Since I received word about the passing of one of my heroes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I've bounced between denial, devastation, and fear. I'm a woman that believes in having the right to choose my own path. I am a bisexual that believes I am beautiful just the way I am and that I have the right to be just like everyone else. That's where the fear creeps in. My mind likes to play tricks on me, whispering things like "There go your choices... one by one they'll be stripped away." I chase away the thought, knowing that it doesn't lead to anywhere I want to be.
This isn't the first time I've experienced fear recently. I really didn't expect to be forced to teach inside of an actual classroom in the middle of a pandemic. Frankly, if I really stop and think about it, I experience fear in that scenario as well. Again, I chase the thought out of my mind. Allowing myself to stay in a state of fear doesn't attract anything good into my life.
How do I deal with fear?
Step 1: Observe your own fear(s)
Rather than allowing my thoughts to keep bringing fear into my experience, it seems like I could put my mind to better use in evaluating the fear itself. Eckhart Tolle talks a lot about being the ultimate observer of our own feelings as to temper their ability to run wild and cause us unnecessary problems. It feels as if you're outside of yourself, simply watching. As I observe my own fear, I can't help but notice that the common denominator is the feeling that I will be somehow unsafe in my current environment.
Step 2: Identify any Common Denominators/Sources of Resistance
Upon observing my own feelings, and realizing that "feeling safe/unsafe in my environment" is the common theme and source of resistance that I'm experiencing, I consider, what is the path of least resistance? In other words, what can I imagine doing that makes me feel better than that?
Step 3: Consider Actions that Could Move Up the Emotional Scale
With regards to work, I could quit. I could continue to report to the building and work with other activists to promote a return to remote learning until it's safe. Lastly, I could apply for a remote accommodation. Regarding my concerns about the future of the society in which I live, I could stay and fight, or I could move. Honestly, all of those choices feel considerably better than wallowing in fear. It also seems like I will bring more light into my life by focusing on the things I might want to choose, and the beautiful thing is that I do get to choose. I might not stay in the building where I work, and I might not continue to live where I always expected I would.
How can my financial plan help maximize my ability to make these choices?
We're just over two years away from being CoastFI, a monumental stop on the journey toward Financial Independence (Full FI). In two and a half years, I will be vested (meaning I will have secured a pension), and we plan to have our rental property paid off. These two things, plus the additional 401k, 457, and Roth IRA savings we have will be enough to modestly support us in our traditional retirement, and that assumes that we don't put any more money in retirement accounts (which is unlikely). The paid off rental property generates enough income to replace almost 50% of my take-home pay. This could allow me to work part-time if we stay here. It could also be enough income to allow us entry into another country under a variation of a "pensioner visa" in a number of places. Will we choose that path? I don't know, but I do know that I feel powerful having the choice.
I am also in the process of launching a business that will allow us a lot of location freedom, making us at least in part "digital nomads" if we so choose. A very conservative estimation of the first year of that business suggests that it could replace another 25% of my current take-home pay, with unlimited growth potential once, I am able to take it from "side business" to "primary focus."
Am I grappling with the fear of going back into a physical school building on Monday? Absolutely. I am going to focus on moving myself up the emotional scale by doing everything in my own power to advocate for myself, my colleagues, and my students not being in that situation. Am I legitimately concerned about the direction my country could take? Yes. The best case scenario is that it all turns out well (by my definition). If it doesn't turn out well, it'll take a bit of time for those changes to take effect. So, it is apparent to me that my immediate future plan doesn't really need to change. We can just keep our eye on the ball.
As for the distant future? I always suspected that my partner and I would remain in New York City to retire, or potentially end up on the West Coast again. While this fear has diminished a bit, it has taught me that we might want to open our minds to other locational possibilities, and in the meantime, continue to pave our own paths to the freedom we desire.