I appreciate your last post — it gave me a bunch of food for thought. This is exactly the sort of conversation we used to have over email, so I’m happy to reply on the blog. For those just catching up, here are the first 2 installments of this conversation:
- Rich Examines Moving Expenses, Minimalism vs. Serial Killers, His Cat’s Shopping Habits, Modern Living, and The FIRE Desire
- Penny Explains Her Philosophy On Education. Why Do Little Kids Spend 5 Days A Week In School Prisons Anyway?
If I could sum up the main emotional thrust of my initial post, it’d be something like: “My family is in the middle of a huge, tumultuous transition right now that involves money, work, life, school — is this really the good life??”
My answer to my own question, in that post, was The Good Life Is Not About Perfect Comfort.
Your answer, if I read your post correctly, is basically: Screw that! Get out of the rat race, ditch that prison school for a place your kids can thrive, and don’t knock Craigslist.
Again, this really made me think, so thank you. I’m going to try to unpack my original thought a bit more, with updated thinking based on the past week or so.
ON RETIRING EARLIER VS. FINDING FLOW AT WORK
As I said, I understand the desire to retire as early as possible. The transition back to work in the US from overseas hasn’t been all high fives and pizza parties. So why don’t I try to retire earlier?
I won’t spend much time on the practical aspect of this, but the practical side is quite complicated. I’d need to shuffle accounts, reset priorities, move again, etc, etc. It’s all possible I’m sure, if we were really committed. Maybe I could retire at 50 instead of 55. Maybe. For 5 years of … what again?
The more important aspect of this is philosophical. As I’ve spelled out in several posts, especially my Philosophy Of Money and the Meaning of Life, personal growth and meeting my potential and the value of work are all real priorities for me.
Even though work has been a bit of a grind lately, I recently had some days that were fully engaging. There’s nothing quite like the feeling that I’m doing good work on interesting topics with other professional people I like and respect. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of FLOW: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” (Wikipedia)
What I’m getting at is that there’s a positive side to this, and sometimes the positive side only comes after a period of difficulty. I don’t want my career to be difficult all the time, but I also realize that very few things in life are achieved or enjoyed without effort. If we didn’t persevere through the difficulty, we wouldn’t enjoy the personal and professional gains on the other side. For me, the positive aspects of my career have far outweighed the negative.
Mrs. Rich and I want to meet our potential at work as much as possible. It stretches us, makes us grow, opens up new doors of opportunity. We have lived in different places around the country and around the world, and that scratches a special itch for us. We also live the lifestyle we want to live, and we feel lucky to be so lucky. Does that make sense?
ON SPENDING TIME WITH KIDS
One thing you mentioned that I don’t really understand: “And it seems to make more sense to me to Retire Earlier (if that’s what you’re planning on doing anyway) so you can watch your kids grow up ….”
Am I giving the impression that, as a busy professional, I don’t have much time with the kids to watch them grow up?
I can assure you, that’s not the case at all for me and Mrs. Rich. We chose to live close to school so we can walk them to and from every day, and we chose to live close to work so we can be with them rather than sitting in the car commuting. Mrs. R is a Kindergarten room parent, and I’m the soccer coach. There really aren’t many more hours in the day that we could spend with the kids even if we were retired right now.
Of course, we could be with them all day if we were homeschooling or something, which leads me to the education part of your note.
EDUCATION AND ADJUSTING TO UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS
I don’t disagree with much of what you said about education. I’d probably prefer the Finnish way of doing things, or Montessori, or the little preschool we used to send our kids to.
That said, I’m not all doom and gloom about our local public school. It’s not much different from the schools I went to growing up. We were expected to sit down and we had homework and all that. I turned out ok, right?
Ha, don’t answer that.
I like your point about thriving: So, I don’t know, you say you’re boys are struggling in school, but, yeah, they’ll just have to adjust. Don’t you want something better than that? Don’t you want them to thrive?
I was open about the fact that my first, emotional, transitional reaction was to pull the kids right out of the new school and put them somewhere they’d be more comfortable. That’s a natural response for many parents. I also give a nod to the stages of development you highlighted in your post — I don’t feel as strongly as you do, but I see your points.
However, I also wonder, could there be some downside to pulling them out of uncomfortable situations? Conversely, is there some upside to giving them time to adjust to a different way of doing things?