It has been 4 months since I left megacorp. Wow, I had no idea it would be this good. The first weekend after I left, I felt a little sad. The first Monday morning when the alarm didn't go off at 0500, I didn't feel sad anymore. Since then, I have found an incredible level of freedom that I didn't know existed. I am far more relaxed. The stress meter is almost pegged on zero. Given the differences in the before versus after stress level, it is clear, the before was unhealthy. Breakfast is now a much more leisurely affair where I get to read the newspaper from front to back (although the news does generally seem depressing) instead of wolfing my food down in the previously allotted seven minutes. I now exercise on a far more regular basis. I have put in nearly 40 days of fishing and diving. I have attended a number of family events, taken four vacation trips (although, technically they are no longer "vacations"). I discovered vacation schedules no longer have to be rigid, if you want to stay an extra day or two, so what. I found I have next door neighbors. Talked to three of them more in the past 4 months than in the previous 25 years. When friends ask if I want to go do something, the answer is almost immediately yes (unless there is a previous commitment). Only "problem" I found is my schedule has filled up fast. One good piece of advice I received, was to get a bigger refrigerator calendar to keep track of all of my commitments. Hanging out with friends and family has been pretty darn good. I can see that I have missed out on a lot by working so much. Not anymore. I left work with no real structured plan of what I was going to do. I found the plan is just writing itself. The days just fill up with things to do.
I also get to spend more time at home than ever before. I enjoy working in the shop. I have been able to finish a number of projects that have hung around for years (or shamefully, decades). I find I now clean, oil and/or sharpen my tools at the end of every day. I am able to spend a lot more time on detail that I never would have in the past. The cars are washed on a regular basis instead of annually. I have also discovered the sinful pleasure of the afternoon nap. I don't do it often, but on the days I do, it feels great.
When I left megacorp, I had every intention of going back to work part time, and now after just 4 months of tasting freedom, I have my doubts. I have been able to keep up with the gossip from work from my friends that are still employed (left in bondage). It is funny, that some of the things that I thought seemed so important a few months ago, seem so trivial from the outside looking in. With the way the employees are treated, the petty rules, and the prevalent ego trip management styles, I can see if I went back, I would be let go for insubordination pretty quick. When I looked at consulting and the need for liability insurance, it did not seem to be worth the risk at this point. If I feel the need to work for money in the future, I will probably do contract work. My boss and a few of my coworkers have called me a couple of times for advice and council and I was more more than happy to help. And as often before, the right thing to do is always too hard to do. In two cases, the project instructions when I left were not followed and the projects tanked. The great thing is now, I don't have to live with the bad decisions of others. My old boss told me the requisition for my replacement was canceled so now he has to "do more with less". A year ago he had six and we were working 60+ hour weeks, he is now down to four and drowning. Oh well.
I feel a little guilty about not being a productive member of society anymore (but only a little). I thought I was going to have self worth issues after leaving work, but there really has not been enough time to think about it after being so busy having fun. I am currently doing some volunteer work on an industry committee helping to write a standard. It is reasonably rewarding, I get to interact with some of my old contacts and there is no real schedule pressure. So for now, this is just fine for me. In the future, I can see possibly doing work on some type of cool project without worrying about the pay.
The only negative issue I have to report on came about over a family matter dealing with an elderly parent. Our time was ďvolunteeredĒ by another family member because we "did not have to work" (never mind the fact that we have spent the last year and a half dealing with this with no help from other family members). That brought an immediate and somewhat vulgar response by me and clearly they all now know my position. While I certainly donít mind helping out and doing more than my share, the assumption that since I donít have any other responsibilities, I should be doing it doesnít fly. The sad lesson I learned here is that I will probably not tell everyone I am retired anymore, but rather I am now self employed as a consultant.
In conclusion, I want to thank the many here that helped give me the motivation and methodologies to leave work and pursue life on my own terms. While I still have (minor) concerns over money (just my conservative nature), the benefits of the freedom almost infinitely outweigh those concerns. The reality on the money side is, we have a budget, we easily live within that budget and we have reasonable contingencies (which is what we practiced for years before now; it makes things easy as there is no change) . If we have to cut back on discretionary spending, so be it; I can still see that is a much better option than going back to work for megacorp. For many, including myself, it is a much healthier life style. One can have a lot of fun and enjoyment for surprisingly low cost. Perhaps, one of the surprising activities I now enjoy, is spending a day at the library two or three times a month. I have read more books in the past four months than in the past four years. I get to read all kinds of magazines and periodicals (for free; I have actually already dropped two of my current subscriptions and probably more in the future). The library also has an extensive collection of movie DVDs that can be checked out for seven days, so now I get to see all the movies I missed (again, for free). I cleaned and waxed a buddy's plane and "earned" free flying time, something I would have never had the time to do in the past. I did some work on another friend's airboat while he was working so he could use it for alligator season. And now, I have some alligator meat in the freezer (and soon a nice belt). I hate to use a cliche, but the possibilities are endless without the noose of work.
So for those of you who are on the fence, I want to add my voice to the many here before me who said, if you have a reasonable financial plan, do it. I canít say enough how much better it is on the outside. It is like being a kid with an endless summer vacation (and no parental restrictions)!