Adolescents have a sense of die-hard immortality that comes from having given no thought to their future. I realized that I wasn’t immortal when I was 21-22. This implied the full realization that my life span was finite although I hadn’t yet reached the sense of time that I have not that “old” people frequently demonstrate when they talk of children with the statement that “they grow up so fast!”.

Being an intellectual (MBTI type NT – rational) I measure growth in terms of how much I know or how competent I am. It was around that age that I found out that I was starting to forget things that I have learned as my brain was making room for new things and cutting away “excess useless knowledge”. I prefer to liken this to the growth of an ecosystem or a society where weeds (suburbs) are replaced by bushes (suburbs with shops) and finally trees. Weeds are like information. Bushes are like knowledge and trees are the wisdom that remains of what went before.

Having lived a good part of my life already, I can start mapping out choices or what-ifs. For instance, the opportunity to excusably engage in idiotic behavior while being drunk is long gone (I’m told that after the age of 25 one is not so easily forgiven). The opportunity to compete in sports on a regional level is also going soon. Were I to start now, I would not have been able to put in the time until I was maybe 45 at which point I would be too old for most sports.

Early retirement provides both opportunity and opportunity costs, but of course so does a career. For instance, quitting a career that for many people were chosen by the 18 year old selves allows a reinvention of who they are — if people indeed are defined by what they get paid for as seems to be the case in our modern world. On the other hand it also prevents them from becoming what they could have become. For instance, my 18 year old self wanted to become a professor in order to discover amazing new things and teach them to enthusiastic students. Needless to say, my 32 year old self has fewer illusions about the whole deal. Still there are some [illusions] left and it is such hope that would cause a lot of what-if doubts were I to retire now. However, since I have possibly irreversibly polluted my mind with thoughts about what else I could be doing, I entertain an equivalent number of what-if doubts were I not to retire now. This would not be a problem if I were held down by a children, mortgage, debt, and other liabilities. In some sense such restrictions would be welcomed because they would remove the uncertainty and the need to make decisions. Perhaps this is why so many people choose them.

Originally posted 2008-05-03 18:50:08.