“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” – Allan K. Chalmers
Boredom, Isolation, and Loneliness of FIRING During a Global Pandemic:
In August 2019, we moved to Gainesville, Florida, to give our boys a more rural upbringing, etc. In early 2020, we sensed possible danger on the horizon and quickly moved up our home purchasing plan. So we looked at the sparse real estate inventory and bought a house.
Just as we settled in, COVID-19 hit. We hunkered down, self-isolating because my husband’s a front-line doc. We didn’t want to unknowingly spread Covid.
Never before had I felt this socially isolated. We were in a new city with a tiny support network. For a social introvert like myself, the extreme social deprivation due to self-isolating was beyond tough. I was going stir-crazy and desperately craved human interaction.
‘Living the dream’ of FIRE isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even with our hands full with young kids, quasi-retirement turned out to be boring during our period of prolonged self-isolation.
Only with this realization did I understand why some actual older retired folks without hobbies or many friends are bored out of their minds. (Though, in retrospect, I realize maybe they’re not self-aware enough to understand that what they’re doing is acting out their boredom…).
It was only after I made the excruciating decision to return to work that I realized I yearned to be back with my doctor community. They were in the trenches and I wasn’t.
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The Mental Relief of Returning to Medical Work:
Some women are built to be stay at home mothers (SAHM’s), and some aren’t. FIRING for me meant the pendulum swung too hard into the SAHM life and I ended up feeling miserable as a result.
Returning to work meant I had to reset our sons’ expectations of having me as a SAHM mom—something they’d grown accustomed to.
I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids, probably more than most working mama docs. But I got to the point where I was around them too much. I knew I had to work outside the house, otherwise, I’d go bonkers.
When I returned to the work force, it was a huge relief to be out of the house, interacting with other adults. I half-jokingly told the ARNP at my new job I’d pay them to let me work.
Granted, half of the adults I interacted with were crying, upset, or angry, or all three at once, but still—they were adults!
The hospital I work at has some of the most challenging cases in the state, so my medical work stretches a different part of my brain. I get to solve problems and interact with highly skilled medical teams. Working outside the house has also reduced the feelings of isolation and loneliness that plagued me from the start of our self-isolation.
DH and I agree that being retired doesn’t sit well with us mentally. We have to be engaged in something meaningful that is somehow giving back to community. For now, that means me writing my books and working per diem to serve our local population with my medical skills.
Writers Need Material, Which Means Working Outside the House
I’ve been doing a DIY MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) for the past two years, using a multi-year-long writing program as the backbone of my #DIYMFA. Big Magic and Pity The Reader both tell writers to work at a job other than writing. They state this puts less strain on producing good writing and that working outside the house gives your brain fodder for the writing.
And fodder it does produce. I’ve already put half a line of dialogue I overheard at the hospital into the medical fiction book I’m currently working on.
Once I’m done with this writing program, I’d like to work a bit more outside the house because. I’ve learned the hard way: writing can be extremely isolating.
I track my writing productivity and noticed a startling trend I hadn’t expected. When I work as a physician, I produce almost twice as much as an author. Go figure.
And Lastly, Women Should be Seen in the WorkForce:
I’ll end with opening this can of worms and leaving it right here: Women have had a rough go during this pandemic. We need to hang on, even if it’s barely by a fingernail due to America’s lack of a safety-net. This way, the next generation can see women can choose to work outside the home if this is what fulfills them.
What about you? How did you deal with the social isolation during the pandemic?
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30 thoughts on “FIRE is Boring: Redefining what Retirement Means”
Same. After traveling the world for a year or two with my kids, I signed up to work on Fridays locally. It is fun to be treated like an expert instead of a mom. And I like coming home after my “long work day” (ok it is 6.5 hours😉) to a homemade meal courtesy of my husband and movie nights with the kids. The balance is better than fully disengaging with medicine.
Thanks for stopping by and yup, totally agree with you. It’s nice to use a different part of our brains.