Two years. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in many ways it feels like an eternity has passed since then. A lot has changed… I’ve changed. However, it was only two years ago that I first embarked on this journey to early financial independence. I still vividly remember flying back to the Bay Area to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. On the flight there, I remember looking out the window, pondering what my next moves in life were going to be.
You see, I had just moved to Orange County for a new job just a few months earlier in July 2011. At the time of the move, I felt reinvigorated and excited for all the possibilities that existed. After just 4 months on the job, my optimistic outlook started to disintegrate. Even though I was working in a new environment with new co-workers, the luster soon faded. I was putting in even more hours than I was at my previous job, and even had to come in on weekends on occasion. The new city, Newport Beach, was lovely and possessed beautiful weather, just like what you see in the movies. The beaches were gorgeous, and everything I could have ever hoped for.
But all of that didn’t matter because I never had time to enjoy any of it! It was that weekend, on Sunday, November 27, 2011 that I first started googling “ways to retire early”. I was fed up with my lot in life and wanted something better. I wanted more.
It was on that day that I first discovered Early Retirement Extreme. I read the forums… bought the book. It was on that day that I finally woke up and opened my eyes. I could now see for the very first time… in a long while.
And now, here we are two years later… Below, you’ll find a private journal entry I wrote to myself two years ago. This was very personal, but I feel like now would be an appropriate time to share:
Two Years Ago (Written December 05, 2011)
For Thanksgiving week, I decided to give myself a vacation, and asked for a week off from work. At my current company, paid vacation is no longer given out, so an employee must ask for time off. This granting of discretionary time off can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. Depending on your boss (and their mood), you could, in theory, ask for and be granted as many days off as you want. Or on the other hand, you could be granted nothing. This type of policy seems to favor the company if you ask me. I find that most employees are conservative when it comes to asking for time off (always afraid of upsetting the apple cart), and in a year probably ask for less time off than they would have been granted if they worked for another employer (typically 2 to 3 weeks in most U.S. corporations).
As for myself, I knew I needed a break to relax and recharge the batteries. So although the rest of my peers were planning on working all the way up to Thanksgiving Thursday, I went ahead and put in the request. Since I now know that I want to get out of here, I no longer care so much about pleasing upper management and giving off this constant aura that I care more about the company than my own personal health (I don’t). I was granted this week off, and I must now say, it was probably the best week I had in all of 2011. I got to sleep in, take mid-day naps, eat dinner at a casual pace, sleep some more after, watch TV at a relaxing pace, and then slumber off for good afterward. It was great! It was refreshing! It was everything I dreamed it would be and more… more… that’s exactly what I was craving.
During this down-time, I also began browsing the web on investment strategies, and other short-cuts to raise more money. I stumbled upon two websites that really got me thinking:
After reading the posts/blogs, and forums, a lightbulb soon went on, and a surge of energy instantly rushed through my body. I’ve been so burned out from work for so long, that I rarely ever experienced sensations like this. I soon realized that this was exactly what I ought to be aiming for. For the longest time I’ve been questioning the meaning of life, and whether everything I was doing would even matter in the end. I’ve drifted through years of my life (my peak years; the early 20’s stage of my life is over), never finding any answers. All I knew was that time was passing me by at a rapid pace, and I had accomplished very little outside of going to work and collecting a paycheck.
I knew there had to be more to life! But sometimes it’s hard to find answers when you look around, and everybody else is doing exactly the same thing you are doing (and complaining a hell of a lot less too). But I just knew that working 9-5, 5 days a week wasn’t natural. I don’t believe human beings are meant to live like this. I felt handcuffed, bounded and controlled. But since everyone else was, or at least I thought, then these thoughts wouldn’t linger for too long. My “logic” would eventually win over, and I would continue slugging along, even though my body and mind were simultaneously breaking down.
Reading Jacob’s Early Retirement Extreme About Me section really has changed my perspective on life. When he mentioned how he was able to do it in just 5 years of full-time work, and without ever commanding a salary greater than $50,000, my interest (skepticism) were sparked. I didn’t think this was possible, but it all sounded so good, that I couldn’t turn away. I kept reading, and reading. And then I soon realized how so much of what he was saying was resonating with my own thoughts.
I’ve never enjoyed spending money. That is, I’ve purchased expensive things (big screen TV, electronic gadgets, a collection of mostly unused $1000 guitars, etc). But at the end of the day, these purchases did not contribute more happiness to my life. If I could quantify happiness, I would say that the initial purchase was a 10/10, which would fade to a 3 or 4 over time. But I could also purchase a new book to read, and that would hold a value of 3 or 4 over time as well. When I think back to times of true happiness, they almost always involve friends, laughter, and experiences. The material goods just never really mattered. But I kept purchasing them because I thought I was supposed to. Wasn’t that the whole point of getting a good job after college? To make more money, spend more money, and live the “good life”? Boy, did I so not have it figured out…