I have been complaining about work and mentioning early retirement to my relatives. When Aunty Betty asked me how much I would need, I mentioned – 30 times of annual expenses, which, if drawn down at a rate of 4 % a year, would last me about 30 years. I threw those numbers at her in a single breath, as if numbers by themselves are enough to impress. But I have not thought this through thoroughly. In my defence, I am still far off from retirement. Again, just a while ago at dinner, I mentioned early retirement. I clarified this time that I was looking at semi-retirement, and that I would be taking a part-time job, maybe tutoring.
I realize that on some level, I want sympathy. I am playing the victim and am trying to solicit sympathy by complaining about the long hours I work. Sympathy affirms my behavior and makes me feel self-righteous. It validates my behavior.
This is harmless compared to the other insinuations I detect in my outbursts, namely:
You are dumb.
You have worked a job your whole life. I do not understand this lunacy. You must have been unhappy all this time because of your job, but have known no other way than to continue working because this is what everyone else does. You have gotten married, you have bought a house, you have had children to support you in your old age. You have many things, too many things, that distract you from finding happiness.
I am smart and I dare to be different.
I have enough courage and am smart enough to ignore the expectations of society and to think about what I want in my life. I have decided that of all things, I value my freedom most of all, and that my job stands in the way of my freedom. Ergo, I have decided to retire early, damn what anyone else says, and I will stop at nothing to achieve my aims. I have a plan for happiness, whereas you have lost your way from your blind acceptance of consumerism.
In short, I am saying that I am better than you.
These insinuations, now laid bare in writing, sound like the words of an ideologue, a happiness fundamentalist.
Just because someone lives a normal life – gets married, buys a tv, has children, all things that I am opposed to (still undecided about the house), does not mean that he must be unhappy. To assume that is so is erroneous. Why? Because marriage, a television, and children, have nothing to do with happiness, they may or may not contribute to happiness, they are all smoke and shadows, distractions from the things that truly matter, things such as:
Freedom to pursue our interests wherever that may take us.
Rich relationships formed with family and friends.
The examined life, because
… the real measure of people’s happiness in life is how positively they can reply to the question: “Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?”.
In order to know if we are living in the correct manner, we must deeply examine our beliefs and see if we are living according to those beliefs.
Perhaps this would be a better yardstick for happiness, not whether the person owns a tv, etc, etc…
I believe that these goals can be achieved and that simple living can help us get there. Let us focus on the things that matter, and discard the rest. Simplify, and be happy.