Week 3 Of Semi-Retirement – Flexibility

In the early 2000’s I spent a lot of time going to church. Church means different things for different people at different times of their lives. For little Alex Bruzan, it meant evangelical, structured services with singing to start, singing to end, with a half hour talk in the middle, and a couple of prayers mixed in. You could be in and out within an hour, maybe 70 minutes if you stuck around to talk to someone. I’d participate in this ritual a couple of times a week and supplement that with listening to sermons online during the week. My father in law is known to say that the smartest person in the room is the one that can synthesize all of the information in the simplest form possible. I believe you can use that same concept when processing through your past. When thinking about moving into the inner city and what I was like when Meg and I decided to do that, I can’t divorce my identity was formed from the hours spent listening to sermons and trying to replicate what I was told a quality Christian life was like. Lately, I have been boiling those experiences down to a pair of dualistic statements: your life is of the utmost importance so you better not let it go to waste and at the same time your life is no more important than anyone else’s, so live a life of service. Your life matters so don’t waste it and your life doesn’t matter so feel free to give it away. You have one life, so make it count. I remember spending an inordinate amount of time visualizing the end of my life. Maybe it was all of the laying on your deathbed talk in those sermons that makes me worried about having serious regrets in life. To this day, the heaviness of coming to the end of my life with deep regrets still weighs on me. For a while I’ve known that failing to create space in my life to work with certain people on certain projects is something I’ll regret when the time comes to take one final reflection on my life. 

The decision to re-organize how I made money was made easier, in part, by my desire to create structured time to work on projects with my dad coupled with the idea that our time on Earth is finite. When I say I learned everything about home remodeling and car maintenance from my dad, I mean that. Everything I didn’t pick up from Youtube in desperation after not knowing how to tackle a project, I learned from him, and I know a shitload about that stuff. This guy can fix anything, build anything, and at 65 still can outwork me most days. He is a deep cavern of knowledge and skills and I can’t remember the last time he said he didn’t want to work on a project together, but I know that will happen someday. People get older each day. Days add up to weeks and months and years and eventually we won’t be able to drink a cup of coffee and plan out the days work or sit in a chair and look out onto what we built together. 

I try to always be grateful, with varying levels of difficulty I attempt to choose to be thankful for what I have. This week it was easy to do that. Last week I talked about the different buckets of time. Inner city, education, and housing and how I was using a spreadsheet to organize and track where I am spending my time. Doing so allowed me to quickly pivot this week when my dad called on Sunday to say we couldn’t work together on a project at his house. He was in some serious pain while passing a couple of kidney stones. Normally, a pause in the work can be easily accounted for by working a different day or moving it to the next week. This wasn’t one of those times. He’s been working on building a ridiculously big garage in his backyard for the last couple of months. On Saturday, just a few days away, he was scheduled to pour the concrete for the foundation. Rescheduling would move the project back more than just the one week. About 10 people were coming over to help pour, machinery was already rented, and there was only about a days worth of prep work to button up before the pour. 

After a short stint in the hospital, he was forced to reschedule the last of the prep work, what we were going to accomplish early in the week. The thing I’m grateful for this week is how easy it was to shuffle around what I had planned and make it down there on Friday instead of Monday. Still in some nasty pain, we laid the tubing for the heated flooring and mapped out what was going to happen on Saturday. When Saturday came, the pain was closer to manageable and the pour took place without a whole lot of complications. 

My dad is the guy that taught me about the Rule of 72 and the power of compound interest roughly ten years ago on the way to an antique truck show in South Bend, Indiana. That was the start of my early retirement journey. It seemed fitting that after all of the times of him helping me out, I was able to return the favor and that it came soon after starting semi-retirement. The flexibility I have now is worth more than I figured it would be.

During one of those hundreds of sermons I listened to back in the day, a guy named Stuart Briscoe said something I think about often. The richest people aren’t necessarily the ones with the most money, they are the ones with the most options. I felt rich this week, because I had options. I felt blessed because I was able to work with my dad, and I’m proud of the work we did together.