I’m sure many of you have heard it before. It was sent to me as a young teenager by an older friend of my brother, and I have revisited it with fair regularity ever since. There is always something in it that strikes me as true. As you might have guessed, today it was the advice part of it quoted above, and how it affects us.
Growing up in the nineties and 2000’s, I had parents who held steady, working class jobs. One in a factory and another as a nursing assistant. Both regular, stable jobs with fixed schedules and regular wages. Although I was never told what to become, I was frequently “advised” on what not to become.
In short, get some sort of education, get some sort of 9-5 job and then stay there for the next 40 years. Change only if you are offered another, marginally better 9-5 job.
Now, a fair few of these things were probably true for when my parents grew up. Especially in a working class setting where money covers the bills, but is not abundant. It coloured my view for many, many years, and it even affected the choices I made in university. I took what I thought, at the time, to be stable choices. I got a degree in science, because the media told me people with science backgrounds were lacking. I even got an M.Sc. in environmental science, because I was told it was a highly sought after qualification. I thought I would get that stable, 9-5 job, and then that would be it.
And then an economical crisis struck our country. The oil prices fell, and thousands lost their jobs. Among them, hundreds of people with chemistry backgrounds and way, way more experience than me. There was not a job in my industry for miles, no matter where you were willing to move or how many applications you sent.
I am not writing this to garner any sort of sympathy. I am simply stating what everybody else who’s lived for some time knows to be true as well: Life is unpredictable.
My parents’ advice would’ve been excellent advice, for the time they themselves grew up in. But the world is very different now. Not just because of time rolling on, but because the internet changed the game all around the world. My parents grew up in a time of stability and economic growth, somewhat contrary to how I feel times are uncertain and somewhat fragile. But it took me a long time to realise this, and even longer to start to think outside of what they had taught me.
Financial independence, to me, is a way of planning for the unplannable as best I can. If I manage to grow a steady sidehustle, it can support us if I get laid off. It can support us if I enter a new period of time where there are no jobs except part time contracts. It can support us in our goal to spend our life as we ourselves chose. Not as someone else chooses in our stead for the majority of our waking hours. If we choose to save instead of buying that snack, that coffee or even that car, the effects could be beyond anything I dared to dream just five years ago.
I will not lie to you, I thought the switch from university life to the working world was a brick wall in the face. Gone was the timetable where some 50% of my time was scheduled, but the other 50% could be planned to accommodate my needs. Instead, I was met with either 9-5 mon-fri or applying for jobs 24/7. It was exhausting and it was depressing. It made me wonder if I was the weak one. If I should somehow train myself to not be exhausted after a long day and instead be happy with my lot. To be grateful.
I didn’t manage, and that made me feel weak and guilty all the more.
If anything of this resonates with you, perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps the 9-5 life simply does not resonate with you.
And that is ok.
A good friend of mine always says: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are”. That is as true now as it has ever been. Everyone gives advice based on their own, relatively narrow experience of the world.
For instance, despite not being rich, I admit to being privileged growing up. Neither of my parents ever got laid off. So even though it was tight at times, we were never starving. I also grew up in one of the richest countries in the world, where we were safe in the knowledge that if we got hurt, doctors and hospitals could help us. We got primary school free of charge, and we have a ridiculously silver-lined scholarship/loan system, and I am white and able bodied, which in itself is a massive privilege.
I will probably do a post later on privilege, but this is not that post. This post is simply about how we see the world as we are. That will always colour the advice we give to others, which is why we should all be wary when getting advice. A lot of advice is good advice, don’t get me wrong. But always make sure that you think on how it applies to your situation, and if it aligns you with your long-term goals.
I have never been happier than I am now, feeling, as I am, that we are on our way to achieve our dreams. And it is not a lofty, airy kind of dreaming. These are tangible, real goals with value attached to them. Mr. E. is working incredibly hard, but also having a lot of fun tackling his NaNoWriMo challenge. I have timidly started a sidehustle alongside this blog, and we are working on growing our passive and side incomes. Unlike many others in the FIRE community, we are aiming first and foremost to hit a point where we can comfortably sustain our lifestyles on only our side incomes alone. Once achieved, they will probably become our main sources of income, and what happens after that? Only time will tell!
Do you have a big, hairy goal you are afraid to tackle? Just start! If you fail the first time, at least you’ll know what not to do the next time!