Hi RIP friends,
good friends are always a source of inspiration. I was chatting with my bloggers friends Emma & Robert White (whatlifecouldbe) and Oli (frugalisten), discussing issues like the next FIWE and few personal updates.
…And then I’ve been enlightened by a clear memory of when I had first glance of what I would call FI epiphany…
I previously said I don’t remember when it was my FI Epiphany and I still don’t consider a single point in time when I realized “I want to be FI”. But now I remember when I put the first brick on this wall and I want to share it with you dear readers 🙂
It was June 1994, end of school year. I was attending the 4th year at my High School in Rome and we were all discussing what we’d do in the following summer! I was 17 and I was eager to enjoy my usual 3 months school vacation, from mid June to mid September. Yes, in Italy it works this way until High Schools. 9 months of “going to school” and 3 months of summer vacation. At that time we were all 16-18 years old and summer vacation meant everything for us! First kisses, beers, sun, the sea… 3 very long months all for us!
It was one of the last day of school, beginning of June. I remember clearly when our Math prof said “guys, enjoy this summer! It will be your last one you can spend this way!”
She was sincere and happy for us, but her words sent us down. The electricity you could breathe in the air five minutes before was gone. She was still smiling.
Someone in our class took courage and asked: “Prof… what do you mean by ‘the last one’?”
With a bit of bitterness on her voice she said: “Well, next year you’ll have Maturity exam so you won’t have 3 months for you. Maybe one, but then you want to prepare for University entry exams or you’ll go looking for a job or you depart for your Military service. Next summer won’t be the same. And from then it’s every year worse. You’ll work, i.e. 4 to 5 weeks of vacation spread across the entire year, or you’ll study, which means you have exam in June-July and in September-October and you have to study for them. You may not have realized yet, but this one, the 4th high school year summer, is your last light-hearted summer. Enjoy it as such!”
She was sincere, she didn’t mean to be mean. Energy level of the room dropped but I was still on the fence. I remember scanning everyone’s eyes to see how they were taking this truth.
Despair, disbelief, a bit of anger… but soon, too soon, acceptance.
A random friend relaxed the atmosphere saying something like: “Yeah, it’s true. I never thought about it… so then if that’s the last one we should partyyyyyyy”
Everyone switched to an inferior level of happiness. I was still waiting for something. My brain scanning all the other options finding none. Well, I didn’t know that life at University wasn’t that different from continuous vacation, but the point is: I didn’t know that I didn’t know enough to judge this prison sentence.
Ok, next year maturity exam, then uni, then job, family… pension at age 65-70… holy sheet what the hell is happening??
And then I mentally said NO. This is not true, this can’t be true. I will have a lot of similar summers! I don’t know how, but the rule is: “if I don’t have other options, I only have other options“.
I was not thinking about FI at that time, obviously. I still dreamed about “going to America” to work in Microsoft or somewhere else. Or founding my own software company or whatever. But I couldn’t accept I won’t have had the freedom of taking a summer off whenever I wanted.
The Freedom seed was planted.
Fast forward 23 years.
What happened? Did I took some summers off? Let’s see:
1999 – Third year at Uni, perfect curriculum so far. Took a lightweight year to recover from a sentimental failure. Mid July – Mid September free to enjoy the sea and the sun.
2004 – Before starting my PhD and after 2 years of Robotic Research I’ve thrown everything away and went skiing in April. Took the full month off and some spare days in March before rejoining.
2007 – After quitting academic career and before joining Videogame Company, why not take a couple of months off? May – June.
2009 – Negotiated a raise and a sabbatical at Videogame Company, took ~50 days off Mid July – Beginning of September. Bike traveled on south of France and spent time in Rome.
2010 – Almost burnout at Videogame Company, quit end of December 2009 and rejected an offer from a very famous company in UK. Finally free! 2 months off trying to figure out what to do next. January and February.
2010-2011 – Well, jobs started to hunt me during my Freelance days. I tried to only take enough to make me a decent salary and reject the others. These whole 2 years have been a big well paid part time job, I’d say 50%, but earning double compared to Videogame Company.
2011 – Freelance, but I still wanted more time for me, with no restrictions. Mid June – End of September. 4 months, more than school vacation! I took these 4 months to stay in contact with people. Friends in Rome and Tuscany, family, theater playing, tango dancing. I met future Mrs. RIP at the end of this extended time off. I still remember that one as the best summer of my life!
2012 – After having received the life changing offer from Hooli in June and before actually joining the company in November, why not take Mid July – End of October off? 100 days off seems the best way to celebrate! Bike traveled The Donau, Brenta, Mincio, Adige and Adda rivers and why not visit Croatia and Spain?
2016 – 4 years in the same place, never happened so far in my career. Time to take a break and take Mid April – End of May off and go hiking Italy Coast2Coast.
2017 – Started working 80%. It’s not a sabbatical, but it feels good. It’s not a school summer, but it’s 52 more days of vacation spread across the whole year. It feels good 🙂
202X – FI date is coming, how many summers are there?
Dear teacher, I’d love to tell you that you were wrong.
There’s always another option!