My Future Is What I Make It

pineapple


Future 1: Corporate Success, Fancy Car, Fancy House

A blaring alarm goes off on my phone, instantly jolting me awake. I fumble around in bed trying to locate the source of the shrieking sound. I find my phone and manage to cease the noise.

Here we go again.

I rub my face with both hands, force myself to clamber out of bed and find my way to the bathroom. I narrowly avoid tripping on the robo-vacuum methodically making it’s way around the room. I swear that thing is out to get me.

One cold shower and 10 minutes later I find myself slightly more awake. I open the door to the walk-in closet and listen to the built-in recommendation system:

“Zach, based on your previous nine suit choices, I suggest wearing dark blue today”.

I oblige. I get dressed, head downstairs, grab two cereal bowls and set them out on the table. I whip up some eggs and brew a cup of coffee. My wrist watch chirps at me, notifying me that I’m running late. No time for bacon this morning.

The wife and kids join me in the kitchen briefly but I have no time to sit and chat. If I don’t leave now I’ll miss the 8:00 AM meeting. Three kisses goodbye and I’m out the door and into the Tesla.

Damn it, I forgot to plug it in last night.

I head back inside and explain to my wife I need to take hers instead, mine has no charge. I patiently sit through the “You’re So Forgetful” lecture and nod in agreement.

“Dad, I’ll see you tonight at my game?” yells my son from upstairs.

“Yeah of course, I can’t wait” I call back.

Five minutes later I’m out the door, only to find myself stuck in gridlock traffic. Great, I think to myself. Another 20 minute commute turned into an hour-long circus. I thought all these self-driving cars were supposed to make traffic more efficient.

One hour later I arrive at the 8:00 meeting promptly at 8:25. I sit through the remaining 35 minutes of uninteresting updates and head to my office. The next three hours are filled with meetings and managerial updates. I receive an email around noon with the subject “Zach’s 33rd Bday Surprise Party”…looks like someone accidentally included me on the email recipient list. That’s thoughtful of them though.

I have sushi ordered in for lunch. No time to grab a bite with the team. Five more hours of meetings, emails, and conference calls and it’s finally 5:30. Time to head out. I grab my coat, sling on my backpack and begin to head out. My phone buzzes, I glance down. It’s my manager.

“Can you come up to floor 18? Room 222, last minute business changes, really need you to sit in on this.”

I let out a sigh. “Be right there” I shoot back.

These late afternoon pop-up meetings are becoming commonplace. But I’m the youngest senior manager to ever hold this position. I need to be reliable. I notify my wife I won’t be at our son’s basketball game tonight. Unfortunately she won’t be completely surprised.

One hour later I finally leave the office at 6:30 and I’m home by 7. I have no energy to head to the gym, I’ll just go tomorrow. I throw a pizza in the oven and turn on the TV. Fifteen minutes later the pizza is ready and the wife and kids stroll through the door.

“How’d the game go?” I inquire from the kitchen. No response.

Great, another round of Let’s Ignore Dad After He Fails To Come To Our Sporting Event. I guess I can’t blame them.

I head to the living room and turn on the news. I scroll through my phone, occasionally checking my emails for any updates from work. Nearly two hours later I glance at the clock: 10 PM. I should head to bed.

I tell the kids goodnight, both momentarily looking up from their tablets to wish me the same, and head to bed. I have another big day tomorrow with a similar schedule. Only four more days  until the weekend. I hope this week flies by…


Future 2: Health, Wealth, and Freedom

The sun peering through the minuscule crack in the blinds hits my face, gently waking me up. I glance at my phone: 7:30 AM. 

Wow, I’m up early today. 

I rub my face with both hands, letting out a deep yawn. I look over at my wife, still sleeping soundly. The room is dark so I push the blinds slightly open to let some light in. I pick up On the Shortness of Life on my bedside table and read a few pages. Seneca was a genius. 

I leisurely head out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. Pancakes or waffles this morning? This could potentially be the most stressful decision I make all day. After much debate I choose waffles. 

Twenty minutes later the wife and kids join me in the kitchen. James is overjoyed I chose to make waffles; he claims they’re good luck for his basketball games. Start the day with waffles, end the day with victory. I think Seneca may have said that…

After a nice slow breakfast the kids and I grab our helmets and hop on our bikes. Time for the daily 15 minute bike ride to their school. We all take turns kissing mom goodbye. She’s headed to her morning yoga class.

A short bike ride later, the kids are dropped off at school and I’m left with the rest of the day to decide what I want to do. As I turn to leave the school I hear James call out:

“Dad, I’ll see you tonight at my game?”

“Duh!” I exclaim. “Haven’t missed a game in three years. See ya bud!”

I pedal off towards the beach. It’s only a twenty minute ride from the school. Along the way I get the usual odd looks from people patiently sitting in their self-driving cars waiting to get to work. 

I don’t miss those days.

Twenty minutes later I find myself chatting with the fresh fruit vendors who are setting up their tiny shops sporadically along the beach. 

“When are you gonna get a real job you hippie”, jokes Nico. He runs a pineapple cart.

Brady chimes in: “A little birdy told me you’re turning 33 this week, you’re getting up there old man!”

We all crack up laughing. I tell them both my book recommendation for the week and pedal off towards home again.

I spend the next two hours sitting at my laptop on the back porch writing a newly inspired blog post: “How a Pineapple Vendor Has More Freedom Than You”. I respond to various comments on the blog and read through some more personal finance articles. I check up on our dividend schedule for the upcoming months. Things are looking beautiful. As long as the dividend payments keep showing up in our account, we’ll be good to go.

Man am I glad I stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache over 10 years ago…

I head over to the gym a few miles away and lift for around an hour. I come back home, shower, eat, and spend the next few hours reading. After a while I glance at the clock: 5:30. The sun is beginning it’s gradual descent. Time to head back to the school for James’ basketball game.

I meet my wife at the game and our daughter Mia joins us in the bleachers. James’ team loses but I promise to make him some homemade ice cream when we get home to make up for it. He seems to accept this proposition. Food is thou greatest peacemaker known to thy humans. I think Seneca may said that…

Twenty minutes later we’re home and enjoying our ice cream. We play a couple rounds of Yahtzee, which the kids call the “Old Man Game That Dad Loves”, and then we’re all off to bed.

I have another big day tomorrow with a similar schedule. Only four more days until the weekend when I get to surprise the kids with a spontaneous two day mini-vacation. What a great week…

Feature photo credit: pineapple

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15 Replies to “My Future Is What I Make It”

  1. Ahhhh, isn’t it funny how the future is shaped by our choices? 🙂 That’s the exact life I’m dreaming of, too. I’m particularly excited to wake up naturally each day with zero regard for what day it actually is. 🙂

  2. You describe both scenarios in a way I can relate to. I would like to give a marketer at some Fortune 500 company, you know, the ones who make us all shell out for vision one, have a go at describing the two realities. Just to compare and contrast 🙂

    I know which one I’d choose!

    1. Obviously I haven’t lived the first scenario myself but I can imagine that it’s a scenario you slowly creep into over time. You don’t just reach a position of corporate success drowned in consumerism overnight. I agree it would be fun to see the comparing and contrasting of the situations by a major player at a Fortune 500 company haha 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!

  3. For those of us in the personal finance community, the decision is a no-brainer. I think the decision would be a no-brainer for the general public as well if they could just realize there is a better way to live and that we are not obligated to go through the motions propounded on us by society. And don’t get me started on the commute. 🙂

    I am so happy I had my moment of enlightenment at age 29. Now, onto making future #2 a reality. Really great, well-written post, Zach.

  4. Those were two enjoyable stories to read. One is almost a Stephen King horror, and the other is a Suess-like literary stroll. Visualization is a great way to achieve something. I think there’s something magical about putting positive ideas into our naturally pessimistic brains. It will be fun for you to read this again in 10 years and see where you fell. My guess is you will surpass the best positive scenario you come up with.

    1. Visualization is an extremely powerful tool. If nothing else, this post was a great exercise in envisioning what my future could look like down the road if I make the right financial decisions now. And I agree, this will be a fun post to read in 10 years – I’ll have to set a mental remind to read this post when I’m older! Thanks as always for the feedback, KF 🙂

  5. I’m fortunate that I have a reverse commute so I go against traffic. But boy I can’t wait until I can walk across the hallway to my office 🙂 That will be the day that is hopefully not too far away.

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