What am I really afraid of?

Fear is a big thing in my life.  First, I am tackling an irrational fear at work.  A fear of something, probably failure or not doing something perfectly, that paralyzes me at times.  I battle this daily.  There is also a longer term fear, which I will get into here:

Just recently, someone wrote an article for our local newspaper.  In the article was the following paragraph:

“The problem, of course, is that just when time and money arrive, age takes away ability and drive. Sailing the fjörds in Norway is at the top of my list, but gosh I’ll bet it’s cold. I’ve always dreamed of walking on the Great Wall of China, but it’s over a thousand steps up with my tricky knee. And as for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro — maybe I could just appreciate it from the bottom.”

This is what I am really afraid of.  I am afraid that I will live too much of a ‘normal life’, and my money will mostly be used/wasted to simply support this ‘normal’ life.  While I need some money for food, water, shelter, etc., we take this really overboard with:  cell phones, internet, air conditioning, toys, gadgets, etc.  However, at 43, I woke up to all this, and we have corrected many of these spending issues.  We still have work to do, but the big hitters are taken care of.  However, while our corrections have helped a lot, I am still one income for 7 people.  So, my early retirement date is about 60 years old.  This isn’t too bad, considering when I started.

But, I seem to have a case of wanderlust.  How can you not in the United States?  I could leave right now, and within 2 days I could be in mountains, tropics, plains, deserts, rain forests, and more.  All of this with the same language, currency, government, etc.  There is so much, that is really so easy to see.  So, is this legitimate wanderlust?  Or is this brought on by envy of everyone else’s portrayal of their life on Instagram?  I know how real the ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’ effect is.  I am not sure yet.  I lean towards the fact that it’s real.  I seem to be truly happy when traveling or exploring.  I don’t need a lot of gadgets or gear to do it, I just like doing it.  So, while the jury is still out, I think it’s the real deal.  In my day to day life, I no longer lust after the shiny things that the world is constantly pushing at me.  In fact, at home, we are working to have less and less stuff.  Experiences mean something to me now, and the toys of the world have lost their luster.  

Please, if you are 60, don’t be offended, but I wonder how much ‘gumption’ I will have left at 60 years old. The quote from the newspaper about the fjörds in Norway above further proves out what I have already seen in life.  Things change by the decades.  In my 20s, I could stay up late, or physically exert myself, and there was no issue waking up early the next day and getting right back at it.  In my 30s, I could perform the same tasks, which I often did staying up late with kids, but there was now a recovery period.  I needed to catch up on sleep at some point, and soreness started to creep in.  Now I am in my 40s.  One night of low sleep, and I need to make up for it.  I can still do a lot of crazy physical things, but the soreness is even more pronounced, and the recovery longer.  So …. when the 60s are here, will I want to travel the country in a van, like my wife and I so want to do right now?  Will I be able to sleep on a sleeping pad?  I think so, but you never know what life will throw your way.

So, I am scared that I will prove out Tolle’s quote:  “It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.” – Eckhart Tolle

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids, and I LOVE being a dad.  I really love it.  So, I have kids right now, why isn’t this enough?  Well, I love them so much that being with my kid’s for the leftover hours of the day isn’t fulfilling enough for me.  I don’t like the stress and 7:30a-5p schedule that leaves me with only a handful of worn out and hurried hours, during which dinner, homework and baths need to happen.  I know a lot of this is unavoidable while they are in school, but I simply want a more flexible schedule to be able to spend more time with my kids, while they still live at home.  Also, there are vacations.  Having 3 weeks out of the whole year doesn’t allow you to see a lot of this amazing country.  Finally, I do realize that these are first-world problems.  I realize that I make a great amount of money, and my company treats me respectably.  I recognize that, and I am not ungrateful.  However, there is just something missing, I am not eager to wake up and attack life anymore.  There could be a whole myriad of reasons why this is true, but after years and years of this, I need it to end.  I don’t think I can tread water for the next 14 years …..

Sorry for rambling on, thanks for listening.  Does Tolle’s quote scare you?  Have you started living?

8 Thoughts to “What am I really afraid of?”

  1. I think you sound like you need a vacation. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. If you can’t get a 2-week consecutive vacation, maybe you can ask for leave of absence? Like a month? You can then travel a bit, and still have a job to come back to. I don’t think you’ll need to quit to travel. Most employers are pretty accommodating. It’s just that people are too afraid to ask. Or worried that they’ll look bad or replaced with someone else while they’re gone.

    1. Tim:

      I do need a vacation! The good news is that I have one coming up here soon. The bad news: I work for a smaller employer, and I am the only one in my position, and my position is critical. Even when I am on vacation, I often receive calls. This has been getting better, but it also makes the leave of absence highly unlikely. However, I think you have great advice. One of my ideas is to design my job so that it could be performed more remotely, and maybe even part time, minimizing these calls. While this will not be easy, there are some changes coming that could make it possible. This an option that wouldn’t be all-or-nothing. Thanks Tim!

  2. I’m with you. In fact, I just went back and read a bunch of your posts in the “struggle / mid-life crisis” category, and I’m REALLY with you. It’s easy to show up and do your job and go home and do it all over again. You’re in a stable situation that’s taking care of things, and because of the need to take care of your family, there isn’t a huge pressure to do something radical. In fact, doing something radical would feel like you’re putting your family in jeopardy.

    I’ve been struggling with this very same sort of feeling the past year or so. It’s a lack of direction, but also a lack of energy to find a direction. “Follow your passion” is great advice if you have a passion. I’ve read Chris Guillebeau’s “Born for This” and countless articles like it, listened to tons of podcasts and TED talks about how to find your “calling,” etc., etc. Either through lack of trying or lack of … something … I haven’t found something I want to call my passion, either. So I keep going to work, doing enough to be “doing a good job,” but not feeling like I’m putting in my all or even feeling all that connected to the work. It’s a paycheck. And it’s enough.

    But there’s something else there that’s missing. I get Tim’s thought that you need a good vacation, but I respectfully disagree that a vacation is the solution. I go on week-long vacations once or twice a year, and I don’t come back re-energized for an unfulfilling daily grind. Maybe you should try to pull together some kind of personal challenge thing. Come up with something new you have to try every month and report back on how it went. Invite your readers to join the challenge. I’d be game. Maybe you’ll find pieces of the puzzle along the way.

    1. Dreamer: First, are you me? Your middle paragraph sounds exactly like me, reading countless articles, but not even knowing what your passion is. Then ‘doing a good job’. Tim is right, I do need a vacation, and I have one coming up, but you are also right, they are important, but not the final solution for me. I have been in this struggle for 10+ years as I find past journals, there’s something deeper missing.

      Second, do you know what I think it is. I think what’s missing is not ‘doing a good job’, but ‘doing my best’. Some of my posts touch on this, and I have to get to work, so I don’t have a lot of time to expand. But, I have noticed that on the days when, despite not feeling like it, I simply start working anyway, something strange happens. First, I gain momentum. Second, I gain quite a bit of enthusiasm, and even some joy. I have spent many years making the bad habits I currently have of sub-par performance. It is going to take some time to reverse these, I don’t know if ‘doing my best’ will turn my current job into my final solution, perhaps not. But, I am here right now, and my employer deserves more than I currently give. Plus, it will make this leg of my journey much more enjoyable, and I am pretty sure it will lead me to the next leg.

      Third, I LOVE your idea of a personal challenge. I’m going to mull that one over today, but you WILL see a post on that soon!

      Last, I am off to check out the blog: idreamoffire.com!

  3. Steve from Arkansas

    Dude, I retired at 60, I’m 61 now. This morning my wife who is 62 and I and a few other people mostly older than us got up at 4:50 AM like we do three times a week and ran five miles in the rain. On Saturdays we start earlier and run eight miles. My wife and I also play competitive tennis, competitive as in we can beat most of the higher rated high school players in the state. After we ran this morning we loaded up the boat and fished through Tropical storm Cindy which was rolling through Arkansas because fish bite better before and during storms. Rained on us the whole time but we kept 27 fish! Last weekend we off roaded some crazy trails in the mountains. Other fun things include downhill skiing, rim to rim Grand Canyon hiking (in one day), marathons and bushwhacking through cliffs and dense forest to find hidden waterfalls. I’m just saying, we are only average athletes. Anyone who stays fit can keep up with us. Don’t sell your sixties short, there isn’t much of anything I could do at 25 that I can’t do as well or better now. I haven’t sensed any low gumption levels in my engine, in fact I was a lot lazier in my twenties! We did save aggressively and although my retirement was only slightly early we are financially independent and loving life.

    1. Steve, I might come to Arkansas (which I actually really want to do) and give you a hug! I have nothing else to say, than this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thanks for reading, and thanks a ton for commenting!

  4. I’m in a similar boat – my position is mission critical for my company, but like you, I want to make sure that I’m also living life!

    Our position right now is quite privileged: We make enough to afford life in an expensive place, we support other family, we can save. At the same time, I haven’t had a true vacation in years, I’m always a little bit on call, if not a lot. It’s also hard for me not to think about the fact that I don’t think we can have more kids because it’s so expensive here, we don’t have any help, and I’m not sure either of us can handle it physically. There’s a lot more behind that thought but it’s in the back of my mind.

    I think that aiming for an earlier retirement has naturally slotted into my planning because I have a health condition that doesn’t have a cure and dramatically affects our day to day life, but it’s also a long term project that doesn’t pay dividends until much later.

    Meanwhile, my body is finding new ways to tell me it’s aging really fast! But I take heart from one of my dearest friends. She’s going on 75 and has been more active than me in a single day than I am in a week. She does multiple sports, though she may modify them for her personal condition, and does SO much good in her other hobbies. I think that taking the time and energy we once put towards work into the next stage of our lives will be revitalizing.

  5. Hey, your post struck a cord with me, so thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’ve been having similar dilemma for quite a long time: should I just work full time, earn and save for later or use my money and time to live now…? I tried both and both have brought me some anxieties. But when I talk to people I’d say things like ‘What if I die today?’ or ‘What if I’m too old and weak to enjoy time off when I’m retired?’. I realised that pretty much everyone just assumes that we’re going to live long lives in good health. My friends wouldn’t call my life ‘normal’, though. I’ve just moved back to Europe having lived in Asia for over 2 years, I live in a rented room in a Buddhist community (despite having my own property ) and I just refuse (?) to work full time on some kind of long-term/permanent contract- it just doesn’t align with me at the moment. And everyone is awaiting when I announce my next destination. But the thing is that sometimes it does stress me out that I’m not living this so-called normal life and save for my retirement. I’m in a proper transition, still unable to decide what to do when I grow up and I’m not gonna do anything about it at the moment, but just observe myself and be mindful. Oh, I’ve chosen my age and I’m sticking to that figure – birth certificate doesn’t count in my book 😉

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