Where Does the Time Go?

Philip Greenspun was one of the founders of ArsDigita Corporation and wrote a very interesting write up about his experience getting rich through the dot-com boom, and some of the dangers of accepting VC funding.

I recently came across some of his thoughts on early retirement and found them quite interesting as this is a subject I spend a fair bit of time thinking about these days. I went through a period of “willing unemployment” (temporary retirement? a prolonged case of laziness?) and some of his insights definitely ring true to my experiences.

My mother always insisted that my brother and I stay busy, so every summer we had to be involved in an activity (or job or whatever). She made it quite clear that lounging around the house playing Atari wasn’t an option. Through childhood, school, university and work I was always busy and developed this idea that if I could free up my 8 hour school/work day then my life would stretch in front of me like an endless vista of time to do and experience everything I might desire.

As Philip discusses in his essay, when you get rid of the work and actually have the time, it disappears in a hurry without a lot to show for it. I always felt guilty when I wasn’t working (and even when I technically was doing something but wasn’t as productive as I felt I should be). It was sometimes disturbing to look back on a couple of months of life lived with nothing to show for it.

The flip side of this, of course, is why do we need to have “something to show for it”?

I always speculated with friends that this was a hold-over from society’s “protestant work ethic” and I just need to become comfortable with the lifestyle I’d created and not let nay-sayers make me feel bad.

Sometimes I wonder if early retirement will feel the same way? Does regular retirement? Most of the people I know who have retired around 65 seem to adapt well to it, but I know not everyone does…

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