It was just one of those days.
Maybe I had a case of the “Mondays”.
April 1. April Fool’s Day. It felt like I was the fool.
I had a real bummer of a day, which I’ll go over below.
But as the series of unfortunate events continued to unfold as the day wore on, I came to a realization.
A bad day in FIRE is better than a great day before FIRE.
My Bad Day
Let me start this by noting that my day wasn’t downright terrible. I wasn’t diagnosed with cancer or anything like that.
But as days go, it wasn’t one of my best. That’s especially so when I consider the measuring stick. I’m measuring it up against a typical day, which is more or a less a dream. It’s all relative.
I woke up at my usual time this past Monday, but I felt tired and sick. My head was pounding. I was up really late the night (which stretched into the morning) before with a coaching session that ran long because we were both having fun and getting into some complicated investment information that couldn’t really be cut short.
I took my shower, checked emails, and prepared to leave for lunch.
Then on my way out the door, I noticed the trash was full. Tied the bag, took it with me.
The trash collection area for my floor at the condo here in Chiang Mai sits on a landing that’s a short flight of stairs down from my area. As I stepped down the stairs, I lost my footing and slipped. Fortunately, I landed on my butt. But the trash bag flew out of my hand because I let go to free up my hand so that I could break my fall.
The bag broke open. Trash everywhere.
Awesome. The day is off to a great start already.
And it went downhill from there.
My usual lunch market was closed for the day for no particular reason – Thais have a very relaxed attitude toward keeping regular business hours.
No problem. I can find another market.
Then my usual coffee shop was full. Digital nomads (a.k.a. wantrepreneurs) and backpackers were crawling all over the place, which is odd. They like to go online and complain about Chiang Mai’s smoky season, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from coming here and regaling all of us with their elephant pants, newest online course on how to sell courses, dreadlocks, and no-shower-in-three-days aroma.
Okay. No biggie. On to a different coffee shop.
As I walked down the road to my backup coffee shop, I got clipped by a motorbike.
Luckily, no damage done. It’s nice to know the medical system is so accessible and cheap here, but I’d prefer not to check myself in, especially if it’s due to a collision with a motorbike. I have a feeling that I’d probably come out on the losing end of that one.
Next coffee shop was open.
But the air conditioning wasn’t working on one of the hottest days of the year.
I did as much work as I could in the sweat box before heading out to the gym for my usual afternoon workout.
Once I arrived, I noticed that some personal trainer who I had never seen there before showed up with, like, 10 clients. This group basically commandeered the entire area I was going to use for my workout. Since it’s a rather small gym, there was no alternative for me.
It’s all good. I felt sick anyway. I did cardio, abs, and a few alternate movements before heading home.
As I was heading home, I asked myself a question.
“Did I just have a bad day?”
My Bad Days These Days Are Better Than My Best Days Back In The Day
Yes. I suppose I did. It’s an odd feeling because, believe it or not, my days are almost universally great.
I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m regularly jetsetting off to Instagram-ready locations around the world. Nor would I have much of a desire to do that, regardless of my wealth.
Rather, my days are usually pretty amazing because I’m doing exactly what I want to do, where I like doing it, when I want to do it, with people I care about and like working with and spending time with.
I’m more or less living the same life I’d be living even if I had unlimited money.
So my base level of daily happiness is pretty high because of how I envision the hedonic treadmill – I’m operating in a “warmer range” of happiness more often than not.
However, back when I still had a job, lived in America, and had constant exposure to the related anxiety and rat race, I wasn’t as happy on an everyday basis. I was sometimes OK. There were even really good days here and there. But I was often very unhappy.
Maybe I’m a bit more self-aware than others, but I’m constantly taking my own “happiness temperature” so as to check in on myself, make sure my mental health is up to par, and see if any changes in my life are necessary. It’s something I’m always cognizant of. This awareness is perhaps bolstered by the fact that I’ve been witness to so much trauma in my life, including suicides and the loss of my entire family.
As I walked home from the gym this past Monday, I took my “temperature” and I came to realize that I actually felt pretty good. Not as amazing as usual. But I didn’t feel unhappy at all.
I then tried to compare how I felt in that moment to how I remember feeling even during great days at work back when I still had my car dealership job.
And there were “great” days here and there.
A big sale that would result in a larger commission check (which would allow me the opportunity to buy more stock, increase my dividend income, and achieve FIRE quicker so that I could quit my job that much earlier). Easy days when every repair seemed to go just right. Beautiful spring days that would offer this warm breeze to swing through the entire service area at the dealership.
I remember those days.
What I also remember is this: those fleeting moments of joy were quickly overtaken by the reality of my situation: I was still imprisoned by my job.
I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted to do, where I liked doing it, when I wanted to do it, with people I cared about and liked working with and spending time with.
I had to show up to a place I didn’t like, at a time far earlier in the day than I wanted to be awake, do things I didn’t want to do, and schmooze with clients I didn’t enjoy being around.
This reminds me of a comment that came through the blog not too long ago.
I had a reader ask me if I’d ever go back to a job to “try it out”.
To me, that’s like asking someone who escaped prison if they’d ever like to go back to “try it out”.
Relatively bad days in my post-FIRE life are better than relatively great days in my pre-FIRE life were, in the same way that a great day in prison would never compare to or compete with a bad day out of prison.
I’m able to live an authentic and content life now, which buoys me in a way that gives me perspective on bad days. I have this sense of gratitude that’s difficult to shake. And all of that is supported by the options that financial freedom allows me, which in and of itself is possible because of a certain amount of financial and business acumen and success. It all stems from that solid financial foundation.
Conversely, I wasn’t able to live an authentic and content life before, which put a sense of weight and burden on my shoulders. This made bad days seem worse than they were, and it also made great days less enjoyable. It all stemmed from the lack of a solid financial foundation.
Not every day in FIRE is amazing.
I have bad days, too.
Waking up sick, falling on my butt, spilling trash, getting clipped by a motorbike, and feeling otherwise bogged down isn’t how I usually operate.
Life isn’t ever all rainbows and unicorns.
But I think having a bad day can either be much better or worse than it might otherwise be perceived to be, depending on the overall structure of your life.
I can say now that my bad days aren’t all that bad because of the mental framework I operate with.
Being generally bummed out on a regular basis makes the occasional bad day a real nightmare.
However, I’m generally extremely content with life across the board. I’m not jumping for joy as I skip down the road. But I’m happy. I’m far happier than I used to be.
Because of this, my “bad days” barely even show up as a blip on the radar.
I hope that sharing my experience motivates you even more to reach for FIRE and make your dreams come true. Then you might find that your “bad days” end up actually being better than your “great days” now.
What do you think? Are you FIRE? Have bad days here and there? How do they compare to your pre-FIRE life?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re aiming to achieve FIRE, check out some awesome tools and services I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!