Two years ago I quit my job and embarked on a career break. Honestly, pretty early on I wanted to return to work. Part of it is inertia. I’m used to working. Part of it is people are terrified of being alone with their thoughts. Early retirement gives you all the time in the world and no excuses.
1. I Felt Left Out
One of the stereotypes of living in the Washington, D.C. area is that you’ll get asked about your job almost immediately. I’ve been in multiple conversations, some dates, where people have complimented not immediately asking about work.
The pandemic helped because instead of feeling like everyone was off at work, I felt like everyone was stressed at home. I mean, I wasn’t stressed. I had all sorts of new playmates.
2. I Miss Having Too Much to Do
I am most efficient when I have too much to do. There’s that old adage that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. I’m a nonstop efficiency machine. I love coming up with little tips and tricks to save time. Of course, when you’re not working, you don’t have as much need for efficiency. Of course, you could say, I could occupy myself with my hobbies, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
When I started my career break, I found it hard to engage in hobbies. I thought this was enlightening. Why did I value my time less when I used it for myself rather than when a company was using it? It took concerted effort to learn not to feel guilty when I was just having fun, and being unproductive. It’s basically like a muscle – you just have to spend your time on yourself and soon enough your mind and your body learn that time on yourself and on joy is valuable.
We live in a nonstop productivity cycle. And I know this is in some ways a failing that I am not someone who enjoys nonstop travel, side hustling, etc.
3. I Love Boring Work Things
Many of the things that bother other people about work, I love. For instance, I love getting dressed up for work. My commute was the highlight of my day (I biked to work). I also love waking up early. I usually wake up around 6:30 no matter when I fall asleep (though I enjoy staying in bed later just for fun). As a lawyer, I don’t need to get into work early. What I didn’t like was waking up panicked – no matter what time of day.
I’m hoping that I can keep all my boring work things while not waking up panicked. Here’s to that hope.
4. My Mom Has Been Bugging Me to Get Back to Work
I don’t know how FIRE people get their parents off their back. =D
My mother just likes the idea that I occupy my time. She stated that she didn’t worry about my finances at all. I think she worried more about violating the Protestant work ethic. Idle hands, they say.
I also love having work as this perfect all-purpose excuse not to do something. Don’t tell my parents I said that.
Conclusion – Why I Was Itching to Leave Early Retirement
Am I less self-actualized than other early retirees? Probably. I’m certainly not saying I’m better than anyone else – just that this lifestyle was not for me at this point in my life. A third of retirees reverse retire – some run out of money but others just get bored. If you think about it – it’s so odd that we spend 40 years of our life saving towards retirement when we don’t even know what it would feel like to be retired. You have to try on the shoes before you buy them, as they say. It makes sense to try out retirement before you spend your whole life working towards it. Built the habits, the hobbies, the friends – you need to be retired. Don’t wait till you’re 65.
It’s been good for me to learn about what I need to do so that when and if I do retire, I know what I’m getting myself into.