The weekend just been marked two milestones for Bee and I.
First, we have shared a surname for 1,095 days and nights. In that time we’ve had an amazing honeymoon during which we got two see two separate amazing couples get married. We’ve moved 16,893 km across the world to London. We’ve sorted out our debt and jumped on the FI bandwagon. We’ve traveled to 10+ different countries, most recently Hungary and Spain. I’m not going to lie, it’s been an awesome three years.
Secondly, this weekend marks essentially five years of me floating around in life with no ‘mojo’.
Let’s rewind a little bit. I’m gonna take you back to late 2007 when I was just about to turn 18.
I grew up in a small shitty suburb in Wellington, New Zealand. It was a single parent household where almost everything was second hand from the charity shop. Our toasters were guaranteed to only cook one side of the bread at once and our coffee was powdered. Once a week we would head down to the local community hall and have a gold coin donation dinner with the rest of the poor people in town.
Education was definitely not encouraged in our household, and between my dad, me and my next oldest brother, we couldn’t scrape together a high school qualification if our lives depended on it.
I floated around the local job marketplace for a bit after leaving school early. Pumping gas, frying chicken, racing shitty cars and smoking bongs consumed most of my waking moments. That was until I got picked up by the guy that I attribute most of my (limited) success to.
He was a regular at the service station I worked at. Back then, they were still service stations, not the sad, miserable places they are today where the only words spoken to you are “would you like any of these specials for one dollar?”
We pumped the gas, washed the windscreen, checked the oil and topped up the wiper fluid. Music played on the forecourt and we had a lot of fun with customers. Some cheeky buggers would do gas runners and I remember my workmate and I chasing a guy and his jerry can of stolen unleaded down the street and walking back with the money, a tip, and bruised knuckles.
With the sun casting long shadows across the station forecourt, the regular walked out of the store and back to his car where I had my head buried deep in his engine bay.
“Do you want to keep pumping petrol for the rest of your life?”
It was the question that changed my life. Two years later I would be moving away from my hometown and starting an amazing journey that would wind up with me working in a head office role in Melbourne with a company car, health care, a fat wallet, and an amazing wife.
Oh, and crippling anxiety and depression.
It’s amazing how the quickly the sunset turns to darkness. Beautiful blues turn into vibrant greens and pinks followed by fiery yellows and reds. Then, almost instantly, it’s pitch black darkness and you’re left shivering, wondering how to get back from the shore.
That’s what happens when you begin to loathe work due to management changes but are trapped financially because they paid the $25,000 bill for you and your girlfriend to move cities.
I’ll touch on what it was like living with these illnesses another time but for now, I just want to say that the very first day that the 18 months was over and the moving costs were forgiven I walked out of that place and never looked back.
There was only one problem and it is only now, four years later, that I am discovering the true impact that time had on me. I should’ve sought professional help. Instead, I spent 4 years in limbo. watching my mojo disappear piece by piece until a couple of weeks ago when I decided that enough time had passed and it was time for me to take back control of my thoughts, my beliefs, my days and ultimately, my life.
Back to shortly after walking out of that world of sales and account management, I took stock of myself and ‘decided’ that I wanted a job with little responsibility that I wouldn’t take home with me at the end of the day. This led me to hospitality management, aka, working at a burger joint.
I justified getting paid shit money, coming home covered in grease, hardly seeing my wife and never getting to go to the birthdays and Friday night drinks with friends by convincing myself that my “passion” for burgers would one day see me running my own burger joint. I told people I was going to take the old boat in the bay in my hometown and turn it into one of New Zealand’s best known burger joints.
I was lying though. The problem was, after so many years in sales I had become so good that I could even convince myself of this lie. It helped me through the 17 hour shifts and crippling hip pain.
“You need to find your mojo, man!”
Those are the exact words the doctor said when I visited him with left arm pain, tight shoulder blades and breathing problems. I was convinced I was a healthy 24-year-old having a heart attack, but in fact, I was having panic attacks fueled by hypochondria.
He said I should grab a big piece of paper and write some goals on them. Even small ones and cross them out with a big marker when I achieve them. He wanted me to show myself that I was capable of achieving.
He was exactly what I needed, just four years too early. I didn’t take his advice and I spiraled into a well hidden but very consuming few years of self loathing, low confidence and resentment.
Fast forward to a month ago and I decided to take charge of my life again. I was not going to make the leap into my thirties working until midnight for almost minimum wage with 17-year-olds and ex-convicts.
So I forced myself into action, handed in my notice at work and started applying for entry-level office jobs. I had a couple of interviews last week and have a trial day (essentially a second interview) with one of those businesses this coming Monday.
All of this has come with a massive realization, and it came on the flight back from Tenerife where we just spent 6 days relaxing to celebrate our anniversary.
Financial Independence is important. I think it is a tool we should have in our toolbox. But, in a sense, it’s a Plan B. It’s a lever. It’s a lever we can pull when Plan A isn’t going well but Plan A is life.
So if you’re lucky enough to build a Plan A with purpose, identity, and connection – that Plan B is like an extra. It’s just something out there to protect yourself in case things go wrong.Doc G of DiversiFI.com on the ChooseFI podcast, episode 104 @ 21:42I realized that over the past year or two I have been fantasizing, even ruminating so much about Financial Independence because I am unhappy in my ‘Plan A’.
Despite being in a strong loving marriage, being relatively healthy, living in London and traveling Europe all while being debt free – there is still a missing piece. After a fair bit of inward reflection its clear to me I’ve been missing two key things.
- My mojo
- Work and hobbies that fulfill me
So what’s the bloody plan then Stan?
Well, I’ve taken step one which was handing in my notice at work and making the commitment to leave the life-destroying world of hospitality management. As I said, I’ve got a trial day lined up for an office based role. All things going well, the new year should see me working 9-5, Monday to Friday again freeing up my nights and weekends to spend with friends and more importantly, Bee.
Secondly, I’m rewriting the story I tell myself about myself.
I’m no longer the poor, highschool-dropout with no marketable skills who no-one would want to hire. That’s who I’ve been for the past four years. That’s a guy without his mojo.
Now I’m the kind, confident, loving husband who people turn to when they need advice and who can bring his experience and knack for identifying opportunities and efficiencies to any business he wants. That’s a guy ready to live his Plan A. That’s a guy with his mojo back!
Finally, I’m giving myself permission to let this blog not only make me no money but in fact COST me money.
I’ll be honest. You don’t need to stumble very far through the FI rabbit hole before you hear of FI bloggers who are making full-time incomes off their blog. It’s a dangerous thing for ‘ideasmen’ like me. I am forever losing an entire nights sleep tossing and turning over my next great idea for a blog that will make me so much money I could jump into a bathtub of it McScrooge style.
The problem there lies in what purpose I TRULY want and need this blog to serve.
I want it to be the place I come to both ground myself, and build myself up.
I want it to be the place I write about my adventures with Bee so I can look back in later years with fond memories.
I want to unravel my past and see how it shapes my outlook on life and decisions today.
I need to push the salesman off the cliff and let the little boy look out over the ocean in awe. $100/year in hosting fees is probably the cheapest therapy I’m gonna find, right?
I’m choosing Plan A, while slowly building my Plan B.