What It’s Like One Year After Quitting My Job

Last year, after working 20 years in jobs ranging from cafeteria worker to engineer, I came to a new milestone. My wife and I had been saving for years, and with our net worth exceeding a million dollars, we were financially independent. Tired of chasing money, I wanted to be able to pursue new hobbies, travel, and learn. So I quit my job. A year later, I can say this has been the most incredible experience of my life.

Happy hour with my new co-workers

The first 6 months

Immediately after quitting, I felt like a hyper dog who’d been pent up in a cage for years. Suddenly set free, I was going to run until I collapsed. Even though I had every day off, I was still treating each day like a fleeting Saturday.

We went on road trips to Colorado, New Mexico, Nova Scotia, and Maine. I finished some renovations on our house, tinkered with toys I found in the dump, fished, sailed, gardened, and chopped firewood. I travel hacked our free trip to Jamaica, and went surfing in Costa Rica.

Catching one of my first real waves

It was like a never ending weekend. I remember thinking, “This is the most insane vacation of my life.”

Finally settling in

Days seemed really long at work, but now they feel too short. While things are starting to calm down, random opportunities seem to pop up.

Just last week, I ran into my neighbor who had some interesting intel. He pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of a trout stocking truck with a guy dropping fish over a bridge near my old work. We decided to head over and try our luck.

When we got down to the river, we started catching fish right away. I let a bunch of trout go, but kept a nice one for dinner. As we rolled past my old work, my neighbor commented, “You coulda been in there right now.”

While random stuff keeps popping up, I finally started finding time for new hobbies.

Getting creative

As humans we have an incredible capacity to explore whole worlds within our own minds. There is a sea of creativity in our brains, and I only ever explored a small part of it.  I never really had any art classes, and wanted some time to explore things I never had a chance to try.

Music

A few years ago, I bought a guitar, but never got far with learning. Now I’ve been able to devote time to learning songs. I’m slowly picking up some theory as I go, and it’s interesting to see the patterns and logic that bind a lot of tunes together.

I have been recording some of my progress, and considered sharing. But after looking through the videos, I figured an image would be adequate…

Writing

As an engineer, I wrote papers that explore and explain the physical world. I never dug up memories or emotions from my life and put them on paper. This blog has been a new experience, and it was crazy pondering the past when I wrote a post about about my grandfather who passed away decades ago. I never had a chance to reminisce and just think about things.

I feel like I was a robot for years, and having time to practice the arts has allowed me to look at life through a different lens.

Getting healthier

After sitting at a desk for more than a decade, posture became a problem for me. When I was turning 30, I started having a lot of back pain. I thought it was something that came with age, but the real problem was lack of exercise.

In addition to going to the gym, I’ve been working on correcting my knee and back issues. After starting a daily routine of lifts and stretches aimed at improving posture, I’ve seen a huge difference. I hardly get any back or knee pain, and can lift more weight than I did in college.

I feel healthier than ever, and it’s just awesome that I can take my bike and hit the trails when a nice sunny day comes along.

To help slow my mind, I started meditating. I thought it was about sitting there thinking about nothing, but it’s been an opportunity to take a step back and examine where my thoughts are going. It can be surprising to see where the traffic in your head goes on its own.

Increased happiness

Hedonic Adaptation is a hell of a thing. My old neural pathways were being smashed and new connections slowly being made. Although I’m adapting to this new way of life, I am still noticeably happier overall. I think the answer to that is a combination of reduced stress and gratitude.

The stresses of coming Mondays, looming deadlines, or shitty emails are gone. I spend less time arguing in my head and more time relaxing, practicing hobbies, and studying self improvement strategies.

Gratitude is also one way to boost overall happiness, and right now it seems to be coming to me pretty easily. Any time things don’t go my way, all I have to say to myself is, “well, you could be sitting at work.” That puts a smile on my face pretty quick.

I actually remember coming home from work with my eye twitching on extremely stressful days. Those nights, I would try to relax with a few beers while Mrs. CK and I both vented about the latest catastrophes at work. These days, we enjoy our brews with laughs and jokes. Instead of work problems, our conversations revolve around hiking, gardening, chickens, workouts, food, and vacation planning.

Finding direction

I do miss my community of friends from work, and the paychecks. Sometimes I contemplate going back. But then I think about what I’d achieve by earning more money. One day I asked myself, “Where do I want to be 5 years down the line?” The answer is that I’d like to be retired, maybe writing a blog, playing music, gardening, learning new skills, fishing, and traveling…

Another aspect about work is the prestige. I used to be a subject matter expert working on the cutting edge of a narrow field. Now I’ve become a student of a few arts and master of none. No longer being at the pinnacle can be hard to come to terms with – a jobless amateur guitar player isn’t going to command much respect… But if you want to climb more mountains, you have to come down from the one you’re on. I’m enjoying the new challenges.

A stunning view we caught in Western Colorado

All the traveling, napping, biking, fishing, and generally doing whatever I want has been awesome. An added bonus has been learning things about myself that I didn’t know were there. I left work because every day was getting to be the same, and there were other things in life I wanted to experience. I haven’t been disappointed. I still value my time just as highly, but the education and experiences of this past year have been priceless.

56 thoughts on “What It’s Like One Year After Quitting My Job

  1. Nice advertisement for early retirement! It sounds pretty awesome. How much of your hobbies/activities were clear in your mind before retiring and how much of the things this last year were something you didn’t plan on?

    I ask because my wife and I are just starting to seriously think/dream about what our ideal early retirement should look like now that we’re FI. Until we have a clearer joint vision of what to retire to, we’re continuing to work and save because we like our jobs well enough but there are so many other things to do that I would find more fulfilling that I’m getting impatient. Your post didn’t help 🙂

    Congratulations and I’m glad your first year of “transition” was so great!

    • Honestly, I didn’t have too much of a plan. The hobbies have been piling up over the years, and I keep finding new ones. There just never seems to be enough time for them all, even if you aren’t working a job…

      Mrs CK on the other hand, knew she wanted to teach at a community college. So when the opportunity came up, she quit her corporate job on the spot. After she quit her job, and seeing how it transformed her, it made my decision pretty easy 🙂

  2. Awesome recap and you seriously have me jealous. The fitness thing I think is really underestimated. I imagine that if I were ever early retired, I’d be super fit because I’d be eating way less junk food (I snack a ton while I’m at work) and not to mention I’d probably just bike around most of the day while everyone else is at work.

    • When your mind is stuck on work, you don’t even realize how badly your treating your body. It’s definitely easier to stay fit, but you still gotta get up and get outside on your own 🙂

  3. Awesome 1 year recap. As someone still spending most weekdays sitting in an office I can share it’s not nearly as fun as hanging out in a chicken pen. I would strongly recommend against replacing the chickens with beige walls and a computer. I played guitar as a kid and look forward to picking that back up. Like most things, it gets easier and more enjoyment over time with practice. Nothing like playing a few songs for friends when just hanging out.

    • Right now we are in Catalonia for a little over two weeks – it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places. Later this summer we’ll do some road trips up north to Vermont and New Hampshire. In the fall, we travel hacked tickets to Belize. And in January we are back in Costa Rica. Life is good 🙂

  4. “… and there were other things in life I wanted to experience.”

    It was the same for me. Work just go so uninteresting that I had to force myself to go. I wasn’t learning new stuff, I was just earning a paycheck.

    That wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. No, like you Mr. CK, I spend a lot of my time learning new stuff. Life is way better.

  5. That sounds like a great first year of retirement and a similar experience to what Living A FI went through when he retired from his computer/cubicle-dom. As far as music goes, just keep practicing and giving it time. It gets easier with more practice. I want to learn how to play the resonator guitar and I pick it up and tinker with it some and then nothing for weeks or months and I reset back to zero when I try again.

    Keep at it a little each day and it becomes way more natural to you. Fortunately the muscle memory associated with my banjo playing is a lot more ingrained and harder to lose, but that’s probably from years and years of practice. 🙂

    • Ah nice, a banjo player! Maybe one day we’ll jam 🙂

      It’s getting to be a lot more fun as I learn more. I can tell I’m picking up new tunes faster, and it’s getting more addictive as I learn more 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing your early retirement experience. It’s really a huge blessing to do so, and I commend you and your wife for having the discipline to save so diligently. For me personally, I get very antsy if I don’t work. I wouldn’t consider myself a workaholic, but I definitely need to produce things of value. Now, I get that, that doesn’t necessarily have to be through a salaried position. But then again, it’s hard to say no to the money. Blogging is something that helps me channel my thoughts and feelings, as well as add value for others who happen upon the blog.

    • I’m the same way, each day I feel like I need to accomplish something. Whether it’s traveling, learning, or working around the house. I think it helps to be self motivated if you want to retire early. Watching TV all day wouldn’t cut it for me.

  7. I love this, Mr. CK. And you took your sunglasses off! 🙂 Did I miss it before or is this the first time we’ve seen you without your sunglasses?

    I like how you’ve taken advantage of your newfound time to grow and learn and find fulfillment over the last year. This was so inspirational. As I was reading, I felt the urge to kick up our plan to FI a notch! And I’m still completely jealous of your chickens and your mean squash growing skills

  8. Hey Crazy K…I appreciate you taking the time to write about this topic. Several of us are getting close and wonder about how it will be to jump off the train. When you work for so long you start to wonder how you will deal with that much free time? I enjoyed hearing how well you adapted and what you were noticing. Look us up if you ever come out to the Columbia Gorge. If you like surfing you will love Kiteboarding!!

  9. It sounds like you had a great first year. Congrats! Time really flies. I can’t believe it’s almost 5 years for me.
    Great job getting healthier too. Come check out my pull ups. I just posted a new video. 🙂

  10. Fantastic one year anniversary recap!

    “But if you want to climb more mountains, you have to come down from the one you’re on.”

    This is an area I suspect stops many people entrenched in their careers. We get used to being the expert and don’t want to have to start over as a novice even if it’s for fun. We’ve forgotten the joy of discovery that we knew as kids when we could just dabble in lots of fun stuff just for the heck of it. I’m looking forward to getting down into the valleys of discovery again, one day.

    • Yeah, I noticed this a lot with retirees at my work. After working there for decades, most of them were managers who commanded a lot of respect. A few months after retiring they would come back, and it wasn’t for the money. I think it was more to feel useful and respected again.

      Thanks for the insightful comment 🙂

  11. I loved this post. Congratulations on your first year of freedom. What I loved about this post, is what I enjoy most about reading your blog – the relaxed pace, the feeling of their being no hurry, and the deep appreciation of the small things. I like the fact that your retirement has no travel-the-world-and-live-a-fabulous-life glamour, but it still sounds deeply satisfying.

  12. As someone who should be retired, I can’t wait for the things that tie my down to let go. The stars are not aligned yet. Enjoy the freedom and discovery of FIRE.

  13. Awesome one year recap! Very inspirational and motivational. Makes me want to step up the pace towards FI. Thanks for the reminder to correct my posture and do some laps around the office. Hope you guys are having a blast in Catalonia 🙂

    • Yeah, I used to do regular laps around the office. It definitely helps just moving a little.

      Catalonia is pretty awesome. I’ll share some pics in a post when we get back 🙂

  14. Pingback: The Sunday Best (6/11/2017) - Physician on FIRE

    • The ladies are full of entertainment, whether its playing keep away with worms, or making loud squawks when they race each other across the yard.
      A good one was when I gave them some old yogurt. They never had it before, and when they tried to peck at it they overestimated how soft it was plunging their whole heads in. The result was a pie in the face look combined with a lot of confusion – comedy gold 🙂

  15. A fantastically upbeat post, glad to read you are really enjoying yourself! Certainly hope to experience the same in the coming years when we reach fulltime FI.

  16. If I reach FIRE, I’d like to pick up the guitar as well. I played the piano as a kid and would like to pick that back up as well. Great point about health…I keep reading that leading a sedentary lifestyle is HORRIBLE for your health. And I sit all day at work and have a long commute. Not good. You folks in the FIRE community are living the dream =)

    • I started doing some piano as well, but figured I’m better off focusing on one instrument for now 🙂

      Sitting all day is not good, towards the end of my career I got a lot better. Taking regular breaks just to walk the building and stairs helped a lot.

  17. That’s an awesome first year of retirement. I’m looking forward to doing many things that you’re doing in two years: music, gardening, trying new hobbies to stay active… Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. Great post. Sounds like a great lifestyle.

    Started reading your blog a few months ago and it inspired myself and my partner to start out own blog too!

    One question, since quitting work, is having personal contact with others ever an issue (i.e. getting lonely) during the week days especially?

    • Cool! I’ve been learning a lot by blogging, I think you’ll find it rewarding 🙂

      There are definitely some things about early retirement that take getting used to, and leaving behind a community of friends is certainly a big one. I’ve been compensating by engaging more in social activities.

      We now have a lot more time to go to events we are invited to, and usually have friends over one or two days a week. In the winter I’ll go down to the gym to get out of the house.

      I’ve also been reconnecting more with old friends and family. And through this blog I’ve even met a bunch of new friends both online and here locally 🙂

  19. Very inspirational blog and articles! My wife and I currently live in Italy and are thoroughly enjoying life & travel in Europe but still working full-time. With that, we should be on track to hit our “retirement” within a few years. We both like our jobs and may continue with them for a while even after financial independence (FI). But your blog and others like yours including Mr. Money Mustache show that FI is more a matter of mentality to live a certain lifestyle than anything else. Life is about service to ourselves and others. Keep up the great inspirational work!!

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