Retirement Update: I Miss My Job

At the start of the pandemic, I lost my job, around the time we reached financial independence. I didn’t want to retire by myself (Fergus is much more conservative than I am when it comes to personal finance), and career-wise I wanted to move in more of a technical direction again, so I started preparing for technical interviews.

I worked on a video game as a project, to get back into the swing of programming, and because I’d always wanted to make a game but never seemed to have the time.

Long story short, I kept making that game (and many more small games as part of game jams), and declared myself retired. Fergus joined me months later, and we started a game development studio, LLC and all.

We had the creative dream: nothing but time to work on our passion projects. After living that creative dream for over half a year, I find myself missing routine.

I had the perfect commute of a half hour walk to work. Long enough to get the blood flowing, but not too long so as to tempt me to take the bus or a Lyft. Work expected me in the office before a certain time, so even if I was feeling meh, I got up and went to work, often curing that mehness with the walk alone.

And my projects! They had layers, so writing, technical analysis, and visual design all came into play, and they had short but manageable deadlines. Every two weeks I had a new and interesting priority to wrap up and deliver. Requirements were clear, but there was freedom in how I went about filling them.

At our new game studio? Nothing is clear.

For some, that might sound invigorating. For me and my ADHD, it makes my heart pound in a less healthy way.

If we’re working together, and you’re stalled because you need something from me, you’re my top priority.

When I’m working for myself, nothing “needs” to be done at any point in time, and my dopamine-seeking brain is going to want to do the simplest thing it can to get that hit, which is usually watching Netflix or YouTube videos. And that’s enjoyable. Until it isn’t. Until you feel numb and know you should stop, but you can’t bring yourself to cancel the autoplay.

That’s when you know the day is lost. And you pledge to do twice as much tomorrow to make up for it. Then tomorrow you get overwhelmed and melt down, or in an ideal situation, recognize your pre-meltdown symptoms and throw the giant jellyfish at your partner (the universal signal for help).

And then you cry and eventually wonder if you were happier when you were working, and if that makes you broken. Or about how game developers are supposed to talk about avoiding burnout, so can you really call yourself a developer if your concerns are the opposite? Do you actually care about game development if you have to force yourself? Is this dream life just wasted on you?

I’m not back to looking for work. But reworking my day-to-day life to fit my goals has been a STRUGGLE (also I lost a very close family member last year, so that did not help my mental health to say the least)

What I’m doing right now:

  • Strategic roadblocks that break me out of patterns
    • I basically can’t use my phone in the mornings or at night for anything but person-to-person communication, using StayFocused
    • on Chrome BlockSite stops me from watching Netflix too early in the day.
  • Mindfulness
    • No “should be doings” or “why can’t I justs,” only non judgemental observations. Like, “it’s hard to get out of bed,” and realizing that simply opening the curtains can make a big difference, or making the process as streamlined as possible by doing things like putting clothes out the night before. We’re all our own worse critics, so thinking of yourself as friend or just an impartial third party can make all the difference.
  • Breaking up tasks
    • Did you know making a video game is hard? But that all big, hard tasks are often made up of loads of tiny tasks? Who knew! Often when I catch myself not being able to start something, I realize it’s a larger task than I thought. And doing a really achievable, small task, puts me in a great mood and often I come out hours later having done multiple tasks. I’ve been using Focus To-Do, which helps me estimate time needed for each task. If I think it will take 4+ pomodoros worth of time (2ish hours with the default ), it probably needs to be broken up more, and I might not be realizing how nuanced the task is.
  • Energy management
    • With ADHD, it’s often less about time management and more about energy management. Sure, checking in with your artist about new work shouldn’t take long, but there’s social pressure and anxiety on top of that. Probably best not to do that AND a bunch of other similarly taxing tasks all in the same day.
  • Body Doubling / coworking
    • There are a few groups I’m involved in that have coworking sessions, and I had some 1-on-1 body doubling sessions with the amazing Jen Mah for a while that were transformative.

Keep in mind I say this all while coming off a game playing binge of two days (first was sorta planned, but second day lost any sort of enjoyment and was a zombie-mode day). BUT! I then took a long walk, came back and did a tiny thing for my game, secured an artist for an upcoming game jam, and am writing this article, so, you know, glass half full.

Me of a year ago would have written today off as “wasted.” Me of today recognizes that me of a year ago could have benefited from being more in touch with her emotions.

There is no perfect life. There’s only a better life. And that life is built on a series of small actions.

Financial Independence and early retirement is not a ticket to happiness. And happiness maybe even shouldn’t be the goal.

So yes, I miss my job, but I’m steadily working towards the kind of life I want to live. One where I have a sense of purpose that is of my own design.

I don’t have a neat, picture perfect ending for this story. In fact, it’s been sitting as a draft for literal months and I’m still struggling. But at the very least, I’m becoming more comfortable in not having all the answers.

On Death and FIRE

FIRE doesn’t matter if you don’t have your health. FIRE doesn’t matter if you can’t be there for your loved ones. 

I started this blog partially because it sounded fun, partially because it had potential to make money (ha!). Now I use this blog more as a way to focus my own thoughts and feelings. And when you have ADHD, sometimes you have a lot more feelings than you care to admit.

In December a close family member died, in their 30s, and I still cannot believe it. They had a number of health issues, but none that my family thought could end their life, at least not in their 30s. We were wrong. I spent three months away from home, with family, helping out as I could, including going through their computer and helping their surviving spouse with childcare and organizing finances.

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Is Work Optional Anything New? (+Giveaway!)

Disclaimer: I received a free, advance copy of Work Optional for review purposes and personally know the author, Tanja Hester. I am not being paid to write this review, but as an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission if you click on any Amazon links and make a purchase. 50% of any profit on this blog goes directly to charity, either Givewell or charities voted on by readers.

I’ve read a lot of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) content. Multiple late night reading binges, knowing full well I’ll regret my choices in the morning, and I follow a dozen plus blogs regularly. Your Money or Your Life was on my reading list shortly after opening my 401k, and I’ve even written my very own FIRE blog for over three years. Plus, Fergus and I are even officially financially independent right now.

So, does Work Optional offer anything new that someone can’t glean from dozens of blog posts?

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My Cents Positive Letter to My Future Self

Still time to enter the giveaway for a signed, hardcover copy of Dollars & Sense! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post by midnight tomorrow, Thursday, November 8th.

Cents Positive is a women’s financial independence retreat, where those on the path to financial independence (or already there) can connect. I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural retreat in Denver this past weekend, including the blogger day.

The best way I can quickly give you an idea of how it went is to show you what I wrote for the final exercise. Tanja was very insistent on making sure we all wrote a letter to our future selves on the last day. While I slacked and waited until the plane ride home, it was a critical exercise. And now I’m sharing with you (as it’s the only way I will not lose the letter)!

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My Two Major Financial Industry Experience Design Takeaways (& Giveaway!)

Last week I had the opportunity to cover Mad*Pow‘s Financial Experience Design (FXD) conference in Boston, a place where design leaders serving banks, insurance providers, educational nonprofits, and investment companies come together to talk about how to optimize experiences for their customers. For a play-by-play, check out #FXD2018 and my thread on Twitter.

Stick around to the end of the article for directions on how to enter to win a signed copy of Jeff Kreisler‘s Dollars and Sense.

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Why I’m Not Buying a Ticket to FinCon19 (& FinCon18 Recap)

Apologies for not linking out to all the amazing people and friends I saw at FinCon18! My internet is very dodgy currently, making my usual habit of 20+ tabs for hyperlinking purposes untenable. Know that I’m thinking of you. ❤

At the end of FinCon17, I immediately bought my ticket for FinCon18. Meeting so many of my internet friends at the same time, in one place, was amazing.

At FinCon18, it was much the same, plus a ton of those friends got Plutus Awards this year (or were finalists)!

So why no FinCon19?

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5 Ways Losing 50 Pounds and Saving $1M Was Exactly the Same

2018 is proving to be an eventful year for the Fetching Freedom Family. Three weddings of close friends and family and we are on track to be officially financially independent in mere months, you guys, a full year ahead of our original schedule and before my 29th birthday, even after putting a year’s salary into our newly minted Donor-Advised Fund.

Not to mention I will be a speaker at FinCon (affiliate link for tickets, though they have community passes too), attending the inaugural Cents Positive retreat (sold out, but sign up for their list serv for details on the scholarships), taking an eight week sabbatical (including three weeks in and around the beautiful Acadia National Park in Maine), and I’m on track to lose over 50 pounds this year (bringing me down 67 from my highest weight over the last two years)!

Unlike frugality and personal finance, healthy habits do not come naturally to me. Losing weight with diet and exercise always sounded reductionist and didn’t seem to apply to me. Vegetables were my friends, after all, and red meat was never part of my diet; if I already ate my greens, how could I possibly lose weight? Plus running is just awful. I’d rather have some extra weight than have to go for a run every day. I don’t eat any different from my friends, and they’re not overweight. It’s obviously just the way I am, right? (Spoiler Alert: wrong!)

It took unknowingly gaining 30 pounds in a year (and, okay, the Secret Eaters TV series if I’m being honest) to really get me to make a conscious change, and in the journey I’ve realized there are an insane number of parallels to personal finance and the journey to financial independence.

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Reframing My Early Retirement Fears

Draw a circle,” the leader instructed.

She had an aura of someone who would embrace the label of “the cool aunt” and would totally have your back if Uncle Ed had anything to say about your unladylike unshaven legs at the Thanksgiving table, even if she herself always followed gender norms.

With a ruffle of paper and faint smell of Sharpie, we did as we were told.

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Personal Finance Rules Are For Dicks

Today’s post is part of the Women Rock Money movement, with a massive 42 contributors at last count alone. Yes, that’s right, 42+ kickass women dropping knowledge today. While I haven’t been able to read the others at the time of this writing, as all the posts went live today at 6AM EST, but the snippets and titles alone make me question if I’ll be able to get any of my 9-5 work done tomorrow. 

Disclaimer: Links to Amazon and Personal Capital are affiliate links.

You know who’s used to hearing often-conflicting advice about what they should and should not do in life? Women. We’re taught being fat is a crime punishable by spinsterhood, yet it’s somehow also our vain faults that eating disorders are on the rise. We’re supposed to lean in and be assertive at work, but only if we aren’t bitches about it. It’s exhausting and futile to try to satisfy all of society’s expectations. In a word, it’s bullshit.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m calling bullshit on one more thing, because personal finance rules are for dicks.

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