I used to have a secret fantasy. What if, one day, I just didn’t go to work? What if I walked past the big glass doors & the twenty foot ceilings of my fancy office building, strolled on past all the suited guys scurrying towards their conference calls, and went down to the pier and watched the seagulls? What if I stayed away all day, took the ferry to Sausalito, walked back to the city across the Golden Gate Bridge, and ended up drinking beer at Vesuvio at happy hour and reading nonfiction in the City Lights basement until they kicked me out at midnight? This daydream repeated itself on a regular basis, each time exploring a different geography, but always taking me someplace other than the central elevator bank of our concrete highrise.
The restlessness plagued me for years. Sometimes when I was working on a project that was either very interesting or very stressful I would forget my wanderlust and find my actual job taking up an appropriate amount of brainspace. But that didn’t happen enough, and I just could not find a way to consistently re-engage with my career. Believe me, I tried. By most objective measures, I had a good job – good money, good colleagues, respect of my peers – everything I thought I wanted when I embarked on my careerist path so many years ago. But, nearly twenty years in, I found myself uninspired and unable to fathom a lifelong commitment to four walls, a boss, a computer screen and constant Blackberry companionship.
My lovely wife has been unbelievably supportive. She has on several occasions urged me to quit my job, spend time “finding myself” and let her support us. I was ready to take her up on that this past spring, but around that same time I started reading a blog by a fellow called Mr. Money Mustache. Now, that is a goofy name, I admit. And he does run a blog that many people call a “cult.” But don’t worry about the cult thing. It’s not a cult. I would say it is a movement, but that sort of sounds new age-y California, and as a Berkeley resident I am very sensitive to that perception … I will say that Mr. Money Mustache and his thoughts on living a meaningful life and the fundamental relationship between money and freedom, and, in particular, his contagious optimism and creativity – have very much influenced me. Mainly, he has helped me see the power that my wife and I already have, and what we are already in a position to accomplish.
So, after several months of reading Mr. Money Mustache and other bloggers in the financial independence/early retirement sphere, and simultaneously giving a lot of attention and energy to organizing our financial life, my wife and I came to the mutual decision to leave our jobs and take some time off. Ya know, just chuck it all and see what happens next. Even just saying that sounds absolutely ridiculous. I was nearly 20 years into my career, with every minute spent in Corporate America. I went to college. I went to graduate school. I started my first “real job” two weeks after graduating from college and had my next job lined up a full year before completing graduate school. I have never, ever, ever just thrown it all up in the air to see where I might land.
But, the difference between who I am now and who I was even a year ago is dramatic. I now understand that leaving a career where I wasn’t happy is not chucking it all – it’s just taking another path. Deciding to spend a portion of our savings to fund a year or two or three or more of freedom can actually fit within our longer-term financial plan and thus is not irresponsible or flighty. Choosing to proceed down a path where I can’t see the end and don’t even have a targeted goal is uncomfortable in its uncertainty but no more ridiculous than spending a lifetime striving towards career knowledge and achievements no longer of inherent interest to me.
So, when asked by my colleagues, friends & family to explain what the hell we are doing, the only answer I can give is the truth – we are going to give ourselves this time to live life. No agenda, no schedule, nothing. Just living on our own terms, answering only to ourselves and seeing where we end up after an extended period of free form living. I think this will be a grand adventure and an interesting experiment and, given the number of people who have expressed amazement, amusement, concern & envy over our non-plan plans, I suspect that there are others who might be interested in following along with us. If so, stay tuned for more postings!