even though he’d worked his butt off to get there. He quit almost immediately and started a garage, and ultimately Car Talk which ran for 37 years. Heck, it’s still running in re-runs even after he passed away.
    Sorry to be so long but, I hope people have their moment sooner than later and don’t live a life of quiet regret. RIP Tom, and thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I love that Tom M. story! And we’re like you, actually — we like our jobs (as well as the perks that come with them), but we’d still walk away without hesitation. And I’m sure we look just as miserable as everyone else on those rare instances when we’re stuck in rush hour traffic. :-) And never apologize for writing a long comment — we LOVE them! Happy Monday!

  4. It is impossible to know what all of those people are thinking, but I would imagine that most of them are in that traffic because they are hoping one day to be a better version of themselves, and thinking that being a hard worker and going back to forth to work each day will get them that better life. This is true to a degree, but as most of us know it is going to take guts and sacrifice and going against the grain. Going to work and making the money is the easiest part for some. The hardest part is eating right, cutting expenses, saving money & believing in themselves. Unplugging from the matrix, here we come! I might just need to go and watch that movie now.

    Best Wishes
    Andrew & Vee

    1. I’m sure you’re right — they’re hoping for something better. It’s so sad that we almost universally believe that it’s worth putting ourselves through these soul-sucking experiences (like loooong commutes) for something “better,” even if that better is what society dictates for us, not what we’ve ever mapped out for ourselves. What counts is that you guys have seen through it all and are mapping out your escape! :-)

  5. Wow awesome post! Seriously! I think the Talking Heads were on to something when they wrote that. I think it’s so easy to be numb to live and just go through the motions until…until what? We are dead? We get one shot at life (or so I think). Why are we wasting it doing anything that makes us miserable in any way. I think all of us can work on breaking free of whatever our “beautiful house” or “beautiful wife” is.

    1. Thanks! And I think there are about a million other meanings to that song — David Byrne is a genius. But of course this is the meaning that jumps out at us, at this point in our lives, when we’re so focused on raging against the dying of the light. :-) And so true — we all have to be willing to break free of the beautiful house, and find what actually makes *us* happy, not what satisfies society.

  6. I had a moment just last week (except on ground level, not via airplane because that’s where all of your great stories come from ;) ). On Tuesdays, I take off after work to go volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club. I always look forward to it because those kids give me a different kind of fulfilling energy. Here I am excited even while driving in 5:00pm rush hour (which, in Eugene isn’t too bad just a little congestion on the roads). I was sitting at a stop light and watching the drivers pass by. I could not find any person smiling in any. single. car. Now, granted this was just one point in time & one stoplight – but this was a busy intersection! Even cars with people sharing the company of one another weren’t smiling. Instead of facing traffic with headlights on the way to work, they were experiencing driving home in traffic with the blaring sunset on their windshields…

    I think that question all of the time: “How did I get here?” Sometimes it’s a bit upsetting, but oftentimes it’s humbling because I am able to stop and recognize how far I’ve come. Being able to ask yourself that question I think aids to recognizing your potential and observe where you can go from where you are at. I’ve mentioned this before but I do a lot of journaling/goal evaluating independently & with my fiance – this helps us craft the life we want!

    This was a fantastic post, thank you!

    1. Wow — how sad that no one was smiling… but also so unsurprising. Commuting just sucks the life out of people! Even when it’s not that bad. Back when we lived in the city and I still commuted for work, I’d occasionally have some oddball idea like “I’m going to smile at people who look over!” And then I’d do it, and most people would give me this, “What’s your deal, weirdo?!” kind of look back. So…. back to the drawing board. :-) Maybe that wasn’t the right way to spread a little happiness. Fortunately we’ve found other, non-traffic-related ways! And I love that you guys journal and check in on your goals often. That must really add to what is already such an exciting time in your lives!

      1. Oh my gosh I can completely relate with the “What’s your deal, weirdo?!” gig. Just like in Elf, smiling seriously is my favorite – but more often than not when I smile at someone I get the look of
        “You’re strange” more than anything! It’s such a bummer!

  7. I think I was at that point when I started this FI journey in 2014. I started realizing working 48 weeks out of the year, 5 days a week at least, and doing this for 35+ years was not what I wanted out of my life. I think the main reason people find themselves in that spot you’ve described sitting in traffic before sunrise is because of societal “norms”, expectations from friends and family, defining success by moving up the company ranks, and earning a better future for your kids. Others are just built for following a set path for them, and they feel better in a routine set up by others. I on the other hand, have realized I’m charting my own course – eventually :)

    1. That notion you raised that some people are just built for the conventional path seems so sad, but it’s probably true. :-( At least you found your alternate vision, as did we, as did a lot of others here. I guess our job is to spread the word to everyone willing to try our alternate course!

  8. I believe that it’s Gretchen Rubin (Happiness Project) who discusses the concept of “drift.” You just get carried along with the current, checking off the standard “to-do” list of life. I realized that this was exactly what had happened to me. I had let life happen to me, instead of deciding how to live for myself. I’m so thankful for the wake-up calls and my ability to finally see through the charade. Now, I watch all these consumerist zombies obsessed with status and feel like an outsider, but in a good way. It’s like being in a secret, elite society who are working towards an amazing future.

    1. I love that way of thinking of it — a secret society of people working toward our secret (for now) future! And “drift” makes total sense. What a great way to describe what tends to happen. Congrats on breaking out of that current and finding your own path!

  9. One thing that’s crazy about our current mode of living is that it takes almost no time for the pursuit of life to get squashed out of us.

    I saw a ton of pictures from my 5 year college reunion this weekend, and nearly everyone looked tired. It’s crazy to think that the people that I most associate with the vigorous pursuit of life are locked up behind computers like me.

    I think a comparable song is from Judah & The Lion- Rich Kids

    1. I’ve had that same experience of seeing friends and colleagues age really quickly, and it definitely gave me a jolt and said, “You don’t want this! There must be another way!” We have to listen to those impulses and make sure that we’re shaping our lives intentionally, not just doing things — using your class reunion as an analogy — to have good stories to tell at the reunion! :-)

  10. “Same as it ever was…. same as it ever was…” I love this poetic post. I’m someone who loves change. Some people hate it. I thrive on what’s next, what the options are, and how I can choose to jump at them. Being stuck as any headlights stuck anywhere is a problem for me. Even realizing I would have to be those headlights for long enough to make it to freedom was a depressing thought. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful in all things and make sure each choice leads to what we want our lives to become!

    1. Thanks, Maggie! I’m like you — good with change. The Mr., notsomuch. I get super impatient when I feel even a little stuck. Ironically, planning for early retirement — the ultimate form of being unstuck! — is what has taught me to be patient and think long-term. Hope you had a safe trip home and enjoy your TJ’s spoils! :-)

  11. Loved this post! As many times as I’ve heard that song, I’ve never really payed much attention to the lyrics.

    The song that resonates for me in this way is Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching”. I’ve seen them too many times to count and as I really listen to those lyrics now I can’t help but think back to how many people have listened/sang/danced to that song over the years and completely missed the message.

    I think I always knew that I wanted something different from life. The thing what held me back is the gnawing doubt that it was actually possible. If you could do something different, why didn’t I know anyone who was doing it?

    The thing that finally set me free is reading blogs like ERE and MMM and actually seeing other people do what I wanted and seeing that it is actually possible. It is what inspired us to share our story, even though we are intensely private people. I hope that with so many people now sharing their stories it will make it easier for the next generation to find a story that resonates with them and latch onto to help break this pattern.

    Cheers!
    EE

    1. Thanks! Okay, gotta go back and listen to Ants Marching more closely. :-) I think you question is at the core of the conundrum we all face in starting to think about early retirement for real: “If this is so possible, why don’t I know anyone who’s done it?” Fortunately, we’re all working to change that. I love how you said that we’ll all help the next generation see what’s possible, to help break the pattern!

  12. If someone told me when I was a kid that I would be trading eight hours of school for eight hours (or more) of work daily, I would have said no thanks. I had no idea what future was ahead of me, the one I had unconsciously chosen. I sit at the gate, bound for LAX this week for work. I wonder how I got here–how could no one have told me about this part when I was a kid? Awesome post.

    1. Kids aren’t taught what adult life is really like, and how inconsequential so many careers are, as you highlight. At least you’re approaching things consciously now! Safe travels. :-)

  13. I always felt there was a lot of wasted heartbeats sitting in traffic… and no surprise you were thinking about this big picture stuff while flying high in the clouds…

  14. This is one of the reasons I want to be able to retire early – so I can show my daughter (who’s currently 5) that life shouldn’t be just about working to survive. My goal is to teach her early in life how to manage money and invest in assets that will give her passive income. Then she can do something she wants to do instead of “working for the man.”

    I still feel like I wake up everyday with the old Dunkin Donuts “time to make the donuts” commercial in my head… I’m going to make sure she doesn’t have the same thing.

    Unfortunately, the school systems don’t provide a good financial education – you’re taught to be a good worker instead, so it’s up to the parents to handle that portion of teaching if they want to stop the cycle.

    — Jim

    1. It’s so great you’re providing that education to your daughter. Both of our parents gave us solid financial backgrounds, but no sense that there could be another path in life. We thought we’d be making the donuts forever! :-)

  15. What an amazing post! I spent many years in that traffic, letting the water hold me down. These days I’m able to do most of what I want to do, but it took me far too long to get here.

  16. Amazing post! I still haven’t had that one big moment that has pushed me towards trying to get something more in life. I think it is just a lot of small things that have led to wanting more. I have some great opportunities in my job that challenge me and keep me excited, but there are still those days that the never ending repetitive tasks can push me harder towards just wanting to get out and on to something more fulfilling.

    Also, I am thankful that there is barely any traffic on my commute each day (especially when I take the scenic route). I think that the biggest motivator for me to get out of the work force (or at least work from home) would be having to be stuck in traffic everyday!

    1. Thanks, Thias! We’re like you in never having that one moment, but rather a series of thoughts that have led us to this path. It’s really terrific that you feel challenged and excited at work — that’s almost priceless! But yeah, makes sense that the repetitive stuff would bog you down and make you want a different path.

  17. I sat in heavy traffic on the way home this evening. It was a beautiful day in Austin after a rain-filled weekend. As I sat through no less than five cycles of a red light before I could turn right on a cross street, I contemplated the waste of life. Sitting in traffic. Sitting in the office. Boring, mind-numbing job. And then sitting at home. Too worn out to make the most of my three free hours before it was time for sleep. Sleep in preparation for doing it all again. If I knew where I’d end up, I wouldn’t have caved to my father’s pressure of ditching the journalism degree for the college of business, followed by law. Twenty years at this job and my escape cannot get here fast enough. Meanwhile, I’m going to focus on the water, flowing underground. The life down here, where I’m trapped for a little while longer.

    1. I can relate to those days. For me it’s usually airports, shuttles, security lines, rental car lines, flight delays. But I’m sure you agree — seeing the light at the end of the tunnel makes it all a lot more tolerable. Keep your chin up! Your exit is in sight!

  18. This fits in so nicely with a quote I just happened to read yesterday: “It is never too late to be what you might have been” (-George Eliot). It’s easy for me, as someone in a lot of debt, to feel like I can no longer live the life I want to live, because I have to prioritize debt repayment over everything else. But I know that’s not actually true. I may not be free to choose everything about my life, but there are a lot of things I can still choose. I feel really good about having finally become financially conscious earlier this year, and having already made good financial decisions that have made a big difference. I’m also thinking about different kinds of jobs I can try to get once I finish grad school in December — job searching is a great way to remind yourself that there are a lot of different kinds of possibilities out there, and that you can choose a new/different path! Plus, of course, there are a whole lot of other types of choices that have nothing to do with money, like choosing to be a good person and a good friend.

    1. I love your healthy perspective! You’re totally right that you still have lots of time to shape your life. None of us ever have as much time as we’d like, even if we have things figured out from birth. And love the point that we can always decide to be a good person and good friend!

  19. I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately. Since school started back up, it has been taking me nearly an hour, sometimes longer,to drive 10 miles to work so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

    My first taste of a “real” job was a co-op/internship in college. From the outside, it seemed like a great opportunity and I was doing all the right things to land a full time gig after graduation. I hated it. There was no way I could do this for 40+ years.

    My thoughts and dreams of a better way of life festered from there and this year everything is finally coming into focus.

    Why do we accept this lifestyle as normal? It seems most never stop to ask that question.

    1. Similar for us — things in the work world never felt “right,” from the drudgery of the commute to the meaninglessness of the work. We do think that lots of people ask the question of whether this lifestyle is normal, but probably come to the conclusion that there’s no other option — it’s so sad! That’s part of why we started this blog — to help spread the word that there’s another way! Glad you guys have figured it out too. :-)

  20. Ah yes, the epiphanic question, “How did i get here?” While Mr. FI and I have yet to experience any real traffic (it takes 10-15 min to get to work every day, our definition of “rush hour” would seem hilarious to someone from a big city) we quickly realized the other aspects of working the 9 to 5 that were not only draining our lives of real meaning and but also causing regret and angst from spending so much time doing things we were SUPPOSED to do with 40 hrs a week rather than things we WANTED to do. Almost as soon as we entered the workforce we found ourselves discontent with the idea that we would be dedicating a ridiculous amount of time and energy, not to mention the best years of our lives, to something that was a means to and end. An end that was very far away. While many people we talked to thought we were just being pessimistic thinking about work that way and should just accept this as a “fact of life” and move on, I’m so glad we didn’t. It was our “pessimistic” way of thinking that caused Mr. FI to search Google for something more. It was our inability to accept the default life that made us seek a different lifestyle than our peers. Never again would we be asking ourselves, “How did I get here?” without knowing full well how we did. :)

    1. Ooh, “epiphanic”! You win 50 cent word of the day! I’m jealous that you guys have never dealt with major traffic (and also happy for you, of course), but it seems that so many of us feel this same ennui (if you can use 50 cent words, so can I!) of modern work: it’s all just so meaningless! So few of us are making a real contribution to the greater good. So huzzah to Google, and the early FIRE pioneers, who helped the rest of us see that this is possible!

  21. I loved this post! I love all of your posts! You seem to write as if you were speaking directly to me. It sounds like all out flattery, but I do wish you posted daily! Keep up the soul searching and sharing. Your words are changing our culture, bit by bit. Keep it coming!

  22. Your description of the cars reminded me of a version I read of Dr Seuss’ ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’
    It was pretty much…
    You’ll go to work,
    You’ll go to work,
    You’ll go to work

  23. As I am about to embark on a commute again, this is a timely post. There are some jobs that you have to show up to (ie lab work). In my area, the closer you live to the major city, the higher your county & city taxes, on top of higher rents & house prices. My previous job was 10 minutes away, changing companies, I’m not sure I’m ready to move to the pricier area. For now I’ll try the commute, and see as time passes if I can flex the schedule to not need to make the drive every day. *Fingers crossed *

    1. Good luck navigating all of that — literally and figuratively. If you do have to do the commute, at least make it count! Audiobooks, podcasts, carpools with friends maybe? ;-) During my worst commuting years, I learned conversational German and plowed through a few dozen audiobooks, which is better than just staring out the windshield and hating life! Thanks for commenting. :-)

  24. That was pure poetry and I loved your song choice! I read the first sentence of it and recognized it right away. It’s still playing in my head. :) You describe everything I’ve ever felt. Figuring out what you really want out of life and making it happen is definitely the key. We moved to Florida this year, not so much because the hubby is actually close to conventional retirement age, but because my son wanted to move here. He loves it. The retirees seem to love it. Me and hubby, meh, not so much! Best wishes on your journey. You’re definitely on the right scent! :)

    1. Thanks, Kay! I think you’re right that it all starts with figuring out what you want out of life. I can only assume that too many people either never *really* ask this question, or figure that they want want isn’t realistic (which makes me sad for them). Thanks for the well wishes! We’re feeling good about the journey — just a few years to go! :-)

  25. Gawd, I have to figure this out. I reread a blog I wrote in May 2013 I our business page and realized I’m facing the exact same thoughts and feelings as I did then. I’m letting life live me instead of living on purpose. The problem is I do not know how to stop. My relationship with my husband suffers and I’m fighting feeling too busy all the time. Ugh. One day at a time, I suppose. I’m also realizing that I’m taking him for granted to a degree. He is me as well, but life is screaming at us right now with two loved ones being separated from their husbands due to prison ad’s another colleague facing being a widow soon due to get husband having brain cancer. Life is so not worth this day in and day out routine….

    1. So sorry that you guys are in a tough spot in life right now. I know we all wish there were easy answers, but sometimes we just have to get through the hard stuff. It does feel like a big positive to me that at least you recognize that life is living you instead of the opposite. Maybe just carving out 5 minutes every day to sit still and do nothing would be a good first step? Sending good wishes!

  26. I literally sing this song in my head at least once a month and I do wonder how I got where I am, especially as I realize another month has passed and I am not sure how to account for it. If I let too many days go by without reflecting on them, I get lost, so it’s a good exercise for me to pause and reflect on my journey and make sure I am still on the path to where I want to go.

    1. You have good musical taste, then. :-) I love how Gretchen Rubin puts it — the days are long, but the years are short. The months can be short, too, if we don’t stop and reflect, like you said. Thanks for commenting!

  27. “Soul-Crushing Traffic” – The perfect description of Southern California traffic. I often ask myself “how did I get here?” Great read, thanks for the reminder that the conventional way isn’t the only way.

    1. The crazy thing is this isn’t even about SoCal traffic, though we know how bad that can be, too! But yeah — sitting in traffic is not the future any of us imagined for ourselves, so maybe it’s time to rethink all of it. :-) Thanks for commenting!

  28. I actually just sold my SUV and took a job offer that allows me to kind of start-fresh. Selling my house and sold most of the furniture. It feels really good! At first, I accumulated all this stuff because I thought that is what success is – nice house, nice car, fat salary but I realized quickly it was all smoke and mirrors and that all of these things were a trap weighing down my every step and limiting my ability to be free. Letting all those things go feels great!

    1. That’s so wonderful — congrats! You’ve freed yourself from the “How did I get here?!” moment. :-) I think it’s definitely possible to have stuff without being super weighed down by it, but it required not being too attached to it or letting it define you.

  29. Reach for the stars and keep your eye on the ball! Impressive how you are juggling your careers, your early retirement goal and a blog (we know that the blog takes up quite a bit of time!). Look forward to following you as you reach the big day and beyond! Esther and Joe

    1. Hi Joe — Thanks for reading! The blog for sure takes up a lot of time, but it’s truly a joy, which makes it much easier to make time for. We’ll definitely keep sharing the journey to early retirement and beyond!

  30. When I was 30, I had two halftime jobs that involved commuting from the east side of a large city to the west side over the lunch hour. I was always rushing through traffic and I was always running late. I made up a little chant that I sang:

    She goes to work
    And she drives the car
    And she gets there late
    And she sees the kids
    And she drives the car
    And she goes to work
    And she gets there late
    And she sees the kids
    And she drives the car
    And she goes back home
    And she gets there late
    And she goes to work
    (Repeat endlessly)

    Chant in a deep voice as though it is a dirge, then gradually speed up until you are shrieking it at a frantic pace.

    This was back in 1985. Some things haven’t changed much.

    1. I love that you found enough humor in that situation to make up this song! :-) But yeah, if anything, I think things are speeding up and getting even more unsustainable (see recent Labor Day post for data on this!). But they definitely didn’t sell the American dream to any of us as spending half of our lives in traffic and feeling like we’re always behind.

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