I watched Collateral Beauty earlier and Will Smith (how is that man still gorgeous at 50?) plays a character who loses his young daughter. His major postulation is that there are only three abstractions to life. Three things that unite all of mankind. The desire to love. The fear of death. The wish for more time.
What do these things mean to me?
Love is a major thing in my life. I love the idea of love. I love all kinds of love – romantic, platonic, fleeting, unrequited. I love falling in love. I love the anticipation of falling in love. Love makes me feel alive. Love turns a black and white world into one full of colour. Love fuels conversation and experiences. It also elevates the mundane to extraordinary. I walk through streets of London and am often flooded with memories of adventure, spontaneity, pain, bitterness, passion, calm, happiness, excitement – the full range of emotions associated with love. It makes the city feel like home. Without love or the possibility of love, there would be no reason to live.
Most of my nightmares are centred around death. If I wake up breaking into a sweat, 99% of the time, someone close to me has died in my dream. Or I was close to death. The most intense manifestation fear I ever experienced had been after my uncle’s death in 2001. My ever-present fears of rodents, water and heights are directly related to how quickly I think I could die in situations involving any of them. I haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Yet. I also sometimes worry that I will die without the opportunity to prepare for it – an exercise that I know is rooted in futility yet worry I do.
Time. The great equaliser. None of us has enough of it. Except maybe Mr Money Mustache and other (early) retirees. The rest of us spend majority of our time trying to earn money. Or resting after the hustle of the week. Or enjoying a bit of time off from “our real life”. We work like maniacs, adhering to the prevalent 9-5 culture. Even those that rebel against the 9-5 structure still lose tons of their time trying to make ends meet because, as a new friend recently told me, “you only make money after 9.”* All of us wish for more of it.
What’s any of this got to do with a blog about frugality and FIRE?
I can’t change love. I’ve tried to change who I love as well as who loves me back. I’ve tried to keep love going even when I know it has died. I’ve tried to love the people I know I should as opposed to people who are terrible for me. I can’t change when I fall in love or when people fall in love with me. Sometimes it’s seemed that all that was needed was for us to experience the same amount of love at the same time. Yet I remain powerless to effect this small change.
I can’t control death. I can’t choose who it takes or when it takes them. I can’t ask death to be kind and take the people who deserve to die first and leave the ones that don’t. I can’t make it choose victims according to how long they’ve lived to maintain the natural order of things. I can’t make it give advance warning or a notice period. I can’t choose its methods or how kind it will be. I can’t make it act in the way that I wish it would.
I can maximise time. I can choose how I spend it and how I prioritise things that I spend it on. I can choose how I think about it. Time is perceived to go quickly when things are busy, interesting, fun, intense – mainly because we have a lot to try to fit into the limited amount of time we have. Time feels slower when we have the mindfulness and more of it to exist in the moment. To be present. To not worry that there are other things on the to-do list or that there is something else that needs to be done to keep the lights on or the future safe. FIRE is my path to making the most of time.
What happens while I wait to FI, RE or FIRE?
In the best case, I’m 10 years from being financially independent. So, there’s a long time to wait till I can declare myself FI. I reckon there’s still at least 2 years after that before I can totally take back my time. Do whatever I like, whenever I like. Possibly only chained by love and relationships but at least that’s a pleasant sort of prison.
- I try to spend time on the things I love – film, people, outdoor activities, sport. I could, however, do better. I rarely read books these days. I feel sad about that. I also need to be better about limiting things like Candy crush, which I like, but I know is not in line with any of my whys.
- I show people I care about how I feel about them and I try to tell them too
- I have a job that I love, that I’m good at and that pays me quite well so it’s not a terrible way to spend most of my day.
- I’m trying to appease the eternally curious part of me. Learning a language or two, including programming languages, exploring new recipes, engaging people in deep and meaningful conversation instead of small talk, trying to understand how to invest, are just a few examples.
So, I just need to get better at doing the things I love cheaper so that I don’t worry about the future. More frugal socialising. More cycling to keep transportation cheap. More free events. Less following the herd – the latest brands or technology, the hottest bands, the most popular festivals. There will be less of that and more of taking the path less well trodden. There will be more taking care of myself – eating better, exercising more regularly, and ensuring I hit the 5 dimensions of fitness. There’s going to be a bit too much work – because side hustles. I’m OK with that if I get to retire earlier.
Hopefully, as I make these improvements I’ll feel like I’m making the most of my time and stop wishing I have infinite amounts of time.
*We’d been talking about the industrial revolution and manufacturing jobs that require people to be in at 7.30 in the morning