I can retire but I don’t. On reality checking your dreams and retirement trial runs.

Hey there my friend, how are you doing? I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well in your corner of the world.

I thought I’d just spend a bit of time to share what I’ve been up to these days. Please expect me to ramble a bit, because I don’t have a clear idea yet what my main points are. Think of it as me trying to make sense of what my life has been like lately. What I’m feeling, thinking, working on, doing, and observing, oh observing that’s the most important word here.

If I can sum up how I’m feeling lately, it will be: nihilistic. Life feels pretty pointless. Like I’m floating through, having a nice life, but…. meh? But at the same time, I am at the peak of comfortable life. A textbook “good life”.

I believe that most of us are not special but we are unique, so hopefully bits of the combination of stuff that I am experiencing can make you think “oh I thought it’s just me”.

So, where do I start?

I recently borrowed a bike — a tricycle to be exact.

The last time I rode one was when I was… 13? It’s definitely at least 20 years ago. I enjoyed it but never to the point of making a huge effort to go out and hunt for an adult tricycle. That’s why I was quite excited hearing that an acquaintance has one that she’s not actively using.

This idea of someday getting a foldable trike that I’ll be solo backpacking with has been growing on me since…. 2017-ish? Then back in May 2019 thanks to the combination of researching a trip to Ireland and being slowly bombarded by images of urban cycling trend I realised that I’d love to one day be living in a place where I could cycle among green rolling hills.

Indonesia is filled with nice landscapes, West Java, North Sumatera. I could just go on an open roadtrip. Cycling would also make a more interesting cardio than going up and down the stairs. That thought got me quite excited. It felt right.

Until I tried to pedal this bike. So heavy. My right leg just wouldn’t cooperate.

So right now by cycling I mean stomping my left leg as hard as I could on the pedal, hoping the momentum is enough to allow the same leg to be in position to do the next pedaling action. It’s fair to say I haven’t been able to enjoy any sceneries aside from staring at the handlebars and the ground trying to keep moving.

So yeah I’ve been one-leg-tricycling for a month now. Visited 3-4 places trying to find the best spot to keep practicing and training my right leg’s strength. But I’ve decided to adjust that dream to a foldable motorised trike.

It’s nice, to do reality checks on my “dreams”.

Now, on dreams, bucket list, and goals….

I lived the first 25 years of my life without any real goals. I’ve struggled (and felt quite weird not being able) to put together some sort of bucket list that I really resonate with. I floated through life, going with the flow, being naively optimistic and happy-go-lucky outlook of life. Happy to say that I’ve landed in amazing places anyway.

That said, I also consider myself an ambitious high achiever. I don’t know how to reconcile those two claims just yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

Probably what I mean is that I let other people pick the game and set the rules for me. And I will just try and play them well.

Go to school, do your homework, be a good student, be a good kid, don’t make a ruckus, go to college, go get a job, find a new job when it’s not challenging anymore, work hard, work smart. The usual script of society.

But I also don’t feel much anxiety to be living a generally unconventional life: nearing 36, unmarried (and not planning to. But not rejecting the idea either. If it happens it happens), not interested in having children, chose a conventionally male-dominated field (not consciously, just followed whatever was interesting to me at that time), went on solo trips, go to metal concerts alone, not religious, somewhat sitting in different dimensions of intersectionality.

So it’s not that I’m actively seeking these mainstream default scripts to play by them, or to deliberately rebel or deviate against any. Just trying to go through life… peacefully?

It’s like: I do what I want but what I want are mostly not that controversial anyway.

Now… I found that reality checking your dreams can also be a dangerous thing.

Let me explain.

The past 18 months or so I’m slowly coming to two realisations: 1) I have outgrown the career path I think I am on, and 2) that I have enough resources, the right life circumstances, and the right lifestyle to afford to go into “retirement mode”.

First things first: I would define retirement as having the freedom (space, permission, security, support system) to spend your resources on things or activities that won’t necessarily guarantee immediate (or any) outcome (income is the most common one). Doing what you want, when you want it, for however long you want, with whomever you want.

I decided that I could realistically quit my job and “retire” while reorienting and drafting the next chapter of my life, without causing any negative financial, physical, or mental consequences to myself nor the people I care about.

So, why don’t I quit? It’s because of the couple of retirement trial runs I’ve done in the past 5 years.

What’s a retirement trial run, you ask? It’s basically trying out a mini version of your “this is what I imagine my life would be when I’m retired”.

As I said, I floated through the first 25 year of my life. So only the past decade as I’ve grown to discover and define myself better that I’ve started putting together some goals and some answers to “what do I want out of life?”.

I now have some ideas of the list of things I thought I’d like to do “once I’m retired”. Places I’d like to visit, things I’d love to own, projects I’d love to work on, interests I’d like to pursue. Some are more appealing than the others, but to be honest nothing calls out too strongly just yet. Quite lukewarm, vague, and superficial.

After having done a couple of these, I discovered that none of the stuff I thought I’d love to do are as interesting or engaging as I’d imagine them will be. So I am left without a good idea of what I’d actually do when I did retire.

I thought I’d love to wake up and live near mountains and lakes. I thought I’d love to read all day, to listen to all my music collections, go on backpacking trips, have fun staycations, take my parents on roadtrips, launch projects, get involved in charities.

Been there done them. I took extended leaves and ran these trials wholeheartedly.

Most of them sound and felt better in my imagination and anticipation. Would I repeat them? Sure. Would I spend my whole life doing them? Nawh…

I don’t have any book I’m excited to read, no music that I’m grooving with, no destinations I’m looking forward to, no material posessions I’m genuinely lacking, no food I am curious to taste, no worthy topic I’d like to learn and write about, no activity I’ll realistically enjoy.

One after the other, goal after goal, obsession after obsession, milestone after milestone. Reality checked, myths busted, seen through each one, disillusioned.

How much of this is me being burned out? How much of this is enlightenment?

I don’t have any mission. My life is lacking a story. I just exist. A very nice existence nonetheless.

I’ve arrived.

Now what?

Right now, the only place that gives me sense of purpose and accomplishment is my day job.

So, why throw it away?

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