Mothers won’t agree, but nine months sure flies by!

a clock with wings - time flies

Retirement is full of changes, and after nine months that isn’t any different. Nine months or around 40 weeks is regarded as the average length of a full term pregnancy for humans. From my own family’s experience, I wouldn’t say that those months sail by unnoticed. Expecting moms experience a seemingly never-ending series of changes, many of which are unpleasant or uncomfortable. A new addition to the family is of course a happy outcome and that makes it all well worth it!

This week marks nine months since I left the workplace and my career of 23 years. In most respects, it is hard for me to believe that it has already been that long! I believe that feeling would be even more so were it not for the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lifestyle changes it has manifested for us all. But even in the atmosphere of lockdowns, reduced travel, and limited social interactions, I would say that time has passed quickly. Has there been a “birth” of some project or new venture that will define my next phase of life? Not yet, but as we’ll discuss, that isn’t a problem in the least!

What is the same and what’s changed after nine months?

As I did at the six month milestone, I thought it would be useful to review how things have been going across an array of categories. But I’ll try a new article format in the interest of keeping things fresh!

  • Schedule:
    • I’m still largely using mornings for a mixture of entertainment consumption, chores, and my daily walk. If I have a busy day ahead, I often cook dinner in the morning as well. For those who don’t know me – yes, I’m still up before dawn! That is seemingly just me and has nothing to do with whether I’m working or not.
    • Afternoons remain largely for skill-building and education that may yield my next project or business venture. Importantly, I’ve increased the overall time I’ve spent on this area!
    • I have a couple of Zoom happy hours each week and these remain an important outlet to stay connected to good friends, family, and former colleagues. I feel like I’m talking to the last group less these days, barring a select few people. I’m a bit sad about that given how many colleagues I enjoyed hanging out with. But from my reading I know this is common. Work tied those relationships together and with that gone and with little travel happening, it makes sense.
  • Skill building and making:
    • I’ve pushed much harder to make progress on my iOS development journey in recent months. I’ve now completed or made significant progress on three courses. I’ve also released a simple app on the Apple Store, and developed several others just for the entertainment of myself and some friends.
    • I’m still cooking a lot! I managed to make all seven of the Oaxacan moles (my recipe database is here), which was an extension of a long-standing bucket list item (make mole negro). But I’ve now moved onto Indian cuisine! I’m really enjoying this change and since we have no Indian restaurants in town, it’s rather self-serving. ?
    • I am learning tons about YouTube, video production, and a host of other things from the Two Sides of FI project that my friend Eric and I have begun. It’s still early days for the channel but I remain excited about the different directions it may go. I have much to learn so this needs to take even more of my time and I’m working on that presently!
  • Giving:
    • I had always planned to do more volunteer work in “retirement”, particularly since my financial giving is way down from when I was working. I’ve recently started volunteering once a week at our local COVID vaccination clinic and am really enjoying the gratification I get from it. I felt needed at work and volunteering is filling that gap!
    • I am also taking more phone calls from friends and former colleagues who are interested in early retirement, have financial planning questions, or related topics. At the core this is just being a good friend. I am happy that I now have the time to devote to such things without concern for what work or tasks are being put off, and I enjoy it.
  • Fun:
    • My family is still enjoying learning about our new home in the Central Coast of CA. We’ve continued to explore area hiking, as well as the many wineries and breweries in our town and close by. We are ever thankful for our temperate climate given the need for outdoor activities during COVID restrictions. Location, location, location!
    • Socialization remains as it has been for most of us – very limited. We have one couple we see occasionally and this has been a vital outlet. Moving away from friends and being geographically distant from family has been tough when combined with our present circumstance – and the opposite of what I’d planned after leaving work.
    • While I had been enjoying getting back into the World of Warcraft game, I haven’t played in a few weeks. First, a good friend with whom I enjoyed playing, has been busy with other things. Second, I’ve been enjoying my other pursuits so much that gaming time wasn’t a priority. Don’t worry: I’m far from being done with gaming, of course!
  • Emotional
    • As at the six month time point, my mental state remains… ever changing! Though I’m happy to report that the variability is now much less so. I still have days where my usual excitement about figuring out “what comes next” turns into concern or is otherwise unpleasant. On the whole those days are much rarer now, which is great!
    • I’m also working on taking time to clear my head and allow for uninterrupted thinking. I’ve realized that I have some bad habits to break, and some easy remedies have included taking my walks in silence and not bringing my phone. This is definitely a development area for me but I know it is one that will pay off many-fold!

So what’s next?

As I wrote above, there is no “birth announcement” about what comes next – YET. At times I find myself feeling like that means I’m somehow behind the curve. But it is at these times that I remind myself of my plan – I now have the freedom to take the time (or not) required to figure out what comes next. Skills building and pure educational time is a central and essential aspect of that! Importantly, there is no pressure to keep to any specific schedule. The hallmark of achieving financial independence is a lack of any requirement to “do something” that will generate income. I’m seeking the “next thing” because I want to, and am excited to create / do / experience something new!

I remain absolutely convinced that one of my many wandering paths will yield the fruit that will manifest as a central element of this next phase in my life. As my good friend Eric reminds me, most often you have to try and “fail” at a variety of things before you land on the one about which you are truly passionate and that will produce what you are seeking. This is so different than what projects in my work life were like, so it’s no surprise that at times I find myself forgetting that is indeed the nature of the beast! But I’m getting better about remembering that. I’ve got a few irons in the fire that could turn out to be that thing – but I’m totally OK if they are not! It’s all learning, growth, and yes – fun.

Once again, I am thankful for all those who are experiencing this journey with me – whether through the blog, the YouTube channel, or just in conversation. Your input and guidance means a lot. Most of all, I am grateful for my family. This is a huge change for all of us still – even nine months later. I am so thankful for the strong support I get even in my most uncertain of moods. I am excited for all that is still to come and know that it will be a great adventure!

image credit: “time flies” by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wow, SIX months already? Inconceivable!

Vizzini from the Princess Bride film

Some days I’m shocked to realize how long it’s been since I left the workplace. Just a few days ago marked six months! This means it’s time for me to write another milestones post and reflect upon how things have gone. I’ve now been “retired” and in this next phase of life twice as long as when I wrote my three month post, and while much is the same, there have indeed been changes…

Many things remain the same as after three months

Largely, my daily routine – as much as one can call it that since it does vary, is unchanged. I wake around the same time, and I tend to do the same chores after my early morning “catch up on all the shows and movies I missed in recent years” session. Once the day gets rolling, things become a bit more variable. I’m still doing the vast majority of cooking for my family, and am enjoying it tremendously. I often prepare dinners in the morning, as I find it a great start to the day. I’m overdue to make another Mexican mole, but you’ll see in my Notion recipe database that I’ve now made six different styles! I also take my daily walk before noon most days, and I’ve kept up my trend of listening to lots of audiobooks. Lately I’ve been filling in the gaps in my Malcolm Gladwell catalog, which I’ve really enjoyed.

After lunch tends to be when I focus on personal development and self-improvement. As in previous months, that largely involves improving my coding skills, specifically Swift for iOS apps. I’m still not sure to what this will lead, but I’m enjoying it and it always feels productive for me when I get a couple of hours in. I also spend one afternoon a week writing this blog. To be honest, sometimes it feels more like a chore to get started. I’m no longer working so I don’t really want to feel scheduled, right? However, once I get going and particularly once I’m done, it’s really fulfilling. I really do get a lot out of processing what I’m feeling and capturing it in writing. It’s the main self-improvement activity I undertake presently.

Unfortunately, one thing that also remains the same is the way the COVID-19 pandemic necessarily restrains me and the family from undertaking travel and other fun pursuits. Since we moved just over five months ago, that means we still don’t really know many people other than our immediate neighbors. As a result, our ability to socialize, even outdoors and at a distance, is quite limited. We’ve made a couple of friends via wineries, and that’s really great. But otherwise my primary outlet for human contact outside of my family is via social media and Zoom happy hours. The latter remain really important to me, and those two evenings each week are times I really enjoy. I know this circumstance is not permanent, and that we are of course all going through it, but it is certainly an odd thing in combination with leaving the workplace. It can feel pretty lonely at times, for sure.

So what’s new? There are always new surprises to uncover

On the lighter side, I’ve been really surprised how until recently, I haven’t spent tons of time playing video games. Gaming has always been important to me, and I often commented about how I’d use retirement to catch up on titles I’d missed or to replay favorites. All that changed after the latest World of Warcraft expansion launched a few weeks ago. Now I really enjoy some game time each day – particularly late evening when I get really tired watching TV. On the flipside, it was also unexpected that I haven’t been playing more tabletop/board games since leaving the workplace. Lorri and I really enjoy them, and I’d assumed we’d get back in the habit once I had much more free time. While I know this will change – we’re going to set aside time each week – it was unexpected to be sure.

A much bigger surprise for me has been that I would have any interest in something even remotely related to my former work. Don’t worry, I’m not pining to get back into a corporate job! Rather, I’ve enjoying taking a few consulting calls each month. These are largely just an hour commitment each time, so not something that competes with my other pursuits. However, I’ve found it fulfilling to act in an advisory role, and the income it produces with little effort is certainly appreciated. I don’t feel at all compelled to expand the amount of time I spend on this, but I am enjoying the few hours I take on. It’s nice to use my brain in a comfortable way and in addition feel like I’m helping others. This may well change once I’m able to do in-person volunteer work after things improve. That’s something I’d definitely planned to do that hasn’t really been possible to date.

On an emotional level, much remains as before – and by that I mean highly variable though on the whole very positive. That said, at times I feel like I’ve struggled with adapting to my new “retired” life. I’ve realized how important the positive validation I used to get from work was, and how its absence makes me feel. At times I’ve felt under-appreciated despite my efforts to contribute, and that has led me to be a bit short with my family. That’s definitely not something I anticipated and certainly not something I am happy about. I’ve learned that I need to be more open about what I’m feeling and work to understand the root cause and how to deal with it appropriately. Of course, any big change can provoke strong emotions, and leaving the workplace certainly qualifies. I believe working through these feelings will make me a stronger and better person for it! Therefore I am grateful for these emotions, even though they are challenging at times.

In conclusion

These are just a few of the things I’ve noted to be the same or different since my last milestone post. I hope you have found this to be informative. So much is written about how to FIRE, and as such tends to be very focused on financial matters. As I’ve tried to do since the start, my aim here is to make things more personal.

Even with all the twists and turns that come with massive life changes – particularly the trifecta of a pandemic, moving to a new area, and leaving the workplace – I remain really excited and appreciative of my post-FIRE existence. Despite the changes since my last milestone post, one critical thing that remains the same is my certainty that I’ve made the right choice. I am thrilled to have the freedom to spend my time as I want, and to not be on someone else’s schedule, operating against their priorities. At times that huge opportunity can still feel overwhelming, but on the whole it is less so than it was early on.

I look forward to all that is to come and that means the great times as well as the challenges! I am so fortunate to have the wonderful and supportive family I have and to be on this journey with them. I am also grateful for you, my readers, for your continued support and your feedback. I wish you all the very best of good health, well being, and happiness.

Mahalo!

PS – I hope most of you got and appreciated The Princess Bride reference in the post title and the associated image. Wallace Shawn’s portrayal of Vizzini is a favorite of mine and I’m sure of many of you as well. I’m overdue for a rewatch! If only Lorri enjoyed it as well…

image credit: https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Vizzini

Reflecting on the first three months of retirement

September 5th calendar

To see all of my milestone posts to date, please select this link.

Today marks three months since I left my job and career in biotech behind. I find it useful to reflect on milestones and this feels like the first “big one” for me relating to my retirement. As I’ve written about before, I spent the first month preparing for and carrying out our family’s move to a new home in a new town. My second month was largely consumed with unpacking, organizing, and carrying out improvement projects around the house. That means that the third month was the first true test of what this next phase in my life is really like. I wrote a milestone post after six weeks, but I feel so much more prepared to review what this has felt like so far at the three month mark.

Keeping busy has proven to be easy

From a practical perspective, many things have been as I thought they’d be. I created space to focus on hobbies and interests, such as cooking. I have also devoted time to learning new things, including WordPress for this blog and improving my iOS app coding skills. We recently got our beer brewing area set up and my wife and I have the first couple of batches in our new home under our belts as well. I’m also pleased that I’ve stuck to getting outside more and exercising, with my morning walk being something to which I truly look forward each day. The latter has also helped me achieve my retirement goal of getting back to reading a lot of books, as I’ve learned just how many audiobooks are freely available on Spotify. In case you’re interested, The Count of Monte Cristo (free audiobook; paperback) has been by far my favorite to date! Given this list of what I’ve been doing, I feel really fulfilled and generally think that I have been spending my time productively.

Continuing on the theme of “doing things”, it’s also been nice to start exploring our town and broader area with my wife and daughter. Of course there are some limitations to that pursuit due to COVID-19 – not something that was in my retirement plan, of course. Given the unseasonably hot weather we’ve had on the Central Coast, that has largely taken the form of visiting the beaches and hiking trails about 30 minutes away, on the much cooler Pacific coast. My wife and I have also enjoyed visiting a number of area wineries and breweries (yes, there is a budget line item for this!) that have appropriate outdoor seating. We don’t yet feel like we know our new town well, but are optimistic that 2021 will provide us fuller opportunities to do so once we have the worst of this pandemic behind us.

What has retirement felt like so far?

Focusing more personally, there have admittedly been surprises in how this “feels”. How can you know what it is like to leave the only career you’ve known until you do it? The short answer for me, anyhow – you can’t. First and foremost, I have felt very positive and motivated the overwhelming majority of the time. I’m very happy that I haven’t found myself dwelling on whether retirement at this time was the right decision – which would be pretty scary. We spent ample time making the decision of when I could retire, and several years preparing for it. I’m certain that helped. That said, sometimes I find myself dwelling on questions like:

“Am I really being productive with my new-found free time?”

“What comes next: Start a small business? Buy one? Pick up a fun part-time pursuit?”

“Do I take a bold step into something new or test the waters first on several things?”

These aren’t bad questions of course! But I have to take care not to allow what should be exciting brainstorming opportunities to devolve into concern or stress over not knowing what to do next. Admittedly I am seemingly prone to this if I’m not careful. Believe me – I know how fortunate I am to be in this position. I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth! But in all honesty, retirement is a huge change and one that shouldn’t be underestimated. I expect everyone goes through these thoughts at times, irrespective of how prepared they are for retirement or when they do it. I suspect this is a good time to get back to mindfulness practices, like meditation, which can surely only help.

Retirement impacts the whole family!

It’s important to acknowledge that retiring results in changes for everyone in the household. In my case I think this has been overwhelmingly positive – but admittedly I think we should talk about it more as a family. I’m happy that I’m now able to help more with daily chores, be a better partner with my wife in helping our daughter with school, and just be present that much more often. I know I missed an awful lot given the time commitments of my former career – including a lot of international travel. I’m very happy that those tradeoffs are no longer part of what we need to manage as a family.

Above all, I am incredibly thankful for the endless support that I get from my amazing wife, Lorri. She is incredibly patient with me even when I’m feeling overwhelmed about questions like those above, which can lead me to be grumpy at times. In addition, she is always quick (and correct!) to remind me that there is no time pressure to decide on “what comes next”. I have the freedom to spend my time as I wish! I have also realized that I need to be more open about what I’m feeling and work through it as a team. We are so fortunate to be in this situation together and these three months have taught me I am prone to keep much of this to myself – I’m working on that. I can’t imagine going through this journey alone and I am so grateful that I have such a great family on this wild ride with me!

On to the next three months!

I can’t believe how quickly these last three months have flown by. The first two months in particular went very fast given our move and time spent getting our home in order. That said, I am happy with what I’ve accomplished so far and feel fulfilled by how I’ve spent my time. While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing from an emotional perspective, I know I made the right move and am excited by the seemingly endless possibilities of whatever I choose to do next. Yes, there are still important decisions to be taken but I remain ever grateful that I have this opportunity to do so. I wonder how this post will read to me a year from now, with that much more experience. Here’s to all that is yet to come!

photo credit:
“Friday, One more day to go DSCF3565” by tomylees is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0