Welcome to the first exciting installment of the 4-part article series “Our Next Life“. Here, we divulge our retirement plan, in some detail, for others to consider, scrutinize and endlessly ridicule. And yes, I am fully aware that the name of this series also happens to be the name of one of our favorite finance blogs around – OurNextLife.com – and that’s okay. They will forever be the blog. This is the series. Blog. Series. Okay then, let’s get started! First, I quit!
I remember vividly the last time that I quit a job.
In many ways, I was on top of the world. Nothing could touch me. Move out of the way, world, because I’m coming through. This is my day – my day to be eternally, unequivocally, 100% happy and overflowing with pride.
This was my last day working as the Director of Information Technology at a not-for-profit in the healthcare industry. Two weeks prior I submitted my official resignation, and for 13 days, I was preparing for this sweet day, my last 8 hours, in an office that grew to be stale, hollow and unsatisfying. As it turns out, I don’t like working a job all that much.
What does it mean to simply “not like to work”? Does it mean lazily sitting on your ass all day and doing nothing, Peter Gibbons-style? Well, maybe. For me, it means I can’t stand the extra workish stuff that comes free of charge with a career, like meetings, performance reviews, more meetings, commutes, schedules, documentation… As you know, I don’t want a career. Been there, done that. Sorry career, you’re not for me.
I wanted to experience the feeling of knowing that I will no longer have to do this any more. No more commute into the office. And that huge looming kill-me-now-I-don’t-want-to-live project that I’ve been dreading for months? No longer my problem. I wanted to walk through the office one final time while thinking to myself, “I’m free!” I wanted to freaking scream it.
For the past 8 months, I served as the head of the Information Technology department, a team of 13 people if I recall. I was just some 32-year old stooge, but I was also in charge of people who were twice my age – those with more experience than me, and sometimes, more leadership under their belts.
But I was the guy. I called the shots. How did this happen? What in the world enabled some 32-year old to be transformed from a web developer to the Director overnight?
There was no warning, either. The CEO called me into his office and told me, point blank, that the old Director had been let go and he/they/someone wanted me to fill that role. Whoa. I’m sure my expression of shock, disbelief and amusement was felt reverberating throughout the office at that instant.
Of course I accepted. For the past 12 years, I wrote code for a living. Head down and mashing the keyboard, pounding out if statements and while loops, worrying about memory leaks, resource allocations, security vulnerabilities, all the “what ifs” of usability.
Sure, what the hell. I wanted a change. Truthfully, I badly wanted to experience something new. Okay, maybe I didn’t have quite this much of a job title upgrade in mind, but screw it, let’s give it a shot. I’m game.
Overnight I became “the Director“, and I felt like hot shit that night.
The very next day, my calendar started getting full – I mean, real full. Meetings piled up. Questions about schedules and features started pouring in. I liked it. I was the one in charge. Finally, after years of longing for the opportunity to make decisions, here I was – with virtually no prior upper management experience – sitting in meetings with executive staff making things happen.
And for a while, it was great. It was new and different. At least it got me moving around more going from meeting to meeting. It was all cool and exciting. It was nice being on top.
But slowly, the monotony started to set in. Day after day was always the same, questions. Concerns. Issues. Meetings. More questions. More concerns. More issues. More…meetings. It all started to accumulate within me. My frustration grew.
Then the employee performance reviews started, and that sure as hell didn’t help. Nobody, not even management, seemed to give a wit, but they still needed to be done. My staff didn’t care, and quite frankly, I did not expect them to. Their goals were as scripted and barren as possible. They placed no importance in this process. But honestly, neither did I. It was busy work and I knew it. Performance reviews are almost always busy work. Ugh, why?
At first, I chalked it up to being a part of the job. When you’re in management, these things happen. Dealing with people is a part of it. Answering questions is why you’re here. Feeding upper management gigantic piles of feel good bullshit was what this job is all about. Live with it and move on.
But as the weeks dragged on, I realized that I can’t simply “move on”. The truth was after several months of being “the boss”, I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I don’t want to be on the phone with one of my support staff on a Saturday night if something breaks in the office. I also don’t want to be the douchebag who makes someone work when they should be away from the office and enjoying time off.
I refuse to be the enforcer of a policy that requires IT staff to sign their lives over to the organization, to design their free time around the ability to immediately respond when something goes wrong, generally caused by mindless office staff who could not possibly care any less about their jobs.
I also don’t want to practically turn into a lawyer whenever I’m in a meeting with upper management by carefully choosing my words, committing to nothing, anticipating their questions and having my bullshit answer already scripted in my head. Because if you say the wrong thing, you’re liable to make it happen.
I was done, and I put in my two week notice 8 months into my
dictatordirectorship – and I couldn’t have been happier. I did it through email, ’cause I’m good like that, and ’cause I work in IT and it was assumed that I no longer possess the ability to print a piece of paper or hand-write much of anything.
And there is probably some truth to that.
It was both exciting and nerve-racking. Suddenly, I became brutally honest in meetings with upper management. Sugar-coat removed, baby. For the next 14 days, you get the real-deal-spiel directly from your soon-to-be former Director. But not to worry, for my replacement will soon reapply the sugar and once again feed you the bullshit that you’re looking for.
In some ways, it was a surreal experience. Slowly walking towards the kitchen to grab myself a cup of coffee on my last day, I looked around. I remembered things. Good things and bad things. I remembered standing there talking to so-and-so about such-and-such problem.
I also remember sitting in that cubicle writing code, wishing that I was the one calling the shots around here.
But more than all that, I also realized this was my last day walking these halls, talking to the majority of these people, dealing with this organization’s crap and the familiar concern over whether or not my weekend is going to be frantic OMG-Everything-Is-Down-Please-Fix call free or not.
It was a sense of relief. And it was this relief that enabled me to finally see things for what they truly are without the old “Yeah, but I work here, so it’s not that bad” blinders on. The old fridge. The grimy carpet. The yellowing ceiling tiles.
That 65-year dude who still works. I don’t want to turn into that dude.
And now, as I think back on my last day at that organization, I am feeling the same drive to quit once again, but this time, for good. I realized long ago that the grass is never greener – in fact, that shit is always brown. The truth is that I am not cut out for the traditional “job” – any job. I can move from company to company until I’m blue in the face. It won’t help. I don’t like “jobs”…not like this.
The way I felt walking the halls on my last day, will that be how it feels the next time that I give my two week notice? Will I once again feel a sense of relief, or will it be something much greater – knowing that I’m not getting another job?
How do I tell my much-older boss that I’m not just “moving on”, but retiring? I’ve already made up my mind that I’m not using the insipid “I want to spend more time with my family” excuse, because that opens the door for the company to try and keep you by giving you more time off. Screw that. I want the rest of my life off. And besides, why lie? We’ve spent the past several years saving huge amounts of money so we can retire early and travel the country, and I’m damn proud of that.
I don’t know what that feeling will be like, but I am looking forward to finding out. Come the end of 2016, my life will surely get pretty darn hectic, not just because of our retirement, but also our lifestyle changes that are enabling us to retire this early.
We are selling [almost] everything.
Check out Our Next Life, Part 2!
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.