Sometimes little things occur and bring a renewed focus and a reminder of why we work to achieve financial independence and the life of freedom that comes with it.
I have had several of these moments over the last few years. They usually occurred in the corporate setting where I was just plain tired of the daily rat race. Many times I realized I was missing important events our son was involved in exchange for being miserable at work. It’s never a good feeling to have to choose work over family because financially you have no choice.
Recently I had another one of these moments, but this one was different and much more emotional. Maybe the holiday season had some additional influence but it hit me hard.
So what triggered this event? My parents decided to come and visit for Christmas, which is nothing out of the ordinary as we typically trade off visits every year. My dad is now in his 80’s and has always been a strong, stubborn and independent person. He is very innovative and loves to build and fix things in his garage every day. Whomever came up with the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” must of known my dad and his fondness of rebuilding the broken.
We all decided to go Christmas shopping and headed down to the local big box retailer. Dad wanted to get something for mom so we split off from the girls and headed over to find that special gift. After a few minutes of debate a decision was made and we walked to the register to pay. At the register the young cashier asked my dad about the typical protection plan and a few other questions. It was at this time I noticed my dad wasn’t hearing or completely understanding what was being said. I helped him make the decision and then it was time to pay. My dad took out his bank card and struggled to put it in the reader without assistance.
Now I understand this isn’t the end of the world, but in that moment it hit me that dad is getting older and simple things are not as easy for him. I started watching him more as we strolled around the store and noticed he was walking different. His strides were short and more sliding instead of a more pronounced step. It’s now very obvious that dad, once very active and independent, is slowing down. At least physically. Mentally he is still sharpe and as stubborn as a mule.
As we continued walking we met back up with the girls and my wife noticed something was bugging me and that I was a little emotional. I explained what I saw and how it’s hit me that dad is starting to slow down. As always she was very understanding and refocused me to enjoy the time and the moments we have together. This is a conversation we have had many times before but not in the context of aging parents.
This all comes back to why we are trying to achieve financial independence in the first place. No one is guaranteed another day on this earth. We only get one life and one shot to enjoy it. And sadly it can be taken from us just as fast.
While it takes hard work and dedication to achieve financial independence the benefits far outweigh any negatives. We choose to live life on our terms and not on some corporate schedule that dictates our comings and going’s. We choose to enjoy time with family and seeing our wonderful country over sitting in a confined office space hoping for that magical hour when we can pretend to reclaim our lives, at least until that other magical hour when the corporate world reminds you they still own you and you need to return.
The holiday season is the season of giving and I absolutely love it. But, I also think we need to give ourselves a gift as well. There is no greater gift than the freedom and independence to live life on our own terms.
We will all eventually slowdown and need assistance from a family member or a friend to complete what used to be a simple task. However, with a little hard work and dedication we can have a full and meaningful life for many years before we get to that point.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!