As much as we talk about financial independence and investing as much of our money as we possibly can so we can give the big send off to mega (and minor) corporations that are stealing our time, sometimes we forget to be thankful. I do an awful lot of typing into this computer screen about chasing early retirement and I, too, forget to take a step back and be grateful for everything I have TODAY. That includes my health, my family, my friends, my growing nest egg, and last but certainly not least, my mega corporation that makes it all possible.
Wherever you work and whatever you do, isn’t it awesome that you have the luxury of pursuing financial independence? Make no mistake, if you make enough money from your employer (AKA a W-2 job) that you are able to live a decent life AND afford to invest enough money to retire early, you are part of an elite group. And for that, you should be grateful.
As a member of Generation X, I have always worked for mega corporations because I was raised to think, That’s What You Do. I must say though, mega corporations have treated me well throughout the years. I have always had the luxury of working in a temperature-controlled, clean, safe environment. I have been fairly compensated, had access to generous heath and savings plans, and have been recognized and promoted for my hard work. As if that wasn’t enough, I was also able to attend graduate school and obtain my master’s degree with 100% tuition reimbursement.
Along the way, I also had the pleasure of gaining a massive amount of knowledge about people and the world in which we live. In sum, I can’t complain. My life is good. Really good.
I have worked at quite a few companies during and after college and each time I met an interesting mix of folks, each with their quirks and dreams and regrets. I have had the opportunity of getting to know many people from many different walks of life. This expanded my world view and enhanced my ability to interact and understand other people based on their world view and past experiences. I use this skill set in nearly every facet of my existence today. And for that, I am grateful.
Over the years, I have laughed, I have cried, and I have enjoyed my colleagues on many levels. After spending 8+ hours each day with people in your office or place of employment, you become part of a team and create bonds, whether you set out to do it or not. It’s obvious that if you’re working for the same employer, you have something in common already, and if you’re working in the same department, you have even more in common. That stage is set.
When I first started my professional career after college (eons ago), I was single and in that I have my whole life ahead of me phase. You know the one I’m talking about 😉 I was one of about 6 people working in a science lab. All 6 of us had the same job and were similar in age. We had the time of our lives – and we actually got work done, too! I had so much fun working that job that I would call in when I took vacation to see how everyone was doing and to see what I had missed while I was away enjoying the boring beach. I wasn’t the only one who did that. EVERYONE did that. We had so much fun together that we didn’t like to miss a day. It was like a continuation of high school.
When I ultimately said goodbye for a position that was much closer to my home, I took with me true lifelong friends that I have until this day. That job was one of the best time investments I made in my life. It will pay me dividends until I die. In my opinion, there are few things more important in life than true friends. And I mean REAL friends, the kind of friends you can call up at 2 am crying your eyes out needing to talk – not that that ever happened 😉
Similarly, when I started working for my current employer, I was a little bit older but still in that I have my whole life ahead of me phase. I was placed in a group of individuals who were also in that phase and we became friends pretty quickly. Think: happy hours, house parties, and Office parties every week. When I say Office parties, I mean we had parties every Thursday night when a new episode of The Office would air. We had a rotating schedule as to who would host the showing. We made strong bonds during those first few years and some of us still work there today. Unfortunately (or fortunately) time reared its ugly head and took a toll on our youth. We are all mostly married with families now. Our Office parties are firmly planted in the sands of time, but we still carry the bonds we made during that fleeting time in our shared history. It made us better employees. It made us better team players. It made us better people. And for that, I am grateful.
“You’ll miss it when it’s over.” That’s a direct quote from a man who lives next to my mother who is now retired. He is probably somewhere in his late 60s and I often see him reading a book inside the lobby when I go to visit my mother at her apartment building. One day I stopped over to see my mom during my lunch break to grab a bite and shoot the breeze.
Tip: you never know when your parents will be gone forever. Never miss an opportunity to spend a little time with them.
As I was leaving the building I let out a sigh as I told the man reading his book that I had to head back to work for the afternoon. He chuckled and said I was lucky, and then he proceeded to tell me how I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Wow, did that ever make me think! I’ll miss it when it’s gone? Really?
I guess that can be true of most things. If you work until traditional retirement age and retire from something instead of to something, you WILL miss it when it’s gone – at least that’s what is touted in the FIRE community these days. I certainly plan on retiring TO something, but despite that I still continued to question what he had said to me. I started an internal dialogue with myself. Is my job really so bad? Do I actually enjoy it? The answers are no and yes, respectively. I know I am fortunate to have worked for mega corporations that have paid me well and given me attractive benefits to boot. I also know that I do, mostly, enjoy my job. I always say that if I have to work (and I currently do), I generally enjoy what I do and where I do it. And for that, I am grateful.
I have noticed throughout my life that I am often sad when things end, not when they begin. My daughter’s first day of kindergarten – no big deal. Her last day of pre-school – I was a mess. Even though I feel like I will be retiring to something and not from something, I still wonder if I will succumb to missing IT when it’s over. If history is any predictor, and it obviously is, my guess is that I will be a blubbering mess when I hang up my lab coat for the last time. Time will tell.
Things I Have Learned
Reflection is a powerful tool. After spending this weekend in a state of gratitude for all I have and all I have learned and all the people who have touched my life along the way, I have come to appreciate The Journey. I am happy to have found this personal finance community. Every single person I have interacted with and who has read this blog is a part of this community and is making my journey to financial independence worth every step.