gearing up

Being This Close to Early Retirement Doesn’t Feel How I Thought It Would

Four weeks. Four Mondays. Less than four Fridays thanks to Thanksgiving.

That’s all we have left of our traditional working careers. 

It’s thrilling! And terrifying. Both of which I expected. 

And it’s a little bit sad, as we say goodbye to colleagues and clients we’ve worked with for a decade and a half (me) and nearly two decades (Mark). I expected that, too. 

When we’re not working, we’re checking items off our final to do list, figuring out which health care coverage to buy off the exchange for next year, and double-checking our math to solidify our withdrawal strategy for next year. All stuff I’d anticipated. 

But as much time as we’ve spent thinking and talking about this moment — right on the cusp of our early retirement — and as many words as I’ve devoted to projecting how we’d feel when the time came, my best guess about that mix of emotions didn’t quite get it right.

We knew we’d be in an emotional soup, feeling multiple things, some of them conflicting. We knew we’d feel busy and like we won’t be able to get everything done in time. (It’s true. We won’t. But that’s not stopping us from trying. Three more medical appointments this week!)

People who know our plans keep asking us how we’re feeling, and we know how we’re supposed to answer. We’re supposed to be excited, and the answer we give feels like a performance, playing the part of “how a person this close to early retirement is supposed to feel.” But it’s definitely a performance.

Because the truth is, I’m not actually sure how I feel.

And then there’s the physical part. But we’ll get to that.

Being this close to early retirement doesn't feel how I thought it would // Our Next Life // on the emotional and physical feelings at this stage of the journey

Feelings Don’t Always Agree With Each Other

One of the best things I learned from going to therapy for years was that we’re often feeling more than one thing at a time. That reaction I might have to something frustrating, that feels like anger? It’s probably not pure anger. There’s probably a healthy dose of sadness and hurt mixed in. And that overwhelming sense of excitement about something awesome coming my way? The overwhelming part is almost certainly a pinch of fear and a sprinkling of anxiety. Feelings are rarely that simple or singular.

I’m grateful for that lesson all the time, but especially when I’m facing down the big moments in life. It’s thanks to therapy that I knew approaching early retirement wouldn’t be 100 percent happy, even though it represents so many happy things: the culmination of a freaking huge life goal, the end of work on someone else’s terms, finally being able to get enough sleep, etc. I knew there’d be sadness, from the necessary goodbyes to the many people I work with whom I consider friends, perhaps a touch of disappointment in wondering if I’m not living up to my potential, and maybe even some anxiety about wondering if we’re doing the right thing.

Those feelings are all here, and I’m certain the sadness will hit hard when we have our goodbye parties in a few weeks. (Retirement parties! Holy crap. This is real life.)

The Pressure of the Performance

So back to that question we keep getting: “How are you feeling?!” It’s always asked by someone genuinely curious, who’s excited for us and maybe even a little envious.

And each time someone asks me that, I know: You are not looking for the full answer. You want the pure stoke answer. Like when someone casually asks how’s it going, they are just looking for “Fine,” or “Good!” not a full rundown on the ups and downs of your life.

“I’m excited, but to be honest, I can’t really focus on that right now because I’m feeling the bigness of leaving my long-time career, the sadness of saying goodbye to colleagues I love, the overwhelm of trying to get through too many to do list items before mid-December, all mixed with a healthy dose of ambivalence about the whole thing. Actually, the truth is that it’s all so surreal that I just feel kind of numb.”

Um, yeah. Not the answer anyone is looking for.

I can know that and still feel this odd pressure to perform in that moment, and to tell them what they want to hear. But it’s not just what they want to hear, but how that response should look. A robotic and unfeeling, “Yes. So excited,” is not the correct answer. This is a “once more, with feeling!” moment, demanding a big smile, an enthusiastic delivery and a twinkle in the eye. All of which I can muster, but at a cost.

And that cost isn’t just the tiny psychic labor I do each time I answer that question. It’s also the question it amplifies within myself: Isn’t that answer I just gave how I should feel? Why don’t I actually feel that way? What am I doing wrong? 

I know I’m not doing this wrong, or at least I’m not doing it wrong for me, but the weight of that question coming up again and again just adds to the ambivalence I’m feeling in this final stretch.

The Physical Part

A few months back, I was certain I could sprint to the finish, and keep pushing myself too hard with both work and personal projects because it was only a few months.

But the last month has been a reality check, reminding me that I’m still a human bound by the laws of physics. Or maybe just that I need more sleep, and to take better care of myself generally.

After years of infrequent migraines, I’ve had two really bad multiday migraines in the last month, one interrupting a trip to see family. And I’ve just generally felt bad, with more pain than I’ve had in a while.

I definitely did not expect to feel this way physically with early retirement just right up there. I can count the number of work days I have left on my fingers and toes — shouldn’t that knowledge make me feel good physically?! 

I got close on anticipating what the feelings would be like, but I was waaaaay off on how my body would feel. Physically, I feel like I’m going to collapse into early retirement, the way Mark and I often felt that we collapsed into the weekend while in the thick of work. I knew I’d need time to decompress and catch up on sleep, but I thought I’d be healing from the last 16 years, not from the last six months.

The state of my physical health is forcing me to slow down on some things, to take a social media break (xoxo to my Twitter friends!), and to put some things off until later that I’d hoped to have done by now. I’m bummed about it, but also accept that it’s necessary.

Processing Feelings Generally

Something I’ve realized in writing this blog and then seeing the comments that come in response to the posts is that it’s easy to assume that what I share here — mostly the thinking about things, and much less the doing of the things or living with the decisions — is the entirety of our experience. And that’s not remotely true. I don’t spend all of my life overthinking every possible outcome, worrying about decisions and planning for contingencies. That’s just a small portion of our lives, but it’s the majority of what I write about here.

I’m a “think hard about the decision before I make it and then never look back” kind of person, and second-guessing myself is not something I do often. But writing posts that say “Remember that thing I spent 2000 words talking about? I did what I said and it’s cool,” would get boring fast. So I write about the front-end thought processes primarily, where the real thinking is, and not always the happy aftermath.

And so I’m aware that talking about how what we’re feeling now is not pure, unmitigated joy will sound to some like I’m unhappy, or like I’m regretting the decision to retire early. And that’s not true at all. I’m excited, and eager, and all of those positive things — but I’m also exhausted and stressed and nervous and sad and a little bit numb and any number of other, more complicated and ambivalent feelings simultaneously.

But this is another version of my front-end processing of feelings. I’m feeling all of this stuff so acutely now — especially the negative stuff — because this transition moment is looming, and because (as a wise reader recently told me) we’re wired to process most change as a loss. So I’m staring down a pretty big loss right now, and it’s making me feel all the things, even though it’s a loss I’ve willingly and excitedly signed up for.

I’m confident, though, that once we hit the end of our last work day, I’ll feel something really different, and much closer to the flood of positive feelings that I feel pressure to feel right now.

It’s just four weeks away.

Let’s talk feeeeeeeeels.

So curious as always to hear from you guys. Anyone else who’s close to your end date experiencing the strange mix of emotions, not all positive? Or experienced this in some other big life transition? You know you’ll make me feel better if you share your story. ;-) Any other “do the big thinking upfront even though it sounds like overthinking and then move forward confidently with no self-doubt” thinkers want to commiserate? Want permission to slow down a bit and take better care of yourself, despite your desire to kick ass and take names? I’ll gladly offer support! So much to discuss today. Let’s dive into it all in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

This is my only post this week because of the holiday, and because I will happily take a short breather. You can catch me Wednesday on an all-new episode of The Fairer Cents (Kara and I are talking about emotional labor this week with the author of the seminal piece on the topic). And I’ll be back at ya next Monday with a new post here. 

Sending out a big THANK YOU to everyone reading, whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week or not, for all your support, whether you comment or not, for dropping by. It means the world to me. I’m so grateful. xo

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133 replies »

  1. Can’t imagine all the feels you’ve got going on right now! I just listened to the Fairer Cents and I loved it. What a great project to take you into early retirement. But it also sounds like all these things have taken a huge toll on your health. Good for you for taking a step back so you can rest. Happy Thanksgiving!! :)

  2. Oh wow, I can relate. How I expected to feel and what I actually felt were completely different. As I neared the end, there was relief, but also sadness (I worked with great people) and a little bit of fear (should I really be doing this?). I also asked myself if I deserved the privilege.

    And post-work:
    What I thought would happen was this: My job could be stressful and I wasn’t enjoying even the good parts any more, so I figured that I’d be instantly happier when I left.

    And this is what actually happened: I was relieved to be done, but I wasn’t any happier. I was healthier and the stress around my job was gone, but I felt the same. It was at this point that I learned I had to work on happiness; that it wouldn’t just come to me. It was an internal problem, not something that would change based on shifting external factors.

    I’m curious to hear about how you feel once you’re done.

    • Having followed both of your blogs since their inceptions…this is both an important and interesting message. As pioneers in the FIRE “space”…I find these “findings” to be most helpful. Thanks to both of you for what you do.

      • Hey thanks, Jon! Appreciate you reading and saying that. I am not remotely interested in just regurgitating the standard talking points if they are only portraying one side of the actual experience. ;-) So I’ll keep sharing this stuff too, though more ambivalence arise!

    • Bingo. Happiness (contentment, really) comes from within and it is a choice and a habit.

      Have not retired but took 2 work breaks and had some major “changes” my going overseas twice and ending a 2 decade long sporting career – can relare to the mixed feeling and “will be happy when…”

      That said after the change is processed, it has been very very liberating!

      This is why we are spending must of the time now preparing emotionally to “be here now” and learn to dance in the rain vs waiting for the storm to pass!

    • I appreciate this comment so much, Carl! So much in common here — and you’re right that we’re also wondering if we deserve this, feeling a little guilt, etc. You get big applause for having that happiness realization so quickly! That’s awesome. And yeah, I’m also curious to see how it feels in a few weeks when we’re done! ;-)

  3. You are almost there! Earlier today, I noticed the countdown on your blog, and you had 28 days or so left. Congratulations (in advance!).

    There are def a lot feelings and things you will be processing for at least the next year or so according to what I read from others who have FIREd recently.

  4. Fascinating reading. Thanks for writing this post.

    I’ve gone through a number of these mixed emotions.

    I KINDA hit the retirement cliff at the start of the year – we relocated to Yorkshire, downshifting and investing the profits – but I carried on working from home as I couldn’t quite cut the cord on a regular income. I have since done so, winding down the various freelance contracts I had. And that was actually the point at which I felt most mixed up.

    I have a million and one things I want to do in my new-found ‘free’ time but knowing where to start and actually starting has been weirdly more difficult than I imagined, because there’s no enforced structure or timetable. I was amazed to discover how much that had shaped and affected me over the years.

    I’ve also felt quite guilty at times, or rather frustrated, that the majority of good honest people are slaving away for blood-sucking corporate machines, etc etc. I’m slowly getting my read round it all but it was an unexpected shock to the system for sure. And I’ve been surprised how few blogs and forums there are discussing this moment of FI – it’s all about the long-term planning and budgeting to get there.

    Despite all that, it is an incredible new life and I am so lucky and truly privileged to have it!!! It’s Monday morning right now, rainy and cold outside, and I’m snuggled up with the cats and my wife in front of a log fire listening to new music and planning a book. Beats the commute and the capitalist grind.

    Good luck with your retirement! It will be amazing, I’m sure. You seem very aware of your emotions, which is such an important thing.

    • Thank you, Stephen! So glad you found this post fascinating. And I appreciate hearing about your own experience and the adjustment phase. I also wonder how we’ll do without structure in retirement. We’ve experimented with the concept a bit but also know we can’t really replicate anything like ER in advance… so we’ll just have to see how that goes! But I’m completely with you — staying in tune with the feelings is a far better way to go through it all than denying them! ;-)

  5. Even though the DH and I were ready for him to retire at 59 (his boss begged him to stay for another 6 months and he ended up being 60 when he pulled the plug) nothing really prepares you for that first time 2 weeks pass without a paycheck. There’s a jittery, what are we doing, why are we leaving so much money on the table, what if,what if what if mentality that can be crippling.

    Now after almost 3 years of financial and personal freedom, we are so glad he retired when he did. I’m still writing novels for Kensington Publishing, but any job you can do in your jammies and set your own time frame on doesn’t really count! We are free to pursue time together and new adventures (like the round the world cruise we’ll be boarding in January!) Cutting the job cord was absolutely the right choice.

    Anyway, let me just encourage you that what you’re experiencing is the very natural apprehension that comes with facing a crossroads. Any time you make a decision you know will impact the rest of your life, it’s perfectly normal to have a gut check. You’re about to walk through a door to a new way of living your life. It’s equal parts liberating and terrifying.

    I have a feeling you’ll do just fine.

    • Oh man, that is definitely something I feel anxious just thinking about, not having those checks come in anymore! And well said: “equal parts liberating and terrifying”! ;-) Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  6. It’s interesting to me that you talk about “front-loading” of feelings. Years ago, I realised that when I was younger I didn’t ‘front-load’, in fact I ‘back-loaded’, if that’s the correct term. I.e. I left my home country to study in a university in another country without doing much front-loading thinking, and when I arrived at the new country and university I had a bit of a culture shock (understatement). Part of that was being 17, and part of it was how I did or didn’t think things through at the time.

    What I’m trying to say, badly, is that front-loading can be a good thing – it means you can work through some of your feelings now, rather than it all hitting you like a ten-tonne truck the day after (or week after) you quit your jobs.

    Also, on migraines: they suck. I had two last month after years of hardly any, and I feel your pain. Do listen to your bodyand get more sleep in at the expense of some of your To Do list.

    • I’m sure that being a “feelings front loader” makes my blog seem overthinky, but I completely agree that doing the hard work before going into big transitions pays off big time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ;-) And re: migraines, yes. I didn’t want to have to make more time for sleep, but my brain exploding was my body’s way of telling me to screw the to do list. ;-)

  7. You captured my emotions as I counted down the final days of my career perfectly. Ambivalent, indeed. As I recall, that ambivalence remained in play for a couple of weeks post-retirement but it was not a time of regret, just adjustment. Eighteen months later, it feels like another, very alien life. Your reasons for fiercely pursuing ER are sound and your next life will not disappoint!

  8. Tanja

    First off congratulations and Happy Thanksgiving to you too! The internal announcement of my choice to retire goes out in email across the company on December 1st and my last day will be February 1st. Once it’s announced I am sure I will feel differently mostly because the world will know and the questions will start which might / could raise the doubts about it all but I am anticipating that and believe I am ready though I certainly expect that my feelings will be affected. The Holliday season will give me a chance somewhat to escape it by being out of the office but are we ever really disconnected?

    Right now it’s about preparing myself for those conversations with colleagues and clients, friends relatives and neighbors. Who DOES this at your age I am sure will come up often. Unlike many people who comment here my post working life (my wife left her work career 21 years ago) won’t require an immediate financial lifestyle change (other than completing our exit from the Bay Area to the Midwest and building the dream house) so most of what we are faced with is how will we spend our time and how will we structure it? I so want to sleep for the first month and decompress, but I also do want to be engaged outside the house, active with projects that make time fly. Because my choice to retire is a secret I haven’t really been able to lay the groundwork for this part of my next life as I had hoped to. I do fear by mid February taking a project just to have one instead of being patient in choosing something and reminding myself the money doesn’t matter anymore in terms of the decision

    So that is what I have been preoccupied with in terms of how I feel – but what will happen physically when I go from non stop 60 hour weeks for nearly 30 years to…. Dead in my tracks? It is on my mind a lot because I know that this WILL impact me physically too yet I don’t know how. I do expect to go to the gym everyday to help!

    As I go through re-entry I will share more of my experience but for now I just want to thank you for sharing. It is very helpful

    Phil

    • Thanks for sharing this, Phil! I’m glad it’s helpful. I will say that the work pressure lifted pretty quickly after giving notice. Most of what’s kept me busiest is my own personal stuff, and so that pressure is totally self-imposed. I say that in hopes that after you give notice, things will slow down a bit for you at work and you can have a slightly gentler re-entry into non-career life, as well as perhaps put some plans in motion before you leave. But either way, your notice happens THIS WEEK! What a big deal! Congrats! And please report back on how it goes!! :-D (Good luck!)

  9. Yup – the closer you get, the more anxious you feel. Totally normal. I bet things will mellow out once you slip past that wonderful last day of your full-time work life. No more thinking about it. It just is. It’s life. It’s reality. You’re living it now, and your routine will get super comfortable.

    You’re almost there! :)

  10. I’m sorry to hear about the migraines. Hopefully, you won’t get anymore this year.
    It’s tough to go through a big life change like you’re doing. I’m sure it will be smoother once you’re over the finish line. Maybe you’re over analyzing it too much. Just focus on getting through it and life will be back to normal afterward.
    For me, it was a huge release when I quit working full time. I took a sabbatical before I quit, though. That really helped smooth the transition. :) Looking forward to hearing more soon. Take it easy this holiday season.

  11. Wow, another great piece. I wish I could put my own thoughts down so nicely but you covered the bases for me. I only went semi-retired a little while ago to 20 hours a week, but I feel a lot of these same things – especially the “I’m not living up to my potential” thing. It’s been mentally jarring, since I thought it would be very different. For sure, I’m very happy on many of my days off when I’m riding my bike instead of being at work. But in whole, the experience so far has been different that I expected and honestly slightly disappointing.

    I’s still early, and I hope to settle in a groove and work out the feelings as the time passes. I’m still sure deep-down that I’m doing the right thing for me – as you are for you – but, on the surface that is far from a clear picture. The lens needs to get more in focus.

    • Thank you! :-D And based on what I’ve heard from folks who’ve commented and emailed, you are DEEPLY NORMAL in your experience! Nearly everyone has said it takes at least a year to find a new equilibrium, and that the feelings are not all puppy dogs and rainbows. So I think this is one of those moments to say, “Keep going! You can do it!” (And then maybe you can shout that advice back at me in a few months?) ;-)

  12. Tanja, sorry to hear about your migraines, but glad you’re taking care of yourself! It’s so easy to forget how important that is.

    Oh I’m an overthinker all the way. I’m trying to get better at just overthinking up front and no regrets after I make a decision instead of indulging in the post-decision “what ifs?” overthinking as well! ;) And “we’re wired to process most change as a loss” is so true! Even when it’s change we want to have happen or need to have happen (I’m looking at you, therapy, and the process of changing thought patterns and beliefs…), it’s amazing how the complicated, more “negative” feelings like confusion and sadness get mixed up in there. I think it’s because any change, good or bad, big or small, represents a change in identity and we’re so wrapped up in “THIS IS WHO I AM” despite the fact that identity is such a fluid thing.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • I had a nice, restful break, so hoping that clears up the headaches for our remaining three weeks (holy crap!) of work! ;-) I hope your break was great! And re: overthinking, it’s only overthinking if it stops you from acting. Analysis paralysis is bad, but careful consideration and anticipating pitfalls is good. ;-)

  13. I went through some similar doubts and second-guessing about leaving my first career. I was shifting careers, not retiring, but I was leaving a lucrative career that I’d invested in quite a bit. That was about 20 years ago. How many days since have I regretted my choice? Exactly zero. Your anxiety is normal, but I bet you will miss your careers a lot less than you expect – and maybe not at all. Get some rest and enjoy your well-earned celebrations!

  14. I’ve got a lot of these feels too. If anything, I might have more of them as I don’t have the security of a huge stash o’ cash to fall back. I’m not a typically anxious person, so it’s been interesting to experience and try to work through it. I find writing down a bunch of worries in a list and talking about them later really helps me.

    • I love that you’re making that list and not just trying to suppress the worries. And you know my whole deal is not just dealing with the feelings but asking myself whether those feelings are signalling that my financial plan is not as solid as it should be. Some of those worries have led us to beef up our plans along the way, and I do NOT regret that. ;-)

  15. Despite being an INTJ, I do have a fair-bit of “F” score.

    Been feeling lately a bit of guilt combined with sadness and introspection.

    Guilt in leaving a profession that at it’s heart is doing so much good for others. Guilt in being lucky to be allowed to make this decision period. Guilty of wrenching kids from a school they love and moving them to a new school with SO many unknowns about that transition.

    Sadness to leave so many great colleagues and friends behind. Just chatting in the hallways, having an informal coffee meeting or kicking back at the end of the week by sharing the woes of the week that was. That will be no more, come July 2018.

    Introspection on to why I am not over-excited about our plans. In some ways the echo-chamber of FIRE Blogs perpetuates the myth that it is all rosy and hunky-dory. The deep-down stuff of talking about our challenges on the road to FIRE is less common. Yet those challenges often don’t change once FIRE hits. The frame is just different.

    In some ways, FIRE is making the choice to live full-time. Exercising choice, including a choice to express feelings is rarely easy. It requires risk and usually a high degree of involvement. I will also add bravery to express feeling openly. So good for you for throwing some light on feelings that lurk beneath the masks we wear on the way to FIRE.

    • The guilt is always is interesting to me – my joke is being used to holding a sort of PhD on guilt: as a privileged white Latin mom with catholic upbringing. Lol.

      If the world could be saved with my worry and guilt then it would have. Been saved 80x over” so now trying to really let go of that one and instead focus on something that actually helps lol.

      It is hard though – read somewhere it feels good because it actually tricks your body into thining you are doing “something” about an issue.

      Ps. My kids absolutely have a therapy fund already after explaining to them instead of guilt will be ok with knowing something will not go as expected and at least they will have a professional to help lol (true story!)

    • I really appreciate this comment, my friend! Thank you! And yeah, I definitely relate to what you’re feeling! The sadness of saying goodbye is real, but it’s been helping to remind myself that I can still contact those folks at any time if I choose to, and it’s not completely unlike ending a wonderful vacation that you loved and are sad is over, but that you need to wrap up to get on with life… and to plan for the next vacation! ;-) And in regard to doing good, something tells me that you will ALWAYS be a force for good in the world. Work isn’t the only way to contribute positively. ;-)

  16. My prediction : I think you will very quickly lose interest in talking about early retirement and disappear from this space. Everything changes as it should. And mulling over and analyzing early retirement will soon becoming boring to you. And you will love your new life after you have detoxed from the craziness :)

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts! I’m not retired yet, but I can see how confusing it is to have all sorts of feelings coming at you at the same time. I took a break from housework and taking care of our son to go to a coffee shop the whole day yesterday to blog and do my own thing. But I didn’t feel any happier. I felt lost and empty. At one point, I just wanted to go home and not think about my blog anymore.

    I hope you will figure things out soon. Love your podcast!

    • Fortunately, in my case, I don’t think there’s anything to figure out… it’s just weathering this last phase of work! ;-) And your story reminds me SO MUCH of Gemma Hartley’s story in Harpers Bazaar that we referenced in last week’s podcast episode… did you listen to that one?? (Thanks for listening!) :-D

  18. When I went from full-time to part-time I experienced similar complex emotions, but I think all of the negative ones can be boiled down to one – fear. There is something a little scary about turning off an income stream and freeing up parts of your life that are unknown. I would say everything you wrote about is normal. In my experience it takes about 6 months to establish a new baseline. I would love to read a follow-up post in 6 months to see how this evolved for you :)

  19. Sorry about those migraines. I suffered with them for years and I know it’s utterly debilitating. Sometimes our bodies still react negatively to big, good things – just like how they react to big, bad things. I think once you’re FIRE for a few months your body will get into the swing of things. Hang in there and live the dream! :)

  20. I should have front loaded my thinking about early retirement before I left work, but I uncharacteristically gave notice on a whim. I had planned to stay at the last job (factory) for 5 years, but it was so toxic that I left after 3. I was sick and complaining on Sunday night, and my husband chimes in with “Just quit already, we’ve already met our financial goals!” It felt wrong; I am not a spontaneous person. It’s been 3 years since that day, and I’m still adjusting emotionally. The most difficult thing for me is the feeling of irrelevance. I volunteer, exercise, and finish all those projects that sat waiting for the day when I had time to do something frivolous, but it was not sufficient to keep me from dwelling on what I “should” have done instead. I don’t regret it, but I would have done better if I had planned my exit more carefully. I didn’t find the FIRE community until I had already done it… the support here has made a positive impact, too.

    • It’s always great to know that the community is helping folks — but of course I wish we’d found each other before you made your big leap! ;-) And though you’re obviously a planner and wish you’d been more deliberate in making the leap, I don’t know that having more plans is any more of a guarantee. I think you’re brave for what you did. :-)

  21. Tanja, Thank you SOOO much for your honesty and being so real. That is what I love about your blog. We are complex beings and I, too, gained so much relief knowing it is ok to feel multiple emotions are once. I read something once along the lines of in the West we tend to see things as 100% good or bad, whereas in Eastern cultures there is more of an allowance for good in the bad and some bad in the good.

    And getting enough sleep is the answer for 50% of my issues :) I hope you have a wonderful break, get some well deserved sleep, and feel better.

    Thank you for your contribution to my journey. I so appreciate it and you!
    Best,
    -Kate in San Diego :)

    • Aw, thanks Kate! I really appreciate you saying that! :-) And that delineation between east and west is soooo interesting (and feels completely true to me, based on my experience).

      I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful break up here. ;-)

  22. The first couple of months on the Voyage, I became a late night, when no one was watching, when hubs was asleep, CRIER!!! And anyone who know me knows that I don’t cry easily! It takes some time to adjust! I had all the worries that you can predict: Will we be able to do this? Do we have enough, financially? Are we doing the right things? Should we just give in and get “real jobs?” It was quite overwhelming at first. Now here’s the good news – As you go along the journey, you start to settle in and become more confident in the steps you are taking. Then those steps turn into DANCE STEPS!!! And one day, you look back just a little, and say, “Dang, Scooter! This is a good gig we’ve got going on here!” And you realize you’ve never been happier! ~ Lynn

    • You must have just had so much pent up emotion! Sometimes I cry and it has nothing to do with being sad. ;-) But of course add the anxiety of a big adjustment to it and I completely see why you had that reaction. (Thank you for sharing!!)

  23. Here’s what I’d do…

    “Q: How do you feel?
    A: All of them… thanks!”

    I imagine that many people can related more than you think. When I moved from Boston to San Francisco it was all feelings as well: “Yay, fresh start! Oh no, I’ll have no friends! Yay, brand new experiences! Oh no, what if it doesn’t work out.” Six years later when I moved from San Francisco back to Boston it was the same thing. In the end, I felt like a person like without a home instead of a person with two homes.

    I think this can apply to any change. For example, getting a new job means having to say goodbye to friends too. You could just think of yourself as a podcaster/blogger now… nothing more than a simple job change, right?

    I felt a lot like this graduating high school and college. It’s a great feeling to progress forward to the next adventure, but there is sadness in leaving the old life behind.

    • Ha! Indeed.

      Funny you mentioned graduation, because I don’t think of it consciously as graduation, but I keep hearing the word slip out of my mouth. “I’ll graduate with 3 million travel miles.” and “I hope I can make it to graduation without dying of sleep deprivation.” ;-) Funny!

  24. In a way, there’s a lot of similarities between retiring and becoming an empty nest parent. When my first 2 children moved away at the same time, I was crushed. I knew the day would come, but nothing prepared me for it. I was in a funk for months and months. I missed the way life used to be. When my youngest leaves I think I’ll stay in bed for a month.

    I’ve got a few years until retirement and I expect it will be similar rollercoaster ride.

    • This is very interesting to me. My mother had a really hard transition when my youngest sister went to college. I could also see this being really hard for a stay-at-home parent sending thier first child to kindergarten. Your life rythyms are about to completely change. Its ok to mourn and simultaneous celebrate.

    • I can see that! And yeah, I suspect you’re totally right that we can plan for the big day, but can’t ever really be prepared. We just have to go through it all. That’s how we feel about this spell — it’s weird, but nothing to be done about it but keep going! ;-)

  25. My final day of employment is scheduled for March 2018 after 36 years of high tech work. So I have a bit more than 4 months left but I totally understand your mixed feelings. As the result of a merger with another company that completed in October I have taken a “staff role” where I don’t have any direct reports until my retirement date. So at the end of October I held my last staff meeting, my last operations review and was on some customer calls for the last time. Last week I had my last business trip to Asia. On the flight home from India it struck me that after traveling to India ~20 times for business purposes this is likely my last trip EVER to India.

    I had a great team that I considered friends as well as colleagues. They are well prepared to be key leaders in the new company and are busy integrating their new teams and working on 2018 planning. I am only involved in select calls and am already feeling a bit of an “outsider”. I’m happy about the merger, happy for the opportunities given to my old team and happy to be retiring BUT at the same time it is a mixed bag of emotions.

    • I can definitely see that! I have only two biz trips to go, and I’m sad about it, even though they will both involve getting up at 3-something in the morning. ;-) I’m glad you have a smooth transition, but I can see how feeling like an outsider for your home stretch would feel especially strange.

  26. Sorry you’re not feeling the best right now. I’m not surprised the ‘stress’ is affecting your health. Fortunately, it will end soon and you’ll find your new normal. I had a similar experience when selling my tea business. I think it’s a great idea to take a break for a few days. Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. First of all congrats to both of you!

    Going from full employment to a very different life from the one you know may be challenging. If it were me, I would want me (the husband) to keep working just a bit more. My wife could retire first. That way its a gradual process for both of us. We can be home together at night and talk about our worlds (the employment one and the FIRE one). We can feed off each other’s life vicariously. Seems like your husband (your trusted lifelong friend) would understand? I wouldn’t want it the other way around (husband retires but my wife keeps working). I would be handing around the house all day with not much to do but just cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and waiting (like a puppy) for the wife to come home.

    I would be more satisfied with my wife retiring early and then me a couple of weeks or months later. Talk with your partner and see if you can do something other than just both of you stop working by 31-Dec, 2017 (there’s still time, no?). His job would provide income, health insurance for both of you while you stop working. It may be a more pleasant transition and less of an impact from the life you both now know. When he retires a few weeks or months later than you, it won’t come as a surprise of what he’s stepping into. Just some food for though to help cope with the transition. All the best, Nevada

    • Thank you! If you read back, you’ll see we have good reasons for leaving work at the same time, and that feels like it would only be postponing this feeling — I’m certain this is inevitable, and the only way to get through it is just to get through it.

  28. Numb and surreal. Oh yes, I remember those good friends after I gave my notice. It really didn’t feel real until long after I have actually left the office for the last time. So relax and I will give you my little words of wisdom: everything you are feeling is completely normal for you. Don’t worry about it and certainly don’t over think it. Just let it wash over you and you will be fine.

    So proud of both of you for all your hard work getting here. I enjoy these posts a lot so I’m looking forward to the post FI series. Enjoy your holidays!

    • I so appreciate knowing that you had such as similar experience! We’re definitely just letting it all happen and not worrying too much about the feelings themselves — feels like just an inevitable part of the whole experience! ;-) Thanks so much for the well wishes! Looking forward to writing from the other side.

  29. Best wishes to you and Mark as you get through the next month and a half. All of those feelings are real! I’m much earlier in the process but the fear of the unknown is real! I hope you look back and read this post next July and smile remembering it all turned out okay!

  30. The increased pain and migraines do unfortunately make sense to me – there’s a hell of a lot of build-up still happening in these last weeks, you’re not QUITE winding down in the sense of say, a formal-normal-later in life retirement but rather wrapping up two great careers and stepping into the next stages that you’re creating. That type of mix of feelings tends to translate into physical stress for me, even when we’re just talking about a job change, moving, having a kid, managing family BS, or any combination of those Big Life things, which means I feel a lot worse before I feel better.

    You’d think I’d feel light as a feather now having decided to cut off my dad but it’s not a simple one and done process, which means my next 3 or 4 weeks are going to be similar to yours – good, sad, bad, guilt, relief, anger all mixed up. (Though yours probably won’t contain anger :D)

    I think it’d seem much less real and much less *you* if you did just feel a simple joy at leaving, we’re too complex for that.

    I hope the pain lets up sooner, though. *fingers crossed*

    • I’m actually starting to wonder if I’m going to get some massive crushing multi-week migraine or something once this is all done, just with the release of all that stress and emotion and built-up everything. Knock on wood… But yeah, we’re both physical stress people all the way, so we’re feeling it. (Though no inflam markers for Mark in his last test. Yay!) Sending you lots of good vibes for these last few weeks on your end! xoxoxo

  31. I’ve been reading your work for about a year now. Cranking up your site on Monday and Wednesday morning feels like it’s time to talk to a great friend who knows me well—especially true for this post.

    Today’s post brought back emotional memories from when I took my exit from the corporate world back in 1998. Didn’t call it early retirement then. To my knowledge, the FIRE community was not in existence back then. So no way to reach out to others for advice and support. But what I distinctly remember promising myself at the time was, that no matter what else happens, I’m always going to put the physical and mental health of myself and my loved ones ahead of all else. And looking back at the journey today, at all the different things that I’ve experienced and accomplished since then, I’m happiest about and most proud of myself for keeping that promise.

    And your words don’t just bring back memories for me. They are relevant today. After my corporate exit, I started a “just for fun” venture that ended up becoming a decent size business. Managing this business has brought me in contact with wonderful people—clients, employees and members of the community. It’s been a labor of love, and I’ve developed great friendships along the way. But, alas there is a beginning and end to everything. So now, with many mixed emotions, it’s time to pass the torch and to transition again—this post speaks eloquently to what I’m feeling now.

    I wish you good luck in your transition! Given your thoughtfulness, I have no doubt that your emotions will sort themselves out, and I’m sure you’ll take the time you need to rejuvenate and heal your body.

    • What a nice note! You totally made my day. :-D And wow, *I* am also proud of you for keeping that promise to yourself! Though I’m bummed on your behalf that you’re now having to go through the end transition emotions again, after having already having gone through that… but I trust it was all worth it! I’m feeling a bit better after a restful holiday, and I’m totally confident we’ll get through the emotional part of all this. Just have to get through it! :-)

  32. I had the magic of getting fired to kick me into FIRE :) So there was no last 6 weeks of wrapping up work life or saying goodbye (unless you count waving goodbye to them in the hallway as I carried my cardboard box of work possessions down the hall with an escort at my side).

    The first couple weeks post-FIRE were an adjustment. Was I doing the right thing? Would all this FIRE stuff actually work out? Will the money really keep flowing freely? Slowly the work stress melted away. I got busy with some projects (house stuff, starting a blog, etc). I kept really busy and couldn’t just Turn. It. Off. Honestly it took about 6 months before I reached that zen state of telling myself “Self, it’s cool if you do nothing all day. And all day tomorrow. And forever.” I didn’t end up doing nothing because that would grow boring quickly. But being able to keep life at a nice slow pace is beautiful. But it’s a gradual transition.

    Best of luck!

    • Man, your story always reminds me of how especially grateful I am to get to do all of this on my own terms and timeline! (And the same for Mark!) But your attitude about your unplanned exit is certainly admirable. ;-) I think the “it’s okay to do nothing” mindset will take me a while, to be perfectly honest. I already have things in motion for the next phase, and I am going to have to work hard to set new boundaries so I don’t in essence just trade one career for another. Thanks for the support along the way!

  33. Oh PS on the above comment – we are also practicing letting go of how things should feel and just like a wave or a passing cloud letting them be without judgement….

    One thing that has hugely helped me (and make people at work write this for them as a holistic development plan) is write down “what success looks like to me” and what are my purposeful life priorities. When the anxiety enters (or feeling like fear, jealousy etc) bust out the list and re-read. It is incredible how quickly it centers me back.

    You are framing “full potential” in terms of a job (as seen by this HR professional 😋) but what if you measure it by life impact – yours and others? In that case would this blog or your example to others to live a more fulfilling life, would that not have wider reach and therefore take it up a notch on your potential as a human?

    Migraines – now that is terrible but given the monumental change, expected. Don’t push that body to the limit, health is the biggest richness we have!!!

    Funny for me looking to FIRe lead to actually realize that all the changes needed where within and nothing and nowhere would make me content that did not already reside there. The goal then is to be ready within to transition to the next stage vs trying to escape current stage by finding something new if it makes sense.

    You are sooo close!

    Ps. Have you read “Necessary Loses” ?

    • Oh we’re definitely confident that that these clouds will pass — and I’m actually glad to have a richer emotional experience to mark this big milestone. Better than feeling nothing and having it be totally anticlimactic! ;-) And on potential, now that we’ve been able to share more about our jobs, I hope that helps frame it a bit. I am 100% not saying that we can only express our potential through work, but our work in particular has been meaningful and impactful, and I am not interested in pretending that we’re not trading some potential to make this big life choice. It’s still worth it, of course!

  34. Someone said, ‘the only thing you regret is not doing it.’ I’m on my way to FI, but have years left to reach it. But I took a big decision a few years ago, to leave my full time occupation and pursue a degree in geology. And this at the age of 35. The decision was not easy and just to acknowledge to yourself that a complete change of path in your life is the right thing to do, is hard. You are excited, scared and worried at the same time. And for me it was also a feeling of: “what will everybody think of me”? I’m stupid to leave a paid job! You will not make it! You are too old! -Nobody said these things to me, except me telling myself. Now that I’m approaching a master’s degree I’ve had the best time of my life, even if the road was bumpy at times. I’m confident that when you make the “transition” it will feel quite different and a positive sense of relief and excitement will replace the less positive feelings. Best of luck to you!

    • Wow, kudos for making that big leap to geology! That’s impressive. (And it sounds sooooo interesting! I would love to go back to grad school for that if it was magically free.) ;-) We know the positive feelings are there, and the multitude of emotions are just part of the process… and the end is coming quickly, whether we want it to or not at this point. ;-) Thanks so much for sharing your story and for the well wishes!

  35. I don’t think anything really meaningful comes without struggle and most big decisions I’ve made are also accompanied by that feeling of dread and “what have I done”. And at times of stress or illness I go down that whole “what is the meaning of life” rathole… and what’s life supposed to be about, and am I doing enough / too much / normal / not normal. But at the end of the day, we only get one shot at life… so I pick something that’s meaningful for me and make it work, until it doesn’t. Good luck – it must be both exciting and terrifying to be on the edge of retirement… but soon you’ll be in the middle of it, and then it will just be what it is.

  36. Interesting read as always. I guess I took a very unconventional approach, even to something as unconventional as retiring in your early 40’s, by telling my employers and basically giving a 9 month notice that I would be leaving. This gave me a lot of time to work through my many emotions. As I enter my last week and a half, I have to say that I have gotten most of that out of my system and I am feeling pure joy and excitement as I finish out my last couple of days and look forward to all that is ahead. I definitely think that having moments of fear and doubt are normal. In fact, I think anyone doing something as unconventional as we are is either lying or insane if they had none of those emotions. However, I think no one has thought things through and is more prepared than you two. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your homestretch!

    • Thanks for leaving such encouraging notes, my friend! ;-) And are you now just a few DAYS away from your end date??? Is it this Friday?? Eeek! So exciting! It’ll be interesting how our last week back in DC goes. It would probably feel anticlimactic if we were working from home on our last day, but we’ll have a week of saying goodbye to dozens of friends, colleagues and former colleagues (because quitting also means no longer visiting DC regularly!), so I’m expecting it to be a pretty emotional final run. But we’ll see!

      Sending you lots of good vibes for your last couple of days! Can’t wait to hear all about it! :-D

  37. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. You will find you’ll be happier in some ways, and lacking in others. Finding that new balance is what the next step is all about. In a sense, you’re going to go through a grieving process for your old life and existence, and eventually come out the other side a new and different person. It’s a process you’ll just have to go through, embrace, and experience in order to renew and refresh. I’m sure in a few months, you’ll be brimming with the next big ideas of what you want to do with your new found time. Best wishes!

  38. Very interesting to hear your perspective on things. Overall, the emotions I’d expect – the physical impacts not so much.

    To be honest even though I’m looking forward to early retirement it does scare the crap out of me. Like you said, there’s a cacophony of emotions that are being processed all the time…never just one.

    Hopefully the next four weeks treat you guys well and you can take some time decompressing from the past six months. :)

    • I wouldn’t let the emotions of the home stretch scare you away from the big goal. This stuff might be a lot to deal with all at once, but we 100% would not trade it… and we haven’t even gotten the spoils of victory yet! ;-) But yeah, definitely looking forward to that decompression time!

  39. The final countdown is getting exciting! I’m off this week, work four days next week, off a week, work three days, work three days, done.

    Rather than feel like “I’m not living up to my potential” by quitting my job at 35, I feel like I finally have a chance to live up to my potential. Trading my life away for dollars while sitting in a cubicle writing code is about as far away from my potential as I can get.

    • You’re done the same week as us! How exciting! And on potential, I think it makes total sense that our own feelings about that would be tied heavily to the specifics of our jobs. Our jobs have felt meaningful and impactful, so we think about potential a lot. And in your case, I bet you’ll have a much bigger impact on the world NOT coding in that cube all day. What an opportunity you have now to decide how you want to make your mark!

  40. I am (very) new to the FIRE community and want to express how wonderful it has been to read about your journey over the last couple of years, as well as all the comments from this vibrant community. My “work day” countdown now stands at 25 days. (Who’s counting?? I AM!) I have experienced the gamut of emotions as well, ranging from yee-ha! ecstasy to curling up in a ball and chanting “what have I done???” until one of the dogs licks my face. In the end, though, I feel as if retirement will not turn on a magic happy switch, but making the leap will at long last eliminate the excuse of “I wish I could but I have so much work to do…”. That thought alone makes me smile as I get ready to kick start my non-work life.

    Just as an aside: all of the great comments, posts, etc. have been soooooooo energizing since I stumbled into this community last month. Thank you all for helping me prepare for the next step(s)! Looking forward to seeing the next part of everyone’s journeys….

    • Wooo! You’re soooo close! And hahaha — yeah, totally relate on those feelings. ;-)

      Thanks, also, for your note about the blog and comments. This group really is the best community, so I’m so glad you’ve found us! :-D

  41. Thank you for sharing your emotions as you transition to FIRE. I am new to this community and can’t believe how open everyone is with their experiences. It really helps to understand what to expect. Although, I would imagine that no two experiences are the same as everyone is unique. I am about 7 years from FI and this comes in the later part of my “work” life. So my worries will be slightly different from someone younger. Not to be Captain Obvious, but your health is most important. I know from reading your blog and the seeing the beautiful pictures that you really enjoy the outdoors. So you want to be healthy enough to enjoy them. Good luck and I can’t wait to read about how you have turned the corner and never looked back!

    • So glad you found this community! It’s such a great group of folks. :-) And while everyone is unique, I’ve been floored time and time again by how universal a lot of these experiences tend to be, which is why I think this stuff is worth sharing. Thanks so much for your well wishes! The migraine-inducing pace of work ends soon. ;-)

  42. I think in a way the “excitement” happened a while ago: the day you realized Early Retirement was a statistical possibility. For me, it happened back in 2014 when I found MMM’s blog. Since then, I’ve been on the path to FIRE, and it’s been a long journey.

    I’m not fully FIRE’d yet (although 2018 is my goal for RE), but the journey has been so long, that I don’t expect to feel any excitement when it actually happens: it will just be the expected outcome of years of a process. A bit like, to me, December in itself is more exciting than Christmas, because the anticipation is much more exciting than the actual event?

    • Ha! I think you’re right, though there’ve been new causes for excitement all along the way as we’ve celebrated victories and milestones. And I’d put money down that you will feel SOME excitement when you actually leave work. I know you’re not a robot. ;-)

  43. It sounds like you really enjoyed what you did and were valuable employees. Is there a way for you to still contribute in a smaller way? Do you want to? Have you considered working, but doing something completely different and seeing where it takes you?

    I intend to work, in some form, for as long as I can physically and mentally. Not because I have to financially, but because mentally I know it is better for me to stay involved with work projects. I’d like to emphasize, that this is what works for me individually.

    Not the same as fully retiring, but I recently switched from being in the office to 100% telework. I did a trial run for a few months earlier this year and it was such an amazing great experience, that I decided to go 100%. During my last weeks in the office and the first few weeks post-office, I discovered that a temporary trial run is not the same as permanent switch. That time leading up to and directly after the switch was the roughest time for me.

    When I switched to permanent, I felt overwhelmed with freedom of location, loss of not seeing my colleagues and having those friendly daily connections, felt a change in my coworker’s behavior towards me, wondered for a while if I made the right move and if I ended my career that I had worked so hard for. All of this created a sense of anxiety that I had not predicted at all after my trial run. Dealing with these emotions and second guessing was not fun, but I stuck with it.

    It has now been almost 2 months since the permanent switch and I will say the initial days/ weeks were the worst. Everyone has adjusted, I’m still in the loop at work and contributing meaningfully there. Its given me time to really live by my priorities, that were once only bullets in a journal. I’m getting to see places I had never dreamed every afternoon and make friends with people I never would have met. The change has been totally worth it for me since I’m using my location independence to explore new places, spend time with family and really start living like I want to. These new experiences and relationships have been key to the success of this transition. I don’t think I would have succeeded if I had switched to telework and stayed put in my old life. It has taken a lot more effort than just staying put in my old life, but totally worth it.

    I’m sure there will still be days where I miss aspects of my old location, but now I have so much more to look forward to every day and I know my future life will be so much more enriched by new experiences and relationships.

    Again, I’d like to emphasize, that this is what works for me individually. I’m single, do not own a home, and I do not have kids, etc etc.

    You may have a rough adjustment period. I suggest to stick with it and start trying all kinds of stuff. See where it takes you. You have a huge amazing adventure ahead. I’m excited for you and hope you will share what you find on your explorations.

    • The remote work gets better. We’ve both done it for many years now, and we each think it took about a year to get into a good equilibrium with it, and to get good at it. (Like anything, it’s a skill you have to build.) So don’t draw any big conclusions yet. :-)

      And yes, we will definitely still work in some small ways, but we want to be really protective of our future time and not just trade one career for another. ;-)

  44. You are feeling the feeling I always get before a big trip (i.e. a 6 week backpacking trip to Asia) but on a much larger scale. Lots of planning, trying to wrap up things back at home, and some worry and excitement about the unknown. I tell myself I just need to make it to the plane. Once I am in the air that smile always spreads across my face. That has always been the case for me. I’m sure it will be a sweet sweet feeling once you guys are fully off on the FI magic spaceship ;) and Be kind to yourself!

  45. That therapy knowledge is so helpful. I’ve never known one pure emotion to dominate a situation. Everything about our lives is complicated. Right now, people are expecting me to grieve in a very particular way. Those people don’t know my actual relationship with the person I lost. It is a burden to hear people’s condolences that assume so much about how I’m feeling. There is no correct way to feel. And feelings can change by the hour. That’s ok. Life is big and beautiful and complicated. And bodies need sleep.

  46. This may seem harsh but I am surprised that you are surprised. I am from an older generation than you (51 year old male). I began working in our family-owned civil construction company when I was fourteen and have been working ever since with the exception of time spent in university (B.Eng. and MBA). I fully endorse a FI mindset but I am not in the RE camp. In my opinion, there is tremendous value in working for a living. The benefits of structure to your schedule, social interactions, maintaining and upgrading skill sets, knowing that you are a contributing member of society, etc carry more value for me than the benefits of not being employed. I am new to the FI forums but I notice that many people your age aim to retire early and shortly after they retire they become productive again even though they want to convince themselves that they are retired. Of course there are days when I believe that being retired would be better than dealing with a difficult situation but I have seen a high percentage of retirees become bored within two years of retirement. I wish both of you all the best and personally hope that your skills don’t go to waste once you retire.

    • Have you considered joining the Retirement Police, Fred? I hear they’re hiring. ;-) I’m kidding, but it does seem that you have a limiting belief that the only way to “contribute to society” is through traditional employment. Or that doing something that looks like work means you can’t call yourself “retired.” (I wonder: Do you go up to 70-year-olds who are doing second act volunteer projects and tell them they can’t call themselves retired?) But on being “productive,” I couldn’t disagree with you more. We’ll always contribute and be productive, and don’t need an employer for that to be true. What we’re feeling now is just the natural set of emotions that go with making a big life transition, not the regrets we’d have if we actually worried we were making a mistake. (Spoiler: we’re not.)

  47. It makes sense as to how you feel. You’ve been working all this time and to not work any more that has to feel different! I have just started my journey to FI and I am already thinking of what I am going to be doing once I reach FI. I guess it is for us to figure out when and if we are at that point. Congratulations and good luck!

  48. Hey,
    This is great post, it didn’t come of as negative at all but rather very realistic and probably very close to what I would feel myself. Your blog has been a great inspiration to my boyfriend and I who are just starting our FIRE journey (from Sweden, heyyyya taxes ftw) and it is very cool to have blogs like yours to browse through to see that the goal is actually achievable 🙂
    Keep it up!!
    Freddie, http://www.thefireviking.com

  49. Love following your story, Tanja and Mark. Thanks for sharing. It is so comforting to know that others in a similar transition stage in life have the same concerns and fears. The psychology impact of stepping away from a career and salary alone, is a difficult challenge. Creating a sort of FI support community is so mutually beneficial for all participants.

    • Thanks for following along! And it’s wonderful to know that sharing what we’re feeling is helpful. :-) No use in pretending like this is all easy stuff. We’re talking about BIG life decisions here, so it makes sense that the emotions are big, too.

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