Reflections on turning 39
Happy 39th birthday to me!
It was actually last weekend but as I embark on the last year of my 30s I’ve found myself doing some serious reflection on the past 15 years. I think the reason this birthday is having more significance for me is because of where I am in my life and not at all to do with staring the big 4-0 in the face. I think I’d feel the way I do right now whether I turned 36 or 43 or anything in between.
I can tell you my life looks nothing like I expected it would at 39. I’d hardly recognize the 25 year-old me now. In 14 years, I (and my life) have changed more than I could have ever imagined back then. At 25, I was a full-fledged member of the rat race. I was just finishing my MBA, I had a long commute, a demanding job, I was a gym rat and I filled any free time I had with something. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do – fill up my schedule, be busy, feel important.
On taking a different path …
Our lives have been going off-script for a while now, I’d say since our early 30s. I say “off-script” because it seemed to me that almost everyone I knew was living their life following some script not unlike the Game of Life we played as kids. When you’re X years old you should be married or close to it. By Y you should have a couple of kids, be so far along in your career, etc. Everyone always seemed to be looking to the next notch and forgetting to just celebrate the present moment. The constant grasping for the next thing was tiring and unfulfilling. If you’re dating someone, when are you going to get engaged? Just get engaged, when will you marry? Have a baby? What’s your 5 year career plan? And the list goes on. In society’s never-ending pursuit of what’s next we forget to be simply content with what is and we needed to put a stop to that in our own lives.
On taking back our time …
We became increasingly fed up with our over-scheduled lives and started saying “no” a lot more often. There was a span where we had almost no true free time and it was exhausting. Between consulting contracts, rental properties and social commitments we were left with very little precious time to ourselves. Learning to say “no” was very freeing.
I went from having obligations almost every night down to one that was important to me. We hired a property manager to free up the time we were spending on the rentals until we could sell them. We still did plenty of things we just didn’t do them on a schedule. We gave ourselves the freedom to decide what we wanted and needed in our time outside of the commitments we couldn’t cut (work). We removed as many obligations as possible. It became a joke that we’d say “maybe” all the time, very non-committal, but how often are you excited about something when you first learn of it only to dread having to go when the time arrives? “Maybe” is your friend, embrace it!
Now all of our non-working time is our own. We changed jobs and both work from home now. Working from home reclaims a ton of time. We no longer lose time to a daily commute, shop for clothes we only wear to work, take said clothes to the dry cleaner, etc. Being home means the minute we’re done working we can begin our own pursuits. This is so much more satisfying to me than running from one thing to the next all the time.
On how FIRE fits in …
It turns out FIRE is what we’ve been working towards the past 12 years even when we didn’t really know it ourselves. Yes, financial freedom and stability were our ultimate goals we just didn’t think we’d be free as soon as we will be. We were just saving for retirement, albeit quite a bit more than our peers were, but leaving the corporate world early didn’t even cross my mind as a possibility until 6 or 7 years ago. I figured we’d chug along until we were Medicare age and retire like everyone else with our savings making for cushier golden years, all the while hoping our health would hold out to enjoy a few years of freedom. Talk about focusing on some future time for happiness! Thanks to travel & FIRE bloggers we’ve found an alternative path that suits us just fine. I can’t think of anything I’d rather buy than my time!
On the year ahead …
That brings me to now, my 39th year. This is a year of complete unknowns. For the first time in my life I have no idea where I’ll be living on my next birthday or what I’ll be doing. I could still be here in the Keys, working from home a bit longer. I could be teaching diving somewhere I haven’t even thought of, we could be enjoying some slow travel, or we could be living in Mexico or St. Croix, our current top picks, but that could change too. For the first time in my life I don’t have a plan beyond the next few months. I’m enjoying the moment, embracing everything our current location has to offer and going along for the ride. I can’t wait to see where I am next January!
My hope is that I can help others find an alternate path & connect with those already on one. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers & expats we’ve met traveling and hope to do the same for someone else!
Stay warm friends!