An open letter to M
Or ponderings on priorities and quality of life.
I have been going back and forth on this post. After all, this has all to do with quality of life, not just when you reach a large goal such as financial independence, but also to enjoy the journey while you are on your way there.
The Mad Fientist has mentioned on his podcast several times about the time he got so hyperfocused on reaching financial independence that he forgot everything else. He over-optimised, refused to spend money on going out with friends, and generally made himself and those around him miserable.
That is not what I want Mr. E. and myself to go through while we are trying to free ourselves from employer dependency. We are more interested in the joyful frugality so happily touted by the Frugalwoods, but how exactly do we find that balance?
I’ve mentioned her several times in this blog already. M is the person who offered (insisted) I stay with her when I first came back to Norway so I could take my time in looking for an apartment. She is the one who introduced me to spruce shoot syrup and Meadowsweet juice.
During the first week between arriving in Norway and having to start work, it felt as if a whole summer of adventures transpired. A summer that was cut short all too quickly as my days were suddenly filled with the external demands of a day job. We still had fun in the evenings and weekends, but it was never the same as enjoying a whole week with nowhere else to be.
In many ways, I suppose you could say that in this way, M gave me a taste of what a life of financial independence could look like. Endless adventures and experimentation.
I suppose, perhaps, I should elaborate on my strangely close and ferocious relationship with M. But in many ways, I am not sure how to explain it. While I’ve always had a reasonable, but not very close relationship with my family. I could never grasp what people were talking about when they said their sister was their best friend, because I never had that much in common with my siblings.
With M, it’s sort of a feeling of… if M was my sister, I could understand why people say they love their sister or their family so much. I love and admire that person to a point that I don’t know what I would do if someone hurt her.
Shared friends who knew us both before we even met called us doppelgangers. And after I got to know her, I could think of no greater compliment. Often times I like to think of her as my spirit-sister, though I try not to mention that too loudly. So what better place to admit that than on a public blog?
The dream of FI
That is why, when I daydream of the day when my soaps sell splendidly and Mr. E. is making a mountain of money off his books and we are happily financially independent, that I also imagine M close by.
Originally, in our dream and goal, I imagine this cluster of small, cosy houses in the middle of the woods. One for Mr. E. and myself, one for M and her significant other, and perhaps one for another friend who is quickly taking to the concept of FI and devouring the blogs and podcasts we throw her way. Plus a guest house, of course. But the point is that even our long-term plans include living close enough to this person to be able to visit regularly. Hell, I’d like to be closer than we are right now, which is more than 45 minutes by bus.
Still, I count my blessings. At least we live in the same city.
Don’t forget the small stuff
While my romantic dream of living in the forest with our closest friends is an attractive one, it is still a dream and far away. The last thing I would want is to have my dreams change ten years from now, and suddenly regretting that I didn’t spend more time with my close ones while we were working on saving for that life in the clouds.
I have been alive long enough to realise that some times, dreams change. Either by necessity or by experience. Life is being lived right now, and I refuse to be so caught up in saving as much as possible that I refuse to spend a bit of money on the bus to visit my friend once in a while.
It also serves me good to remind myself of this, often. Believe me, I am prone to go from frugal to cheap all too quickly if I let myself sink into that bubble of hyperfocus for too long.
I have to admit, I think that balance can be difficult. In line with our zero-based budgeting, I find it much easier to spend nothing. But this is such a priority that I am willing to postpone financial independence in order to spent more time socialising.
I am willing to work harder to earn more money on my sidehustle, to make this choice.
What about you?
My close friend M is just an example of a bigger concept in this case. And that is to make sure we spend our money on the things we value. Perhaps it is worth it to you, to shut out all social life while you focus on paying down that debt in 12 months or less?
Or would you rather spend 20 months and enjoy time with your friends and family or other joyful activities at the same time?
I am not saying either of those is right or wrong, I am just encouraging you to be conscious of the choices you make when you decide to either go for a fast track or more of a slow, leisurely lane.
If you think everything will get better once you reach financial independence, you might get very disappointed. Don’t wait to address issues until you reach that big, hairy goal. Try to take small steps towards it as soon as you can.
And perhaps it is time to pick up the phone and invite that friend over for a board game night, or ask if they’d like some company?
We are not just the goals that we’re striving towards.
How are you balancing striving towards long-term goals and living in the present? Please let us know in the comments!