When I was younger, I used to tell myself that I never wanted to get old. I thought that by advancing in age, a person was declining in all aspects of life, mostly physical. For instance, as you get older, you: don’t heal as quickly from injuries, are not as mobile or flexible, and can’t run as fast or jump as high as you once did…
Again, I mostly focused on the physical aspects of things, but even when I looked around me, I always managed to find elder folks who were: drab and boring, low energy, cynical, and ultra-conservative. Naturally, as a youngster, I put two and two together and came to the conclusion that “getting old kind of sucks.”
The Past Eight Years
After graduating college in 2007, I was bursting with energy and ready to take on the world. I thought that adult life would be so AWESOME because I had so many big plans and dreams. I wanted to accomplish this. Do that. Try something new. Experiment. Explore. Learn.
The one thing that I wanted most, was the very thing that I compromised the most on. I didn’t live. Contrary to my plans and innate beliefs, I dove headfirst into a stressful career that would eventually put my health in great peril. I worked hard, putting my nose-to-the-grindstone on a regular basis, sweating out overtime and putting in more than my fair share of work to prove my worth to the new company.
I sacrificed everything for that good-paying 9-5 gig, foolishly thinking that it was my path to salvation. Quickly, I found myself engulfed in the rat race. As a young, impressionable, and highly motivated Type A individual, I was doomed to fail from the start. I got my “high” whenever an older co-worker or manager complimented me on my work ethic. I took a lot of pride in helping get a product out to market on time, or ahead of schedule. And I gracefully accepted sub-par performance reviews that did not adequately compensate me for all my blood, sweat, and tears.
After a few years, I realized that everything that I was doing was all in vain when The Company announced layoffs; everyone was a candidate to being chopped, no one was spared. As I soon discovered, ultimately, it’s all just a numbers game in Corporate America…
Luckily, I’ve always been somewhat smart with money, because if I had blown through all of my earnings, 8 years later, I really would literally have NOTHING to show for all that undue sacrifice.
8 years later, now that I’m 30, all I can do is look back at those “lost years” and shake my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely 100% grateful to be where I am today, but I can’t help but marvel at my own naïveté during the period of those younger days…
The problem with youth (not everyone but most) is this: You don’t know jack about life… but you think you have everything all figured out. You’re hard-headed, stubborn, and not realistic with your expectations. You make up for inexperience with pep and a burning desire to succeed, but your “life meter” is still brand new, and fresh out of the box. It need a lot of calibration…
That’s my own take on youth, looking back with the benefit of hindsight. At 30, I know I’m not a finished product by any means, but I now have a much better understanding of how life works (even though I still don’t really know jack)… And I’m a lot more open-minded than I used to be. For the things that I don’t know, I’m very willing to ask for help, and no longer feel the need to have to waste my time trying to solve every freekin’ problem on my own…
With everything in life, they say that experience is the best teacher. I would agree. You don’t really know, until you’ve done it yourself…
When I was in high school, everyone used to make such a HUGE deal about getting accepted into a top-tier university. When decisions were being handed out during the end of senior year, it was all too common to find a student crying in anguish upon receiving notice of being rejected from their “dream” school. It’s as though your life would never amount to anything if you didn’t attend that one particular school… Hah!
In case you were wondering, I didn’t go to Stanford, or Harvard, or M.I.T… I ended up doing just fine in my engineering career… Life went on… Getting rejected was not the end of the world! It’s long forgotten. In fact, I probably ended up better off by attending a public university and saving a boatload of $$$. 🙂
When I was in college, we were brainwashed into believing that higher education was the key to success in life. Forget just obtaining a B.S. degree, you needed to really push yourself and at a MINIMUM get a M.S. degree. But to do really, really well in life, you no doubt needed a PhD!
My college roommate ate up all that propaganda and enrolled in a PhD program. I almost did as well, and up until around 2009, I was seriously contemplating getting a PhD. Last I heard from my old roommate, he just recently graduated at age 30 and is looking for his FIRST full-time gig so that he can finally earn some real money. He’s got a mountain full of student loans to payoff as well… And he hates the stuff… So, unless you are getting a PhD because you have a burning passion for the subject you’re researching (or you want to teach in academia), it probably won’t be worth it…
In 2008, I was none-the-wiser, and ate all that “get a higher education” stuff up like it was the gospel. I was determined to get a M.S. degree, because that’s what I was told I needed to do. I still vividly remember when I made my tuition payment during the fall of 2008. At the time, I had about $20,000 in my checking account and was eyeing Apple (AAPL) stock that had pulled back to under $12/share (split-adjusted)… I briefly thought about jumping in, but quickly gave in to my “rational” senses, and paid the tuition, instead.
To this day, honestly, I feel like I didn’t learn a single useful thing from my graduate courses. Everything that I ever needed to succeed in engineering, I learned “hands-on” in the lab, working on real, practical engineering problems, instead. Not stuff out of a textbook… The ROI on that graduate program made it totally NOT worth it! At most, I received a bump up in salary of $5,000/year… $5,000 for TWO FULL YEARS of school!!!
Further, as anyone on the journey to early FI knows, the key to freedom in this world is to invest in high-quality income producing assets. Depening on a single stream of income (your employer) is inherently more risky!
Oh, and those AAPL shares are doing pretty “decent” today… 😉
When you are younger, you are impressionable and so prone to falling in line and marching alongside the mainstream. You’re out chasing somebody else’s definition of happiness, not your own… You don’t perhaps even yet know what your definition of happiness even is…
As you get older, you realize that not everything people tell you is always in your best interest. I’ve learned so much and grown as an individual by going against the grain, and traversing off the beaten path…
Meant To Live For More
The reason that most people fear aging is because they are trapped in mundane, meaningless lives. If you stick around doing that for long enough, you are bound to become institutionalized. Aging becomes a growing fear because you’re so used to following orders that you have no clue how to even direct your own life anymore! That’s when you become dull and stagnant… Listless with no energy or enthusiasm. All the things that I used to fear as a youngster growing up.
But life doesn’t have to be that way! We don’t have to be confined to the same fate!
As we all know, time is our most precious currency. The clock is constantly ticking and there’s absolutely nothing we can do to buy more of it. Money is just a means to an end… A tool to help you achieve what you really want out of life. Once you have enough money, or a good foundation in place, it’s seriously time to pursue some much more worthwhile life goals.
Who wants to look back on their life and have any regrets about not doing more with it?!? No one on their death bed ever wishes they spent more hours working at the office or attending more staff meetings!
If that stuff scares you, it should. In many ways, death is the greatest invention for life, because without it, we wouldn’t realize how delicate and fragile our time on this planet really is. Death is the change agent that we must all face at some point in our lives… No one has ever escaped the reaper’s clutch.
“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
If you know you’re going to die, then you know you absolutely have to be more involved with actually LIVING while you’re still here… If you’re going to go out, you might as well go out swinging! Life ought to be one wild, adventurous, crazy roller-coaster ride; by the time you make it to the end, your closing remarks should be, “What a ride! I’m exhausted and spent… I had the time of my life!”
Real growth comes from life experiences. If you aren’t learning and getting better over the years, you aren’t doing it right! I’m very open and honest with myself, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I know that I could be doing much more with my life.
I’m currently lacking and deficient in many areas of my life…
As I look into the future, I can’t help but get excited about all the potential avenues for growth that I’m going to attack with all my might– For starters, I want to build an online business and become a real estate agent. I also want to indulge in wanderlust. Quite frankly, I really just want to live a new life every 7 years.
Those life goals are what light a fire under me each and every morning. That’s the kind of stuff that gets me out of bed. Without real life goals, I would be doomed to becoming another lifeless corporate drone… And I can’t have that! I want to be passionate and full of energy. I want to remain inquisitive for all of my life. I want to always be learning and growing.
We’ve only got ONE life to live; we have to make it count!
Life Gets Better
Life SHOULD get better over time. Sure, we’ll all have to face the inevitable physical decline… but we can put a stop to, or even reverse mental decline.
- Smile more.
- Laugh more.
- Love more.
- Give more.
- Play more.
- Explore more.
- Ask more questions.
- Stop taking life so seriously.
- Stop wasting time on useless drama.
- Stop chasing after things that don’t bring any real happiness.
Have a smashing good time, all the time! The only people who fear aging are the ones who are not doing anything meaningful with their lives, but instead simply existing. Unlike before, these days, I’m looking forward to getting older… 🙂