I had lunch with my friend/colleague Mike today. He told me that his income has really taken a nose-dive this year. His family has had to cut back. He told me that despite the lower income, he’s made some changes to his lifestyle in order to emphasize the things that are actually important to him.
“You know what?” he said. “I’m happier. I’m really so much happier.” Mike and his wife have spent a lot of time discussing the Ideal Lifestyle. They’re asking themselves: In a perfect world — if money weren’t an issue — what would their life look like? And they’re trying to make that a reality.
I nodded in agreement as I listened to Mike’s story. I was suddenly able to articulate something I’ve been feeling lately. “Actually,” I said, “I’m happy now, too. This may have been the best summer of my entire life.”
“Tell me about it,” Mike said. So I did.
I’m finally getting my workload under control. I love to write. I love maintaining my personal-finance blog. But I did not love the 80 hour weeks. Those have declined this summer, thanks in part to bringing on two staff writers. In fact, my actual obligation at the site has been reduced from about ten posts per week to about two post per week. I’m still doing work that I love, but now I have time for other stuff.
For example, I’m getting regular exercise for the first time since 1998. (That was the summer I rode over 1500 miles on my bike.) My goal is to walk at least five miles every day — and I’m doing it. I’m averaging about 35 miles per week. At least five days a week, I walk on my errands. And as I walk, I read. (I’m very talented, eh?) So, I’m killing three birds with one stone:
- I’m running my errands.
- I’m reading for pleasure (for the first time in years).
- I’m getting exercise.
I’ve also begun to see more of my friends. For the past few years, my life has been Get Rich Slowly. That dedication proved to be financially and professionally rewarding, but I had to sacrifice a lot of other things. Like reading. And friends. This summer, I’ve finally begun to be social again. I’ve even reconnected with a group of high school acquaintances on Facebook. None of us were really close in school, but we’ve begun to see each other at least once per month. I enjoy this immensely. (I’m hosting the group at Rosings Park on Saturday.)
Meanwhile, I’ve been able to focus on a couple of hobbies. I’m very wary of adding new Stuff to our house. But with caution, I’ve begun to collect comic books again. And vinyl record albums. And old books. I’m being very particular about what I acquire. I’m setting a budget, and I’m targeting very specific stuff. And I’m having a hell of a lot of fun. When I was in college, I gave away all of my comic books. Now I’m looking to buy them back for a buck or two a piece. It’s a challenge that will take years, but I’m up to it!
Speaking of Stuff: Kris and I have continued the slow-motion decluttering that we began two years ago. I may be bringing a few new record albums into my soon-to-be-completed Man Room, but I’m ready to purge hundreds more. Yes to a Johnny Cash record and a Miles Davis record. Good-bye, my vast New Wave collection. I’m also purging a lot of books and comics — and clothes.
Finally, I feel like I’m getting physically fit again. After struggling with my weight for years, I bit the bullet and purchased one of those “body bug” monitoring devices. I strap it to my arm and it tracks how many calories I burn. Every night, I tell the software what I ate during the day. This process is keeping me honest, is helping me to lose weight again.
All of these things taken together yield one very happy J.D. I seem like a completely different man than I was last winter. Last winter I was dull and overwhelmed and depressed. Today I am sharp and happy and invigorated.
Yes, this just may be the best summer I’ve ever had.