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In the sage words of Douglas Adams, one of my favorite authors: “Don’t Panic!” I have not reversed my decision to leave full time employment and my biotech career as part of my FIRE journey. In fact, what I’m writing about here is nothing of the sort. But it is true that this week I accepted a part-time role at a small business in my town. But I thought I retired early! What the heck am I doing and why? Read on to learn more!
OK what is going on here?
In short, I signed on to pour wine one day a week at a great boutique winery tasting room in my town. How did this happen? A friend from our neighborhood mentioned that she wanted us to meet this other couple in our neighborhood. She said we should stop by their tasting room downtown and say hi to the wife, who was working there – which we did. First, it was really nice to meet another neighbor! My wife Lorri, and I had a really great chat with her. Second, the wines were wonderful! We were off to a good start for sure.
Over the course of the conversation (which included talking about FIRE, yes!) we learned that our neighbor was pretty new to working at the tasting room, as it had only recently re-opened post-COVID restrictions easing in our area. I mentioned that I’d been considering picking up a shift at a tasting room, myself. Coincidentally, they were looking to hire someone one day a week. I decided to express my interest and she was pleased to hear of it! After exchanging text messages with her and another owner later that day, it was off to the races! I had my new hire training yesterday evening and this afternoon I will work my very first shift at the tasting room!
I thought the goal was to “retire” from work? What gives?
In agreeing to take on this role, I’ve thought about the “why” of this new and exciting development. I’m sure you’d like some answers as well! Yes, I can hear you already: Haven’t I been enjoying the freedom to spend my time as I see fit? Doesn’t picking up a scheduled task sound like it would be in opposition to that? Am I just trading time for (a small amount of) money – i.e. decidedly not passive income? I thought the goal was to be free from the shackles of working for someone else? All of these are excellent questions!
First, this “job” is absolutely spending my time as I see fit. Post-financial independence (FI), the requirement to work to generate income to meet expenses is gone. I don’t need to work – I want to do this. Most importantly to me, it sounds really fun and that’s why I’m doing it! I love wine, I like teaching and talking about things of interest to me, and I enjoy meeting new people. Yes, it does mean committing to a bit of a schedule, but it’s just one day a week and I’ve gathered there is a good deal of flexibility. If this doesn’t turn out to be to my liking, I don’t have to stick with it because again, there is no pressure to work. The tasting room is also just a short walk or bike ride from my house, so there is no commute. It’s also far from a high-pressure situation and nothing like a corporate job either!
It’s also not about the money. I can earn >20X per hour doing consulting vs. this gig. Sure, some extra spending money is nice, but clearly there are more efficient ways for me to earn income. In addition to the fun aspect, I’m also looking at this as a means to test out an idea. One of our long standing thoughts has been to open a small brewery and tasting room. I’ve always believed that I’d really enjoy talking with people about the beer I make, guiding them through their flight. That’s exactly what this job is only with a different beverage! So while it won’t generate a lot of cash, someone will be paying me to figure out if the beer tasting room idea has legs. Sounds pretty great to me! It’s coming across less and less like a job, isn’t it?
It is another / next phase for me – likely not the final one!
At the core, I look at this step as “the next thing I’m doing”. As readers of this blog will know, I’m always trying out new things, building skills, and exploring hobbies that may or may not turn into something more. Working at a winery tasting room is yet another part of the seemingly random walk on which I am presently endeavoring in this next phase of my life. Might I love this part-time role and desire to turn it into something bigger or longer term? Of course! But I have no way of knowing that right now nor do I care either way. I’m approaching it completely open minded. Like anything I do, I’m going to work hard, try to learn a lot, and enjoy the time I spend on it.
In the initial months after leaving my biotech career last year, I found I was fretting a bit over not knowing exactly “what I would do next”. It was a combination of pressure I felt from former colleagues as well as some I was putting on myself, to figure it all out. Talking to my wife and my Two Sides of FI partner, Eric, I thankfully realized this pretty quickly. That was an important step as I could then get back to really enjoying this freedom that I am so fortunate to have! So in keeping with that, I don’t know what if anything this will lead to and I’m totally ok with that! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the experience and gain from it everything that I can. Did I mention the wine is really great? ?
It’s gonna be fun!