I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I was worried, then instantly relieved, but throughout it all, I kept whispering those sweet words: “What are they gonna do? Fire me?”
This is a story of how a co-worker discovered my personal finance blog.
Here’s how it all went down. First, this was a couple years ago when I worked a full-time job. I worked remotely at the time and didn’t get to interact face-to-face with my co-workers all that much, which made what happened on this afternoon way the hell more intriguing.
We were all gathering at a multi-day company event. It was the first day and many of us were still arriving from all around the world. I just finished checking in and took a seat in the lobby of our office building and waited for something to happen. Anything. I’m not a mingler. I just sit there and wait – half way anxious about the next few days.
I was sitting there minding my own business. Honestly, my phone was probably in my hand, or perhaps I was looking through the printed-out schedule of events for the whole staff over the next couple of days.
Then, it happened.
Some dude who I’d honestly never met, much less seen, walked up to me after noticing my name tag. He asked, “Oh, Steve? Are you the one with the personal finance blog?”
My immediate reaction was something along the lines of “Oh shit! Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…what’s happening?!?” This could have been a manager. Or a Vice President. Or hell, maybe the owner of this freakin’ place.
It could have been anybody.
I felt like I was in one of those fight-or-flight situations. Heart immediately began to race. Blood pressure spiked higher than the stock market this year. All the while keeping a cool and straight face through it all, trying my best not to give away my utter shock and surprise at what was happening.
At this point, I could have played it in one of two ways. First, I could have lied through my teeth and claimed complete ignorance. “Umm, what’s a blog? Is that one of those MySpace things?” But no, I chose not to lie.
“Yep, that’s my blog. Uhh, how’d you discover it?”
Apparently, he saw a couple of my comments over on the Mr. Money Mustache blog. Because I’ve always used my real name instead of some stage name on this blog, that made sense. “Okay, that’s plausible,” I thought.
Then (and I’m not proud of this), my mind immediately went into Cover My Ass mode in case something got back to my manager from this guy.
“Well hey, if this guy found my comments on Mr. Money Mustache, that must mean HE reads MMM too and, shit, he must also hate his job and dream of retiring early. Cool, I got something juicy on him too!”
Bad Steve, bad. You shouldn’t be thinking like that!
Luckily, nothing bad happened. We chatted for a few minutes and both of us harbored the same sort of feeling about financial independence and happiness in general. I left the part about job satisfaction out of the conversation, of course. After all, I was in the office of the company that employed me and paid me a damn good salary to get my job done.
Have a little respect, dang it!
And truth be told, I didn’t hate my job, either. I just didn’t get enough satisfaction out of it to continue doing it for the rest of my life.
After the conversation, I sat back down and smirked. “Huh…” I said. “That was interesting.” I took a quick glance around, realized I was the only one in the general area and went back to chillin’ until something happened.
There were so many people at the event that I never saw that guy again. I’m assuming that wasn’t a weird hallucination.
I’m almost positive that actually happened!
Side note: I actually enjoyed the company I worked for right before I retired early. I got paid well. The benefits were nice. I got to work from home. And, my boss was 100% professional about my situation. In fact, he saw my feature on CNBC months after I retired and emailed me a congratulatory letter. Stand up guy, through and through. I realize how good I had it before calling it quits. I understood how much I was giving up. I was living what most people would have considered a dream job.
I’m proud of what we did
After that incident, I didn’t care who knew about my blog. I was proud of the things that my wife and I were doing to set us up for a lifetime of happiness outside of an office. Who cares if I don’t dream of office work for the next 40 years of my life. Who says I gotta stay office-bound, anyway?
In fact, I’m so damn proud of what we’re doing that I’m confident enough to show a picture of me holding our [now former] pee bucket that held the liquids from our composting toilet (we’ve since modified the system so the liquids drain straight down into the black tank! – thanks for the help, dad!).
Such a man, I am. Such a man!
It’s okay to want something different. In fact, it’s healthy. If we all followed the exact same path in life, this would be a devastatingly boring world, wouldn’t it? I mean, super duper hard-core mind-numbingly dull. Innovation would crumble. Things would get super uninteresting, quickly.
Life goals (whether early retirement or something different) give us purpose and direction. A light at the end of the tunnel. A reason for getting up in the morning and doing our very best to just kill it, the best we can, every day.
I appreciate you finding me out, Mr. Co-worker. You gave me the perspective I needed to keep plowing through and stand behind every decision we made to get us to this point.
Has a family member, friend or coworker discovered your blog? If so, how did that conversation go? 🙂
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.