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{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Never learn

An almighty crash was followed by a cascade of rainbow coloured Lego across the wooden floor, as a guilty lockdown kitten emerged from the overturned toy box.

Moments earlier he had been crouched. Poised. Ready. Quivering in anticipation. Blue eyes on the prize.

A shiny speck of light danced erratically across the wall.

Alluring to the point of being irresistible. Kryptonite for a cat. The hunt was on!

An imaginary prey.

Impossible to catch or capture.

Yet always tempting. No matter how many times it has disappointed in the past.

It had taken a moment for me to figure out the origin of the light. Spring sunshine reflecting off a glass of water.

The lockdown kitten had stalked across the floor. Low to the ground. Commando style.

Leapt onto the arm of the couch.

Leapt again onto the tropical fish tank.

A controversial move. The aquarium is prize territory. A warm spot, that gets plenty of direct sunshine.

Jealously defended by the older lazy cat, who until that moment had been sound asleep on top of it.

Battled commenced.

Growling. Hissing. A frantic flurry of tooth and claw. More street fight than smackdown wrestle. The days of the lazy cat indulging the lockdown kitten, boxing with claws in, had long since passed.

Over almost as soon as it began. Lockdown kitten plunging into the toy box. The lazy cat issuing a triumphant yowl, yellow eyes radiating menace. A minor skirmish in an eternal turf war.

The lockdown kitten slunk towards the door, before something captured his attention yet again. A shiny speck of light dancing across the wall.

Body tensing. Blue eyes tracking the movement. Tail swishing. Hunting once more.

He never learns.

Anticipation

My younger son had spent hours online researching a Lego set he had his heart set on.

Working out where it was in stock? Who had the best price? How long delivery options would take?

Discovering the local neighbourhood toy store had not survived lockdown.

Learning that a premium is paid for instant gratification, with high street retailers charging significantly more than online stores.

Finding that even when a department store or supermarket claim to have an item in stock, it often requires an overnight wait for it to be dispatched from a warehouse to the local store for collection.   

He had dropped hints. Made suggestions. Asked outright. Articulated his case. Begged and pleaded.

Unsuccessfully.

I observed that it wasn’t Christmas or his birthday, and he already had plenty of Lego.

Never easily deterred, he changed tacks and declared he would buy the set with his own money.

I said I thought he would be wasting his money. He would open the box. Spend a couple of hours building the toy. Play with it for a day, maybe two. Then lose interest. Forget about it. Just like his other toys.

He bristled. Declared that it was his money. He could “waste” it however he pleased.

After some haggling over credit and payment terms, he emptied the contents of his money box and carefully counted out the exact change required to complete the purchase.

He watchfully stood at my shoulder while I placed the online order, determined to get the transaction completed before I got distracted or had my attention stolen by some other seemingly urgent demand.

The order confirmation predicted that the purchase would be delivered the following day.

At school pick up the next afternoon, the first thing out of his mouth was “did it arrive yet?”.

No “hello”.

No “how was your day?

It is all about priorities. Needs versus wants. Sigh!

On hearing it had not, the boy grabbed my hand and dragged me back home in record time, worried the delivery driver might visit while we were away from the house.

For the next couple of hours, he stood by the window, watching in eager anticipation for his treasure to arrive.

He ate his afternoon snack.

Earned a silver certificate on Mathletics.

Practised his spelling words and times tables.

Read a chapter of Harry Potter.

All while glancing anxiously down the road for the delivery van to appear.

Predictably, it wasn’t until I was putting dinner on the table that the van turned into our road.

A squawk of delight. Thundering feet, as the boy bolted for the front door. Hot on his heels, the lockdown kitten followed, paws scrabbling for purchase on the hardwood floors.

Moments later they returned wide-eyed, clutching an enormous box. Enthusiasm only slightly dampened as it became apparent the box size was due to a packaging fail rather than a vast number of pieces contained in the Lego kit.

Over the next couple of days, the boy invested nearly seven hours diligently building the Lego set. At least half that time was spent searching for scattered pieces, after the lockdown kitten delighted in playing football with them.

Eventually, construction was complete. The boy proudly showed off his new toy, then commenced playing with it.

Day one, it was the only toy he played with.

Day two, it joined a pitched battle against some Transformers.

On day five, the half dismantled and already forgotten toy spilt from toppled toy box, courtesy of the lockdown kitten’s tumble.

Already my younger son had started researching his next shiny object of desire.

He never learns.

Swiftly forgotten

Roughly a year ago, my lady wife changed jobs. Taking a big step up the career ladder.

With pandemic lockdown restrictions easing, her employer recently decided to reopen their offices. In my lady wife’s case, this marked her first opportunity to go to work, as opposed to the last year spent living at work.

She was more than a little excited!

A chance to socialise. Gossip. Trade stories about life, love, and dramas outside of work. The things normal people happily share about themselves informally, but not so much during scheduled video conferences and meetings.

Establish those all-important interpersonal relationships. The ones that make it easier to get things done as part of a team.

Build consensus. Create goodwill. Have your back. Trade favours.

Attendance in the office was “optional”.

No pressure.

Return only if you feel comfortable and safe doing so.

We know what it is like to juggle child care and full-time work, we’ve been living it too”.

Day one, a few eager souls braved public transport and sat in a largely empty open-plan office space.

Dress was smart casual. Not wanting to show up those Zooming from home in hoodies or pyjamas.

Day five, more than half the staff were physically present.

Business suits were squeezed into, dug out of wardrobes or rescued from long-neglected dry cleaners.

Folks working from home began to feel like they were missing out. Being left behind.

Conversations that began in conference calls continued in corridors and around the coffee machine.

Decisions are made by those who are present. Communicated as an afterthought, out of courtesy.

By day eight, nearly everyone was back on site.

Meetings congregated wherever there was space. A scarcity of available meeting rooms with video conferencing facilities meant catering to those few remaining remote workers was becoming a hassle.

Already staff were coming in early and leaving late.

Presenteeism reasserting itself like a zombie rising from the dead in a low budget horror movie.

Attempting to fit the day job around being a professional meeting attendee.

By the end of her first week in the office, my lady wife sounded very much like her pre-pandemic self.

Crowded buses and delayed trains.

Lunch consisting of expensive store-bought sandwiches or sushi, scoffed down at her hot desk in between meetings.

Thursday night drinks after work. Friday morning hangovers, salved by a bacon sandwich and a huge drink of water.

Not having enough time in the day to get her job done. Marvelling that she had kept pace while working from home. Wondering why she was now struggling to be as productive back at the office?

Compensating by working harder and longer.

Quickly falling back into the patterns of the “old” normal. Commute. Work. Commute. Sleep. Repeat.

Yet despite all that, happier for it.

She never learns.

Never learn

That first day my lady wife ventured into the office was AWESOME!

It was the first time in a year I had the house all to myself, with only the cats for company.

A glorious spring day. Bees buzzing. Birds singing. Flowers blooming. Sun shining.

I had thrown the windows open. Turned my music up. Sat outside in the sun.

My lady wife has been berating me to look for a job. Get out of the house. Make some new friends. Earn a large enough wage that a bank would offer her a mortgage.

The very idea of returning to an office and sitting in meetings all day produces a visceral reaction. Churning stomach. Heart beginning to race. Tension spreading across my shoulders.

Purely psychosomatic. Mind over matter. But telling nonetheless.

So instead, I have procrastinated. Teaching myself WordPress theme development. A bit of PHP programming here. Some Javascript there. A handful of Bootstrap. A pinch of HTML. A splash of CSS. Even a sprinkle of SVG. Mixing them all together was surprisingly satisfying.

Much more fun than meetings, conference calls, and cat herding delinquent third-party vendors.

Not something I would seriously consider doing professionally. My high cost of living locale is incompatible with the infamously low wages those “creative” type of gigs offered.

However, I was enjoying myself. A tangible sense of achievement as functional, and occasionally beautiful, web pages came together. Feelings of accomplishment greater than a typical working week.

My phone buzzed, displaying the name of a headhunter on the screen. A blast from the past. Someone great at what he did, reliably finding fantastic candidates for difficult to fill specialist niche roles. I had hired several people through him in the past, with successful outcomes each time.

I hadn’t talked to him in years. Curious, I answered.

He had a job to fill.

A big job.

A permanent job.

An impossible to fill job.

He knew I had run my own business for decades. Was semi-retired. With kids to look after.

Didn’t need the money. Long past wanting to rule the world. With no need to prove myself.

Yet despite all of that, he still wanted to run the role by me. To his mind, I had the perfect blend of skills and experience required to perform the role well.

As he ran through the particulars, I mentally conceded he was right.

After asking me to think about it for a couple of days, the headhunter hung up.

Before the call, I had little desire to return to work. Indeed, I was beginning to wonder whether I might not have accidentally FIRE’d sometime mid-last year without realising it at the time.

My charts suggest otherwise, but they provide an accounting of the past not a projection of the future.

Numbers don’t lie, but children do grow up and leave home.

After the call, the idea was surprisingly tempting.

It was flattering to be sought out. Nice to feel needed.

The opportunity offered a safety blanket of past familiarity, as opposed to exploring future unknowns.

If I’m honest with myself, the main attraction was it would get my lady wife off my back. Temporarily.

Out of the house. Tick.

Make some new friends. Tick.

Salary capable of obtaining a mortgage. Tick.

I sat back and gazed over the neighbourhood backyards as I mulled over the opportunity.

Next door, the lockdown kitten stalked the neighbour’s ~50-year-old tortoise through the long grass.

At the rowdy Kiwi group house, three prop forward sized guys lazed in an inflatable toddler pool. Drinking beers while watching IPL cricket on a television precariously perched on a window sill.

It was mid-morning on a weekday during school term. I could be enjoying myself in the sunshine. Or I could suit up, take the six-figure salary on offer, and defuse the domestic disharmony.

It should be an easy decision.

I never learn!


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19 Comments

  1. The bludger 23 April 2021

    Flattery can go a long way.

    Tell me you didn’t take it. 😉

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 April 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Bludger.

      Lol, I’m not that vain!

      That said, I haven’t told them no either.

      Sometimes it is helpful to ponder things for a few of days. Give my inner saboteur a chance to throw bricks and excrement at the idea. Consider it from all the angles, and fully understand the drivers behind my initial gut reaction.

  2. David Andrews 23 April 2021

    A permanent job with a 6 figure salary, nice.

    Just think of the income tax attached to it – ouch. Potential impact on Child Benefit ( if your household is able to claim it ), child care costs, commuting costs etc..

    However, what price would you put on mitigating domestic disharmony ? I’m not sure I have that value calculated in my spreadsheet.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 April 2021 — Post author

      Thanks David.

      It is a great package, though whomever takes the job would certainly earn it.

      However, what price would you put on mitigating domestic disharmony ?

      I’m reliably informed that with a good lawyer it can be as low as half. Without one, the sky’s the limit! 😉

  3. steveark 23 April 2021

    A year after I retired I turned down an offer of over triple of the six figures I used to make. But my situation is such that more money is not useful to me, I can’t spend what I’ve got now. Not because I’m insanely rich, I’m not, I just have more than my lifestyle will ever use up. So I said no, your situation is different, might make sense to take the job for long enough to build a bigger portfolio? Or not.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 April 2021 — Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, steverark. It is great to enjoy the luxury of choice, that is what financial independence is really all about.

      Financially, the salary wouldn’t move the dial all that much. What would is moving to a more realistically priced locale. The mortgage issue isn’t one of affordability so much as asset allocation and inconsistent goals.

      The quest for a McMansion in a posh part of a very expensive city is a vanity play. Seeking to impress friends, many of whom already have medium term plans to exit London (and in several cases the United Kingdom entirely).

  4. Fire And Wide 24 April 2021

    Loved this one – though I’m intrigued as to which way you will go. Clearly the wrong time of year anyway 😉

    But this day has been coming for a while right? One way or another, I guess it will be prompting that conversation about what you both want. I’m guessing a good answer is not one house by the sea and one McMansion though!

    Seriously though, it’s tough when you disagree on something that a compromise solution can’t fit. We’ve had a couple of such to work through over our years and got there eventually. Just took a lot of honesty. Good luck!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 24 April 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Michelle.

      The “house wars” have become an annual festivity, kicking off each Spring.

      It is difficult to muster must enthusiasm for them, as they are unlikely to go anywhere. We’ve owned where we lived a couple of times in the past, it didn’t make my lady wife any happier. If anything, she found the hassle of organising our own repairs more stressful.

      The estate agents in her preferred area have written us off as time wasters (with good reason), and my tame mortgage broker laughs in open disbelief each time I get in touch to arrange mortgage approval in principle.

      Unfortunately she is in love with an idea, rather than a reality. Craving not the décor displayed in interior design magazines and Pinterest boards, but the lifestyle she imagines comes with them. Keeping up with the Kardashians, rather than the garden variety Joneses.

      Wanting an “after” that mere mortals like us couldn’t hope to afford without a lottery win, but unwilling to start with the “before” and put in the work required to create it.

      A dream I can neither provide nor compete with.

      • Fire And Wide 25 April 2021

        I’m pretty sure even with a lottery win it wouldn’t be the dream envisioned. But some people just have to try it to realise that, unfortunately.

        At least with a well-honed annual routine you guys will be back in peacetime soon.

        • {in·deed·a·bly} 25 April 2021 — Post author

          You’re absolutely correct. I’m pretty sure when we’re disagreeing about housing, we’re not really talking about housing.

          One person’s peacetime is another’s Cold War. 😉

  5. The Rhino 24 April 2021

    Would you like to sack it all off and come and live in the woods?

    We could wrestle bears, spear sea-bass and wrangle wolves.

    In my minds eye I see us riding shirtless, Putin style, on unsaddled horses.

    Appeal?

    Yours,
    Rhino..

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 24 April 2021 — Post author

      Rhino, this has to win the prize for the most unexpected mental image conjured in a comment!

      We could wrestle bears, spear sea-bass and wrangle wolves.

      Sounds like everyday life at my house, I should get danger pay! Wrestling cats. Evading cannibalistic guppies. Wrangling children.

      I’m more partial to a Lady Godiva visual than a Vladimir one, but topless is topless.

  6. Malcolm 25 April 2021

    There is a saying of William Bernstein,s “When you have won the game-stop playing “ which entirely applies to investing
    I would imagine he applied it to so called “normal” lifestyles not Fire aficionados!
    To fill that potential life time vacuum that Fire can create is an huge existential problem that needs more addressing
    A retreat back to the workplace is the easy answer but that risks recreating the same problems that created Fire in the first place-no one wants Ground Hog day!
    I could not begin to have the answers
    Retiring at 57 with plenty cash and both of us ( wife and I) fit enough to travel the word for 18 years was our answer but that hardly begins to address a Fireman or should I say a Firepersons problem
    30+ years to fill with satisfying and fulfilling outcomes-its a long time
    Perhaps Fire should not be attempted without a Life Plan like an Investment Plan running in tandem?
    xxd09

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 25 April 2021 — Post author

      Wise words, thanks Malcolm.

      I think plans and priorities, much like the people who make them, change and evolve over time.

      Without them we are rudderless and adrift, wandering aimlessly or marking time.

      With them we have a sense of direction, possibly even purpose, creating the impression of progress and perhaps a feeling of control. Often an illusion, though a comforting one.

      Sometimes we persist with a journey long past losing interest in the destination, the goal becoming a part of our identity, for example a professional sportsperson past their prime or an office worker who has topped out in their career but doesn’t know what else to do with themselves.

      Other times we founder somewhere along the way, derailed by circumstance or misfortune, or simply falling out of love with a goal or vocation. That’s ok too, a natural part of life. Trial and error. How we learn and (hopefully) improve ourselves.

      FIRE (any form of retirement really) can be tough because it strips away the excuses. Leaving the FIREseeker staring at themselves in the mirror asking some deep, and for some troubling, questions. Who am I? What do I do? How do I make myself happy and content? Fulfilled and loved?

      Big questions they never took the time to ponder previously, too busy working and commuting and whiling away their scarce leisure time drinking beer on the couch while watching football on the tv.

      Questions they now can’t avoid. Retreating is one valid response, though it can be hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

  7. Mr. Fate 28 April 2021

    Okay, I’m now fully invested in this story and anxiously awaiting to hear your decision. I am always flattered by and very much enjoy being asked to the party, even if I have no intent of attending. This explains why I always take the calls from the recruiters. And who knows, right? In any event, you’re clearly sharp and will ultimately make the right decision for you and yours. Can’t wait to hear what it is.

  8. Q-FI 29 April 2021

    I think The Rhino’s comment was the best I have ever seen on a blog. That had me cracking up.

    I loved this one and found it hilarious. Your life is basically the opposite schedule of mine. I had an entire year to myself working from home, alone with the dogs while my wife had to go into her office (dental assistant, so can’t do that via Zoom at home). Now we moved, and bought a house in a lower cost of living area (relatively of course). She just left her job (hopefully to foster soon as a stay at home parent) so now I have her around all the time. Hahaha. I never learn.

    Love seeing the lockdown kitten make an infamous appearance. The relationship with your wife sounds very interesting. Looks like opposites attract is the theme.

    I’m still working from home for at least a few more months, but I can see the end coming. Hopefully we’ll return as a hybrid model but you never know. I’m one of those people that has had a blast working from home and avoiding office politics and micro managing superiors (don’t have kids and didn’t have a wife home, so it was kind of like a shift to paradise). I do believe that if you want to further your career, you need to be there in person. That’s just how it’s going to be. Like you described there will be two classes of workers in the future. Lucky for me, I’ve relatively leveled out and value the freedom more than any monetary increase. Plus I’m eyeing my exit off the ladder entirely rather than up it.

    Good stuff Indeedably. Good stuff.

    P.S. you can only take the job if you continue writing your blog!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 30 April 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Q-FI.

      Long ago, I worked remotely for the best part of two years. It was great! The main difference was, like you recently, the flat was empty during the day.

      My lady wife has struggled with it. She’s a social creature by nature, thrives on interaction and conversation. She is also the sort of person who deals with conflict, pressure, and stress by talking it out with someone. Throughout much of lockdown, her options to do that have been very limited, which is raised the temperature on our domestic pressure-cooker. With a bit of luck that eases somewhat, now that the world is starting to reopen.

  9. Hette Hillsdon 5 May 2021

    I loved the phase: “Attempting to fit the day job around being a professional meeting attendee”. I’m retired now, but that certainly did describe some of my working days…!

What say you?

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