The Happiest I’ve Ever Been

Let me start by saying that I debated if I should write this post. My concern is that people will think I’m unhappy or ungrateful for everything I have, which isn’t the case. The best way to learn about yourself, and make impactful decisions going forward, is through introspection. This is something everyone should do, especially those of us aiming for early retirement. Lately I’ve been wondering about how to recapture some happiness and what that means for this idea of retiring when I’m 50 years old. Here’s are my thoughts.

So, what’s the happiest I’ve ever been? It was my first 2-3 years of college. It’s easy to understand why: I either lived in the dorms, surrounded by friends, or in a house with friends as my roommates. I was in class only 2-3 hours a day and working part-time. It was complete freedom with a ton of free time, all while living in close proximity to my friends and continuous learning through my classes. I loved it.

It’s that magical age where you’re treated like an adult but you don’t have all the adult problems and worries. (Sidenote: I know it’s a huge privilege that this was my experience and I can only wish for the same for other people) The future seemed so far away. I felt so much optimism, excited for what the future held. The possibilities were endless.

The decline happened slowly, during my last year of school. It was then that I  realized I’d need a “real” job soon and I hoped that my selected major would help me accomplish just that. I also felt that we were somewhat pushed out of college by our younger classmates, and I recall telling a friend that it didn’t feel like our school anymore and instead it felt like theirs. The college experience just didn’t feel the same anymore.

It was within a year of graduating that I succumbed to the pressures of adulthood: a long commute, more bills to pay, far less time spent with my friends. It was definitely a shock I wasn’t prepared for. It really doesn’t take long to get into a rhythm of just work, and I was no exception.

Two years after graduating, I bought my house, adding to the financial pressures and worries of adulthood. Even 16 years later, I still fret over thunderstorms and tornado warnings, even though I’ve never experienced damage from either one in all of my 40 years on this Earth. Instead, it’s knowing what could happen. Ignorance truly was bliss.

What does this mean?

If I meet my goal of early retirement at 50, I’m going to have a lot more free time on my hands. If that’s the case, I want to ensure I’m happy and what better way to do that than to look at what made me happy during the happiest years of my life. Is there a way to recapture that same feeling, 30 years later?

The answer is yes. For me, spending time with my friends, while still being challenged by classes, made me happy. Knowing this, my plan for early retirement is to spend more time with family and friends. I live near both a technical college and a community college and I’m excited for the prospect of taking classes just for the fun of learning. Maybe some culinary classes at the tech school and science classes at the community college. And of course I’d keep my calendar open enough to travel with friends as often as possible.

This all still allows me to basically set my schedule but remain engaged. While I don’t have a definitive plan for early retirement, this is how I’d like it to play out at this point in time. That’s a future I can be excited for 🙂


5 thoughts on “The Happiest I’ve Ever Been

    1. I definitely think it’s worth a try! If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else 🙂

  1. Ahhh, to be in school again. 🙂 I’m not really sure what my “happiest” moment was. I think I’ve had really happy moments throughout life; it’s hard to pick a period that was happier than the rest. But I think the absence of mandatory full-time work , debt, and bills will do wonders to bring out that childlike happiness again. 🙂

    It’s also a great idea to bring some of that into your life right now. It’s SO HARD while working full time, but you can still be happy and have adventures.

    1. So true…it’s all the added responsibility and obligations of adulthood that are draining. Hopefully early retirement can help with some of that!

  2. Hey kid, I had happy times in college too. But work was better, having kids still better, and retiring early with real wealth the best yet. My wife and I still get up before 5AM and run five miles during the week, longer on weekends. We still play, and beat the high school tennis team players. And we are now in our sixties. We fish, ski, hike and off road motor all over the country! Life has never been better! Look to the future, the past is over.

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