Why Helen retired early?

If you could stop working tomorrow, would you want to do so?

For those who say no, they are the super lucky ones.  They love what they do, and feel fulfilled and rewarded.  Going to work every day is excitement, not a duty.  I really envy them.  During the last 20+ years as an engineer, I met quite a few who were just like that.  It is fun working with them, as you can feel the passion and energy.

For the same question, many will probably say:  “yes, I would want to stop working tomorrow if possible”.  Here the topic is about early retirement.  This is why I retired early:

  • Life is short.

And the healthy portion of life is even shorter.  If I don’t enjoy life today, it may be too late to do so tomorrow.

When I was in the graduate school in the late 80s, one of my classmates got late-stage ovarian cancer.  She was such a nice and lovely lady.  In the hospital for months, she went through the horrific chemo and radiation therapy.  My classmates took turns, visited her and brought the home-cooked food to her daily.  But her appetite was totally brought down by the chemo.  I felt very sorry for her.

It was her hope that, one day she could be healthy again, finish her master degree, and pursue her dreams.  Unfortunately she didn’t make it.  Right after my class graduated, she passed away.  Sadly she had only lived for 25 years.  That was the first time I realized how vulnerable and unpredictable life is.  Never take life and good health for granted.

  • I work in order to live, but don’t live in order to work.

Work is never the purpose of my life.  To me, it is just a way of making a living.  I know it may not be the case for some people.  That’s totally fine.  Each individual is different, and this makes the world so diversified and beautiful.

I worked over two decades for money.  Just like each of you did, I was woke up by the alarm clock involuntarily every work day, drove during the rush hours, went through the 4-hour drill (meetings, projects, reports, blah blah blah), ate my bagged leftover lunch, then at least another 4-hour work.  Once back home, it’s the relaxing time, right?  Nope, it may not be the case for me.

As an IT engineer, I was on the call 24 x 7, at first through the pager in 90s, then through the cell phone.  Sometimes at 2 o’clock in the morning, my phone was ringing off the hook.  Well, a call from the team in Asia, the system was down.  Why the system was always having issues at that wee hour?  I didn’t have much option except getting up, logging remotely, and fixing the system.  Then you guess what?  I was totally awake after 1-2 hours of struggle, and had hard time falling asleep again.  It seemed my sweet dream just started, and then the alarm clock kicks in again.  It’s just the nature of that type of job.

Does life have to be that hectic always?  Not necessarily.  I chose that profession, because I liked the pay and benefits, and enjoyed the technical challenges.  The job made it possible for me to pay off my mortgage, save the college fund for my kid, buy a car without loan, and save/invest for my retirement.

Is it worth the effort?  Yes, absolutely.  Do I want to go back to work again?  No.  I don’t need a job in order to maintain my identity, and have a healthy and meaningful life.  Money is nice, but I love freedom more.

  • Freedom is priceless

Who won’t like freedom?  Freedom gives me more time and power to take care of myself and my loved ones, pursue new interests, reignite old passions, take more adventures, and enjoy life overall.

Here lists briefly some of what I did after retirement:

Sleep more:

No more alarm clock.  A new day starts whenever I wake up naturally.  How nice it is to turn off my cell phone during the night.  No more job-related calls.

More music:

I love to tune to the local radio station, and listen to the classical music.  Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Strauss, on and on.  Since last year, I started playing keyboard (horribly) when nobody is at home.  Make sure the windows are closed, so I don’t bother my neighbors.

Read and write more:

Finally more time to read.  Most of the books I read are autobiographies.  And I wrote an eBook, and published on Amazon:  “Dad’s Bicycle – Journey of a Chinese Family”.  This is a mini-memoir, and talks about my life in the remote village in China where I grew up.

Walk more:

Walking is fun.  It is good to my physical and mental health.  And it is free. Walking outside, I can feel the weather and season change, enjoy the beautiful nature (flowers/trees/grass/birds/…).  More importantly, I can breathe the fresh air.  Don’t take fresh air for granted, as I’m from China, and saw the pollution there.

More time with my family and friends:

In 2015, I took 2-month vacation, the longest one in 25 years.  My college classmates had a terrific 30-year reunion in Beijing.  The last time I saw most of them were July 1985, when saying goodbye on the platforms of the Beijing Railway Station, we hugged, cried, and took the last black-and-white group pictures.  During this reunion, we shared rooms and food all over again.  We laughed, yelled, argued, danced, sang, and shared our life stories.  Hope to see them again very soon.

There are tons of MOREs about my retirement life.  I’ll write later on.  Do you want to retire early?  Why?  Share your thoughts with me and readers in the Comments section.  Thank you.

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2 Responses

  1. Sor says:

    So many people don’t realize how important health is until they suffer from serious illness. We should always take care of ourselves above anything else. As always another good articles.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      You are right. Good health is priceless. We got to enjoy it before it’s too late, and always take care of ourselves first.

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