Don't Go Thinking It's Somewhere Else
Years ago, my dream was to retire early. The goal included lots of playing and relaxing whenever it suited me. I knew it was not a particularly unique dream. Many others have held out for the same vision with varying levels of success. However, I have come to believe that my dream of yesteryear was shallow and uninformed.
Retirement, in the classic sense, implies the attainment of sufficient financial resources to allow for the freedom to opt out of the work world. My experience tells me that this often leads to an unhealthy focus on the pursuit of money at the expense of other, more enjoyable, endeavors today. Indeed, my old dream was "the pill" I swallowed to justify my determination to succeed in my career - at almost all costs.
Today, my financial dreams are more modest and often revolve around making enough money to sustain my family (together with Amy), spending enough time caring for our home, getting enough time with our kids to really connect with them everyday, and sustaining enough leisure time for the foreseeable future. I don't wish for unlimited leisure time any more than a vibrant and passionate older person wants to be forced to retire at age 65. Instead, I try to stay purposeful with my choices for both responsibilities and fun.
I'm far from perfect in enacting this new dream. Despite my intentional creation of ESP with Amy, I can still sometimes view my time with the kids as a chore when things don't run smoothly. Or even to think of work or housework as burdens. I can still entertain that old desire for nothing but leisure. But it helps when I remember that my current dream of the good life (here and now) is accessible by a slight change in perspective. Having time to nurture my children and bask in their wonder, having a job that allows me to grow, learn and contribute to a group effort, sharing the running of our home with a true partner, and occasionally pursuing a traditional leisurely activity are together enough to sustain me for some time. I'm not sure that a large increase in "leisure time" would be a net gain for my life as a whole.
I often find myself reading the words emblazoned on a wooden snake that hangs in our home (a folk-art purchase by Amy at her hometown art fair years ago): "Don't go thinking it's somewhere else." A great life isn't somewhere over the rainbow - or when I can finally retire or take that trip to Fiji or dance the tango in Buenos Aires.
It's here, now.