When I first learned about the FIRE movement, I thought it was stupid. Either you had a trust fund or you scrimped and saved so much that you barely lived. Besides, not working all day would make me "lazy" and unproductive, and it would be boring.
I've always been a hard worker. I'm entrepreneurial and have been freakishly competitive since birth. In a classic childhood moment, the moment I learned to ride a bike, I turned to my dad and said, "I think I'm ready for a unicycle!" Throughout college, I had a relatively lucrative tutoring business, ran a non-profit organization, and created an income-generating website. I loved this period of my life and felt energized by my work, but I felt like I needed a "regular job" and a "regular career." After college, I took two low-paying jobs in areas of "passion" and hated them. I had awful bosses and felt constrained.
I'd always toyed with law school, and it felt like a graceful exit from my non-profit work. I saw myself as a natural advocate who could make a real difference in people's lives as an attorney. Since I was a good standardized test taker (and honestly enjoy studying for standardized tests), I started studying for the LSAT. I decided if I got a 170, I would apply to law school, and if I got a full scholarship to a top school, I would attend. By the skin of my teeth, all that came together. I earned exactly a 170 on my LSAT and earned a full ride to a top ten law school. To law school I went. Although I wasn't 100% sold on the career, the risk seemed low since I didn't have to pay any money and had a good chance of getting a high-paying job in an area of passion after graduation, or at least a boring, but well-paid job.
I graduated from law school, did a one-year clerkship, and now work for a litigation boutique. No, I've never done "big law," and I have some misgivings about foregoing such an amazing salary to do work in an area of passion. More on that another time.
I'm six months into my firm job, and I generally like it. It's actually the best salaried position I've ever had. People are overwhelmingly nice (a very unusual characteristic in the legal profession), I make good money, and I work on cases that range from really good for the world to, at worst, morally neutral. So why am I so eager to stop working?
It's not necessarily that I want to stop working, it's that I want control of my life. If I work, I want it to be a choice, not a necessity to stay alive. I don't want to live at the whims of partners, bosses, and clients who expect me to drop everything without a moment's notice to do the work they tell me I need to do. And I want to rid myself of the anxiety that comes with wondering why my boss is in a bad mood, what might happen if I make a mistake at work, and whether I could ever find a comparable job if I was fired. On a more positive note, I want to have time to take care of my physical health, learn new skills, harness my entrepreneurial energy, and spend time with my friends and family.
Frankly, I'm sick of climbing from one rung to the next on the academic/professional ladder, each time thinking I've "arrived," but then asking myself, "Is this all?"
So enter FIRE. Or maybe that's a misnomer. Maybe I'm just looking for FI.