In the past few weeks, I had my second baby and I turned 37 years old. When I started my journey to design and live my ideal life, my big questions were: “Will we, as a lesbian couple, be able to realize our dream of starting a family? How do we achieve financial independence so that we don’t have to be tied to our jobs? Can we really be happy living with less than our peers?”
If I had the vantage point five years ago to see what my life looks like now, I think I’d be pretty satisfied. We’ve been blessed with two healthy children. We’ve already exceeded the initial FI goal I had set then, and we should hit our revised goal before the end of my maternity leave. We’ve learned to live more minimally, ecologically, and healthfully while still splurging on the expenses that bring us maximum return on happiness – expenses like vacations, babysitters, premium foods, the cleaning lady, and the occasional uber ride when public transport is just too much of a pain. We’ve also played the geographic arbitrage game by moving with my company to Switzerland where I got a 30% cost of living wage increase while we’ve kept expenses relatively flat (since we come from one of the most expensive cities in the US anyways).
Now with some headspace to spare (its true that you’re so much more relaxed as a second-time parent!), I’ve been perseverating on a whole new set of questions: “When should I pull the plug on the J-O-B? What the heck am I going to do with myself once I stop working? What is it that I really find purposeful and enjoyable? Can I stay at home all day with my kids without going bonkers? As an FI-mom, how do I find likeminded people who can help me on this new journey?”
I’m probably sitting at one of the most open-ended junctures of my life, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. When you remove the need to make a living, what then do you structure your life around?
These are first-class problems for sure, and I’m immensely grateful to have the privilege to even be contemplating them. A fellow FI-er was recently interviewed on the Mad Fientist show about her journey on striving for happiness after early retirement. She spoke about traveling like crazy for the first several years and needing that time to get the career stuff out of her system before settling down. She admitted feelings of guilt for leaving the workforce and about the need to justify her choice to others (and to herself). She talked about dealing with the loss of external validation and the pressure to do something big that you can brag about to others. My heart raced as I listened to her interview, because all of this resonated with me.
Where Marla is at now is this:
I have in my room a Buddhist saying. I look at it every day…It says “to bring peace to the earth, strive to make your own life peaceful.” What’s beautiful about that is it still has the word strive in there. So, there’s an effort required to be happy. And by us being happy, can we make the world happier? Probably. Can we be an example? Can we share our story and change the world little by little? We leave the workforce, that leaves a job for someone else. We show that you can live simply and without spending a lot of money and be content, surely, that’s a positive lesson for the world…Having purpose, having meaning, you don’t want to give up on those ideas. It’s just that the direction doesn’t necessarily have to be something big or something that you can brag about or something that sounds good to others. It can boil down to something a lot more simple.