June 5, 2012

Retirement at 23: How I Learned to Quit. ~ Anthony Actis

Flickr: Better Than Bacon

I’m putting in notice at my job tomorrow to resign.

I could write about how I recently joined AARP, saw my children finish college, and am excited to pick up golf—but none of it would be true. It would be beyond hyperbolic to say that I’ve watched my retirement account grow enough to support me for a long period of time, or that I’ve been planning for this moment for years.

I’m 23. I’m one year out of my undergrad. My bank account has less sig figs than I have fingers on one hand. I have student loans to pay off still. I am retiring.

Recently I’ve become aware of how I’ve truly been preparing my entire life for this moment. I spent years of my childhood swearing to myself that I would never work in a cubicle, or any desk job for that matter. And here I am, in that exact spot.

Life has an amusing way of transforming us if we are not present. It wasn’t even like I had plans to become an astronaut, a top chef, or even an athlete. I didn’t really have any plans. I still mostly don’t. I went robotically through the checklist of life tasks in the production plant of society.

Learn to drive ✔
Finish High School ✔
Attend University ✔
Study A Lot ✔
College Shenanigans ✔
Finish University ✔
Get Job ✔
Put Up With Job

It’s time to remove that last one. I feel like I remember hearing various axioms from those older than I that youth is wasted on the young or something like that. I never understood it until this last year of ‘being a grownup who is productive in society.’ I probably still don’t understand it properly.

I have spent a lot of my life observing people, trying to learn about their perspectives and stories. Many people express regret that they did not take advantage of various opportunities in life to: travel, explore, learn a new language, make themselves uncomfortable with exciting risks.

Life is far too short to yearn for a tomorrow that is different from today. We only really have todays. Routines blend time together, into an amalgam of memories and experiences. Todays slowly add wrinkles to our bodies, scars appear that hold myriad of stories. The body moves slower than we think it should today.

My job has allowed me a plethora of time to dream, to ponder, to learn about myself. It has been the most amazing miserable experience I’ve had in life. The American dream of my generation is no longer about obtaining and displaying material wealth. It is about obtaining experiences today, and learning today about the world and its people.

There has never before in the history of civilization been a time like today.

I’m writing my resignation letter in a few moments. I’m spending the summer traveling abroad, exploring and meeting new people. I’m driving a car across two continents and eight time zones with complete strangers to raise money for a children’s centre in Mongolia. I think I’m going to graduate school in the fall to switch fields to hydrology from process engineering.

I know I’m never returning to corporate America. Maybe I will find myself as a professor, a ski bum, a yoga teacher, an adventuring nomad, independent consulting engineer/scientist. Maybe all, maybe none. It’s not a concern that I have today.

What is something that you’ve been looking to change in your life?

Relinquishing a bad habit, switching jobs, moving somewhere foreign, taking a cooking class, improving a relationship, smiling more, being more courteous to others, whatever it is…

Implementing changes is almost always terrifying. I find quitting to be exhilerating but I’m plagued with anxiety and apprehension about confronting my boss to put in notice. Confront yourself and what you would like to change.

Give it a shot today. Some things take planning and may require many todays to align and execute. Others require a slight shift of the mind to implement and nothing more than taking a little time today. Have confidence that you can do it, and that you know what’s right for you. Even if the confidence is only a façade, nobody else has to know that.

Take advantage of the now to reroute portions of your life that need new direction. Carpe diem as they say. Or, if you follow the rubbish that youths mumble nowadays:



Anthony Actis is starting up the next chapter of his life as a funemployed youngster and graduate student with ideas and dreams that make him dangerous to conventional society. He is preparing to drive from England to Mongolia to raise money for The Lotus Children’s Centre in Ulaanbaatar, and have himself a proper adventure. He is a scientist, an engineer, a philosopher, a yogi, an adventurer, sometimes a bit of a lush, and completely drawn toward everything associated with his native homeland of Colorado. He finished a 200-hr teacher training in Denver but wants to grow his personal practice and knowledge further before teaching. As a citizen of the world, he is enamoured with francophile culture, asking difficult questions, people watching, airports, being uncomfortably polite and courteous, early morning asana, existentialism, pain au chocolate, fake mustaches, awkward facial expressions, and Oxford commas. Feel free to connect via my travel blog or Facebook.


Editor: Ryan Pinkard

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