The Quiet Journey

Where are you and where are you going?
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Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:46 pm

The Quiet Journey

Post by Ponderosa » Thu Nov 22, 2018 10:55 am

Well, it's time. I have been thinking of starting a journal here for some time now, especially since this community really has no nonsense and honest thoughts on a variety of topics. I have posted a few times here before, and perhaps if you look at my past posts you will see some of the themes echo here. I'm going to be rather straight forward about my life in this journal. I'm going to start with my background, goals, and recently life events that have led me here.

My Background

I have lived a fairly successful life so far, by some external measures. I've blend into a lot of social environments because I seem to have a strong set of social skills that allow me to get along with most people. Rarely do I find myself in situations where I find myself lacking in this area. Historically I've sought out approval of others, especially those I have a great deal of respect for. In a sense though this has been damaging to me because I haven't lived true enough to myself and I might have let others opinions dictate some of the decisions I've made. Now my true personality is starting to come out of the woodwork and some people find it surprising. Family (including in-laws) mostly, as those were the ones I wasn't quite genuine around.

I am 27 years old working as an "engineer" remotely. Most of my job is just project managing and routine paperwork. I find it mind numbing, but the remote aspect is cool because I probably only work <25 hrs a week. I'd like to get into a different field that is more stimulating, but for reasons I will describe a bit later this is on hold.

I have a Master's degree in Applied Physics, which I wanted to quit halfway almost immediately after starting. The research was very tedious and the classwork didn't feel relevant to the "real world". The upside is I lived in a really cool place for awhile and learn some valuable writing skills in my thesis, all which benefit my life today. My original intention was to pursue a Phd afterwards. I got discouraged by the low amounts of permanent professorships out there so I decided to not put in the work to get there.

Instead, I found an engineering job at a local company in the town I moved to for graduate school. This worked out well because my wife was doing fantastic at her job so we welcomed the opportunity to stay. Unfortunately, the work environment was very stressful for me and it began to consume more and more of my mental energy as a result. Fast forward two years later my wife's company was going downhill and she wanted out. She wanted to move closer to family and friends so we decided to get out of our situation and move back to her hometown in the midwest. She found her dream job at a local hospital and is finally checking off the box of working in the environment and gaining the skills she has wanted to develop since she got her degree. Even though I hated my job, I did quite well and was well regarded. This allowed me to stay on remotely and I was able to transport my job with. Onward to the upper midwest, where I write from now.

All during this time (since I was 18) my mental health has been taking a nosedive. I first noticed bits of it when I was younger - such as light depression in the winter. My childhood was very abusive so I had a lot of hangups as a result of that. I believe this was the main contributor to my mental illness. The depression got worse during my college years so naturally I self medicated with vast quantities of alcohol, and eventually cannabis. This clouded my judgement and delayed my recovery process from my early trauma. During this time I noticed small bouts of intense euphoria where I had extra energy and creativity. I wrote this off as a brief respite to depression and sought to return to that feeling as soon as possible. Again, I used alternative chemical means to pursue this.

A year ago I decided I needed help. The depression was severe and I was suffering under immense stress of my job. My wife was very supportive during this time and really kept the basics of the household and decisions afloat. I am grateful everyday for her support, as I don't think I would have made it otherwise. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and therapy was immensely helpful at recovering from these symptoms. Unfortunately the depression came back in full force last summer and I was put on a rather healthy dose of antidepressants.

I felt awesome, right away. That ephemeral euphoria returned and seemed to be permanent at this point. I thought this was what I felt to be a normal person again. I got vast amounts of work done, and earned two certifications on freecodecamp in less than two months. Sleep became less and less necessary, but I still felt great. I was more confident in social interactions, and I felt more creative than ever. Eventually though I became irritable from the lack of sleep and my formerly creative thought process turned into constant racing thoughts and lack of concentration. I felt wrong.

I called my doctor and went through a thorough series of questions. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and began a regimen of appropriate medications. I am starting to feel better, although I'm most definitely not out of the woods yet. A part of me feels like the diagnosis is fake, and all the psychiatry stuff was all nonsense. Objectively, that sounds like denial. My greatest mistake during hypo-mania was buying an absurd amount of clothing, since in the past few years I lost a fair amount of weight and nothing fit right. I've been reversing this decision by returning most of the items and selling those I can't on ebay.

What brought me to ERE

My parents were terrible with money. I remember every emergency expense being a crisis that bought stress to the household. If I were to guess, they lived paycheck to paycheck most of their 20 years of marriage. They still make the same dumb decisions with money, and even though they make more, I doubt they have anything saved for retirement.

That attitude was passed on to me and I took out quite a bit of loans for college. When I graduated, I looked at the balance and was freaked out. I calculated how much interest it was gaining every month and my wife and I decided we needed a plan. This fast tracked our financial goals, and we quickly aligned to each other and our spending habits. In less than 2 years (while I was in graduate school making a small stipend) we paid off the $40k some balance that I had. I haven't taken out a loan since.

I want the freedom that ere brings. I don't want to live a linear path that is taken by most americans, where they have x number of kids and spend continuously spend more and more while becoming more chained to their expenses and job. I'd like to live low key and spend a lot of time outdoors and away from most of the craziness and car commuting that most people find themselves in. I don't want much - just freedom to make my own decisions and not feel trapped by some shitty corporate job.

In some ways I feel sort of ere already. Our savings aren't not close to where we need them yet, but we have several years of expenses already saved up. I also work from home in a pretty cushy but boring position, so I'm already free of the vast majority of BS that I used to put up with. The downside is I feel a bit lonely during the day and I feel like my brain is rotting a bit. I've taken a step back from a lot of the stress that contributed to my breakdown, but there is still a restless drive to do something and learn more. Maybe a more engaging hobby would assuage this, but my guess is doing something to build some useful skills is more in order. Once I become a bit more stable I will make bigger decisions on this.

That is it for now. All criticism, thoughts, feedback is welcome during the course of this journal. Thanks for reading.

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Re: The Quiet Journey

Post by prognastat » Thu Nov 22, 2018 2:48 pm

Mental health issues can definitely complicate things both in your relationships and your financial goals so I'm glad to hear you both have a very supportive partner and that you've been able to get on track with your finances and pay off quite a bit of debt. I definitely recommend keeping up on the mental health front even if sometimes it feels like nonsense. It can spiral out of control and lead to major setbacks if left unchecked.

Keep up the good work.

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Re: The Quiet Journey

Post by suomalainen » Thu Nov 22, 2018 3:06 pm

+1 to what prognastat wrote. Ere/fire is a tool, not a destination, to put you in a position to live the life you want to live. Mental health is a huge part of the life you (anyone) want to live. First things first.
Ponderosa wrote:
Thu Nov 22, 2018 10:55 am
in a pretty cushy but boring position, so I'm already free of the vast majority of BS that I used to put up with. The downside is I feel a bit lonely during the day and I feel like my brain is rotting a bit. I've taken a step back from a lot of the stress that contributed to my breakdown, but there is still a restless drive to do something and learn more. Maybe a more engaging hobby would assuage this, but my guess is doing something to build some useful skills is more in order. Once I become a bit more stable I will make bigger decisions on this.
This resonates with me. I sometimes think I undervalue the stability that comes with boredom, so I’m trying not to stir up shit prematurely. Good luck.

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Re: The Quiet Journey

Post by Ponderosa » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:03 pm

I'm going to post semi-frequently in the beginning. Mainly because I have a lot of thoughts to air out and this is the place I've decided to do it.

The New City
I have mixed feelings about my new city I live in. There is much more social support here due to proximity to close friends and family which is nice. There is cheaper rent and cheaper property if we ever choose to buy. My wife seems happier here especially since she fits in socially here, and also because her job is infinity better than the previous. My job is way less stressful, as I work from home and am very efficient at what I do.

I think the main thing is the readjustment to a proper winter. We were spoiled in our last location as the winter there included ample sunshine and never got half as cold as the upper midwest. There also isn't any mountains nearby, which really bothers me as one of my favorite hobby is hiking up to some remote high places. At a bright note, I have been running every other day and am keeping it up through the winter. Today I circled a lake in 22 degree weather and felt very comfortable.

On Careers
Still thinking about a career change, especially as I am getting more clearheaded by the day. I'm hesitant to make any big moves right now as any additional stress right now can become a huge setback. On the other hand, I have quite a bit of free time these days and wouldn't mind dedicating myself to a class or program of some sort. I applied to a few universities over the summer and was thinking of doing an accelerated post bac in computer science. I've done several hundred hours of programming in my spare time and I enjoy it quite a bit. The reason I'm stressed about this decision this week is the university contacted me asking me to sign up for classes by the end of the week otherwise I'd have to reapply.

I'm just not sure another degree is necessary. I've posted about this before and people seemed to indicate its overkill, especially for one with a masters degree in science. Another route I was thinking of taking is an online bootcamp through a local organization. It would take as little as four months or as long as 10 months, and costs a bit over 9k. This way I could keep my day job and benefits and continue to learn in a calm environment. By the time I get the certification, I could start hammering at job applications without the pressure of finding something new. This all assumes I keep my current job. I've thought about an in person boot camp also, however that requires leaving my current employment.

Higher than desired this month. We had a bunch of moving expenses including purchasing warm attire for the winter months. We didn't exactly go thrifty here but we bought a few quality pieces that will last several years.The good news is will max out our 401k's, HSA, and Roths this year, along with contributing a decent amount to savings account and after tax brokerage account. So all in all, we did pretty good.

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Re: The Quiet Journey

Post by Ponderosa » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:45 am

The Leap

Talking about stirring shit up, I'm in the plans of finally taking a step forward to change my career.

I've wanted to shift to software for about a year now, as I have enjoyed my self study so far. Last summer I was convinced I would go take another degree in computer science but after consulting some people here and in my life it seems like that is overkill.

A better option is a bootcamp. There is a local software training program that is 12 weeks and boasts a 93% placement rate - which is verified through an outside entity. In addition, I have a few contacts at a local software company that are interested in talking to me after I finish the program. There are two tracks:

1) 12 week full time
2) 10 month part time online

Option 2 would let me keep my job, but not my sanity. I'd be working alone on my computer for 10 hours a day at home and I'm not sure I could sustain that for 10 months. We are leaning towards option 1 which would allow me to knock out the program faster and get into a more enjoyable job sooner. Obviously we wouldn't be saving much during this period but we can get back on that soon enough. My wife makes enough to sustain us both without a problem, and we have good savings for backup. It is a pretty low risk option.

If I do this the bootcamp starts in mid January. Its actually nice it is in winter because by the time I'm done it will be spring here.

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Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:46 pm

Re: The Quiet Journey

Post by Ponderosa » Sun Feb 24, 2019 9:27 am

Long Update

Been awhile since I've posted, and quite of bit of things have been moving forward. Here we begin..


I'm still working remotely, and it is pretty low stress for the most part. Low enough that I was going a bit crazy inside with the winter and the lack of goals and stimulation. I was planning on quitting and going to the in-person software boot camp, but I decided against it and am doing the same program online. It's actually working pretty well and fulfills the need for an intellectual challenge outside of work. To top that off, it's about $4k cheaper. The downside is I'm spending quite a bit of time at the computer sitting but the weather has been so shitty that I actually don't really mind.


Way better. I revealed in my initial post that I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 last fall. It shook up my identity for awhile and I was quite uneasy with myself. Turns out its a really good thing because ignorance on the diagnosis would have prolonged my suffering. To give you an idea, I've been struggling for about ten years with it. I'm leveling out now and my perspective on things are changing. And by changing I think I mean going back to my core personality (I'm INFJ). My relationships are shifting a bit as well as I'm getting used to the new normal and slight personality changes that go with it. On a side note, they discovered I also had a massive iron deficiency. I'm getting working on correcting that right now and I'm feeling like I have a ton more energy.

Because I've been spending so much time alone, I decided to splurge and join a crossfit gym nearby. The folks there are super chill and are very focused on doing movements in the correct way. This is probably the best thing I've been for myself in a long while and I really am enjoying it. 2/4-5 days that I go I spend an hour on an olympic weightlifting only class. I think I have a bit of a knack for it because I'm already closing in on a bodyweight snatch. My form is a bit inconsistent though but it should come with time. I've thought about transitioning to 100% olympic lifting at some point, since I enjoy that the most.

Career/Life Goals

Now that I'm feeling better my thoughts towards work and my goals so far are changing a bit. Previously my goal was to save as much as possible at a shitty but high paying job to retire ASAP and never work again. The plan for awhile was to stick in my current field (engineering - but really project management + paperwork + ass kissing). I could try to shift a bit into more design work but I really don't enjoy the field and working with mechanical systems.

I'm starting to realize that isn't for me however, for a few reasons. First, working a shitty job for a long time enacts a toll that I can quite stomach. I'd rather get paid less to be engaged and enjoy my job a little more. Second, I'm looking for something that I will enjoy more and possibly shift to part-time once my savings are high enough. I think software development is a better match for me but I'm not so sure. I seem to get into a flow state with my software classes and can easily spend hours doing so. I've been thinking a bit about a shift to medicine as I enjoy working with people and helping people get healthier and figure out their health issues. I'm toying around with the idea of working towards enrolling in a PA school. The debt piece is a big barrier though as I HATE having loans of any kind.

My new location where I live is not ideal. The city is very livable and offers plenty of career opportunities but the weather just sucks. I'm not a fan of seemingly endless winters and bitter cold. I'd really like to move to somewhere in the southwest soon. Hiking is a favorite hobby of mine and I miss wandering mountains and deserts by foot. I suppose its the time of year where everyone in the northern US/canada probably feels this way.

Thinking of doing a solo trip to iceland. I've also wanted to go there and I think it would be good for my confidence to travel on my own. April seems to be a more affordable time to go.

Side Note
Academia. My goal was always to get into astronomy. When I did my research oriented master's I hated almost every moment of it. Turns out I really just liked sci-fi and the challenge of solving basic to intermediate physics problems. More so however is seeing my physics cohort continue on with their Phd's. None of them seem to happy with and they seem a bit depressed about their future. Glad I got out, although I wish I would have spent that time working on a Master's that was more lucrative and interesting to me. Luckily I got an RA position so no debt was incured. In fact, my wife and I lived very barebones and paid off my undergrad loans in less than two years.

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