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A few weeks ago, FIRECracker wrote about a potential health scare involving me, and I thought I’d give you all an update on what’s going on.
This whole thing started, as most bad things start, at a bar. A buddy of mine met up with us, and he’s been in and out of hospitals lately due to complications following an accident. He’s recovering nicely, but the point is he’s had a lot of doctors poking at him lately, and one of the conditions they tested him on was a thing called Marfan’s Syndrome. This is a genetic condition (though it can occur randomly) that affects the connective tissue, and he got tested for it because he exhibited some of the physical characteristics of people who have this disease. He didn’t end up having it, but he noticed I had some of the physical characteristics as well, so he suggested I get checked out.
The next day I looked up what this disease was and what those “physical characteristics” were, and to my alarm it sounded EXACTLY like me. Those physical characteristics, by the way, are:
- Flexible joints (I’ve always been flexible)
- Flat feet (Check)
- Scoliosis (I have this, but so minor it doesn’t cause any symptoms. But still, I have it.)
- Bad eyesight (I’m legally blind without contacts)
- Stretch marks not related to weight-loss/gain (Check)
- Various arm-span ratios, finger-to-wrist ratios, etc. that I all hit.
Etc. Etc. You get the picture. I had like 9/10 of the warning signs. And because the end result of this disease is “sudden aorta rupture around age 40 that you can’t do anything about,” I was like “Well, THAT’S not good.”
However, what happened after that was something I think that everyone should go through at least once in their lifetime.
A health scare has this ability to crystallize your values and bring to the surface what’s really important. After all, if you thought you only had 5 more years to live, would that corner office you’re gunning for really matter? What about that bigger house? What about that new car?
None of that shit would matter if you’re not around to enjoy it. So why would you waste any more of your now-limited time pursuing those things?
You wouldn’t. You would quit your hateful job and live the life you truly want, whatever that is. No point in delaying your dreams any further, right?
And you would probably spend more time with your family. You would reach out and rebuild your relationships. You would find a way to give back to a world that’s been pretty damned great to you this entire time if you think about it.
In short, you would do things differently.
I went through all that introspection in about 10 minutes after FIRECracker made the first doctor’s appointment to get tested. And when I did, something strange happened.
Rather than a torrential downpour of panic that usually happens in these situations, a strange sense of peace washed over me.
Because by becoming Financially Independent, I was already living my dreams.
Neither of us have to work hateful jobs anymore. I get to travel, I get to do whatever I want every day. I spend lots of time with my family. FIRECracker & I spend 24/7 with each other. We regularly get together with friends whenever we’re back home, and we’re constantly making new ones through this blog and the FI community.
And you know what? Every day we wake up and try to give back. We both volunteer for a non-profit and we write this blog. Millennial-Revolution is, after all, our attempt to give back and help as many people retire and live their dreams as possible.
So what would I change? What would I do differently?
And that, I think, is when you know you’ve made it.
If you find out you might be dying and you kinda look back at your life and go “Yeah, OK. I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
I realized that if I was going to die, I wouldn’t be all that bummed out about it. The thought of dying didn’t stress me out.
Death didn’t scare me.
That’s a strange thing, isn’t it? Death scares everyone. From the most powerful emperor to the lowliest peasant, fearing the Reaper was supposed to unite everyone. Entire religions have formed around this basic, primal fear. And yet, I didn’t feel it.
And that’s when I realized the true value of Financial Independence.
We often talk about Early Retirement as an escape. Escape your hateful job. Flip off your idiot boss. All that stuff.
And don’t get me wrong, all that is true. But it’s only scratching the surface.
Financial Independence and Early Retirement frees you from worrying about your basic human needs. Food, shelter, warmth, all that good stuff is now paid for, in perpetuity, by your portfolio. So obviously, you no longer need to spend any of your day pursuing those needs.
And because these basic needs are taken care of, your true self is free to come out.
FIRECracker wrote before about what people most regret as they lay on their deathbed, and I think I can sum them up like this:
What you regret on your deathbed is living someone else’s life and not your own.
And this “someone else’s life” can be imposed on you by parents, by society, by culture. And it can be imposed on you by the simple fact that you still depend on your job to fill your basic needs.
But I can tell you from first-hand experience that when you actually start living your life YOUR way, it feels like an endless fountain of Time. That weird phenomenon where the years fly by, you wake up one day, and you’re 55 with grey hair doesn’t happen anymore. When you live life YOUR way, time doesn’t contract. If anything, it dilates. A day spent as yourself feels like a year, and a year feels like a lifetime.
I often think we’ve been writing this blog for years, and that we’ve been retired forever. But when I look at the timestamps, this blog has been up for only 8 months! And we’ve only been retired 2 years!
And in that short amount of time, I stopped being scared of Death.
By the way, it looks like I don’t actually have Marfan’s Syndrome. We found a cardiologist who’s familiar with the disease, and he did an electro-cardiogram and concluded everything looked normal. We’re going to do some follow up test to be 100% sure, but for now it looks like we’re A-OK.
But the strange thing about this entire experience is that even if the test came back and I DID have it, I would have still been A-OK.
So I encourage everyone reading to pretend like they’re dying. Seriously, lay in your bed tonight and pretend you got some inconclusive-yet-kinda-scary news that you may only have a few more years to live.
Do you have any regrets? Are you doing things that don’t make sense anymore?
Would you do things differently?
If not, great! You seem to be exactly where you want to be and I am incredibly happy for you.
But if you would do things differently, start making changes NOW. You don’t know how much time you have left to live life YOUR way. None of us do.
But on the plus side, now that I know I’m likely to be around for a while longer, we here at Millennial-Revolution will be here to help you get there.
After all, that’s how we live our lives. OUR way.