The other night (last Thursday to be precise), I took the opportunity to catch up with an old friend for dinner. This was out of the ordinary for me for a couple of reasons. I’m not usually one to take time away from family operations on a week night, but I needed it and when it was all said and done I’m glad I did. It was also a good opportunity to hit one of my favorite brewpubs down in the city that I rarely make time to visit.
She was in town for a business conference. In the sixteen years since we were in college together, we lost touch for the majority and have managed to catch up a handful of times in the past couple of years. Her husband and I were friends through the campus theater and we all spent a lot of time hanging out together outside of class. I was always closer to her on a personal level, so it was easy to catch back up on everything that’s been happening in our lives.
We covered a variety of topics over the course of the evening. Marriage, kids, jobs, personal finance, politics, and social issues were all present. There may have even been a tangent about beer in there somewhere. When dinner was over, I drove home and kept thinking about some of the things we discussed. Here are a few of the things that are lingering in my thoughts:
This was an interesting discussion. While my friend and her husband are a couple of years younger than I am, they have a son that is a senior in high school. My oldest is nine and the youngest is five. It feels like I’m ages away from experiencing the things that thet currently have happening in the child department.
She has had to manage college searches and high school dating drama. My biggest challenge is getting the oldest to eat and actually do her homework for more than five minutes.
I did listen intently and file away a lot of her experience for later. I’m sure at least some bit of it will come in handy. It’s still strange to talk to someone that is younger and know that they are farther along in some aspect of life. They’re going to be empty nesters next year. I’ve got over a decade bfore that happens!
We didn’t discuss numbers, but it felt good to be able to go into a discussion about finance with a person that I view as ‘having it together’. She and her husband both make good salaries in Tech and the only debt they’ve ever carried has been the mortgage and occasional car payment. They invest and are building for the future. Three years ago I wouldn’t have been able to even broach the topic.
Now the thing that struck me the most is that I’ve been doing this on a single income. My wife left work six years ago for mental health reasons (being a teacher and having a family takes a lot out of you). I supported her in that move and also in her eventual choice of career change from educator to part-time naturalist.
The thing is, though, I can’t help but imagine what life would be like if we were bother contributing to the FIRE goal. On a not so positive note, I’m reminded that I’m the only one working toward my goal and this is due both to necessity and my own choice.
Marriage / Relationships
This is a really tough topic for me to write about regarding my thoughts. Things have not been going well lately. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no hostility or negativity but we’re just not working together as partners anymore. I’m basically in a situation where I have more of a roommate that is in the business of raising two children with me. However, when it comes to life outside the children, we’re basically heading down separate paths.
I don’t want you guys to think that this is something new or that it’s something I take likely. Over the course of our ten year marriage, we’ve had our share of struggles as well as good times. We’ve both worked very hard at times to keep it together and continue to build. Unfortunately, when one half of the partnership has been down for so long it starts to take a toll.
Being able to talk to my friend about some of what’s been happening was extremely helpful and provided a much needed outside perspective on the situation. Hearing what it’s like to have a more balanced partnership instead of one where one half is always sacrificing to care for the other was a conflicted wake up call. It made me realize that is what I want. I could, maybe, someday have that. Maybe I don’t have to keep sacrificing my needs for the greater good.
Like I said, it’s a tough topic. I don’t have any answers right now and I’m not sure I will for a while. I struggle with it most days. Honestly, it’s why I haven’t been writing as much. It’s hard to be inspired when this is the relevant topic at hand, but this is my current truth and that’s part of what this blog is supposed to be about.
The Past / The Future
We also took some time to reminisce about the days back in college. It seems like so long ago in some ways. I look at the person I was then and realize what I long way I have some. Going from student to summer camp counselor to IT professional it seems like I’ve lived three different lives. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Where I head from here is the open question. Which path will lead to the best outcome for everyone involved? Can I still consider a plan to early retirement with the challenges ahead? I’m not sure. I do know that for now, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing and attempt to improve every day.
That’s all we can ever really do, is it not?