Reeling, in a year

Today marks a year since I retired.

Here’s one of the questions I get asked the most: do you have any regrets about retiring so young?

I have to bite back the glib answer, which is, man, do you even know me? I have regrets about everything. I’m pretty sure that there’s no major decision in my life I haven’t questioned furiously before, during, and after making said decision, for hours, days, months, or even years. I still feel bad about the way I answered some Very Important Questions1 when I was sixteen, and those were twenty-three years ago. Regrets? Yeah. Yeah, I have them. I have them all the time.

Another common question is this: does being retired make you happy?

(It’s worth taking a moment here to note that, while I’m never angry with people who ask me these things, they seem to be coming from a place of mild bewilderment that someone can retire before the age of forty without the excuse of being makes-cigar-wrappers-out-of-hundred-dollar-bills rich2. The world at large is still very confused by us lean-savings early-retirement types.)

And, to be honest, sometimes I’m not happy at all. I lead a pretty lonely life, and one of the biggest things I lost when I stopped having a job at a vibrant company was a large, easily-available social circle. Getting people together to hang out when outside of work is hard, and I still haven’t cracked that particular code a year in. I went from always having a person or two I could chat with in a moment of downtime to sometimes going for a week or two where the only people I speak to face-to-face are the cashiers at Walmart. They’re nice and all, but it’s not exactly high-level social interaction.


Let’s change these questions around a bit, starting with the last one: are you happier, now that you’ve retired?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. I had a rough time at work the last couple of years. The social aspects were great, never mind the food and the board games, but I didn’t find the job itself very satisfying, and could feel myself getting unhappier by the day. There were times when I had to take vacation for a week or so, not because I actually went anywhere–if you’ve read much here you know I’m not much of one for travel–but because I needed to get back the energy required to actually be able to show up for work again.

(There was a coworker of mine, a younger person who I regularly chatted with in regards to our careers. They were unhappy with their position, and I told them that they needed to grab hold of one of the many opportunities the company offered to move upwards and outwards, that being unhappy in a job was one of the most exhausting places to be in life, that they had years of working professionally ahead of them and they needed to make the best of them. Their usual response was: great advice, buddy, but have you ever thought of taking it for yourself? And they were right, of course. I was one of those jerks who didn’t practice what they preached.)

So, sure, some days I wake up and feel like I’ve made a poor decision… but most days I wake up and go: Yeah. Yeah. This is right. This is what I want to be doing right now. Am I happy? Maybe. Maybe not. Am I happier? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Let’s go back to that first question now, and take another stab at it: Do you have enough regrets about retiring early that you’d choose not to if given a chance to do it all over again?

And the answer to that question is as easy as the answer to the last: Absolutely not. I made the right decision then, and I’d make it again in a heartbeat if I had to. Retirement’s not regret-free, but nothing is, at least for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future, of course, and one of the things I intentionally planned for is the ability to change my mind if I need to3. But regrets are a part of life, and every decision made is another decision unmade, every road traveled a path not taken.

And my footing is firm.

  1. At least, they seemed Very Important at the time. I suspect they would have changed the course of my life rather less than they seemed to at the time. But I’ll never know, will I?
  2. Don’t do that. The ink is bad for your lungs. The tobacco too, I guess.
  3. Or, you know, if the market takes a hard tumble and forces me to.

3 thoughts on “Reeling, in a year”

  1. “The world at large is still very confused by us lean-savings early-retirement types.”

    Something tells me that much of that is stemmed in jealously as well (I would fully admit to being jealous, at least). Though, spending one’s prime adult years in the daily grind is so ingrained in the expected living standards of a human being, someone like you would come off as a unicorn.

    I think as time goes on, the lack of social interaction may create a bigger rift in your satisfaction, since you clearly desire it from your lamentations about it. I also lead a pretty solitary life, and I’ve always been somewhat odd in that I can go for days without interacting with anyone directly and be fine, so I’m probably the last person to give good advice about being more social, but maybe this year is the time to focus on finding meetups based on your interests, like reading and such. Deeper companionship with an SO may help balance things out, but that’s a more personal decision to decide if/when to take it to that level.

    1. Yeah, I get the jealousy. I try hard not to stoke it, but it’s hard; I’m proud of what I’ve done, after all.

      I can definitely handle being on my own for days at a time; it’s when the window stretches to weeks that I start feeling the strain. You have at least one day a week (most weeks, at least) where you hang out with an old friend. I don’t even have that. You’re absolutely right that I need to find a meetup or two in the area. Even a weekly kaffeeklatch would go a long way to giving me some regular human interaction. I think there’s one in the area for tech nerds? I need to do some digging.

      1. True about the old friend thing, but that was more from favorable coincidence than any real effort on my part. Mike decided to move to Portland in a place that was close enough to where I was living, and that made it easy for us to meet regularly. For about a couple of years before that, I was pretty much here on my own.

        Regardless, I guess even the most reclusive among us need some face to face people time every now and then.

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