In the days leading up to my last day at work, I felt a sense of excitement that I hadn’t experienced since middle school. I started working when I was 14, and since then have rarely had more than a week off from one job or another. But I do have memories of being in middle school and anticipating the summer. The weather would start to warm, and in the last few days of school, our excitement grew and the teachers became more relaxed. Summer break seemed like an infinite amount of time off as a kid. This past May, I felt like that kid again. It was getting nice outside, I was getting more excited, and work was getting more relaxed.
I spent my last day making the rounds wishing my friends well and sharing contact information. To send me off in style, a bunch of them took me out to my favorite sushi spot. I didn’t think the day could get any better, but these good friends proved me wrong. As is the custom, one of my best friends cracked some jokes, and to my surprise, they sent me off with some gifts. To help me ease into retirement, they got me a gift card to buy meat at my favorite local farm, fishing gear, and a case of some awesome beer – Two Roads Lil’ Heaven. So far, what I miss most about work is wasting time at the office shooting the shit with those friends.
Since that day, the sense of freedom I’ve felt has been unreal. I go to sleep when I want. I get out of bed when I want. I jog to the gym once everyone has gone to work and the sun is shining. Afterward, I make a nice monster breakfast. Whenever I feel like it, I go wander around in the woods, sometimes walking up streams fishing for trout. I even have time to read books now – something I hadn’t done for fun since before high school. One day my neighbor spotted me laying on a blanket in the grass reading a book and hanging out with my chickens. “Dude, it’s Tuesday, what the hell are you doing?” he shouted over the fence. I smiled and shouted back, “whatever the hell I want.”
I used to get butterflies in my stomach from the stress hormones flooding my system as my mind turned to work on Sunday nights. That’s gone away, now much of the time I don’t even remember what day it is. And if anything, I avoid going out on weekends. I’m not big on crowds, and everything is so peaceful during business hours. The gym is nearly empty, and the old folks wandering the grocery store are way more chill than the drones racing their carts to compete for groceries after work.
I also lost the ability to make excuses because of work. I used to pass up so many opportunities to see friends and family because my free time was limited. Now, when opportunities come up, I go. When friends had a tree go down, I picked up my saw and helped them clean it up on a weekday. When another friend I had not seen in a decade sent an invitation for a cookout at his new house 3 hours away, Mrs. CK and I drove our asses out there. And when we ran into high school friends at the cookout who wanted to have a party with their new wood fired pizza oven, we stuck around for another week and made some bad ass pizzas. All opportunities we would have thrown away if we were working.
When I first left my job, I thought I might get bored. I even had a backup plan to do some contract work if things didn’t work out 6 months later. But my days have been packed with tinkering on things like my ultra efficient fridge and the jackhammer I pulled from the trash. We’ve been surfing in Costa Rica, explored Colorado and New Mexico, and took a road trip to Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy. I’ve also been spending a lot of time working with my hands – cutting firewood, working in the garden, making beer, and finishing home renovations. I honestly have no idea how I got anything done while working, because I’ve been crazy busy just living.
I’m also getting into better shape. Now that I don’t sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, my metabolism has shot through the roof. Mrs. CK has scolded me several times because I get too excited by my projects and forget to eat a proper lunch. I lost 10 lbs over the summer that I didn’t mean to, and have had to resort to making fried chicken to put it back on.
I’ve kept up with writing a blog post once a week. It’s helped me slow down and concentrate my thoughts. Only now Mrs. CK says she can hear me reciting my blog posts to friends when we’re at parties. Good thing most of them don’t read it. I’ve also met some really cool new friends through this blog, both online and locally here in CT. It’s been awesome meeting people who feel the same way about money and life.
Leaving the corporate life has also made me a bit more human. My godmother was diagnosed with cancer this summer. Some family members held a beef and beer to raise money for her treatment. I bought a bunch of tickets and drove to Philly. We stayed with my good friend Lorenzo, and he joined us for the event with his wife. Being the patron that he is, he more than matched what I paid for our admission in raffle tickets. Our karma was off the hook that night, and we won more prizes than we could stuff into our Prius. We all had a ton of fun and raised a lot of money. But I also realized, more important than the money, was being there to give my godmother a hug and show her that I care.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but if I was still working, I probably wouldn’t have gone. With so little time to spare, I probably would have just cut a check. My drive for success, and the lack of time, not only made my life less enjoyable, but it was also making me an asshole. When working, time was money, and a hug could be replaced with a check. One of the best things about having more of my time is the ability to share it with others.
Looking back, I can honestly say the last 6 months have been the best of my life. I still have my ups and downs, and sometimes I think about the money I’m giving up by not working. But I really have everything I could want now. If I have trouble sleeping at night, it’s not from stress, but from excitement for what I’ll be doing the next day. I’m still learning a lot about myself, meeting new people, and reconnecting with others I haven’t seen in years. I haven’t made any money, but I’m doing stuff I love everyday. And while I do miss the paychecks and my friends from work, this new way of life is fucking awesome.