gearing up

The Last Monday // On Feeling Grateful — And Ready

Yesterday, Mark and I were trekking across downtown DC, headed toward the National Gallery of Art, our favorite free museum in a place saturated with them, racing the clock to tour the newly reopened East Wing before it closed for the weekend. And as we looked up at the pre-sunset pink glow on the museum and Capitol, we both paused and looked at each other.

“Are you ready to do this?” Mark asked me.

Tears popped into my eyes, as I smiled and looked at him, this person I feel impossibly lucky to have found, a seemingly conventional careerist whose unconventional life vision almost miraculously matches my own.

“I’m ready,” I said.

I squeezed his hand, and we hugged for a long time, before snapping a few pics of the Mall in the golden hour light and heading into the museum.

The last few months and weeks have been a strange roller coaster ride, but now that we’re here in DC, where our careers began, and where they’re now ending, it feels real and big, and the excitement is finally sinking in.

Our Next Life // The Last Monday -- On Feeling Grateful, and Ready! Early retirement, financial independence, leaving work

Turning the Corner

Today is a day I’d never really been able to picture: the very last Monday of our careers. I knew intellectually that it would come if we stuck to our plans, but when I’d try to conjure up images of it, I’d draw a blank, unsure of whether I’d feel sad or happy or some other combination of feelings.

But now, being in it, how it feels is big.

Intellectually, we know this: the last Monday means no more Sunday blues, no more worrying that we didn’t catch up on enough sleep over the weekend and are starting  another week tired, no more of that feeling of enjoying our work and appreciating our colleagues and clients but still wondering how we’ll survive another week with all its demands.

The last few months have brought a number of things into stark relief: how much we’ll miss a lot about our work, how grateful we are to have spent our careers surrounded with people we admire and are inspired by, how lucky we’ve been to do work that makes us proud. But also what a toll doing that work has taken on our health, and the knowledge that we’ll have many of these health challenges well after we leave the work behind.

Related post: You Can Love Your Job and Still Want to Retire Early

Emotionally, though, this last Monday feels like we’ve turned a corner, maybe the corner. For months we’ve been focused on how our companies would take it when we gave notice, and on riding out the strange roller coaster of emotions, including the sadness and immense gratitude for having had the careers we’ve had, surrounded by wonderful humans. We’ve been focusing on the last of the to do list items, and getting things squared away with our charitable plans and health care. But now the to do list is essentially complete, and we’ve processed a whole lot of feelings, at last we feel able to step back and just take it in.

And being able to do that reminds us that, as hard as this might feel in many moments, we’re ultimately doing the right thing.

Or at least we’re doing the right thing for us.

Not everyone is going to understand, and we have to be okay with that. When you make a conscious choice to do something radically different from the norm, you have to be ready for anything.

Community Love

We loved meeting a bunch of financial independence enthusiasts in DC this past weekend, folks who reinforced for us that you can care immensely about the world and the future and still have an alternate vision for your life.

DC financial independence early retirement (FIRE) enthusiasts at the Our Next Life meetup 2017

Our next meetup is December 26 at 5 pm at MMM World Headquarters in Longmont, Colorado, north of Denver. Let me know if you can make it! We’d love to meet as many of you guys as possible on our travels!

Bracing For Goodbyes — and Thank Yous

Later this week, we’ll say our in-person goodbyes to long-time friends and colleagues. Of course no goodbyes have to be permanent anymore with so many ways to keep in touch, but things will change in a big way now. Truly, they already have.

I’m expecting to say thank you a lot. It’s been an incredible privilege to have the career I’ve had, and I know Mark feels the same way. We both feel lucky to have had jobs that are more than jobs, that have filled us up in so many ways, and that have allowed us to experience something real and special with great people, and to feel like we made a difference. I want to make sure they know that it always was real for me, and wasn’t just about biding time until we hit our number, because I’d understand if someone mistook my intentions in hindsight. So I might end up being a broken record about that.

It’s interesting observing these thoughts I find myself having, when time is in such short supply at work. There’s so much I want to say, but in the end it may not need saying. I’ve imagined writing my final sign-off email for years now, and have drafted parts of it in my head dozens of time. All the people I’d thank, the memories I’d recount, the lessons I’d try to impart to those coming up behind me. But now I still haven’t written the real thing, and I don’t know what I’ll actually end up saying when it’s time. I don’t know how much anyone else actually cares what I have to say — but I still care that I’ve said it. That’s something I’ll be thinking about all this week.

Feeling Ready

We’ve always assumed that we’d have to make this leap before we truly felt ready, the way that so many people say if you wait until you’re ready to have kids, you’ll never have them. We just didn’t think it was possible to feel ready for something like this, but we trusted ourselves enough to do it anyway.

After we say our goodbyes here, we’re giving ourselves a little time to celebrate unofficially before the holidays, and then we’ll start the long task of processing it all. Of catching up on sleep and relearning how to take the best possible care of ourselves. Of skiing on weekdays and staying home on weekends. And, eventually, of feeling out what our new life rhythm will look like — how much structure we’ll need (or not), how much fun work feels like the right amount, how much travel we’ll ultimately crave.

It’ll all take time, but we feel ready at last to take that step, something I didn’t think I’d ever say.

Feeling ready doesn’t mean we aren’t still feeling all the things (we are). It doesn’t mean we’re ready to leave our colleagues behind and never look back. (Of course we’ll look back.)

But it does mean the uncertainty is gone. We feel sure this is the right choice for us, we feel confident in our preparation and backup plans, and we have a vision for what’s next. And that feels kind of amazing. It makes the thousands of words here, the hours and hours of planning and replanning, and all the emotions along the way feel worthwhile.

None of which is to say that everyone must feel certain and ready before making this leap. I believe we all have to do some things in life before we feel ready.

But if we happen to feel ready in this instance? We know that’s an incredible thing, and we’re going to celebrate it like crazy, just as soon as we get through the tough goodbyes.

Weigh In!

We’ll take any encouragement you want to offer in this truly final stretch. Or notes of caution! Or stories of what you wish you’d said on your way out, for those who’ve already retired. Or questions! Or anything else. Let’s chat in the comments. And as always, thanks so so much for reading and for your support along the way. You guys truly have made this journey more meaningful and special, and we’ll forever be grateful.

Reminder that there will only be one post a week this month, to give us time to spend with people we’re saying goodbye to, and to process it all! 

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105 replies »

  1. You describe it so well I think your readership feels like they’re leaving a job as well :)

    You guys are obviously very comfortable and sure of your decision, so let the feelings flow. Without the risk of them making you second-guess anymore, you can use the feelings you’re having to learn more about yourself. That sounds like a pretty cool place to be. Then when the next big life-event thing happens you’ll have so much more knowledge of yourself and how to deal with it.

    Great meeting you and Mark on Saturday, good luck this week!

  2. This is a sensational post and beautifully captures the culmination of all that you have been planning towards and indeed writing about over these years. Final Monday of your careers. Wow! Completely excited for you both and makes me imagine what the moment will be like for us when we reach that point.

    I’ve got major FOMO for the meetup you’ve got planned at MMM World HQ. So many people I’d love to meet in person all in one place. Unfortunately it would be a bit of a trek for us from Australia so just going to have to hear all about it. Love your photo of the DC meetup too. Are the emoji people the ones who are not yet “out” with their employers/family/friends?

    Finally, I’m sure you will say exactly what you need to say in your farewell work email. People DO care what you have to say. The number of followers you have on this blog is testament to that.

  3. I wish I could’ve made the meetup – weekends are tough with two young kids. :)

    I really enjoyed this post, it captures the mixtures of happiness and sadness that comes with leaving a job that you find fulfilling and fun but are ready to move onto the next chapter. It’s like binge watching a TV show for multiple seasons and then reaching it’s end – it’s time to start a new show.

    I don’t have much advice but one thing I’d try to remember is to work hard to keep in touch with the folks you really like from work, it’ll be harder to remain friends once you don’t have a common and shared employer/environment.

    • Eh, you’ve met us before. We haven’t gotten an upgrade since last time. ;-) Hahahaha. It would have been great to see you, but I know there will be other opportunities!

      The show analogy is perfect. We LOVED the show, we’re sad it’s over, but we’re still ready for the next one. And thank you for that advice on keeping in touch — we’re determined to stay friends with a few folks, and will put in the work to at least increase the chances it happens!

  4. I think it takes courage to say goodbye, and I admire you for doing it in person (when you can–I’m guessing some client goodbyes or other remote-employee goodbyes may be by phone/email). Some people kind of slink out without letting people know, and that is ok if it is right for them. I just think the way you are approaching it head on is courageous.

    • That’s such a nice way to put it — thank you! Our companies have a culture of goodbye celebrations (because they are pretty rare), so we aren’t TOTALLY courageous. But living far from our companies means we *could* slink off if we felt like it. ;-)

  5. Congrats on the pending retirement! Very good to see someone leave their job on such good terms. That’s something I’ve always tried to do in all of the roles that I’ve chosen to leave – no matter how I felt about the role when I left, it’s always been important to do my best work in those last few weeks. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think treating your employer with respect is still important.

    Also liked the pictures from DC. Actually thought about heading down there to see you all, but meeting with a whole bunch of people I’ve never met like that is just too intimidating I guess (yeah, I know, I’m a whimp….)! I love that area though – my family always hits Chinatown for dinner when we head out to see the Caps play. Will have to check out this restaurant the next time we’re there. Interested to see if you have other recommendations for that area!

    In any event – looking forward to hearing more about your experiences after five days from now! :-)

    • I couldn’t agree more! We can all quibble about the terms of our employment, say we deserve more money or whatever, but ultimately, our employers do a lot for us, and we’re grateful for that. Especially because employers are people, and we happen to feel lucky for working for really good ones for essentially our full careers.

      Next time you’re in DC, you might grab a beer at Fado, but I don’t think you need to spend extended time there. ;-) It’s a fun spot, though.

  6. I enjoy reading your posts, especially this last one as you near the finish line. I retired this past January and have of course had similar feelings/experiences to what you describe so well.

    I’d say get ready for the time of your life but you have pretty much prepared for that already. That said, I’ve found retirement as incredible as I thought it would be. It still takes adjustment but I think that is the good part. It is exciting to wake up in the morning, when you want to, and have the complete freedom to do what you want for the day.

    I’ll look forward to hearing about your experiences the first year.
    Enjoy!

    • Thanks, Keith! I’m so happy to know that retirement is every bit as great as you were hoping. We honestly have tried not to get our hopes up too high because we’ve heard from a number of readers over the years that they were disappointed. I think those folks didn’t necessarily do the hard work of introspection and figure out what they’d replace work with, but still… a good reminder that retirement isn’t a magic cure-all.

  7. Congratulations!! Such a big, big life change – I remember hearing the Mad FIentist talk about how it took months (after they returned from a long trip) for it to really settle in that he was done and not just on a long vacation. When you’re doing something so out of the norm without a life of conditioning to it, it only makes sense that it comes with a lot of big feelings and takes a long time to preocess.

    • I think about that! Right now we feel excited, but yeah, it definitely hasn’t sunk in AT ALL that we don’t have to go back to work at some point. So curious to see how long it will take for that part to feel real.

  8. Congrats…your final week is finally here. I’m sure that this last trip to D.C. is mostly a victory lap with little client work to complete. Or at least I hope that is the case. Sort of like the week of elementary school (my daughter is a first grade teacher) right before Christmas or summer – – you have to be there but there isn’t a lot of work (school or professional) to be accomplished.

    I will retire in March 2018 and I have just pulled my old goodbye letters. It is fun to reflect on what was said in the past but this time will be different (at least to me). I agree with you that it will be filled with “thank you’s”. I have commented many times in my career that I have been blessed to work with some of the most brilliant and dedicated people in the world – they are so talented that I often felt like I must be the dumbest person in our meetings. They inspired me to always give my best for our customers and teammates. They are family to me and will be missed for sure.

    Congrats and best of luck to you and Mark.

    • There were a few client meetings, but yeah, it was more like one big final catch-up session with folks, as well as making sure I did everything I could to encourage more junior folks. I was so lucky to work with some incredible superstars, and I wanted to be sure I had time to help them however possible. Fortunately, that all happened! It sounds like you can relate in terms of the awesome people. ;-)

  9. I’ve found one of the best things about retirement is Sunday nights. Even though it’s been almost a year, it doesn’t get old. It’s just such a great feeling to realize that Mondays are completely my own!

    • Hi Cindy! We got to feel a tiny bit of that this past Sunday — or, rather, we realized on Monday, “Hey, we weren’t sad last night!” ;-) Can’t wait to have many more wonderful Sunday nights! So glad you are enjoying yours.

  10. Having lived in DC for years means it’s really easy to take everything available in this city for granted. Thanks for the first part of this post as a reminder of all that I’ve got practically in my backyard! Also hello, you just made this art history nerd smile with the shoutout for the NGA. It might be my favorite place in DC!

    Ahhhh so much excitement and congratulations on your last Monday! I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in the immediate future. Although if there are no adventures and it’s a straight month of catching up on sleep, that’s also super exciting. I’ll live vicariously through you ;)

    • NGA is completely our fave, too. And so much great stuff in it now that they re-opened the east wing. (I’m sure that’s old news to you, but last time I was there, the wing was essentially empty.) That Rothko tower room…

      And I think we have a good mix of adventure and NOTHING planned. ;-) Can’t wait to live it. Sooo glad we got to meet and hang out!

  11. Congrats! I bet not getting the Sunday blues will be pretty awesome. Can’t wait to get to my last Monday as well, and looking forward to what comes from the blog/blogs/podcasts with you guys! I’m more interested in seeing what recreational turns your lives take now that there won’t be “job” commitments, jsut self imposed blog/podcast/exercise/ski commitments. :)

  12. I’m so happy for y’all! My only advice is to remember that your job will replace you, as soon as they can, and folks need to remember that. I am a long-term temp and more accurately a “contingent” worker. I still have to remind my fellow temps that the companies literally only hire us for short-term (sometimes years-long gigs) and don’t offer us the illusion of security or benefits and that they will let us go with 40 minutes’ notice without batting an eye. The power of the theory of what work is and what a job means in our lives is powerful.

    I’m so excited to see what your posts in retirement turn into. I’ve enjoyed seeing a portion of your journey and think the world ahead will be fascinating.

    • Thank you! I do think it’s different in *some* companies, and we both know we won’t even be “replaced” at all in a technical sense — our work will just be divvied up and absorbed by others. (Though we do hope that our absences create some opportunities for others!) But yes, fundamentally we offer a set of skills and services, and employers or clients pay us for those skills for a time, and then the arrangement ends. Still, we feel grateful to have worked for companies who have treated us as much more than that. ;-)

      • <3 I hope the people who absorb your work absorb some of that pay, too. But yes, it is definitely lovely to feel that your employer values you. I've had two such jobs and they were both so wonderful. I felt nourished by my work, and one of them was retail.

  13. Congratulations! I’m still a few years away from FIRE, but this huge transition talk reminds me of when I moved to Philadelphia. I moved away from family and friends and a place I’d lived most of my life to start over in a city where I only knew 2 people. There were a surprising number of naysayers (people actually told me “you’ll be back in 6 months”), but I assumed they weren’t deliberately trying to undermine me, they were unconsciously being the bucket of crabs. They were wrong, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. And this will no doubt be the greatest thing you ever do for yourselves.

    Have a great last week – I’m looking forward to next Monday’s post already!

    • I’m slow to respond because we’ve been so busy saying goodbye — and then enjoying ourselves! ;-) That’s so awesome that you stood up to the bucket of crabs and forged your own path — how wonderful that it has worked out so well! :-D I agree with you — I think there was (and probably still will be) some pain in the transition for us, but it will be completely worth it.

  14. When my husband walked out the door at age 60, on his last day he took the mic and yelled “FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” a la Braveheart. He went back 2 years later to help out part time for 6 months , and then was really ready to retire. Sometimes it takes stages.

  15. I love these posts.. this is what I truly want to know about FI – how does it feel? The math is relatively simple and there are so many other writers who focus solely on the logistics. It’s refreshing to read about everything else. Congrats on your last Monday!

  16. “no more Sunday blues, no more worrying that we didn’t catch up on enough sleep over the weekend and are starting another week tired, no more of that feeling of enjoying our work and appreciating our colleagues and clients but still wondering how we’ll survive another week with all its demands.”

    This
    THIS
    THIS!!!

  17. I think this transition will make u feel young again. Like we all did when we were kids and everything was new to us….except this go round u will have money!

  18. You had me at “… this person I feel impossibly lucky to have found…. whose unconventional life vision almost miraculously matches my own”. I feel the same about my wife. So blessed. Couldn’t be happier for you and Mark. Congrats on your last Monday.

  19. *Tear* What a big day, and what big feelings to process. Glad you’re taking the time to do so. And that’s great you can end on such a good note with so much gratitude for your career and coworkers. Can’t wait to hear what adventures come next!

  20. Well, now I’m a bit teary eyed…Congrats to both of you! I’ve been reading your posts for a bit over a year now, but I’m hesitant to join comment conversations. But I can’t pass this up…

    You should both be so proud of all your accomplishments. You have a beautiful community that grew out of your dedication to design and meaningful content. I wish you all the luck in the world in your financial independence! (Even though I know you don’t need it with all your planning ;P) Thank you, and I look forward to reading about your future!

    • Aww, thanks Sara! :-) It means so much to know that you’ve been reading, and that this was the one that inspired you to chime in. ;-) And wow, best compliment ever — thank you! I put a ton of myself (and us) into this, and it means the world when people see that. Thank you for being an important part of the community! <3

  21. “Of catching up on sleep and relearning how to take the best possible care of ourselves.”

    This is key and exactly what we often talk about in our crammed D.C. apartment. Lately this idea feels more important and immediate than a financial number (though we are truly amazed at people who braved the cold and saved enough).

    Adina and I are grateful to have found this community and have done a u-turn toward financial wellness the last few years. Sooner-than-later, though, we need to find a life with with less stress and anxiety. One that’s filled with more sunshine, exercise and sleep.

    Maybe we’re just too soft :) — (lovely post).

    • Hi Thomas! It was awesome to meet you guys! :-) And yeah, I definitely relate — if work is impacting your health and happiness, that’s when it’s time to re-evaluate. Good for you guys for prioritizing what’s important!

  22. It was a goal of mine to live and work in Germany for nine years. Eventually I moved here without being completely ready, after I decided it was now or never. Then got myself as ready as reasonably possible: organized a room with a mattress so I wouldn’t be sleeping on the ground outside, set up job interviews, and bought a one-way ticket. As time I approached I only became a bigger ball of emotions, a mixture of anxious, worried, nostalgic, excited, curious, and confident. 6 years later, my only regret is not doing it sooner.

    Here’s hoping you both feel the same way in six years! Congrats :)

    • Thank you! I bet we will feel that way, wishing we’d done it sooner. Fortunately in our case, we had unfinished career business that we were able to check off the list this year, so there was more to staying at work than just a number. But in your case, it’s so awesome you made such a big leap and took charge of your own life path!

  23. This post made me consider how I would feel, and what I would do before I leave the 9-5. My plan is to remain anonymous so I wouldn’t be able to share as much as you have. I can only imagine your colleagues’ reactions and I’m sure some want to know how you did it.

    Congratulations on such a big milestone and I’m very curious to read about all the changes!

    • Thank you! Do you mean you won’t even tell your colleagues that you’re retiring early? I will say I think that made for a much happier transition out. If we hadn’t said we were retiring, I don’t know that the sendoff would have been so positive, but folks were glad we weren’t going to competing companies or starting our own competing companies!

  24. So many blog posts read over the past and now to read this post that brings all the plans and stories together into the new chapter. Best wishes for the both of you as you move onto a new world with so many endless opportunities. Take that first bit like you said to just settle in to the new you and maybe a little bit of nothing, it does feel great :)

  25. Are you sure you’re sure? How about being sure that you’re sure that indeed you’re sure that you’re sure?! 😂
    I kid, of course! Happy HUMP DAY of the last week of work!!! OMG 2 days left

  26. So I realize I’m late to the game, and that today or tomorrow might be your very last day (if it hasn’t already passed)…but just wanted to wish you well! I am sure it will be a bittersweet feeling when you say your final goodbyes. Be well, friends, and congratulations!

  27. Congratulations!!! Enjoy the last day at your current life tomorrow. Looking forward to hear from you about the transition into your next life in the coming months. :)

  28. Go get it you two!!!
    You’re an inspiration to those of us still stuck in that cursed cubicle. I really appreciate that you’re honest about what you will miss about your former professional lives, but it is time to move on to much bigger and better things.

    • Thank you! And no point glossing over the stuff that’s sad to leave behind. Work isn’t all bad (or even mostly bad), and we can be excited for the next thing without pretending like this past chapter didn’t do a lot for us. ;-)

  29. Congrats! I’ve followed your blog and many other FIRE blogs over the past two years. My husband and I gave notice in October– our last day is February 2, 2018. As I write this I only have 23 business days left– but who’s counting! We are in our 50s but it’s still amazing how many people are surprised at what we are doing. I know we will go through many emotions but know this is the best thing for us. IF I ever work, for money again, it will be because I want to and not have to. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • Thank you! And congrats to you, too! How exciting! And you WILL have a lot of emotions, but it’s so true — this IS what’s best for you, and now you just have to ride the roller coaster to the end of this little track. ;-) Thanks so much for following along with our journey — so glad it’s been helpful! And congrats again! Let me know how the final stretch goes. ;-)

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