Sunday, April 5, 2009

Please allow myself to introduce…myself.

I’m 30, married to my best friend (hi, Sweetie!) and, like most people, struggling to find some measure of peace and happiness in this strange world. I have learned that life is pretty simple, but people are not. We create endless complications for ourselves and position ourselves as obstacles at every turn in our lives. If any of us succeed in finding peace or happiness, it’s largely in spite of our best efforts. I am definitely no exception.

Equal parts pragmatist and wannabe free-spirit, I have often felt trapped by the circumstances of my life, good and bad. What I wish for most is freedom, both material and mental. Life is too short to spend immersed in the rat race. Yet, here I am, ears-deep. First rate education and flexible graduate degree – two steps forward. Disliking my job but loving the money – one step back. Learning to enjoy life’s simple pleasures – two steps forward. Expensive travel spent actually enjoying those simple pleasures – one step back. Clear and unwavering understanding that debt is slavery – two steps forward. Constant accumulation of consumer debt – ten steps back.

As a present to myself for my 30th birthday, I gave myself two goals, each of which I would like to achieve by my 35th birthday. I would like to achieve financial independence. This includes freeing Sweetie and myself from debt and developing a stream of passive income that is enough to meet my/our basic living costs. I would also like to express my values in my life. Mostly, this means I want to live simply, to get off the treadmill of illusion and disappointment regarding material wealth, success, and the countless other “shoulds” that permeate our American lives. It also means that I want to develop purposeful work. Taken together, by the time I’m 35, I would like to as many options regarding where I live, what I do, and for how long I do it, as possible.

Here are a few thoughts on steps toward my goals:

1. Make as much money as possible. In addition to my full-time job, I would like to take on some forms of part time work. Ideally, this could be an area to explore different types of work that I may continue doing after financial independence.

2. Pay down debt. Sweetie and I currently have quite a bit of debt (mostly student loans). If we continue earning at the rate we’re earning now and saving as much as we are or more, we should be able to pay it off in five years.

3. Lower our cost of living. We’ve made huge strides in this direction already. But there’s definitely some room to improve – particularly with housing and eating out.

4. Work my possessions down to a minimum. I’m pretty much a minimalist already, but I’ve never undertaken a wholesale effort across all my things to pare down to just the essentials. I love the idea of having just enough that I can pack my whole life into a car and go.

5. Become more involved in meditation practice. This is one of those things, like running, that I know is good for me, and I know makes me feel great after – but I have such a hard time actually doing.

6. Cultivate more interests. I spend about ten hours a day thinking, reading and writing about a very narrow area of knowledge. This makes it very easy to develop an unhealthy attachment to career-based identity. Plus, it's lame.

So, welcome. In future posts, I plan to expand on some of the ideas I touched on here, along with providing updates my progress toward my goals. I hope what I write here will prove to be some combination of helpful and entertaining. Thanks for stopping by!

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