black_son_of_gray's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray » Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:58 pm

I've found that it's actually kind of difficult to run your life when you are responsible for all or most of your time.
@Jin+Guice: Yup. I’ll refer to this below as “the challenge”.

A personal response: I've yet to feel any employment-related anxiety in part because my net worth hasn't gone down yet, but also because I've put off thinking about it until SO and I move to a more permanent location. I want a "home base" before I start looking at location-dependent part-time stuff. In the meantime, and partially related to side-hussle income generation, I've developed a pretty strong interest in doing a lot of writing—mostly for personal reasons and because I've come to recognize writing as a fundamental skill I want to improve. Expectations of income from the kind of writing I want to do are very low.

With respect to the challenge of running my life, I've had a little sputtering here and there with the transition away from full-time employment, but with two important considerations:
  1. I don't think that I've been any more rudderless than when I was employed, which is to say having free time all day every day hasn't made this challenge harder… in part because I had already been dealing with it. I often waffled, wandered, and wasted a good chunk of time at work, even if I did eventually end up with reasonable levels of productivity. [This was largely permitted because my position as a research scientist/my boss's relatively hands-off management approach/my reasonable productivity that didn't raise flags that would cause intervention/getting bored and wasting time is actually part of the process of doing science, believe it or not—or at least my process, which worked well enough.]
  2. I took some of that copious free time to try to figure out what to do with it. I spent some time introspecting, some time following links you ERE denizens post on these subjects, and a lot of time reading (57 books in the last year, on wide-ranging subjects). In then end, I don't think I have found the capital-t Truth or anything, and I don’t suspect I will. Ultimately, how you spend your days is a philosophical question that has been pondered since... forever?
So I haven’t addressed "the challenge", really. However, I feel like I’ve at least gained some perspective on it that I didn’t have before, which is...

(TL;DR for the next section: Kegan level 5 is the answer to the challenge?)

A conceptual response: Thanks in part to these forums, I’ve run across some ideas that have started to click for me with respect to the challenge. Namely:
  • Self-authoring, a la Kegan
  • Thoughts about “identity”, how it is internally constructed, and how habits reinforce it, a la James Clear’s Atomic Habits
  • "Consistency" and "change" as it relates to managing my personal life and how clever implementation of those two concepts is an important skill
Because these concepts keep circling back to one another in my mind, it’ll be very difficult for me to lay out a linear logic linking them all together, so instead of some grand unified theory, I’m just going to dive in with pieces. Hope it works!

For someone leaving a job where most of the work was prescribed from the top down or had many rules, regulations, procedures, and little independent decision-making or self-direction, the challenge becomes dealing with the anxiety of having to self-author, of having to take over the role of being your own boss. In The Shawshank Redemption parlance, the challenge is to deprogram yourself from being "institutionalized". This is profoundly uncomfortable and stressful for many people—or at least it was for me*. For me, this happened in graduate school** with a extremely hands-off advisor where I had to blaze my own trail from scratch or bomb out (aka “sink or swim”). Luckily, I learned to swim, but it was close.

*Joke: “I’m generalizing from a single example, but everyone does that—at least, I do.”
**I was an extremely "good" undergraduate, which is to say that I took to institutionalization hook, line, and sinker.

For someone leaving a job (or self-employment) with a lot of independent decision-making or self-direction, the challenge is not the transition to self-authoring, because much of that has already been done, but rather the decision about where to go next, what new identity to assume. This is where I find myself now.

For the true Renaissance man/woman, who wears many hats even within one day, the challenge becomes figuring out when, where, and why to wear any given hat.

Very coarsely, you can think of these challenges as the views from the peaks of Kegan levels 3, 4, and 5, respectively (if I’m understanding that correctly—let me know!).
Interviewer: I’m the father of two young kids. I have two daughters—a five year old and a three year old. The future that you paint in Homo Deus ... is interesting. So I’d like to ask you, what should I be teaching my daughters?
Yuval Noah Harari: That nobody knows how the world would look like in 2050, except that it will be very different from today. So the most important things to emphasize in education are things like emotional intelligence and mental stability. Because the one thing they will need for sure is the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly throughout their lives. It’s really the first time in history that we don’t really know what particular skills to teach young people because we just don’t know in what kind of world they will be living. But we do know they will have to reinvent themselves. And, especially if you think about something like the job market, maybe the greatest problem they will face will be psychological, because, at least beyond a certain age, it’s very very difficult for people to reinvent themselves. So we kind of need to build identities, I mean previously if traditionally people built identities like stone houses, with very deep foundations, now it makes more sense to build identities like tents, that you can fold and move elsewhere. Because we don’t know where you will have to move, but you will have to move.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw9P_ZXWDJU
When Harari says “the one thing they will need for sure is the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly throughout their lives,” that sounds an awful lot to me like Kegan level 5 will have a substantial edge in the uncertain—but highly disruptive—near future.

Transitioning from Kegan level 3 to 4 requires self-authoring once. Going from 4 to 5 requires self-authoring repeatedly, presumably to the point where inhabiting/assuming a radically different and self-directed identity becomes a well-developed skill. There are at least two ways of doing this: serial careers, or just jump right in to multiple part-time hats at the same time—although this latter approach may be more jarring?

Which brings us to topics addressing: “how do you change your identity?” and “how do you get better at changing your identity?”

There appears to be an order-of-operations for smoother rides into self-authoring, and making a clear decision on what you want your personal identity to be should be done first (see: https://jamesclear.com/identity-based-habits).

And then there is consistency. This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Self-Reliance gets trotted out a lot with respect to consistency, so I figured I’d type out the whole thing and not just the out-of-context fragment:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood." Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagorus was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
...which I take to mean do not be rigid in your mental life—be open to new ideas and evolve intellectually as you incorporate them into updated mental models. Live your truth, even though that truth will change over time. But when it comes to your physical life—the mechanical actions you take daily as part of living your truth—it makes a great deal of sense to develop a consistency, a regularity. Because the bedrock of all habits and identity is consistency and repetition.

You get better at changing your identity by getting better at changing your habits, by getting good at creating an ecosystem of carefully-chosen habits that all confirm the identity that you’ve decided to assume.

And just to finish up, it’s worth asking for any given habit whether it is something that you’ve chosen for yourself and that you feel is good for you, or whether it is a habit that his been externally forced upon you. Plenty of business models (and unfortunately, most of the Internet now, it seems) rely on instilling habits in you that you don’t particularly want (e.g. how many times did you check your phone in the last hour? how many videos deep did you fall in the most recent “recommended/suggested video” clickhole that was put in front of you?) This kind of stuff robs you of a self-directed life. Drip. Drip.

Anyway, those are the thoughts swirling around in my head right now with respect to the mental challenges of post-employment. Feel free to chime in with thoughts, comments, or to set me straight on something.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by steveo73 » Mon Aug 05, 2019 8:41 pm

That was another great post. I often don't read long posts but I'm reading yours word for word.
black_son_of_gray wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:58 pm
When Harari says “the one thing they will need for sure is the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly throughout their lives,” that sounds an awful lot to me like Kegan level 5 will have a substantial edge in the uncertain—but highly disruptive—near future.
I see ERE/FI as giving you some stability (I've chosen this work purposely) here though. So instead of having to constantly reinvent yourself via pressure from outside factors you would have some ability to be resilient and adjust more on your terms.

I have a 15 yo son (nearly 16) and I am thinking of teaching him about savings. So when he is 18 and left school he may have to pay us board and he might want to spend money on the gym for instance. Say that life costs him $8k per year. I think he should look to save up 20-30 times that amount prior to expanding his lifestyle. That gives him some stability. Sure he has to live with his parents but he can sustain that lifestyle indefinitely.

So people who save are more resilient to changes in the world that push them to repeatedly reinvent themselves.

None of this stops the reality that you have to reinvent yourself. Marriages breakdown. People die. People change. The world changes. FI though gives you some buffer against the economy changing within certain limits.

FI is a huge goal for me. I think the benefit of gaining FI shouldn't be underestimated. I also think though that some form of semi-FI with the ability to continually adjust gives you resilience as well. You are probably seeing that right now within your life.

Compare that to people who just live pay packet to pay packet.

7Wannabe5
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:01 am

wolf wrote:Did you also read the book 7Wannabe5? If yes, how would you rate it?
Yes, I read "The Renaissance Soul" by Lobenstine. It is also on Jacob's recommended reading list and/or bibliography, which is why I found "ERE" by way of it and/or the fact that I had read "YMOYL" many years ago. Another similar title would be Barbara Sher's "Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Hobbies, and Passions to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams." The important thing to keep in mind is that these books are intended for audience of hopelessly sideways generalists attempting some level of focus towards mastery as opposed to rigid specialists attempting the opposite.

@BSOG: Another very interesting post. The first time I was granted free time/resources with expectation of creative work was when I was bussed to a program for gifted children at the age of 9. Too much pressure. I can't recall what most of the other children did, but I know that I pretty quickly chose to better structure my time. I spent part of the day listening to teach yourself Hebrew tapes and part of the day watching speed-reading instructional film strips.
You get better at changing your identity by getting better at changing your habits, by getting good at creating an ecosystem of carefully-chosen habits that all confirm the identity that you’ve decided to assume.
I went through a phase where I was very concerned with "practice" in the sense of becoming self-aware that everything you regularly do is your practice. As in "It is my practice to consume 4 cups of coffee in the morning before attempting any difficult task." I do not claim to have transcended this focus on practice. In fact, I think it is more likely that I have simply slumped off of it. However, this may be in part due to the fact that I was considering concept of "ideal" practice, rather than change of practice towards change of identity. So, I became rather bogged down by the reality of "not enough hours in the day" to achieve the ideal no matter what level of discipline/focus you apply.

classical_Liberal
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:59 am

Agree with others, another good post.

Personally, I'm a deinstitutionalized person who has been forced to work within the constraints of various institutions. I inherently dislike rules, but recognize that they are required for consistency to reach large, overarching purposes. It's when these rules/consistencies a)tend to work against the stated purpose through second order effects, or b)are working towards a stated purpose i'm not on board with, that I get into trouble.

My main driver to ERE has been to create the ability to stay outside institutions and make my own rules/consistences to avoid "a" and "b" above. Avoid the cognitive dissonance, if you will, of feeling like my work within the institution has some good constraints to reach positive outcomes, but also some of "a" and "b".

Being on the precipice of semi-ERE, I think my largest issue going forward isn't going to be creating positive internal consistencies, or the ability to modify them as situation changes. I can control my day-to-day pretty well. Rather, it's going to be finding the next overarching purpose I believe in with which to create them. I've purchased myself the freedom to choose my purpose(s), and even pick which ways to contribute to them. I'm just at a loss to where to begin. Maybe I'm just a bit weary from spending too much time within the system lately and some free time will open up opportunities, or maybe I need to seek this out with more concerted effort.

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Ego
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by Ego » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:25 pm

black_son_of_gray wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:58 pm
Which brings us to topics addressing: “how do you change your identity?” and “how do you get better at changing your identity?”
I believe Harari is suggesting that we will be forced to become good at constantly modifying and optimizing ourselves to rapidly changing circumstances. That is somewhat different from self-authoring. The former is reactive, the later proactive. Unpredictable change will happen TO us. We will have to become good at adjusting the sails and navigating the course regardless of the direction of the wind.

Immigrants do this well in rapidly changing environments. Often better than native born people. Perhaps because they've done it once when they relocated. They became something other... no longer a Dane or a Mexican or a Pole... they are somehow both and neither at the same time. They've shed some of the anchors of tradition and cultural baggage. They are free to redefine themselves within the boundaries of their new reality.

That James Clear article on Identity-Based Habits is good. How much of success is saying to oneself, "I am the kind of person who...."? How much is saying, "I am the kind of person who does not...."? I find that eliminating the old stuff first frees up the necessary space before adding the new.

I guess the simple answer to "how do you get better at changing your identity?' is practice.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:54 pm

I don't know about the phrase "kind of person." Let me try.

Identity 1
I am the kind of person who reads for more than 30 hours/week.
I am the kind of person who does not do 500 push-ups/day.
vs.
Identity 2
I am the kind of person who reads one book/year.
I am the kind of person who does 500 push-ups/day.

I instantly feel myself experiencing a good deal of withdrawal and pain in attempt to transform from 1 to 2, and the environment which would force such change could only be a horrific dystopia.

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Bankai
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by Bankai » Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:38 pm

False dichotomy. 'does not do' is for bad stuff (think smoking or dougnats).

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Bankai
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by Bankai » Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:44 pm

Ego wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:25 pm
they are somehow both and neither at the same time. They've shed some of the anchors of tradition and cultural baggage. They are free to redefine themselves within the boundaries of their new reality.
This is spot on. I certainly don't feel 100% at home in either place (emigrated at 24, 12y ago). It's both a bit annoying and very empowering at the same time. Knowing I've already started from scratch in a new country without experience, support or (deep) knowledge of the language gives this confidence that I could do it again and be just fine (most likely it would be easier than the first time).

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:06 pm

Bankai wrote:False dichotomy. 'does not do' is for bad stuff (think smoking or dougnats).
Okay, but that does not negate the fact that there is a strict limit on all the "good" stuff you can do towards the ideal. Also, I don't see the point in simply rephrasing a habit towards goal in terms of identity without actually doing some simple values clarification first. I mean, given enough external motivation, such as the classic million$$$ or point-of-gun enforced boot-camp, I would make attempt at practice that would tend to transform my identity from "soft nerd" to "hard athlete", but I think that people are often either over-shooting or displacing their own internal motivations when setting new difficult goals. For example:
In practice, people accumulate capital for all sorts of reasons: for instance, to increase future consumption (or avoid a decrease in consumption after retirement), or to amass and preserve wealth for the next generation, or again to acquire the power, security, or prestige that often come with wealth. In general, all these motivations are present at once in proportions that vary with the individual, the country, and the age. - "Capital" - Picketty
So, "I am the kind of person who sets aside 50% of earnings towards savings and investment" does not necessarily speak to mix of internal motivations.

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Bankai
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by Bankai » Tue Aug 06, 2019 4:17 pm

Let me try.

I wanted to quit sugar. I had multiple motivations which in theory all worked synergistically ('unhealthy', 'costs money', 'my poor teeth', 'I'm addicted' etc.). Sugar was the exact opposite of what my web of goals was about; it was pulling me away from multiple goals of mine. Rationally, I knew it doesn't make sense to continue buying and eating sweets. I tried desperate measures like not taking any money to work so I couldn't go and buy it. It worked. For a week or a month at the time. Then I would promise myself 'just this one time' and buy just one sweet.

Then I decided to start with identity. Whenever I thought about buying or eating sweets, I'd say to myself 'I'm the kind of person who eats healthy and doesn't eat sugar'. It took a week or two for this new identity to settle (my unconsciousness to believe in it?); I had a couple of relapses early on, but eventually, my relationship with sugar changed forever.

As for new difficult goals, I agree. Replacing goals with identity works better for me in most areas of my life. There are all sorts of problems with goals. Identity, on the other hand, is about just being who you are. So, if I'm a person who works out every day, I need no mix of internal motivations of any sort. I just do it because that's who I am.

The difference between 'this is who I am' and 'I can't/have to do this' is really that big.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by suomalainen » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:19 pm

@bsog: Preach.

The way that I would say it is that as a biological being on a biological world, you can never get past the business of life, which can perhaps be expanded into a Mazlow's hierarchy of needs-type view. Every step of that hierarchy requires work, from your first day to your last. There tends to be too much focus in the FIRE world on the "I don't want to do THIS type of work" (i.e., full-time, first-world office work) without really giving enough thought to what work you DO want to do and what work you will HAVE TO do. Perhaps this is a freedom-from vs freedom-to failure, compounded with a false romanticization of a "stress free" life. In any event, I think it does argue for a mind-shift - independence from full-time work (FIRE) is NOT the goal. FIRE's a chimera. All of life is work. To not want to work is to not want to live. All FIRE accomplishes is shifting what kinds of work you're doing, but it doesn't free you from work. If you're absolutely miserable, surely a change in work could be beneficial. But if you're not miserable...why all the sturm und drang to change "happy" to "glad"?

Get busy living or get busy dying.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:03 am

@Bankai:

So, imagination trumps will-power? That makes sense. Young children try out new identities all the time. I didn't like the phrase "kind of person", because it smacks of arbitrary elitism, as in "I am not the kind of person who displays tacky ornaments on her front lawn."

The curriculum in the schools where I teach includes a good deal of time devoted to independent reading. One master teacher I observed used the technique of teaching the children the word "stamina" and then timing how long they could stand on one leg followed by how long they could concentrate on "reading" a book. Another master teacher introduced the phrase "lost in reading" to group and then had a child who was already a devoted reader demonstrate what "lost in reading" looks like before asking them to attempt the practice. The trick is getting from initial motivation to muscle memory. Muscle memory is very much tied to place and time and other environmental cues.

But whatever method works best towards achievement of practice, goals, or new identity, it still begs the question of who is setting the curriculum vitae?

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by CS » Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:10 am

@7wb5
I think the most powerful schooling would be the kind that lets the kids know they can/should set the curriculum (besides the minimums needed). That would be a great lesson to get young. I wonder if the montessori program is actually successful at that.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:26 pm

@CS:

I participated in a couple such experiments in the 1970s. In middle school I was part of a project with the acronym S.H.A.R.E (students having a real education.) When I was thrown back into conventional school in the 8th grade, it seemed very confining. I am only indirectly familiar with Montessori system, but it seems to be primarily based on assuming greater independent competence at variety of tasks.

If I attempt to extend this analogy further to the topic at hand, I would suggest that an early retirement facilitator might prove helpful with problem of too much freedom.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by oldbeyond » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:06 am

A lot of great posts here!

Regarding ERE and the recent discussion of adaptability, what struck me most in the ERE book was the focus on value creation (which also brings with it the desire to reduce waste, as waste virtually always carries some cost). I read it a bit later so I had already been exposed to savings rates etc from MMM. That part was more like reading an academic paper on something you already knew the popularized version of. MMM also talks a bout value creation of course, but there's much less of a system there.

"Create value" seems like a much more potent and resilient perspective than "independence", perhaps especially from an emotional standpoint. These are merely abstractions of course, but at least for me it seems to nudge me towards industry, collaboration and contentment. "Independence" has led me more towards excessive risk-aversion, rent seeking and passivity. But these things are obviously very personal.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by jacob » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:20 am

oldbeyond wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:06 am
"Create value" seems like a much more potent and resilient perspective than "independence", perhaps especially from an emotional standpoint. These are merely abstractions of course, but at least for me it seems to nudge me towards industry, collaboration and contentment. "Independence" has led me more towards excessive risk-aversion, rent seeking and passivity. But these things are obviously very personal.
I've written a 4000+ word guest post for GRS about what I've been doing for the past 10 years from a perspective of exactly that. Not sure what JD's timeline is ... might take a few months to come out.

The other thing that "independence" (cf value adding) often leads to is filling time with consumptive behavior that's just an expansion (Parkinson's law) of what one was already doing (travel, eating out, concerts, movies). For most people, this is ultimately not meaningful enough. I think this is why semi-retirement in the form of sticking around/going back part time consulting in one's old career is a typical outcome.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by horsewoman » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:45 am

CS wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:10 am
@7wb5
I think the most powerful schooling would be the kind that lets the kids know they can/should set the curriculum (besides the minimums needed). That would be a great lesson to get young. I wonder if the montessori program is actually successful at that.
Our Montessori school does have a curriculum that is loosely based on the state school curriculum, because in Germany it is mandatory that children go to a state approved school. The Montessori kids sit the same final examinations as the kids in the "regular" schools, so they need to be taught what will be asked in the tests at some point. But the way to this point could not be more different. My daughter pities her friends who go to regular schools and I see what not being graded does to her self esteem. It's beautiful to watch! It's a shame that only very few kids have the privilege to learn this way. The motto is "Help me to do it myself". Very empowering!

Regarding the discussion about being self-directed ect. I think this is one of the points where I have gotten off easy due to the traditional system of being a married women with a child. I quit FT work when I had my baby (in Germany you can take up to 3 years maternity leave, and in rural areas most women do this due to lacking child care). The first year I was fully occupied with surviving a new born, but afterwards I've had lots of time to reflect on what I wanted from life. I pretty soon realized that I would never go back to FT work, so I started to monetize my hobbies. The whole process felt very natural, probably because it is "normal" to stay home the first 3 years hereabouts. Not so much for my husband! I persuaded him to go part-time - this was surprisingly hard, and we had many discussions like this one. DH gets teased/insulted all the time by other guys for not working full time, which is a problem I do not have. The first few years where hard for him even though we had lots of work on the farm. I felt he worked 3x as hard on the farm because he felt like a slacker for not working FT. 8 years later I have to force him to stay with his employer because of health insurance - he bitches about 10 hours/week as if it was SUCH an imposition on his time :)

In the end I think this is something you simply have to DO, no matter how much thought you give it beforehand. If it sucks, just get a PT job. And if this job sucks, quit and look for another if you are so inclined. Maybe this comes easy to me because I'm a generalist, not a specialist, IDK.

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