The 2013 Financial Blogger Conference was the best yet, and also the most exhausting. We got up at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to fly to St. Louis and, coincidentally, walked back through our front door at about 2 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.
In between: a long plane trip, most of a day spent “frugalizing” a family with MP Dunleavey (for her Woman’s Day column), the conference itself and then a few days hanging out with my daughter, who also attended.
The conference days were a blur of activity, four days of leaving the room at 7:30 or 8 a.m. and falling back into bed at 1:30 or 2 a.m. Yet it was delightful to attend sessions, reconnect with others who’ve attended for three years running, to win prizes, and to discuss some very interesting work-related propositions (nothing I can noise around just yet, though).
Right now DF is on furlough (grrr), so we had Thursday and today to recover from the trip. It’s been tough for me to get my head back into the game; instead, I want to spend my days talking about writing and having other people cook for me.
Scratch that: I want to spend my days working only when I feel like it. I expect I’m not alone.
As I noted in “Termination dust,” being kicked to the virtual curb by MSN Money has caused me to reconsider the kind of life I want to lead. That’s why an e-mail I received today really resonated.
The writer, whom I’ll call “Lynn” for privacy reasons, faced wrenching life changes a few years back. Her husband died in a horrific vehicle accident, which was awful enough – but then came the parade of relatives and friends who weren’t shy about stating what they believed they were owed.
The second half of life
It’s tough to grieve when people are lining up with their hands out. Ultimately, Lynn cut off contact to save her sanity. She also took a leave of absence from work, a break that continues today. Her husband had some life insurance, and Lynn’s frugal ways will allow her to stretch those funds for a long, long time.
During an e-mail conversation today Lynn said she was glad to see that I was “off the fast track,” i.e., cutting way back on work until I figure out my next move.
“Money can be made one way or the other,” she wrote, “but time is the only thing we never get to do over.
“I intend for the second half of my life to be better than the first.”
Lynn has put herself on a strict budget but is happier than she’s ever been. Hey, me too! I didn’t realize how heavy things were until I stopped carrying them.
Planning vs. reacting
It’s not that I haven’t worked since finishing up at MSN on Sept. 27. Prior to leaving for the conference I wrote two long pieces for Money Talks News, one for Wise Bread and 11 posts for Surviving and Thriving. I also dealt with a recurring site issue and handled a bunch of paperwork.
That’s not the same thing as a three-a-week deadline or, heaven forbid, my previous five-a-week deadline. But this is the point of my slowdown: I want to stop putting out fires. Hence the decision to write for pay just once or twice a week.
While I’m acutely aware of my good fortune — the ability to take that break and still keep the lights on — I wouldn’t say that my position is due entirely to luck. Sure, I caught a couple of breaks (chief among them sitting next to Liz Weston at The Anchorage Daily News way back when). But some very specific choices led me to this point.
My expenses are relatively low and my consumer debt is nonexistent. Various frugal hacks let me build a decent emergency fund over the past few years, even as I saved for retirement, traveled, donated to charities and helped out family members.
Not that I want to dip into capital, mind you. But after years of frantic busy-ness, of being afraid to say “no” because an opportunity might never come again, I’m calling a temporary halt.
From now on I want to plan my days rather than merely react to them. As Lynn noted, when it comes to time we are allowed no do-overs. But we can try to do better with such time as we’re given.