The keeper of time

Now that I’ve retired for a few months, there are some changes in the way I think that I’ve noticed.

Let me back up and start at the beginning of my working career.  As a kid fresh out of college, I was happy.  College provided me with a good mix of stimulating work and spare time to amuse myself.  Getting used to the 40-50 hour work week took time over the years.

I had to wake up early, prepare for work, actually leave and commute to work, and then spend a good hunk of my day working.  When work is done, I commute again to get home.  When I was home I was tired.  I needed to rest, both physically and mentally.  Having a hell lot less free time means that time is now a limited and precious commodity.  I would do things to get myself a bit more time.  I would eat take out food and easy to prepare processed food much more often instead of cooking for myself.  I would shower less – I mean, being in a sedentary office job all week long doesn’t get a guy sweating that much, you know?  Sleep would be sacrificed as well just to squeeze an extra hour or two of free time out of a typical day.  I’d clean the house less.  When things were well, I’d spend the free time I have to mentally unwind, watch a show, play some games and whatnot.  When things were not well I’d do my best to stay awake while barely enjoying the show being played before me.  There were periods of my life when I did nothing other than work, eat, and sleep.

When I live liked that, my mindset changed.  I subconsciously tracked the limited spare time I had like a hawk.  A neighbor once invited me for his daughter’s wedding.  This is a girl I’ve seen on and off since middle school.  Upon being invited, I was pissed because attending the wedding would kill one night’s worth of spare time.  That’s one night gone.  I started to get angry whenever my time is wasted.  The check out line is long at the supermarket?  Half an hour wasted, pissed.  Life was no longer leisurely.  Even when I was having fun, my mind was keeping track at the background, doing an insane calculation to make sure I was getting the most fun out of the time spent.  Would I be happier watching this movie instead of reading?  Should I stop this movie now?  The story line hasn’t picked up yet, it’s been 45 minutes, there has only been 1 explosion and 2 deaths – fuck it, let’s stop this movie and go play some games.

Soon I got easily pissed because it feels like everything that can go wrong with life becomes an encroachment to my limited amount of time.  The little sacrifice I made to squeeze more time out of life, such as eating crappier food, not cleaning the house as much, etc. also took a toll on my mind.  I no longer enjoyed the things I did.  Pets I loved became poop machines that created work, and therefore wastes of time, on a regular basis.  I gave serious consideration to giving them away.  Anger became the default emotion that defined my state of being.

Thinking on this again, I realize that the same mentality effects most people in society.  Why do people have road rage?  Why rage if the old lady in front of you is only driving a little slow?  Because she has wasted your time.  Why hate the DMV?  Because they’re slow and easily wastes a morning of your weekend when you try to renew your driver’s license.  At my first job, there were a couple of other young men who were hired along with me, who were working their first full time job just like I was.  They started out clean shaven, well groomed and pleasant.  After 6 months or so down the road they changed.  They showered less to the point where I can notice a bit of a smell coming from them when I was close.  They shaved less and had stubble on their face most of the week.  Instead of walking with their back straight and eye bright, they trudged along with hunched backs, like there’s a weight on their back.  They sometimes got snappy – ok, just one; the other one started talking & muttering to himself pretty loudly, and gave no fuck about being caught doing it.  Thinking on this now, they were probably affected by the same thing I was.

At least my story has a happy ending.  Early retirement means I get my time back again.  Somewhere along the line, my mind stopped keeping track of my spare time.  I now have too much for it to care.  I don’t care when I’m delayed in a line while shopping or if my car breaks down and it takes an extra 2 hours for me to arrange repairs.  I remember very early on, within the first two weeks of my retirement, I was driving to Wal-Mart at 9:30 in the morning.  The fall sun was shining bright and there were other people driving on the road.  I saw that they were wearing dress shirts and were most likely heading to their office.  At that point I felt giddy, and almost giggled.  They were going to work!  And I was going to Wal-Mart!  It felt like I was cheating somehow.  I got out of IT.  I noticed that my default state of being was no longer one of anger.  My default state is now one of happiness.

I retired early because it was a thing I strove for.  When I was hired at my first full time job, in the first couple of months, I had a horrible time adjusting to my new life.  A soothing little line of thought came across my mind, and it said, “Oh, this too will pass.  You will get used to this soon enough.”  Upon noticing this train of thought, I rebelled and said to myself, “I will not forget how shitty it feels now.  Even if I get used to it, I will not accept it as the right way to live my life.”  Since then I’ve always kept the idea of finding a way out in mind, and my early retirement was what culminated from this.

I don’t think it would hurt for one to reflect on their life and see if the same sensitivity to time loss is present.  Chances are working a full time job has given you the same neurotic tics and decrease in quality of life.  Society is full of people and parties who are ready to tell you to endure.  To grin and bear it.  “Oh, that’s how everyone else lives, too!”  Before you go and accept such things on a wholesale basis, just know that there are alternatives.  You can choose something else. Even if you don’t get out of your working situation immediately, you can probably pull it off in ten years with good planning, so long as you try.  It is especially easier if you’re open to the idea of moving to a cheaper place.  Why be miserable in London or New York when you can be retired early in Thailand, for example?  It’s truly sad to realize that there are many people living miserably because they never tried to get away from it; that they’ve blindly accepted pain and misery as part of their lives, and happily preach the endurance of it.


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