Imagine what you would do if you woke one morning and discovered that you were financially independent. After you fainted, and awoke, and whooped, and celebrated and jubiliated and shouted wheeeee! to your heart’s content, what would you do? What would you do if money was no longer a concern, if you had enough money to cover your living expenses in perpetuity?
This happy question is one that all of us on the path to financial independence have to grapple with. We are working towards a possible early retirement, but what comes next? How will we spend our time on earth once we’re done running the FIRE marathon?
The answers to this question are as varied as the human race itself.
Constant travel in an RV. A life of perpetual travel abroad. Coaching a soccer team. Writing a book. Relocating to a new country. Going back to college. Playing video games all day. Brewing beer. Painting that masterpiece. Working on a farm. Building that killer app. Volunteering. Hiking the PCT.
The possibilities are endless.
This then, is why we strive for financial independence. We do it to bring potential back into our lives.
Once Upon A Time….
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far, away….well actually, right here on Earth, some 8000 miles away in a country called India there lived a little girl. She was bright, and did very well at school. Her parents told her how proud they were of her. Her teachers told her that she had so much potential. Her cousins hated her a little because their parents asked why they could not get the same grades in school as her (and so sometimes they were extra rough with her during play, and who is to say that she didn’t deserve it at least a little?). The message this girl received all through her childhood was that if she worked hard, and went to college, the world was her oyster. She could be anything. She could do anything. She could accomplish anything.
This little girl was naive enough to lap it all up. She truly believed that she would change the world. She didn’t know how it would happen, but she was sure that it would.
Eventually the girl grew up and left her little pond. She did well enough, but as she was exposed to the world in all its vastness, she began to harbour doubts about how truly exceptional she really was. She was bright, that was true, her parents and teachers had not been pathological liars; but so were so very many others. She hardly stood out.
She walked the path well traveled. She got a good job, she made good money, she worked on interesting things, she even filed some U.S. patents along the way, but with each passing year her world grew smaller. She traveled, and fell in love and started a family of her own, and yet her world grew smaller.
Her world grew smaller because all the potential leaked right out of it. Her path seemed set in stone. She could see all the way to her grave, and sometimes, in the long dark teatime of the soul she felt filled with quiet despair. It would be a good life. It would also be a life most ordinary, and there was still enough of the little girl alive deep inside her, that this truth hurt.
Then one day, she discovered that she could achieve financial independence.
And suddenly, just like that, her life was filled with potential again.
The Why of Financial Independence
For me, this is the heart of the quest for financial independence.
We should pursue it, and not for the pile of money that will result. We should pursue it because it will bring potential back into our lives. It will give us the power to change the course of our lives. It will empower us to dream again. It will allow us, when we espy a rabbit hole, to merrily go down it and meet Cheshire cats.
When we are children, we are at our creative best. We are unafraid to try new things. We worry not about the next meal, or healthcare, or rent. We assume those things are taken care of, and we focus on what is truly important: drawing that picture, writing our first poem, inventing a new universe, climbing that tree. Achieving financial independence frees us to return to this childlike state of wonder and discovery and creation.
I don’t know exactly what it is that I might do, or be, or make once I get to the finish line and that is the most awesome thing ever. It could be anything. And that little voice of quiet despair? She seems to have shut up for good.