I started my new position at work 2 weeks ago, and a conversation I've had with many different people usually goes like this: “How long have you been working here? What did you do in your last position? How long are you here with us? What do you want to do when you're done with your starter program?” (I'm in an Early Development Program that consists of 2 18-month rotations to gain exposure to different aspects of the company. This is the start of my second rotation.)
A by product of this conversation is I usually end up mentioning my FI plans and my blog. I'm somewhat leery of talking about it at work, since I've heard it can be counter productive to career progression, but for now I'll talk about it. I've had a lot of unexpected encouragement and support for my plans from talking about it, mostly from upper management, which helps affirm my choices. People ask me, “If you don't have to work, what will you do with your time?”
Oh boy. Maybe a better question is, what won't I be doing? I have tons of hobbies I'd like to master, I'd like to give back to some organizations, I'd love to travel and heck I might even go back to school.
One thing I've noticed since starting a full time job is that the things I enjoy doing are simple, but time consuming. Going for a bike ride, quilting, hiking, reading, going to the pool… all of them are (relatively) low cost but take up hours of my time. When I only have 6 or 7 hours of “free time” on any given work day, I usually don't have the time when all the other necessary activities of life are added in. Not only that, sitting in a cube for 8 hours a day staring at a computer screen kills my brain. The last thing I want to do when I get home is think. Figuring out how to cut the correct sized pieces and sewing them together in the right order is often a daunting task on a weekday.
I severely dislike that my brain power and sweat equity is going to a large corporation. Yes, they give me money and other benefits in exchange, and the world wouldn't exist as it is without people working, but fundamentally I oppose it. I want to use my time and energy to do things that will enrich my life, not just earn a nameless company money. Not only things that enrich my life, but potentially other's lives as well.
Growing up, I was heavily involved with the Girl Scouts. I started out as a Brownie in 2nd grade and went all the way through to my senior year of high school when I earned my Gold Award (the equivalent to the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout Award). Going to camp every summer was the highlight of my year. I LOVED going to camp, and I can honestly say a large part of my development as a person was heavily influenced by the situations I faced and the people I met. Very few environments like camp exist when young girls have so much contact with older teenagers and 20 something's. To me, the camp staff were my idols. I'd happily disobey my parents, but I would do anything possible to avoid the wrath/disappointment from the staff. I'd be a completely different person without camp, and it wouldn't be for the better either.
The happiest summer of my life was when it was my turn to be camp staff. I spent the summer as a lifeguard hanging out around the pool and teaching girls how to
canoe (with varying degrees of success). To this day, I mentor some of the campers I met and a few of my closest friends are fellow staff.
The following summer I didn't go back. I would've loved nothing more than to do so, but I literally couldn't afford it. I was on the cusp of going to college with no family support so a job that only paid about $1500 for the summer wasn't nearly enough to help. I instead got a job at a child care facility that paid me closer to $5000 for the summer.
That was the first time I chose to do something that would pay me more money over something I wanted to do, and it wasn't the last. My entire career choice was based on two questions: “What career field is in demand?” and “What job will pay me the most money?” I stumbled into Mr. Money Mustache's blog in college, so my whole goal since then has been to earn as much money as quickly as possible so I can go back to doing what I want to do. I'd love to go back to camp during the summers. If I was financially independent, it wouldn't matter that I was earning the equivalent of $.23/hour. Then I could spend part of the year with family, and part of the year traveling!
I'd absolutely love to travel. When I was younger, my family's idea of a vacation was going to visit relatives. We never really took vacations in the traditional sense. I did get to go on a few Spring Break trips, but that was because a family friend invited me on their family trips. I saved last year to take a trip to Australia, but I ran into that age old problem of I have the money, but not the time. I was only able to stay for 3 weeks, and that was because I used up almost all of my vacation time in conjunction with company holiday time over Christmas and New Years. I flew 26 hours (one way) to barely scratch the surface. If I was financially independent, I could not only fly at a less expensive time of the year but I could stay as long as I wanted to see everything on my wishlist (for that area, I'd like to visit the East Coast and New Zealand).
I'm going to Ecuador this October for the annual FI blogger's Chautauqua. It's a week long retreat, with an optional trip to the Galapagos Islands afterwards. I would love to go to the islands, but I don't have that much vacation time, so I'm not going to. I'd love to go and spend far longer than a week so I could explore all that Ecuador has to offer.
To me, the worst part about not being financially independent is being beholden to someone else's schedule. I can only take vacation at certain points in the year and can only use as many vacation days as I've been given. I'm not free to do what I want, and I severely dislike that.
However, at a certain point of saving, I will have enough accumulated to say “FU!!” and do what I want. Due to my military service, I have 4 years of college tuition waivers that I haven't used. I originally went into the Air Force to pay for school but then ended up getting a full-ride scholarship for academics. I've considered tossing around the idea of going back to college to take classes on subjects that actually interest me. Not right now though. The thought of tests and homework and projects on a deadline still kills me inside. I'd love to get formal instruction on a variety of topics, but primarily in various art mediums. I love to quilt, I know how to knit, and I'd love to learn how to screen print, throw clay and learn woodworking skills. My dream would involve moving down to the St. Louis area for art classes while getting season tickets to all the Cardinals home games. I'm a 3rd generation Cardinals fan and I consider it a shame that I've only been to a handful of games in my life.
Basically, to me, financial independence and retiring early is all about FREEEDOOOMMMM [works best if you say it Braveheart style in your head]. The freedom to do what I want and help make the world a better place for the generations to come. Doesn't that sound better than meeting deadlines and spending most of your time in a windowless cube?