As a kid, teen, and eventually young adult, I was trouble. I challenged authority at home, school, and work. I never accepted the status quo. My favorite question was “Why?” I spoke truth to power without any fear of repercussions.
Then, I graduated from college and I was more concerned with my own student loan debt than I was in speaking up because I was afraid I’d lose my job and not be able to pay this bill, so my credit would be ruin and I’d end up like so many family members and neighbors. Subsequently, I lost the fire that made me who I was.
Reflecting on this situation, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve lived selfishly for so long. I watch the news and see truly horrific stuff happening all over the world and I wonder what “they” are doing about it. Climate change, homelessness, hunger, mass shootings, genocide, pollution, sexism, classism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia…the list goes on. What are “they” doing about it? Why aren’t “they” doing more about it?
Who are “they” anyway and when did it become their responsibility to confront this massive problem?
Everything become crystal clear when a confluence of events lead to a few realizations.
1. I realized there would never be enough money we’d have saved or invested that I’d retire, so long as I have something valuable to offer the world.
2. I don’t want to get to retirement age and end up on my duff complaining about the world, family, friends, neighbors, politics, etc…and not actually doing something about it. I know a lot of people who are so self-absorbed, so focused on living selfishly and wonder why more of the world doesn’t revolve around them. They gossip. They complain. They aren’t doing any good. I don’t want to end up like them.
3. I can still earn a comfortable living and make progress on the bigger picture. It’s time to attack the disease that exists at the root of all that’s wrong with the world, not just the symptoms.
Let’s take common personal finance topics as examples.
Student loan debt is the result of the system “they” created to convince us that higher education is the only path to success. With a degree, you can get a great job, buy a house, and start a family, except that’s not the case — you can’t afford to create this life when you have excessive student loan debt. And, higher education is no guarantee of success (or even graduation and placement in a “good” job). Having worked in higher education, I’m guilty of perpetuating this myth. The establishment and perpetuation of these norms is the disease, and people are willing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and decades of their lives in some vain attempt to bring these norms to fruition. Student loan debt is how we know that education is broken, a disease.
Credit card debt is the result of another system “they” created to convince us that in order for us to live a good life we need more stuff. You’ve finished school, so it’s time to reward yourself, to be an adult who owns a bunch of stuff. With all that student loan debt, you might even be depressed or anxious, but that’s somehow OK because you can buy more stuff to distract you from the situation. Social media perpetuate this belief that you need more stuff and if you don’t have money to buy what you want, you can charge it. Stagnant wages that aren’t keeping up with inflated education and housing costs are at the root. Credit card debt is how we know that employment is broken, a disease.
Mortgage debt is the result of yet another system “they” created to convince us that if you need your own home. The notion of owning a home is flawed — you never really own your home, even if you’re mortgage free. Try not paying your property taxes and see what happens next, that is if you can afford to pay your taxes. But, you need a house, right? You have to live near a job that pays you barely enough to be able to afford to pay your debts and on top of that, you need a place to put all that stuff you bought with a credit card. Pressures from family and friends to settle down and buy a home are overwhelming — lemmings perpetuating norms created by a system in which everyone has a lot to lose. Mortgage debt is how we know that money is broken, a disease.
Personal finance is a symptom. We need to address diseases that have a negative impact on education, employment, and money. We need to address who controls these systems and how they perpetuate this insanity with all the -isms.
In my lifetime, I can’t address all the systems. I can’t address all the -isms that “they” use to keep all the power. But, what if I can address one of the symptoms that has gone largely unchecked, that has taken away some of the power we have?
I’m talking about pain. There is so much pain, physical and mental. Seeing family members deal with chronic physical pain and mental health challenges was overwhelming. Broken systems cause pain. Broken systems perpetuate pain.
I remember the pain of regret I felt for my decisions. I know the anxiety that comes with debt. I see the consequences of living with suboptimal health. That’s why I’m taking it on.
If we minimize pain, we can regain power to make progress.
If we minimize pain, it’s possible to make massive changes in one’s life, to go against the grain, to say screw the status quo. Minimizing pain means restoring some quality of life so one can get a new job, ask for a raise, start a side hustle, get rid of debt, and set aside some money to begin building some level of financial security so that we can finally get to what matters.
Long have I wondered what my purpose would be in this life. Pain is my purpose — the minimization of it, anyway.
Pain comes in a whole lot of forms and there are lots legal and illegal ways to deal with it. Even if you have health insurance with mental health coverage and a drug plan, the legal options might not work for you or become less effective over time.
Pain reduction triggers improvements in one’s quality of life, which can trigger a whole lot of positive changes down the line, from work to money to family and more. If you feel less pain or anxiety, you have more energy. If you have more energy, you can do more stuff. If you can do more stuff, you can make progress. If you can make progress, you can fix your situation. If you can fix your situation, you can help others fix their situations. If you fix your situation and you help others with their situations, you may find happiness. That’s what we need. We need to help more people make progress in their own lives so that we have more time, money, and energy to help everyone move the needle on bigger issues, systemic issues. We need more people to work together on these bigger issues.
For those out there in the same situation as us or nearly in the same situation, you have the ability to make different choices today. I see you take to Twitter, Facebook, or your blogs where you share your thoughts about job dissatisfaction. How you got to where you are today won’t necessarily get you to where you’re going, so why not make a change now? What about dedicating your life today to something you care about not wait for the FIRE that may never come?
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“[C]hoose a gentle death or you live and decide to have an interesting life.” – Matt Sesow, AVAM artist Visiting the American Visionary Art Museum was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Taking in the sights and sounds of self-taught artists took my breath away. Humans are limitless. I’ve been thinking about limitlessness for months. Not long after Garrett quit his job and the initial shock wore off did I really begin to embrace the limitless nature of our life. No debt. No jobs. No kids. No excuses. We don’t have any excuses now for not living the life we dreamed. We have plenty of time and resources to bring that vision to fruition. Because I truly believe that we can make anything happen, it was time to figure what we exactly we want to make happen. Through the application of will and a network of like-minded people, we will become a force for good. We have our hearts set on a path. Now, it’s time to make it happen. Housesitting in Baltimore this week gave us sufficient time and space away from the day to day to conceptualize and prioritize. Everything became clearer this week. Stay tuned. 😊 . . . . #roadtrip #snowbirds #vanlife #littleguytag #teardropcamper #teardroptrailer #escapees #escapeesrvclub #xscapers #debtfree #debtfreeliving #frugalliving #digitalnomads #digitalnomadlife #manifestation #manifesting #asktheuniverseforwhatyouwant #abundancemindset