To say that the past months have been profoundly transformational and life changing would be a gross understatement. I’ll tell ya, it’s one thing becoming FI. A whole other story to actually FIRE! And boy, I have to confess that I had no idea how scary and exciting it gets. Nor how busy it is in “retirement”. My calendar app melts down from merely the thought of the burden of having to keep up with me these days. My feet haven’t touched the ground once!! I kid you not there’s not enough time in the day to even just scribble down my to-do list. I can’t possibly download everything that happened during these past few months – and is very much still going on – straight off my brain and onto one blog post nor would it make any sense to even try. For FIRE is full of surprises. And so, perhaps I’ll just rewind to the very moment when I pulled the trigger and leave it there for now.
I finally pulled the trigger and FIREd in the midst of the darkest time of the Nordic winter. What exactly I was doing there in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle is a topic for a separate blog post. For now, I’ll just say, that if there ever was a more dramatic scenery available anywhere on the planet to FIRE, I would have had to really scratch my brains hard to figure out where that could have been. But, as it happened, I was in this beautiful little red wooden house that means so much to me, deep in the midst of the Nordic forest, surrounded by snow and the most typical early winter darkness. And a harsh and unforgiving winter storm!
I was sitting on the second floor, in a little study, furnished with a an old chair, a simple wooden desk, a bookshelf and a little sofa. Having recently partially withdrawn back into the ivory tower, aiming to complete a post graduate degree in Philosophy on my spare time, I had my papers and books everywhere around me. And I was staring occasionally out of the window into the darkness, sipping some fine red wine, as the blistering wind nearly tore the tall trees – roots and all! – off the ground all over the house, and this huge and aggressive winter storm was raging all around me, cutting power-lines and leaving further darkness all over the country… I must admit that I wasn’t planning to FIRE in such dramatic circumstances. Quite frankly, with Covid-19 wrecking the world’s economy and shutting down many international borders, I was re-considering my original FIRE plans altogether, wondering if to keep toiling away with my day job until further notice. But as the opportunity presented itself – in the form of a voluntary redundancy target that the company had to meet with and a generous package on offer for those who would volunteer to go so that no-one would have to be fired – I knew the moment I was waiting for has come. And so I took a deep breath, pulled the trigger, and FIREd.
I wouldn’t know how to convey the storm of feelings that was coupled by the storm outside whilst all of this – and much more that I won’t go into right now – was ongoing. I’ll just say it was an unforgettable FIRE. I mean it’s scary enough to FIRE on just a normal day and launch oneself into the abyss. That re-running of the numbers again and again just one last time. Going again through the “what if” scenarios. Checking each line of defence to make sure they hold. Making sure your partner in crime is just as ready to go as you are(n’t). Approaching your boss with your knees slightly shaking and your chest about to explode to tell him that this is it… Now add to that the ever present heart-braking ambient in the form of a tsunami of death and mental health problems caused by the global pandemic… Whole countries being locked down… Companies filing for bankruptcy right left and centre… Unemployment figures soaring through the roof… Main Street in a state of despair… And, in the midst of all that uncertainty and madness and sorrow and unforgiving weather, I’m supposed to be sitting in this cabin at the end of the world, and sending my letter of resignation, so that… I could kick start this “living the dream” thing I’ve been planning the last few years??
Really not what I had in mind when I first imagined the day I would finally FIRE. I never ever imagined my personal D-day be taking place marked by such events and in such dramatic scenery. I always had this image in my head, that I assume everyone on the FI journey pretty much have, for this special moment. You know, standing next to the company logo outside HQ, with a clear blue sky above, for a one last selfie with a big smile but with more than an inch of fear and a stone of relief deep in your eyes, and then straight off to the pub for a pint to celebrate. That’s how it should have been! But, as Woodie Allen once famously said, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much aware of how lucky I am. Lucky to have my health intact having been infected with Covid-19 in winter 2020. Lucky to not have lost anyone close to me to Covid-19. Lucky to have discovered true happiness is found in relationships. Lucky to have realised early on that I don’t care for material possessions, titles, medals or other empty status symbols. Lucky to have always been able to set a good proportion of my income aside, even when I had no idea what exactly for, but trusting that it will all make sense one day. Lucky to have never listened to all those who laughed at me for saving and investing instead of burning through my salary because “you only live once”. Lucky to have discovered the path to FI and all these incredible blogs and books and podcasts. Lucky to have pushed the stop shop button so many years ago. Lucky for being able to study in university again. Lucky for having taken all those right turns when there were so many wrong turns available to choose from. Lucky to have been able to FIRE during such turbulent times. Lucky to live in this incredible era of sophisticated technology and advanced science that can come up swiftly with a vaccine and put an end to a global pandemic. Lukcy to have my partner getting the jab whilst I’m writing these very words. Lucky to just be alive, here, now. Lucky for just being able to watch the wheels go by for the first time ever if I really wanted to… Lucky to not really have any time to watch the wheels go by because I’m so busy living the dream.
And to you still on the FI journey I say: keep going. Don’t stop. Freedom is out there waiting for you and you better believe it. Lock-on the target and never let go. Keep at it no matter what they tell you. Keep going even if it means braving a horrific storm. Keep pushing through even if the whole world seems to be coming apart. Never let go of your dreams. Never, ever ever ever ever give up.