21 JULY 2019

Mini retirements

Test the waters

Picture of a quote written on piece of paper

For the month of June, Tasmania puts on this epic annual music, food and art festival to welcome the beginning of winter. I heard whispers around town about this mysterious event, suitably coined 'Dark Mofo', and started doing some research into it. I was immediately sold on the concept, just from first impressions of the website. Seriously, look it up.

I dug a bit further, looked up a few events that looked interesting enough and bought tickets shortly after that. The act of committing money meant that there was no backing out. No excuses for me to make for trying to do something outside of my comfort zone.

'Wait, how does this have anything to do with comfort zones?', you might be wondering. Well, the tickets I was able to get was scheduled for the last weekend of Dark Mofo - specifically on a Friday night, at 10pm.

So that meant I had to come up with some sort of plan to drive the 3+ hours from Devonport to Hobart, in the dark, at the end of a work week to make it there in time.

You know, the easy option would have been for me to just say "screw it" to the whole idea of going and just stay at home where it was bright and where it was warm. Why should I even bother making the trek on a Friday night on my own and driving in the dark?

“Extrapolate this across days, weeks, months and years and hopefully sooner rather than later you will have a better feel for the things that give you the most meaning.”

But there was a quiet voice at the back of my mind, encouraging me to do otherwise. What did I have to lose, really? It would be my first time ever at a winter festival of any kind and going away for the weekend would be a nice interlude from routine.

This back and forth conversation in my head eventually reminded me of something Tim Ferriss spoke about in his book The 4 Hour Workweek, which is the idea of taking 'mini retirements' as opposed to the traditional idealism around putting in the hard yards over a 30 - 40 year career before finally getting access to the 'golden years' of freedom, easy living and not answering to a boss.

The idea revolves about making a personal commitment towards continually formulating a better picture of what you would like to do if granted all the time (and perhaps resources) you would ever want. This would involve a lot of experimentation, where you would go and deliberately create space on the calendar to test these ideas and to see what sticks.

Extrapolate this across days, weeks, months and years and hopefully sooner rather than later you will have a better feel for the things that give you the most meaning. So that you don't have to wait until you are in those 'golden years' to actualise what you have always wanted to do.

"Looks like I'll be sleeping in the car", I said to myself, as I did some quick maths to consider in the 3+ hour drive to Hobart. Why am I doing this again?

What is it that comes to mind, for yourself, when you think of the word 'retirement'? For me, I think about freedom and the ability to do what I want without having to work around hard constraints like limited time or money.

For me, it's not about lazing about and sipping Pina Coladas on a beach either; if given all the time in the world, I would be travelling the world with family, exploring new cultures, trying new food, learning new skills, reading books for days on end and doing my bit to better my community and hopefully wider society too.

So, in the end, Dark Mofo become a sort of self experiment, a sojourn into designing and creating a 'mini retirement' on the calendar. A time and place to explore what is unfamiliar, to try new food and to travel away from what is comfortable.

Eventually, the day arrived. It was 5pm on Friday, 21st June. Nothing that needed to be packed was packed, I was in the middle of preparing some dinner to eat before leaving home and the hostel I had booked to stay for the weekend would be closing their reception by 8pm.

"Looks like I'll be sleeping in the car", I said to myself, as I did some quick maths to consider in the 3+ hour drive to Hobart. Why am I doing this again?

Despite the self-doubt showing its ugly head and the long drive I had ahead of me, I eventually made it to Hobart just in time for the 10pm start for Night Mass . I was also able to negotiate with the hostel staff to grant me late access to a bed for the night, and thank God for that, because a cold night in the car was not going to be any fun that's for sure.

It was nearing 1 AM. Wait, how am I still standing?

Before I knew it, Sunday morning had arrived. I distinctly remember doing a reflecton that morning over breakfast, perhaps it was the the scent of fresh bread in the air that sparked the motivation. My time in the city had been short, with a sum total of around 36 physical hours, but to my mind time had stretched out to be way longer than what I had been allocated. It was a beautiful feeling.

After Night Mass on the Friday, I had a (luxuriously) late start the next morning and headed out to the famous Salamanca Markets in search for some breakfast. For the rest of the day, I explored around the city more hoping in and out between random, free entry art exhibitions happening all throughout the city, visited the MONA musuem once again (I can't get enough of the architecture in that place), and to close out the night, attended the Winter Feast.

Winter Feast was definitely an appropriate description for this temple of food and drink

Looking back, it seems like I squeezed a lot into one day, but I didn't set out for it be that way. After breakfast, one thing sort of lead to another and I kept going with the flow - more exploring by instinct and less thinking and planning of where to go and what to do. It felt like I was backpacking overseas again, steeped with curiousity and surrounded by the intriguing.

By the time midday rolled around on Sunday morning, I was back in the car on the road headed back home. And by 8 AM on Monday morning, I was back at work ready and primed for the work week ahead. I felt recharged, re-energised and bursting at the seams to do good work and to make the most out of every single minute. My soul was revitalised, from such a short trip away, and I was deeply grateful for it.

No amount of 'lazy weekends' or sleep ins could ever do the same.

. . .

It's funny to reflect on how what I need in life have often been found deeply embedded in the difficult and uncomfortable decisions. And I say deeply embedded because these gems are never obvious and never ever served on a silver platter for all to be seen - if anything, they arrive in terrible packaging. Self doubt surfaces and the mind goes to work at maximum efficiency to create barriers that make it all the more easy to say to yourself "You know what? I'm going to take it easy today."

This carries through my past experiences of committing to a 3-day cycling road race when I had never ridden in a group before or moving away from home to a new state with nobody to rely on or in my dedication towards learning how to just be that little bit better today than who I was yesterday.

To put off answering the not-as-easy-as-it-looks question of, "If I had all the time in the world, what is it would I actually like to do?".

And it's scary to think that if my mind is playing these tricks on the small stuff (like the idea of spending the weekend at a festival...), what happens when things get difficult? What happens when I start chasing difficult goals and working towards making my dreams happen? What happens when it comes down to the big stuff later down the track?

I hope that, through the experiences I have gained by dealing (and dealing well) with the small stuff that I would be in a better position in the future for when things do get exponentially more serious. And when there are stakes on the line. I hope that I will be able to recognise the fear, the hesitation and the temptation of making the Easy decision when the time comes and to be able to stand up for what I truly want to make happen.

And maybe, the vague, low resolution and almost common sense ambition of reaching 'retirement' at the end of a 40 year career is the Easy decision. To put off answering the not-as-easy-as-it-looks question of, "If I had all the time in the world, what is it would I actually like to do?". And it's scary to think that, if life did go down this track and I do end up at the Freedom Gates, I might not be in the best shape physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually to actualise the answers that I do receive upon asking.

Sure, what I want to do with my time in the foreseeable 1 - 10 years might be completely unrecognisable to the next 20 - 40 years, but I believe that constantly working towards developing this understanding for who you are and what you like to do will position you in such a way that, in the event where you do get blessed with freedom, that you will be able to make the most out of it.

And that you will be empowered to make the decision of what's right for you, despite the terrible packaging it might arrive in.

“Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” - George Addair