The day I realized that my life was crap, Part 2

67 thoughts on “The day I realized that my life was crap, Part 2”

  1. Bravo!

    I’ve felt that sinking feeling that I might be wishing away yet another period of life (today to early retirement day) that may not be ideal, but can still be enjoyed and lived well.

    So I try to focus on enjoying all of it, including today, this weekend, this summer, etc… I imagine it will be easier to enjoy without the 40+ hour workweek, but like the tee shirt says, Life is Good.


    1. Thanks PoF! It really is a sinking feeling, and the thought of that continuing for decades upon decades was just too much to bear. I think you have the exactly right mindset. Enjoy as much as you can! 🙂

  2. It takes a lot to dig into your soul and find meaning to what we are truly strive for. I understand. And well done for putting it out there for others to think carefully about. Takes courage.

    And to your last sentence….. ” May the fourth be with you”.

  3. “What I truly crave is that child-like bliss of having options, waking up every morning with a fresh mind and an open calendar.” Love that line! I know this is true for me, too. It’s fun to read about how you cultivated this desire over the years.

  4. You’ve done a really good job of laying this all out! Props to you.

    And I couldn’t agree more. Retiring frees you to do what you want to do most. To me, I see that as an opportunity to use my time to volunteer more, be more active with my children and their activities, and establish deeper relationships with friends and family. That is happiness and meaning to life.

    I may also want to squeeze in a round of golf every now and then 🙂

    The Green Swan

    1. Thanks Green Swan. We’ll be volunteering as well with our free time, as well as just enjoying our productive years as younger folks – hiking, bicycling…just being active and seeing/experiencing as much as we can.

      …and yup, the occasional round of golf, too. 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing your realization–it’s huge to stop chasing happiness and building contentment. That can look like changing your situation, but it isn’t entirely dependent on your situation. That’s awesome that you realized neither lots of stuff nor early retirement were the real goal, but having options. That’s huge.

    1. Thanks Kalie, appreciate the comment. Yup, understanding what you truly want out of life is a main key to genuine happiness. It’s wonderful.

  6. you are getting closer to the day your “good force” has a fighting chance to win more often than not.

    interesting perspectives, once people retire they lose the excuse of “work is making me unhappy” and the “pressure” is squarely on them to find the reason it may be eluding them.

    1. It’s true, after retirement, it’s all up to you. No more full-time job excuses. If you’re bored, then it’s a problem that you will need to solve yourself to be happy. And maybe, just maybe, you retired too early! 🙂

  7. Wow this really hit home with me. I’m a math and science nerd so I love equations that I can just solve.

    It seems like the focus needs to be on doing things you enjoy and not just getting away from working.

    Happiness isn’t a constant state. It has peaks and valleys. We all need to be mindful of that and enjoy the peaks and work to get back to them when we find ourselves in the valleys.

    1. Good point, FiFever. Happiness is a moving target. It isn’t something that we just magically achieve and then that’s it. We are always pursuing it, striving to stay within its flowery goodness. 🙂

  8. Wow. Amazing post. I couldn’t agree more. That is exactly what I’m looking for – being free and having options. And lately I’ve been struggling with not enjoying the ride to ER. I’m too focused on the process and the end game and not looking around to enjoy today.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks SR, appreciate the comment! And I know exactly what you mean about being too focused on the end goal rather than enjoying the here and now. It is easier said than done, but the more of the present that we enjoy, the happier we will be along our journey. One day at a time.

  9. Yes, the freedom of no early mornings (unless I choose), no traffic, no redundant paper work, and less stress is why this journey is so fun to me. A great finish to Part 1. Thank you!


    1. You’re welcome, and appreciate you taking the time to read JT. Traffic and paperwork…I shutter to think about the time and resources we waste every year enduring that mess!

  10. Yes – Freedom is something that you never really tire off. It’s why the other early retirees that I talk to say that the honeymoon period never really ends. Throughout our lives we are told what to do – by teachers, by bosses, and clients. There is nothing like waking up and having nobody to tell me what you do!

    There is one other element of happiness that you did not touch, and that is our relationships with other people. Studies show our propensity to level set our happiness quickly after most good or bad fortune. This is the hedonic treadmill concept). They also say the only way to sustainably raise that ‘happiness setpoint’ is through the development of deep relationships and giving to others. I do believe that having a plan for others in our life is an important part of planning for true happiness in FIRE.

    1. “There is nothing like waking up and having nobody to tell me what you do!” – Amen to that!

      And excellent point about how our relationships with others greatly affects our level of happiness. That is a seriously powerful element in all of this, no doubt. I have always been a bit of an introvert, so this’ll be something that I will need to actively work on!

  11. Yup. I hit a similar cascade some years back, and came away with an additional realization.

    Happiness won’t wait; it comes first.

    No goal matters if it doesn’t support my happiness. Even more brutally, I don’t make serious progress unless I’m at least somewhat happy along the way. Soul-sucking jobs provide money, yes, but so do meh jobs which were soul-sucking until I started taking walks during my breaks to feel the sunshine (which makes me happy).

    I’m far enough along towards FI that I can elevate “happiness” into a prime criterion for evaluating potential workplaces. Perhaps this idea will work for you too?

    1. I definitely elevate happiness to the prime criterion for almost anything that I do these days, which is why we have decided to sell my house rather than continue to rent it out as landlords. Landlording just doesn’t bring me happiness, and with another $118k left on the mortgage, it doesn’t bring in any money, either! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  12. YES! Creating options can come so much earlier than early retirement. And that’s where I’m focusing. (We’ll keep working toward being financially independent, but true freedom and happiness can also be found somewhere along the way… and I would like to find it!)

    1. Thanks for reading, Maggie! I definitely agree, happiness can be found along the way for sure…after we realize what “happiness” truly means to each of us, that is. That’s the hardest part.

  13. We had a real similar revelation after we started blogging and we also realized that it isn’t about quitting work that would make us happy or retiring early, we just wanted a Lifestyle Change from what we had created for ourselves. That led us to our Fully Funded Lifestyle Change concept which is what you describe as happiness, being free, and having options. Amen to that!

    Also, we realized, why wait until we hit a magic number, or hit some magic milestone to wait to “start being happy?” So I started gardening more, learning a new instrument, and trying to set myself up so that when I do start my Lifestyle Change, I will already be doing a lot of what I wanted to do anyway. 🙂

    1. It’s funny how blogging actually gets us to examine ourselves more than we otherwise would (and do). And huge kudos to not waiting, too! It’s true – even though you may still be working full-time, that’s no reason not to prioritize your free time around doing the things that actually make you happy. It’ll make retirement (or your Fully Funded Lifestyle Change) that much easier to adapt to! 🙂

  14. Well written Steve, this topic surely resonates with me. We start with wanting a good career, then we switch, then we plan to quit and then what? The more I read and hear other’s experiences, the more clarity I get on how to model my life and what to expect. Thanks.

  15. Steve – time and time again your thoughts resonate with me. I occasional think back to my best times. It was the summers between high school and college when I would work outside in a job I actually enjoyed (at an RV campground) for 40 hours a week, and spent the rest of the time doing what I wanted. Hanging out with friends, chasing girls, tinkering with my car, playing poker with the boys, going on adventures, and much more. Those activities were great, but looking back now it’s the fact that I had options to do whatever I pleased during those times.

    I liked my job because it was outside, paid decent for my age, I honed plumbing, electrical, landscaping, and customer service skills, I worked with friends, I could trade shifts if I wanted to do something that day, and I DIDN’T HAVE TO TAKE ANY OF IT HOME WITH ME. That’s a far cry today when I’m stuck in front of a computer and nights and weekends consist of checking and replying to emails.

    What I’m trying to get at is the times when I had options and freedom were the times I was the happiest. Therefore I’m going to try to ensure my future has a lot of options and a lot of freedom, so that I can pick and choose what I do, even if that activity may look like work at times.

    1. Hey Fervent – amen, brother! I bet the “not taking any of it home with you” aspect of that job was awesome. My high school job was very similar – I worked at Safeway, though, which was hands-down LESS exciting and fun than your job, but it also wasn’t exactly stressful after my shift was over! 🙂

      Having options…the ability to choose your own destiny, is so damn important. I think your ability to arrange a remote working opportunity is a giant step in that direction for you. 🙂

  16. Early retirement would be cool. I’ve thought that for years, but I’m so close to typical retirement age, that it might be too late for me to consider early retirement.

    My wife and I recently sold my castle (house in the suburbs) and half of my possessions. Then we moved in to a small rental duplex. Though we both still work, therefore not totally “free”, we are beginning to experience a liberating feeling that we have never experienced before – or at least one that we don’t remember.

    For the first time, I’ve bought off on the idea that I don’t find my happiness in possessions.

    1. Good for you guys! Selling all that stuff and downsizing probably made life so much more simple. And congrats for renting instead of owning. Owning is a very, very expensive proposition for most people, me included!

  17. Freedom is what it is all about for me too. Freedom to choose what I want to do each and every day instead of having to set the alarm and trudge to work. Freedom to go play instead of work. I do wonder if I will be bored once I hit FI but I least I will have the freedom to make the choice to work or play instead of feeling like I have to work. I hope you find happiness now and once you are totally free.

    1. Thanks, appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and it’s not all that difficult to attain, either – far easier than the so-called “American Dream”! 🙂

  18. Wow, what a great article. This really spoke to me because I feel like I could have written much of it from my own experience. Freedom and happiness are so intertwined and easy to think about in the abstract, but when we are in the trenches it becomes so much more complicated. Like you, my thoughts have matured and changed over the last few years reading people with much more mature thoughts on the subject. Earlier in my journey I realized that my actions were neither bringing me happiness or freedom, but instead taking me further away from these goals. Part of the trap people fall into is listening to other peoples ideas about happiness and following their path instead of our own.

    “My goal is achieving happiness, being free and having options.”

    This summarizes much of my thinking. Very concise and well said Steve.

    1. Thanks Happy Philosopher! I think you’re right, part of the problem is listening to what other people think makes them happy when the truth of the matter is MOST people simply don’t know. They know what is “supposed to” make them happy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

      Thanks for commenting!

  19. I’m glad you figured it and and decided to share. 🙂 I can certainly say there has been a shift/ focus to your blog over the last year or so. It’s been a big transformation, kind of like those before and after photos after a major weight loss.

    I think many of us want some level of freedom in our lives. It just depends on the degree. I like the idea of waking up and having a free calendar to do what I like.

  20. Thanks for the 2nd instalment after the cliff-hanger. Agree with your conclusion, I don’t think having a goal to get away from something is healthy. Rather, as you’ve eloquently described, we need to want to go towards something and that ‘thing’ has to be something that gives us meaning and happiness.
    So I’m intrigued now, will this change your financial plans?

    1. Hey PE – at the moment, no real change in our plans whatsoever. We’re still gearing up to call it quits by the end of 2016 for me and February of 2017 for my wife. This realization has just brought some perspective to this whole process for us. It’s nice to have perspective every once in a while. 😉

  21. Brilliant point. I think we all tend to mistake the “tool” (early retirement) and the goal (being happier). I don’t think it’s only for this topic, but really anything we do in life. When you focus on a single solution for a while, you tend to mistake the solution and the goal it lets you achieve.
    Basically the engineer in me is telling me I tend to mistake the requirements and the “product” that meets the requirements 🙂

    1. Thanks Stockbeard. I definitely mistook the tool for the goal. I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees. While this doesn’t really change our plans any, it does mean that I’m fully aware that just achieving early retirement doesn’t automatically bring piles of happiness. 🙂

  22. I agree. I feel like I am meant for bigger things. If I have a purpose, this job and current lifestyle sure as hell isn’t it. I don’t know what my purpose is exactly but I know that I always have a project, or something new and unusual up my sleeve. I crave that. I crave exploration and growth. This stagnant social norm has left me seriously wanting.

    1. “If I have a purpose, this job and current lifestyle sure as hell isn’t it.” – that’s very well said. Your purpose might be buried within your hobbies somewhere. And sometimes, we may not fully understand our purpose until we eventually stumble upon it, almost by accident.

  23. If you had the choice to go into a career you enjoyed for all that time, do you think you’d feel the same way about a full time job tending to destroy your chances at being free, being happy, and having options? (Let me know if I misunderstood you.)

    I ask because I’m looking into my own career options for the future and I’m stuck between two paths. I see good money in one path and general enjoyment and variety in the other. I’m good with my money so I think I could get out of the job relatively fast (I save quite a bit) but I think, why go through the trouble of the bad job just so I can live more comfortably doing what I enjoy anyway. But if that enjoyable job will eventually become mundane and deadening… what’s the point of picking it in the first place. I know you can’t answer my problem. I just wanted to give you some context for my curiosity!


    1. Morning Kay,

      That is a very good question and one that I often think about. I do believe that I would have been happier in a job that I truly enjoyed for all those years, yes, but I also realize that I just don’t particularly enjoy the idea of full-time jobs in general, even if it has me doing something that I enjoy. The fact is I have bad days, so the last thing that I’d want to do is go to work on those days. Meetings. Bosses. Performance reviews. It’s the “jobbiness” that would continue weighing on me even if I had the opportunity to score a full-time job that actually brought me genuine happiness.

      I definitely understand your predicament. On one hand, it is nice to spend the next several years of your life doing something that you enjoy. Life is short, after all, and it’s not worth going through the motions of doing something you despise for 8 to 10 hours a day. That would be horrible. But then again, like you said, the potential for increased earnings certainly demands attention, and if early retirement is your goal, earning more money will help you achieve that goal sooner.

      You’re right that I can’t answer that question for you, but it is definitely an interesting one. I certainly chose the “more earnings” job and I’m making it work the best way that I possibly can. But I tell you…the lack of fulfillment definitely gets to me sometimes. If early retirement wasn’t right around the corner, I probably would be looking for a job that I enjoy more – possibly self-employment.

  24. While I don’t really have ‘early retirement’ planned, the goal is to have our mortgage etc paid off in the next few years (before we are 40) with the idea that then we can work part time and achieve the same level of living and savings for actual retirement.

    I often see bloggers explaining how busy they are while in retirement and it seems that in fact they schedule themselves out the same way many of us do when we work. They become regular volunteers (someone else is still the boss), are more fully involved with church (schedules and commitments galore) or go back to take classes at school (judged by others, part of a group, graded assignments) and these things don’t seem all that dissimilar from having a job. … which leads me to believe the working isn’t the issue.

    I am deeply happy with my life and pretty satisfied overall. I am looking forward to working less but the security of knowing that the life I am so happy with is well protected is what I am looking for from being careful with my funds. 🙂

    1. Hi Morgen – paying off that mortgage is an *AWESOME* goal. Talk about a freeing emotion knowing that you aren’t tied down by a large monthly payment any longer. And your point about work not necessarily being the issue is a good one. I’ve recognized the same thing with some early retirees. But, if they actually enjoy what they are doing even though there may be a “boss” somewhere in the mix (which is tough to avoid), then it’s still all good. I definitely don’t plan on scheduling out a busy calendar for myself after retirement. For me, in fact, an open calendar is exactly what I’m after. 🙂

  25. Love this, Steve! It’s easy for early retirement to be just another thing that we acquire, another thing that fails to give us lasting happiness, like all the things that came before it. Or, with real self awareness, it can be a time — as you said — of true freedom.

    1. Thanks ONL! It’s so true, it is easy for early retirement to just become another one of those things. And we are working way, way too hard for it to be anything other than just downright magical, something that we truly recognize as a source of happiness and contentment through a feeling of, well, freedom. 🙂

  26. Wow! Great post, thanks for being so real!

    I find that I am most happy in the pursuit or journey towards something rather than the destination (-famous quote?). While I agree that the freedom provided by financial independence gives you more opportunities for happiness, I think it’s important to always have new goals to work towards. That’s why I hope to volunteer and build things after I hit FI, rather than drink Bahama Mama’s at the beach for 40 years. 😉

  27. “My goal is achieving happiness, being free and having options”. I must say instead of one “fairly simple” goal of early retirement you have now set yourself 3, of which one may not be so easy. Early retirement in my opinion is not necessarily the end of work life but a state in which you do have options. I might go back to work but I’ll do it on my terms. I do feel a lot more freedom now that I retired but on the other hand I traded one set of bonds (being work) for another, being “the budget” (and maybe even the stock market). These “options” and “this freedom” may bring happiness but that is no guarantee.

    I think happiness is harder to find (if you haven’t yet). Some people are happy teaching, serving god or serving some other cause. They work, but do it for the emotional return not the monetary. For you to find continues happiness you need to find the same: a passion that takes up your time and in return brings you happiness (or that chemical that makes you feel happy).

    The good news is that if you haven’t found that passion yet “the freedom” and “having options” that come with early retirement (or financial independence) open the door to finding that happiness.

    I wish you good luck on all three!!

    1. Hey Maarten! You’re right, I just increased my goals from one to three! But, these three goals are far more indicative of what I’m actually striving for, and I would probably make the argument that they were *always* my goals to begin with and just didn’t realize it. 😉

  28. It comes full circle, when as a kid all we did was run around and do as we pleased, and always hoping for the next phase, and now we yearn for the days of yesterday. The thing is if done correctly there is so much potential in the possibilities of what you could do when your are afforded that freedom and options. Through it all though, have to balance with staying active, not being stagnant and continue to grow in all facets. Great post.

    1. Thanks Dr. J, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. You said it best, “Through it all though, have to balance with staying active, not being stagnant and continue to grow in all facets.”. Beautiful!

  29. You are right about life not being a series of equations.

    Financial Samurai is secretly a blog about happiness. It always has been.

    If you downsize, I’m SURE you will feel happier. I did in 2014, and feel lots more joy rightsizing my home!


    1. I agree, it really is a blog about happiness. Ultimately, it all comes back to that one very awesome emotion. Just…being happy. It’s simple in concept, but so hard for many of us to attain.

  30. A great two part series!

    I remember hearing someone talk about frustration with tweaking their early retirement plan and getting there faster because they were frustrated with their current lifestyle. Similar to how you expressed it, someone said to them to enjoy life because that’s what happens between early retirement and now.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It was real insightful and I couldn’t help but keep nodding as I read through these last two posts.

    Great tag by the way, “Retirement Renaissance”! I like that!

    1. Appreciate your feedback! Enjoying life now when you have such an amazing future planned can definitely be tough. It has been tough for me as well at times. Appreciate you taking the time to read. 🙂

  31. I found your blog today. I love it; your words resonate. We’re 5 years away from freedom and I’ve been feeling the same way as you guys for years.

    I look forward to your travel adventures starting at the end of the year! In the meantime, I’ll catch myself up with your previous entries.

    1. Thanks Donna! Nothing wrong with a 5-year timeline for freedom, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you wind up jumping ship away from full-time employment even sooner! 🙂

  32. I loved this, Steve. Very well written! I came to the same realization as you – I just want to be free. It took me a while but I figured out that work itself is NOT the problem. Have you ever worked hard on a project with friends/family or without a lot of extra constraints? It’s kinda fun and fulfilling, right? Work is good – it’s good for the soul. Relationships are good for the soul. What we crave is the freedom to be who God made us to be as humans. I won’t get too religious or philosophical about it, but I believe this is what we yearn for.

    I have a few more years to go until I can retire. I’m holding onto the nice high paying job at a really good company just so I can pay off the mortgage and the bills – but I cannot wait to be FREE.

    1. Appreciate the comment, Steve. There’s no question about it…the working arrangement is arguably more important than the work itself when it comes to our happiness. But yeah, if you gotta work, it might as well be a high paying job with a good company. When it comes to jobs, that’s tough to beat!

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