For much of the time I've been writing about Financial Independence Early Retirement (FIRE) I've been focusing on expanding my career as an author as what I will do after I achieve FIRE. I've already written three books, am working on two more at the moment, and really enjoy the writing part of publishing. Not so much the marketing, but Jan and I are working on that. Yet, despite that desire to live the writer's life, there is a stronger drive in me which has remained silent for too long. Over the course of the past few months, with much reflection, I've come to realize although writing is fun, it does not get me to the outcome I am here to achieve. My writing may help prevent war in some small way, and I'll keep doing it, but it won't actually help anyone suffering today.
I grew into adulthood watching the murderous and senseless violence taking place in the Yugoslav Civil War. Ethnic cleansing in Europe at the end of the 20th Century lit my flame to put an end to human caused suffering. How could, I asked, people do this to one another? I went into international relations in order to stop such suffering. I wanted to work for the United Nations, NATO, or any organization which would bring an end to this violence. Excelling through educational and career opportunities, I came close to achieving positions in which I hoped I'd be able to make a difference in people's lives. Instead, I was met by bureaucracy, politics, and personal flaws which derailed a budding career. Since then I've spiraled ever farther away from helping people into a career in which I'm simply gathering a paycheck to pay for my family's luxurious life.
Inside me that spark ignited by Bosnia still burns, ever so softly, to earnestly help those who are in existential crisis, usually through no fault of their own. From regions scattered throughout the world civil wars, natural disaster, and other calamities caused by man or nature threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people just like me. How can I not work toward helping them?
So, I've now put in applications for positions at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the United States Institute of Peace, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Security Council, and United Nations Peacekeeping. Whether we stay in the DC area or live internationally, my focus for my future will no longer be on simply writing my stories in the vague hope I may influence someone to prevent war some far off time in the future. Instead, my time will be focused on helping people suffering today from preventable causes.
What does this have to do with FIRE? I'll tell you: Everything. FIRE gives me the freedom to walk away from this cushy COMFY life. It gives me the ability to take a potentially 70% or greater pay cut. In reality, as long as I'm breaking even for my family, FIRE allows me to do whatever I want. That is the beauty of FIRE. It's not all golf, blogging, and scuba-diving (although I enjoy two of those). It's doing what means something to you, no matter what that thing may be. For me, it means returning to what has value in my life: using my empathy to help repair a shattered world.
What will it mean for you?