I stopped working to earn an income since the beginning of 2020. How does it feel now, after 6 months away from the workplace and in retirement?
Frankly, it feels great.
The first few months were rough as I wrestled with doubt that taking a break was the right thing to do. I worried if I’ll ever be employed again, and if I was condemning myself to a lower salary and dimmer career prospects. I never had a gap in employment before, and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I was also trying out a new treatment, which had serious side effects. I had headaches and my insomnia worsened. I had doubts it would work, and thought about quitting it early.
Finally, I had the great misfortune to stop working just a couple of months before the greatest stock market crash in decades. I watched in horror as my portfolio dropped over 30%, leaving me scrambling to add funds so to avoid a margin call.
But slowly, things began to improve.
I came around to the idea that I was more than my job. I had value beyond that. I become comfortable with my schedule of going to the gym in the morning, writing in the afternoon, and family time in the evenings.
Flexible time also means more time. I don’t commute and can go to markets or run errands during non-peak times. This saves me at least an hour a day.
I started writing, which has been cathartic. It helps me to process my own life, and perhaps even produce better investment results. I’ve received many positive comments, far more than what I receive in the working world. I’ll hit 50,000 views in a few days, not too bad for a 4-month-old blog. I’m grateful to everyone who stops by to read and comment.
My health also improved. Often, I couldn’t sleep well due to stress. I struggled to fall asleep and found myself waking up involuntarily. I averaged about 5 hours of sleep a day and had to stumble through it somehow. Now, I can sleep for 7 hours, and just feel a whole lot better. The treatment I was on worked, and it is a lot cheaper and easier to take than what I was doing before.
A huge plus for me is the increase of time I spend with my kid. I used to feel guilty about leaving in the mornings, and would rush back to pick him up. With more free time, I don’t feel as much pressure. I can spend as much time with him as I want and I enjoy it more.
All this led to an improvement in my disposition. I had a lot of frustrations, and it spilled out in uncharacteristic ways. I lost my temper more in 2 years than I did all my life before. But now, I learnt to chill out and things don’t bother me as much now. It feels closer to my authentic self.
The funny thing is that my money situation improved while I wasn’t working. The market rallied strongly, and I made more in investing than in employment. I don’t expect the situation to last, but I’ll enjoy it for now.
I spend considerably less now too. I previously spent with abandon and would just buy stupid stuff like $500 headphones or $100 meals. I felt like I had money to burn since I had a salary along with $800,000 in the bank. Looking back now, I realised my net-worth didn’t move at all despite a salary, because of wild spending. I’ve since stopped buying stupid stuff and I’m actually happier for it.
The biggest thing that causes me to grin is that I can say I’m financially independent and can walk away. I don’t need to put on a certain face every day, or worry about how my bosses perceive me. It feels like I’m free.
New possibilities have appeared. I was trapped in a certain mode of thinking for a while. I couldn’t see anything else, like reading a book pressed to my nose. But with perspective and distance, I can see clearly. I have choices, and I don’t need to be forced into anything. I can still offer a lot to any employer, and it will only get better.
I want my health to continue to improve and add more good years in my life. This blog will eventually grow into a solid body of work, something I can look back and say it contributed greatly to the investment and insurance blogosphere.
I can look forward to the next 6 months and have hope.
Haven’t felt that way for a long time.