In just about every aspect of life someone, somewhere is trying to tell us how to life out lives. Whether they are trying to control us or just jumping on the bandwagon, they try to shove the latest thing down out throats. Take the new “green” movement, for instance. No matter your opinion on the movement and the relative merits of the arguments for and against, the leaders of that movement are insistent that everyone, everywhere live their lives as they prescribe.
Now Madison Avenue has taken up the cause, though I doubt they care as much about the “green” movement as for what it can do for their bottom line. Everything is “green” nowadays, from you car, to your new house to the bottle you’re water comes in. If there is a way to claim a product, its packaging or the way it gets to market is “green”, they find it.
I don’t mean to pick on the “green” movement (well, maybe I do) since there are many similar movements or groups that want to change the way we live and define the world the way they see it. That’s what most of these things have in common. People want to tell us how to live and seek to protect us from ourselves. See the health activists who insist certain foods must be outlawed, or the people who want us to give up all animal products, or those that demand we all live in an urban center and ride bikes everywhere.
In retirement, especially for those of us that have retired early, similar pressure is brought to bear. I’m 45 and invariably when I tell someone I am retired they inquire as to why I don’t have a job. They say I’m too young to just “sit around” and “do nothing” and I should get a job. Never mind that the next thing they usually say to me is how jealous they are of my situation. So why pressure me to get a job when they would love to be in my situation?
It would be easy to just assume they’re jealous and would feel better if I was working like they are, but its more than that. Our society revolves around a work ethic. Americans work long hours and take few vacation when compared with many other industrialized nations. Work is valued, even in today’s society, and work is narrowly defined as having a job or running a business. There is an assumption that you should be working if you are of a certain age. Even if you have “made it”, you should run a charitable foundation, speak on college campuses, or become a contributor on Fox News.
In any case, you don’t just cash it all in and enjoy life. You don’t drop out of the work force at 43, 50, or even 60. You work, you contribute, you toil and slave. Obviously, it’s not a law. It’s more of an unwritten rule and if you listen, you will likely feel the pressure if you are retired young. More so if you are retired very young.
I don’t blame people for feeling that way. It’s what they’ve been taught. Like the “green” movement, many people follow what they have been told but have no idea why. They never stop to question the wisdom of the status quo. They do what they’ve been programmed to do and raise an eyebrow at anything that doesn’t fit that rigid mold.
Obviously, not everyone doesn’t feel that way. If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this and many of you wouldn’t be reading it. Still, there seems to be this nebulous mob out there pushing that norm on the rest of us. It can be tough to buck the popular trend and retiring early is definitely blazing your own path.
Retiring early takes a pioneering spirit, something this country was built on. You need to have the wherewithal to take a little criticism and listen to some naysayers. But ultimately, it’s your life and you need to live it the way you want. I will never say someone can’t work until they drop dead in their eighty’s. I don’t get it but if that make someone happy, more power to them.
That, however, doesn’t make me happy and doesn’t make a lot of folks happy. We want to find our own path. Maybe it’s a life of leisure and travel. Maybe it’s working at a passion that doesn’t lend itself well to making a living. Maybe its spending time with family and friends. Whatever, our priorities aren’t wealth and power, at least not at the expense of our freedom.
I am not ashamed of my status as a young retiree. In fact, I’m proud of it. I found a way to do it and stuck it out. I did my part for king and country and now I am free. This is my path and I refuse to change it to please others or fit into somebody’s idea of normal. If it’s you’re path too, follow it and be proud. You only get one shot at this life, so you might as well choose a path that makes you happy. If others don’t get it, that’s their problem.