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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Categories: gearing up