hiya friends. we hope you guys all had a great week, and are looking forward to a spectacular weekend. we’re hoping to spend a good chunk of the weekend on the ski slopes, since we missed quite a few powder days while we were away for “late thanksgiving.” carpe diem!
in the financial independence/early retirement space, we know we’re not alone in complaining about work. the demands of work today, and the expectation that we’re all connected at all times. the pointlessness of so much of it. the toll it takes on us mentally and physically. the golden handcuffs that make it feel impossible to leave. the debt and lifestyle inflation that can make it feel like we have no other options.
but we’ve made a decision: we’re done complaining about work.
we had six days over the long weekend and into this week when we didn’t spend all day looking at screens. we were on planes — together (!!) — and then in the company of extended family, and we had a lot of time that we don’t usually have to reflect, and to talk with people who are outside of our usual circles. we also were a part of a memorial service, which has a way of bringing things into sharp relief.
you know how this goes with family you don’t see that often: they ask how things are going, and what you do for work, and you give the elevator pitch version of your job over and over. as we both did that, we remembered how much we actually like what we do. how much we like talking about it. we’re in jobs that are relevant and interesting to us, and that can be a lot of fun. sure, they’re stressful, but why would we get paid so well if they weren’t? and we also came back to something we already knew: we’re lucky to have our jobs, and to have had them for as long as we have. to even have the opportunity to have the types of jobs that we have in developed nations is a real luxury.
thinking about things this way, some of our word choices in past posts make us cringe a bit, especially one in particular: soul-sucking. does the endless pace of work sometimes make us feel drained? absolutely it does. but suck our souls? wow, we must have precious little souls if work that doesn’t cause bodily harm or come with verbal abuse, like so many jobs in the world, and which pays us significantly more than a living wage without asking us to compromise our principles, qualifies as soul sucking. it was exaggeration, of course, and something that we know a lot of you can relate to, but we want to try to right-size our words moving forward.
in line with last week’s gratitude post, we’re taking this moment of reflection to remind ourselves in a big way — and to put it out there publicly, in this post, to keep us accountable — that we’re fortunate in pretty much every way imaginable, and we truly have nothing to complain about. work should be, well, work. and we’re done complaining when it lives up to its name.
we’re lucky because of more than just our jobs
on this same trip, we visited some old cemeteries, which have always been a source of fascination for me. and in the ones with graves dating back to the 1700s and 1800s, we were hard pressed to find more than a handful of graves for people who’d lived much beyond 30. we are 36 and 39. looking at these seas of headstones for people who died at 29, 30, sometimes an outlying 34, or much, much younger — it was humbling. we’d be some of the oldest people around if we were our age in their day. and these were people with the means to be buried in an individual grave, not buried in a mass grave like the poor. how much younger did they die, we wondered?
it made us feel like we need a new, broader phrase for “first world problems.” something that encompasses how fundamentally different life is in this day and age compared to the not so very distant past. when social security was created, after all, achieving the age of 60+ was a rare feat, not something everyone expected to do — and that was less than 100 years ago! so the very act of living past 30, or 40, or especially anything north of 50, makes all of us incredibly lucky.
being able to retire at all is still an incredibly recent phenomenon, and not something that the vast majority of humans who’ve ever lived could have ever dreamed of. in the first half of the 20th century, those who managed to beat the odds and retire usually only lived a few years after they quit working — again, less than 100 years ago. and now, here many of us are, retiring early enough that we could have 50 years of retirement. we could have more retirement years than the average entire lifespan of people living in the 19th century! we are so off-the-charts lucky that they need to invent a new word for it.
our second act
talking to some of our relatives who are in their 80s and still excited to get out of bed every day, we realized that the word “retirement” evokes all the wrong things for them. and we have no intention of doing “retirement” things, just like most other aspiring early retirees and those already there. we want freedom most of all, but we plan to do plenty that looks a lot like work, namely writing. i want to write a book, hopefully multiple books. maybe we’ll write a book together. on this trip, i realized for the first time in my life that i might one day actually be able to call myself an author, not merely a writer, and i instantly knew that that’s what i want to be when i grow up. so while we’ll keep talking about early retirement here, because that’s the term of art that everyone uses, what we’re really aiming for is our second act. a second act we’ll be incredibly privileged to have.
have you had any recent realizations that have caused you to question how you were thinking or talking about something? is there something you tend to complain about but you’d like to stop? care to share your weekend plans? let’s chat in the comments!
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