Leasing of Smart Car that Failed

As the car I have owned was crapping out on me, I started looking around for a replacement. Shoving money into an old piece of junk just seemed like a complete and utter waste. My old car was a 1997 model, meaning that it was 10 year old. I have just passed 200k on it so the value was not there by any stretch of imagination. If I wanted to sell it, I would get at best a couple hundred bucks.

Troubles with that car started about a year prior. None of the troubles were major, the car was still running as engine and transmission were in decent condition, but the computer was busted and was feeding the engine with way more gas than it needed. Heating was busted too so warming the cabin up in winter was entirely impossible (which also meant it was impossible to defreeze the windshield for driving in cold weather).

I threw $500 into thorough maintenance and none of the issues were resolved. BTW, if you want to waste $500 for nothing, bring your car to Vegreville Auto and Body Shop. They have this great ability to charge you $500 and give you the car with same issue it had before bringing it in. When I brought mine in, I told the owner that it was eating too much gas, way more than it used to and it didn’t heat up. So he ran it through thorough maintenance, replacing all fluids and parts such as sparks, cleaning it up and doing whatever else there is to do to hike the price up to over $500 only to find out later than none of it helped. I was seriously unimpressed. I have clearly stated what the issues were and that this is why I’m bringing it in. I would not have put the car through this crap had I known it was not gonna deliver the result. What’s the point of spending half a grand for something that doesn’t solve your problem?

So after $500 investment that didn’t solve nothing, I still had a car with problems and a value lower than the maintenance ticket I had picked up. The car kept draining my wallet on gas as it used almost $1 worth of gas per 1km driven. This was insane, but it got even worse in winter when I couldn’t see where I was driving through and couldn’t even hold the steering wheel it was so cold. I realized that my time driving this car is up. So I started looking around at other options.

I needed to buy a new car. I’ve never had much luck buying used and given how bad financing options for used vehicles are compared to new, one would end up paying the same monthly premium for three year old piece of junk, as he would for the new one, because of interest rates. New cars have financing with interest rates as low as 0% – can’t get there with used. That means that unless you’re intending to pay for your used car by cash in full, you’re better off picking up a new one.

I didn’t have money to pay off my car at once, so financing was the only way for me. Having been deeply submerged within corporate lifestyle, I knew all about finances and what to do with it. I started to think the same way rich people do and realized that the best way to a new car was by leasing one, instead of financing. There are several reasons for that:

  • Lower monthly payments than with financing
  • After the lease term is over, you don’t end up with an obsolete piece of junk you’ll have to sell under value to get rid of it
  • What you lease, you don’t own and what you don’t own cannot be taken away from you when you get sued. This may not be an issue if you live outside of North America, but for us here it truly is serious. You don’t have to try hard. You just happen to be at the wrong place in the wrong time and you get sued. Lawyers are especially trained to run you to the ground and when you’re down, they will take the heaviest kick at you. The more you own, the more they take from you. Hence owning large ticket items is a dangerous game. Rich people know that – you always want to control it, never own it. Leasing allows you to do just that

Being absolutely clear that I wanted to lease a car, the only question was to find which one. One of the options was to go for Suzuki SX4 as they are the sexiest and the best value for money cars around these days. They come standard with everything you need for a price other makers can’t match. Plus Suzuki cars are made directly in Japan, not just the company being Japanese. You are getting Japan made quality with SX4. Unfortunately at the time Suzuki didn’t have any interesting leasing rates available.

Another option was to go for Acura CSX. These cars have super sexy interior and represent one of the best long term investments. Overall cost of running in relation to what you are getting is incredibly favourable. Not to mention attractive leasing rates that put monthly installments for this $30k worth of car to a level you would get with $25k worth of cars from other makers. You would basically be paying the same amount each month, but be driving a $30k Acura, instead of a 25k something else. Quite a no brainer.

My favourite of all was however Smart Car. Lease rates historically some of the worst in the industry, value for money questionable, however Smart Cars are the $hit. I had two big problems with my current car – massive gas usage and pathetic cabin heating. Smart car solved both of them with charm. Mileage on Smart Cars is unsurpassed and given the size of it, there is way less space to heat up in winter so the cabin would get warmer faster than in any other car. Furthermore, I really like the look of Smart Cars and they are Mercedes made – solid strong, reliable, and backed by lots of warranty.

I went to check both Suzuki SX4 and Acura CSX but Smart Car was my personal favourite. No other car could offer what Smart Cars can so after very little deciding, I was certain that I want to lease a Smart Car.

Off I went to a dealership, spoke with really awesome sales person and after never ending negotiations to get the lowest possible price, we have agreed on monthly installments I was comfortable with. The papers got signed and moved on to the management for approval.

I got a phonecall from the finance department of said Smart Car dealership that my financing was approved by the bank (my credit is actually pretty decent) and I’m ready to line up my insurance for my new car and come pick it up. I was excited like you wouldn’t believe. I saw myself plowing through the streets of Edmonton on my brand new Smart Car like a pimp. No longer would I over pay on gas, no longer would I freeze my bum in winter. All of my car related problems would be gone.

The delivery date was set for a few days later and the last thing I needed was to get myself insurance for this new automobile so I can go and drive. I phoned Morgex – car insurance company with whom I’ve been for almost 5 years to tell them that I have a new car so we get the paperwork all done. I called up my agent and told her all about my new car and she quoted me how much it’s gonna cost me. My smile froze that very instant.

I was looking at an annual hike for car insurance from under a grand I have been paying for my current car to over three grand for this new one. I thought this was a bad joke. I was like – you have got to be kidding me. But no, she wasn’t. Apparently this is what I would have to pay if I were to drive a new car. The fact that I have never had a single ticket somehow meant nothing. The fact that I have never had a single insurance claim (never been in an accident) also meant nothing. $3k+ a year to have my new Smart Car insured. WTF?

I have decided it was time to look for other insurance companies if one who’s been solely collecting from me and never spent a penny doesn’t appreciate my business well enough to give me a decent quote. I spent days upon days calling around and shopping my personal information to get quotes. They all were above $3k mark. I was seriously losing faith in humanity. I had to postpone delivery date for my automobile as I have not had the insurance lined up. It was frustrating.

On a few occasions I was held up. I would phone the company, provide details to get a quote and the quote would be reasonable. So we go through hassle of giving away all of my personal details, faxing one sheet after another back and forth only to have the actual quote I would actually pay come up in the end and look higher than all previous quotes.

From that point on, if I called for a quote and they couldn’t give me not even a ball park without asking for personal information, I would not bother going ahead with it. Frustration was growing, delivery date was getting postponed and I was growing more and more weary of dealing with insurance companies. The dream of owning a Smart Car went from basically real into distant.

The thing was – my leasing payments for owning a Smart Car were just a tad over $300 a month. With insurance quotes I was getting, I would also have to pay the same amount just to have my Smart Car insured. That doubled my monthly cost for owning this car and it simply made little sense to me. This extra $300+ a month was just insurance. There was no gas, oil change or anything of value in it. It was just money out the window and into the pockets of what are known as the most rip-off-happy companies in all of Canada.

This bull crapping of car insurance companies frustrated me to the point that I have decided to slam my fist on the desk and say “Enough!” I’ve had enough of this crap. They all wanted to rip me off, now they ain’t gonna get a penny off of me. I have responded in kind and went to buy myself a quality mountain bike I could use every day for all of my commutes as well as day to day errands.

I got back to Morgex and cancelled insurance on my old car. I have also not renewed the registration on it so the car no longer had legal papers. The inability to drive it didn’t bother me – I had a bike now that got me around everywhere I needed to go. I was saving up big time and did something for environment and my health. I felt happy about the way it played out. They all wanted to get me but I didn’t let them. I did what was best for me and I’ve never been happier about the choice. Biking is a lot of fun and it’s good for your heart. But the knowledge that neither Morgex nor any other rip off car insurance company gets my money was priceless. That itself was worth the hassle.

So my attempt at leasing Smart Car failed, but something good came out of it in the end anyway. What I did not realize back then but do now, was that failing to lease a car left me free to get my life sorted out. Had I successfully leased and picked up the car, I would be stuck with the leasing, unable to leave my corporate lifestyle behind to liberate myself entirely. Some higher power was standing by me and did not allow me to lock myself in this madness that keeps you prisoner of your own will. It took me almost two years to realize but all that matters is that I did not take the leasing. I had it cancelled, financing approval rolled back and turned myself into a free person without ongoing obligation that would never allow me to live as free man. I thank the divine power that saved me from what could have been the biggest mistake of my last few years.

Liberation from Possessions

As recent travel re-ignited my barely burning spark of excitement, it was burning again, but still missing good fuel to burst into full flame. This fuel came in vast supply after I got rid of most of my possessions. I have not felt that liberated for years. Taking stuff that I owned and dumping it in the garbage bin was hands down one of the most liberating things in my life and definitely the most liberating since I got submerged in the corporate lifestyle.

I was so frustrated with my “Life in Boxes” situation, that I really wanted to settle in a stable place and live there so I can unbox and have access to all of my stuff for the first time in two years. The reason for my last move was the noise made by people living above me. I went to check my new place and it was in a quiet apartment building. I also liked the fact that the apartment building was for adults only. This meant there would be no screaming kids or obnoxious teenagers yelling in the hallways. Everything was suggesting that this was the place. I could not wait to move out of the noisy basement suite and when the day came, I rented an SUV and spent a long weekend moving to my new two bedroom apartment.

The moving was killing me already. It was a tough job and screwed over my entire long weekend again. Not to mention the cost of SUV rental and extreme amount of headache one puts themselves through moving. So when I was eventually moved, I felt the relief upon my skin, still shaking from the pains of recent move. I went to enjoy my first night in my new apartment, set myself a bed up, laid my tired head and body down, closed my eyes and went to have a peaceful night after months of extreme headache due to stomping roommates. What happened next was the biggest nightmare of my life.

I was tired as all hell and really needed a rest. I lay down and at that moment the people who lived in the apartment above me came home from a long weekend out. The noise they made was far worse than what I was getting from my previous roommates. What’s even worse, these people never quit. I was so tired I’d fall asleep standing. My eyes were so heavy I’d need pliers to open my lids up, yet the noise kept me awake whole night. I turned into a zombie and all of my faith in humanity was gone. I left one place to escape this stomping noise, went through extreme hassle of moving and worked day and night to move in three days only to come to the same and worse. I was ready to kill someone.

I basically realized that I can’t stay here. This noise was overbearing and there was too much of it. The following day I wrote up a letter introducing myself to the neighbours who lived above me and explained how hard it was for me last night with the noise they were making and how they didn’t quit whole night and asked them for consideration so we can all live soundly.

I dropped the letter off under their door and few minutes later someone knocks on my door. I open the door and there’s this absolutely gorgeous Asian girl standing there with my letter. I didn’t know what to say she was so gorgeous. I stuttered some incoherent crap and she left letting me know that her family faces the same issue as me as neighbours above them also make noise. I was devastated. I was defeated. I was broken, ready to quit on life. I moved six times in last two years. Because of that I was not able to unpack the stuff from my boxes because what’s the point of unpacking if I have to spend a week putting it back inside the boxes to allow for another move. And now after two years I thought I had found the place where I would be able to stay for a long time, so I could unpack my boxes and enjoy the items inside, but people living above me destroyed this hope in one night. My attempt to resolve it in a diplomatic way failed and I was left with nothing but tears in my eyes.

What happened next, however, was the most liberating feeling I felt since the beginning of my corporate lifestyle. I looked at the boxes which I have just moved in and said to myself – that’s it! I’m done moving it. I put a basket next to each box and went through stuff. Anything that I did not have in my hand in last two years went in the basket which I then dumped into the garbage bin outside. Anything I did not see an immediate need for went in the garbage. I didn’t care how expensive it was. I’ve dumped electronics, I’ve dumped jewelry, I’ve dumped merchandise I had for sale in my shop – I’ve simply dumped three quarters of my possessions without second thought.

After it was all dumped, I looked at the apartment which was before stuffed with boxes and now reasonably empty and felt an indescribable feeling of liberation. I felt as though a major burden I was crumbling under for years was taken off my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe again. I have liberated myself from possessions and it made me feel happier than I have felt in years.

My reasoning behind dumping everything was that it would not be worth the time trying to sell it. I imagined myself taking picture of each item I have, then posting classified ads about it. Some people would respond with loads of questions I would have to answer to give myself a chance to sell. Most would not go ahead with the purchase so I would spend a lot of time dealing with potential buyers who will not buy in the end. And what would I get? I’d end up selling way below reasonable value. So I’d be giving everything away anyway. When I took all that into account, I came to conclusion that amount of time it would cost me to post an ad and deal with potential buyers and amount of money I’d be able to recover per item would not be worth it. If I invested this time into something sensible, I could actually make decent money so why waste it in a stressful way? It just made no sense so dumpster it was. No second guessing – straight to the bin. If I look at my acting back then through the eyes of now, I feel extremely proud of myself. I now understand the value of time and how precious it is. I am glad I made it a priority over a couple of bucks these days and weeks of work I’d have to put towards potential sale would bring. Even before my awakening this undisputable understanding of my true self was there.

This whole dumping of possessions was kind of funny because I filled the whole giant bin outside in one day. I had to wait till dump trucks came to empty it and then I filled it again all by myself. I realized that other tenants in the apartment building would get angry with me for not being able to fit any of their actual home garbage in, so I waited each day until late at night to dump my possessions. Nobody saw who filled the dumpster so nobody knew whom to blame. I have filled it up like that several times. Dumptruck doesn’t come every day so my doing was responsible for crippling the garbage disposal abilities of all people who lived in the apartment.

This took place at the beginning of April 2009. It was before I went to Iceland, it was before I realized what corporate lifestyle did to me and decided to turn my life around. This liberation from possessions took place because I have had enough of moving my junk around and never even using it. Little did I know at the time that this small act would set me on my merry way to a better life. Yes, I still had the noise to deal with, but the thought of moving was not nearly as scary anymore. And now that I was free from most of my possessions, it has also become clear that when I turned my back on a leased car, it was the best decision I could have made.

My Whole Life Was in Boxes

After I had abandoned my photography business unable to compete against Walmart, I went to work for the government and since my former business was located over 100 km away from the government job, I decided to move. Not only is commuting 200 km a day costly, it also costs a lot in time spent. Hence it was not an option at all.

During my years as a business owner I have accumulated a great deal of possessions. Those included merchandise related to operation of said photography business, actual items that were for sale, lots of decoration for different seasons of the year, and crap loads of other useless junk I somehow felt appealed to buy when I saw it (corporate lifestyle ruled).

When time to move came along after I’ve been offered a job with the government, I packed it all up in boxes and moved to the new location I was going to call home. That however took place in the beginning of 2007. Edmonton underwent massive boom and rental prices went through the roof due to growing demand. Thousands of people from all over Canada flocked to Edmonton where economy was stronger than anywhere else in the country. There was more work available in Edmonton than there were workers.

With situation like that, there were no places for rent. Thousands of people looking, but everyone full up. Homeowners responded by hiking prices up ad nauseum. Since I have already left the notice with my old apartment, I had to leave, but I found myself in a deadlock. After two months of looking, I had no leads as everyone was simply full. It almost looked as though I was gonna end up on the street with dozens of boxes full of possessions and then I found a nice place the day before it would have been too late.

The place was nice, it only had a few catches. It was extremely expensive and was nowhere near conveniently located in relation to my workplace. I had to take it as that was the only available housing at the time. I asked my friend who has a van to help me move all of my boxes. We filled the van twice and moved most of the boxes that way, the rest I moved with my car. There was a lot of stuff in play, but it was all money.

Few months later, the housing situation in Edmonton has stabilized. Prices did not drop, but there was more availability. I took the opportunity and moved to a nice house with live in owner. He was a nice guy, the place was nice and it was close to work. I was happy. The owner let me use the garage where I have stored most of the boxes. The rest I filled up my room with. Life was pretty steady back then. I had little to complain about, other than the fact that there was no excitement in my life. I continued acquiring possessions as that is what you do when you live a corporate lifestyle. I bought myself a new, larger screen for the computer and 5.1 speaker system with awesome subwoofer that would bring any audio to life.

I stayed at that place for over a year and was surprised when the owner asked me to leave. I was happy there. It was close to work and no excessive noise to drive me insane when I’m at home. The reason why I was asked to leave, was that the owner, who had originally immigrated to Canada from Iran was able to get immigration papers for the rest of his family and needed his whole house so his parents and brother and sisters have a place. He recommended his friend and told her about me too. He was happy with me as a tenant, but the situation has developed in such a way that he needed his whole house for his family. I was unhappy about it, but had no other option. I still had my life in boxes and had to move all of them for the third time in a bit over a year.

I moved in with my former landlord’s friend at the beginning of spring. I was still driving at the time, but shortly after I moved to my new place, I bought myself a bicycle and started riding instead. This new place was on the 13th floor of an apartment building down town. Being downtown, it was again not close to my work at all and being on 13th floor, it made moving of all those boxes a major pain. I was pretty fed up with all that constant moving and was glad I had never unboxed cause had I done that, I would have to put it all back in the boxes in order to move. Keeping all I own in boxes had its advantages as it saved me a lot of time during moving, but it came at a price. You can’t find half of your stuff. You know you have it, you just don’t know which box it’s in. That forces you to buy what you already own. For example, you need a cork screw for your wine which I used to drink every evening (a glass of red dry each evening helped a lot with insomnia). I knew I had at least two of them, but for the heck of it I could not find them. They were in one of those boxes but each time I went through the content, I could not see any. So I ended up buying what I already had. Such is life when your life is in boxes. I also like burning scented candles and I knew I had plenty of those but rather than going through boxes, I opted for buying new ones. Corporate lifestyle which is all about acquiring possessions combined with life in boxes made for waste of money of unknown proportions.

Shortly after I had moved to the apartment on the 13th floor, I got myself a bike as my car was getting old and was becoming very costly to run and maintain. I made an attempt to lease a new car and had everything lined up, but it crashed and I ended up with none. Now I know this was one of the best things to have happened to me in a long time. But I’ll talk about it later.

I started riding bike to work. It was a 45 minute bike ride each way. I’m not a morning person so this forced me to get up earlier than normal in the morning so I could get to work in time on bike. Despite all that, commuting that way was enjoyable. Exposure to elements was making it tricky as some days it would rain like crazy, so I’d have to pack a set of extra clothes to take with me and change into them after I have arrived at work. Other days it would be so hot you sweat like crazy and stink whole day at work. Then it would get so windy you get to work exhausted as you pedal twice as hard but move twice as slowly.

But it was all good. I did it for a few months, until final element hit – cold. As soon as September came, it started getting brutally cold and biking became difficult. With each week it was getting colder and colder. Icy roads made for very unsafe biking and as you ride, you go against the air that’s freezing cold but feels twice as cold because you’re at a speed against it. I did it for as long as I could, but eventually had no other option but to move closer to work again. Driving my car was still an option, but it was the last resort. The car was completely busted, ate gas like crazy and didn’t heat up. It was still somewhat working, but it plain and simple sucked. I wanted to stick with riding a bike and it would be an option in winter as well, but not when your workplace is this far from your residence. 45 minutes of bike ride in summer equals over an hour in winter. It also becomes increasingly dangerous so it was just a question of time before something bad would happen. I had to move. Which meant I’d have to move all of my boxes with me AGAIN!

This time I found a place so close to work, I could walk to work in 10 minutes. I went through extreme pain of moving all of my boxes over to the new place all by myself (about 6 days of non stop work). The location was fantastic. I was so close to work, I was literally immune to any bad weather as I didn’t have to worry about traffic jams or cars not starting up. I could easily walk it to work in 10 minutes which was amazing.

This actually proved to be a heap of help as winter of 2009 was a tough one. It was extremely cold for extended periods of time. Whole December was below -30 Celsius. Then it gave us a bit of break and went down to beyond brutal again. Too many extremely cold days and these cold snaps also lasted for way too long. Not having to deal with any automobiles in weather like that was extremely beneficial. Sure it was beyond insane to walk for 10 minutes in such weather, but it could be done. On some days it got so brutally cold I had barely made it to work, but I’ve survived.

Unfortunately, I had really bad roommates in this new place close to work. I lived in the basement and the couple who lived above walked around like a herd of buffaloes. The noise was unbearable and never stopped. I spent Christmas suffering from severe headaches caused by non stop noise made by stomping of people above. I feared for my mental and physical health and had to leave as soon as I had a chance.

At this point I have already lost count over how many times I had to move my boxes from one place to another. I have been moving them around for so long, giving up on them was not an option anymore. In two years of working for the government I had to move 5 times and another move was imminent. Each of those times I had all of those boxes in my hand and each time the boxes were moved, they were just sitting there. Few essential items were at hand, the rest was just being moved in boxes. But the thing was – I have moved them around so many times yet never made use of any of it. I can’t give up on it now. If I were to get rid of any of it, I should have done it the first time I went to move. Subsequent moves would be so much easier. But since I haven’t done it, and actually went through eternal pain of moving each of them boxes around with me, I should continue putting up with it and wait until such time when it will pay for itself.

The breakthrough moment came with my last move. I had to leave the basement apartment asap because noise was just too much. There wasn’t much available at the time – everything was either extremely overpriced or extremely inconveniently located. Except from one place. It was a two bedroom apartment in a nice apartment building. It was reasonably close to work for convenient bicycle commute and reasonably priced: $850 for a two bedroom apartment. I figured I was gonna take it and find myself a roommate in which case the cost per person would become fairly affordable. So I went to move all of my boxes again. I had hoped this was the last time as having one’s life in boxes is extremely difficult and I was on the fringe of flipping from constant need to move them around.

Traveling as Means of Spiritual Awakening

The path to my early retirement and the spiritual awakening were waiting to happen. It started with my trip to Cuba in December of 2008. Visiting Cuba was my dream for as long as I can remember. Most of all, I really wanted to visit Cuba before it changes. I knew that US presidential elections that were about to conclude in fall of 2008 would bring the imminent change way too close. For many years I have suppressed my deep desire to travel but when US elections were around the corner, I realized it was a now or never situation. Time was against me, Cuba could change any day and if I were to experience it before big change, I had to act. The goal was to go before elections take place, which I never accomplished, however I still had at least a few extra months as even after winning elections in November, new US president would not be taking over the Oval Office until 2009. And even then, there were way too many seriously pressing issues which needed attention of new president so likelihood of a ban lift on travel to Cuba taking place this early was small. I still didn’t want to put the trip off any more than necessary and flew to Cuba at the beginning of December. It was amazing.

I only spent one week in Cuba, but it was my first trip after 7 years. I felt happy and uplifted like I haven’t in years upon years. I have forgotten how it feels to have an exciting day, to make whole day an adventure, to explore, to experience, to live. This had such powerful impact on me that come mid January 2009, I left for a weeklong trip to the Dominican Republic. This was even more extraordinary as I was in the traveling mood already so I made each day of my stay there richer with adventure.

These two trips within less than 2 months got me hooked on travel again. I still lived my corporate lifestyle, but took every opportunity I had to go to new places. Living in Alberta, Canada, I went for a brief two day trip to Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and started making arrangements for a big trip to a country I wished to visit my whole life – Iceland.

I left for Iceland at the beginning of June of 2009 and combined my trip with a one day stay in Toronto, Ontario where I have never been before. It was an amazing day as Kensington Market opened for the season that day so the area lived with many people, street performers, dancers, musicians, free hugs and everything else that makes you feel… awesome.

I spent amazing 10 days in Iceland and was blown away by sheer beauty of that country. It was 10 days of nonstop adventure and major spiritual uplift. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the things I’ve done – these were the best days of my life since… university. That’s right. It started coming to me that within last year I have done a lot of traveling and I haven’t felt that great for years. While I was traveling, I felt alive and happy.

I traveled to the Rocky Mountains two more times, this time making each trip last at least 3 days. I drove down the scenic highways across the mountains from Jasper to Banff the first time, making stops along the way and doing a lot of hiking to spend two awesome days in Banff afterwards. On my last trip to the Rockies I went all the way to Roger’s Pass in Canadian British Columbia where scenery is so eye popping I had my breath taken away nonstop. Again – I’ve done a lot of hiking and enjoyed every minute of it.

While trips to the Rocky Mountains were not trips abroad for me – being a Canadian – those were still trips during which I explored and had an adventure and it made me feel alive. So within less than a year – from December 2008 till July 2009 I have traveled to three foreign countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic and Iceland) and took three more local trips within my own country of Canada (Jasper National Park, Banff National Park and Roger’s Pass in Canadian Rocky Mountains). On top of that I have also visited Toronto which I truly loved and met some amazing people even though my stay was only brief. This travel reignited my dying Spark of Happiness which was nearly out due to corporate lifestyle I have succumbed to, but not entirely. Complete spiritual awakening after so much travel that re-ignited the spark was just a question of time and come July 2009, I was all there.

The Spark of Happiness that Never Dies

I was so entrapped within the corporate lifestyle, I started to believe in it myself. Deep inside I knew I was missing something, but I did not allow this feeling to come through and spoil my pursuit of money. My life was all about work, all natural desires suppressed, all corporate desires nourished. All I wanted was to accumulate possessions – to get financing for a fancy car, to get mortgage for a nice house, to get the finest plasma TV with high end surround sound speakers, et cetera, et cetera. There was no excitement in my life, I did not even see the purpose in it, but I believed in the lifestyle that brainwashed me to be that way.

That spark of my true self however did not go out all the way. After almost a decade of living a corporate lifestyle with pursuit of money being my only goal, the spark was getting fainter and fainter every day. I was 34 year old and forgot all about awesome life I once had when I was in the university and traveled through Europe, I forgot all about the quote I used to live by every day, I turned into a bitchy 30-something guy who hates everyone and everything to a point that even those few “friends” who could still stand my company thought I was an asshat.

The change of thinking came out of the blue. I have heard of Early Retirement but it was something distant to me. Perhaps I didn’t think I was the chosen one or lucky enough to retire early hence even though I was aware of early retirement, I never looked deeper into it. And even though early retirement had precious little to do with my change of attitude and outlook on life, it was closely related. I needed a definition to all the questions that arose in my mind and early retirement was a suitable answer.

I guess even though my attitude had changed so much all of the good fairies abandoned me cause they couldn’t stand that miserable person I have become, there was still one guardian angel left who believed in me. It was a day of no significance. Just a random day in the middle of the week, I came home from work, got on the internet to take care of my online affairs and spent more time than usual browsing through pictures of places and people from different parts of the world. The spark of independence and enjoyment that nearly got suffocated from the fumes of the corporate lifestyle I have submerged myself into caught second breath and I started to question the purpose of living for work. I started to question the purpose of working during the best days of my life and waiting to enjoy life until I have retired. I started to question the possessions that were surrounding me and their role in my life, I looked at past decade of my life and evaluated everything that’s changed – how my health deteriorated, how my acting deteriorated, how my spirit deteriorated, how my personal goals and contributions to the global society dwindled. It both shocked me and brought new hope.

This was a day of my personal spiritual awakening. It had nothing to do with religion. It was an eye opener that turned the zombie I have become back into a living thing who once again saw his place on Earth, his purpose in life, but most of all – a chance to do what I was meant to do… enjoy every minute of my life instead of hating every minute of it. For the first time after almost 10 years I have felt the touch of light. I was lost both mentally and physically and all of a sudden I found both the path to walk on and the river to drink from. I was out of the jungle of sharp bushes that were tearing me apart, I was out of the bog that was sucking me in, I was out of the pests that were feeding on my flash, I was liberated.

A Perfect Life – When Everything Goes as Planned

Shortly after I started to work for the government, one of the co-workers had a “leaving for retirement” farewell party. She’s been with the company for 40 years and knew everything backwards, so the director said we’re facing challenging times ahead of us as he gave toast. He said she could not be replaced, but we’ll try to find someone who could do similarly good job in her place.

As I was talking with another of my co-workers during this retirement party, he mentioned that the lady leaving had perfect life. He said everything in her life went as planned – she applied for a job with the government as soon as she got out of college, got hired, started working here, got knocked up, got married, spawned a few kids, kids grew up and got married, then they left family house, then she’d worked here for few more years and now she’s retiring and has all the time in the world to do the things she enjoys. A perfect life revealed before our eyes. Apparently this woman’s life went exactly as planned, everything fell in place, everything went smooth and now she’s gonna reap benefits of it. Could life get any more perfect than that?

As I looked back at my life so far, I thought there was a lot of merit to what my co-worker had said. True enough – everything in that lady’s life went smoothly and she’s now secured for the rest of her life to enjoy herself any way she pleases. It made me feel lost and desperate a little since I was 32 at the time and my life so far has been nothing like that. I was not married, I did not own a house, the longest I stayed in one job was 4 years… compared to that retiring lady I was a lost cause. When she was my age, she had already worked for the government for over a decade and had family and organized cash flow.

The one positive I saw was the fact that even though I scored that government job later in my life than she did in hers, I scored it nonetheless and my contributions to the retirement fund have been steadily dispensed every month. I had more than 20 years of working ahead of myself so if stuck with the government, at the end of those more than two decades I’d still be looking at dignified retirement. So I kept myself safely locked within the mundane lifestyle of a corporate slave. It was not making me rich, but I was not poor either. I continued accumulating possessions and kept telling myself to bite it and go with it, for one day I could retire and my life will know joy at last.

From Normal Job to Working for the Government

Given that I had master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, my first job was related. I worked as a computer analyst and the only thing that kept me there was the location. We had our offices within large textile factory where 90% of workers were young females. I hated my job, but I loved being surrounded by young girls at all times. We had some kind of arrangements with owners of the factory so we did all the electrical maintenance and repairs and since there was a lot of computerized machinery in use, things were often breaking down in which case we’d step in to make it work again. I didn’t mind fixing these machines since it involved talking to girls who were at a complete loss when these machines broke down since it kept happening often, they saw me as their savior. In spite of frequent interactions with young girls, I hated the job and was gone out of there after a year.

The artist in me eventually prevailed and I started playing with a video camera I had bough. I got so into videotaping, I started observing how pros do it and polished my own style. This has eventually lead me to my second job which I actually enjoyed to the fullest – I became a videographer. From the beginning I would do crappy video jobs including weddings and parties, but eventually stepped myself up to working on TV commercials and music video clips for bands. It was quite awesome, but I was still part of the corporate madness and felt something was missing in my life.

From videography there was only a small step towards photography. I still looked at the worked through the glass of a lens, I have only swapped moving pictures with stills. While the principal idea was the same, photography offered whole different fields to discover. I enjoyed it well enough to eventually take a big step in my life and start my own photography business (previous jobs all involved working for the man).

My photography business went all right from the beginning but times were getting tougher by the day. With introduction of digital cameras, people were able to print their own photos at home so photo development market dwindled. Furthermore, prices of quality cameras dropped to a level affordable by virtually anyone, so 90% of all people you meet on the street became your potential competition, since they all owned good enough equipment. Add to it the ever expanding big box stores with primary philosophy to eliminate small business owner and you have the situation in which it was rather impossible to remain afloat. I have abandoned the business and got employed once more.

This time I scored a job with the government. There are many things to like about working for the government – the pay is not much (unless you’re in top management), however government pays half of your medical and personal insurance installments and after you have worked for them for a year, you get your full dental paid for by them too. That’s a nice cut down on your expenses right there.

Another good thing about working for the government is that come 4pm, you get off and you’re heading home. I have not known this in any of my previous jobs. Ever since I started working for the government, I was basically done with work for the day at 4pm and had the rest of the day for myself. Not to mention that fact that I’d get whole weekends off – 2 consecutive days off work. Unheard of! But that’s not all – if it’s a long weekend, I get entire long weekend off. Wow! That’s right, working for the government has its perks. With most other jobs you get one day off a week. It matters little whether it’s long weekend or not, the employer will expect you at work. However when you get a job with the government, you’ll have yourself three days off in a row on a long weekend. Sweet.

After I have scored that government job, I felt like this was the terminal destination for me as far as jobs are involved. I was gonna sit quietly in my cubicle, perform my tasks to the best of my knowledge, write annual performance reports and do it over and over for many years until I retire. You always get paid when you work for the government and you always get paid on time. It bothered me not that the pay was nothing stellar. I had a steady and secure income with the job that left me enough spare time for myself. This job was a keeper and I intended to keep it.

Enter Corporate Lifestyle, Bring On the New Grumpy Me

As I gave it to the pressure from my family to quit being a wandering bum and get a job, I started to change. I did not realize that, as it was a slow-moving process, but gradually, bit by bit my mind was getting twisted by the corporate bs. I have fallen into the lifestyle of a working class slave who voluntarily participates in repetition of his day to day tasks. I did as I was told, I collected my wage, I paid my bills and repeated the cycle over and over again. Every now and again I would meet with my buddies over a beer, we’d have some laughs and do something cool, but overall I was a working class man who turned himself into a slave for the best part of the week so I could collect the pay at the end of the month and exchange it for things. The lifestyle of excitement has dwindled away, the lifestyle of collecting possessions took over.

Of course you don’t see it that way when you’re stuck inside that corporate cycle. I didn’t see it that way until a decade later, when I had a personal awakening and got a chance to look at my past 10 years from a distance. Deep inside I felt that something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t find a name for it and opted for denial instead. There were signs all around me, but I chose to ignore them. I know what kind of toll this lifestyle took on me. I was aware of that fact that I’m miserable and grumpy all the time and that I treat everyone like crap, even though I never used to be that way. I didn’t know why I started acting that way, but instead of looking for answers, I blamed everyone else. It was all their fault, everybody is in my way, everybody wants to take advantage of me, everybody is there to piss me off. That’s who you turn into if you take away excitement from your life and focus on a lifestyle based on possessions. Corporate madness will change you so you won’t even recognize yourself.

The further ahead you get, the more possessions you accumulate, the more you get yourself locked in place and dependent on possessions you bought. If you finance a car, you have years of payment ahead of yourself you can’t escape. If you take a mortgage to buy a house, you will sentence yourself to living in this town for a minimum of next few decades carrying the burden of debt. But the worst thing is – corporate lifestyle will wash you up so badly, you will believe in it. You will believe in the system and will see acquisition of each new possession as a step forward in your life. This gradual downturn will continue for as long as you see the light at the end of tunnel – retirement.

You will voluntarily allow yourself to become a corporate slave because of the vision that one day when you’re 60 or so, you will be able to reap benefits of your whole life’s hard work. You will see yourself with mortgage paid off, owning your cozy house with a nice car in a garage and grandchildren outside playing with your cat. You see this distant picture and it’s good enough to keep yourself voluntarily enslaved. The enslavement makes you grumpy and miserable, but you see possessions accumulating and you see the retirement coming closer, so you don’t give up.

I was exactly the same way and when I saw one of my colleagues retire, I thought she lead the perfect life.

From Fun Times in the University to Living for Work

I was brought up the wrong way. As I was growing up I was being repeatedly told that one has to work hard to make money and that I will end up living a miserable life if I don’t. Many a time I would achieve results by working smart, instead of hard, but in each such case I was immediately put in place and had my self confidence destroyed. In a long run, this treatment has taken its toll.

When I started the university, I sliced myself away from my parents which allowed me to think for myself and do what’s right for me. It was during my university years when I traveled a lot, it was those years I still consider the best years of my life. Many of my peers couldn’t wait to finish high school so they can go to work and start making money. Money for them was the means to obtain items they all dreamed about – such as their own car. While that was a tempting scenario, I saw job as something that ends one’s youth and with it everything that’s fun in life. You get stuck in a 9 to 5 corporate lifestyle, you come home from work, read the paper while you’re munching on a giant slice of bacon, then turn on the TV to watch stupid soap operas with your feet up on a sofa, and go to bed to do the same thing over the following day.

I saw university as extension of youth. Sure, I would not be able to drive around in my own car, but I would not get stuck in the corporate lifestyle which once you start, typically lasts until retirement. Those extra years of not being able to buy anything cause I wouldn’t be making money was worth it, because it meant that I would be able to do things I care about, things that bring excitement into my life, things that impart new vigor to the mind. Life was good. I hitch-hiked through most of Europe, met amazing people, took part in monumental activities and it lasted until I got my university degree five years later.

End of university marked return to parents house. I didn’t stay long cause it was killing me to have to stay with my folks whose frame of mind was somewhere back in the industrial revolution. I escaped this torture quickly, but as much as I wanted to continue traveling, I was instantly told to look for a job and reminded how badly I was gonna end up if I neglect it. My mind gave in, I applied, attended an interview, got hired and the nightmare of corporate lifestyle become my life.

Important Quote That Makes Life Exciting

During the best years of my life, when I spent my time traveling and every day was exciting, I used to use this Wise Man’s Quote very often:

“The feeling I experience when I resist temptation is really nice. But the feeling I experience when I yield to it is hundred times nicer.”

It is a variation of a famous quote which says that “I would rather regret things I have done than the things I have not“. Granted, I have modified the quote to make it more usable on girls. I was young and felt attracted to girls the same way any other teenage boy is. And even though I primarily used the quote as unfailing pick up line to help me score with a girl, the quote worked in my every day life as well. For as long as I kept repeating it to myself, my life was exciting and I enjoyed every minute of it.

As I have dwindled from travelling and living an exciting life into getting a job and living a mundane life aimed at collecting possessions, I have forgotten all about the quote. As a matter of fact, even though I used to live by this quote every day, after I had switched my life around and started living the corporate lifestyle, I had not thought of it once in almost a decade.

It was not until I awakened, pulled a plug and realized I have been living in a dark for almost 10 years that the quote jumped back at me. It pushed the tears into my eyes. I did have encounters with girls during my dark days, but never once has this quote popped back into my mind. Corporate lifestyle blinded me to a point that my mind did not see what was happening around me. The moment this quote came back to me was the moment I realized that this new path I am choosing is the right path.

There’s a lot of uncertainty accompanying any major lifestyle decision, especially if it involves an extremely brave step of quitting a job in which you are well established. Not many people find this type of courage as it entails losing everything you have worked for during long years of employment. What comes after it is unclear and can go either way, but it takes brave steps to achieve big things in life and I’ve had enough mediocrity in my life for 10 years.

So here I come again. I may regret this major change in my life and the fact that I am leaving everything I have worked for behind in order to step into the unknown and travel the world, but I’d rather regret what I have done, than what I could have done but didn’t.