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I love my job.

Who wouldn’t?

People do my job for free, and they’re called, volunteers. Volunteers do the fun part like chatting up strangers and playing films. When someone is getting yelled at or unclogging a toilet or shoveling snow, that’s where the paid part comes to play.

For 40 hours a week, I’m a park ranger. 

I chat with people who are mostly happy to see me, excited about what I have to say, and respect the green attire. It’s the best job I’ve ever had which includes a wide range of roles as a former assistant librarian and administrative assistant to a cashier and lifeguard. 

A park ranger is similar to those roles.

At times, I answer phones or suggest reading material, enter fees, or provide light medical assistance. 

What makes the ranger role different from the others is the people. The patrons are delightful but not as compelling as my coworkers and volunteers.

If you want to find the biggest advocates for our world, chances are they are trying to protect it by working for the government as a civil servant.

Even though the work and people are ideal, I know it will change which is why I’m pursuing financial independence retire early (FIRE), even though I love my job.

Cha Cha Change

Years before my current gig, I was an educator at a butterfly house and aquarium.

It was fantastic because my coworkers were more delightful than a chocolate box subscription. At the time, I suggested getting the gals together as much as I could without coming off as clingy. 

Spoiler Alert: I was so clingy!

I didn’t know my time there would last a year or that I’d move to Montana.

At some point, I calculated, we wouldn’t work there as the fab four. I wanted to maximize our fun and I wanted to maximize my fun. So, we had potlucks and craft nights. I played board games and tried virtual reality. We chuckled about complaints while whittling away on jewelry, painting, or cards. 

Moments made in a short time, but they continue to keep us banded together even though I live 900 miles away.

This is my kindling for FIRE

No matter how much I love the volunteers or my coworkers, things will change. 

They will leave at some point, as will I. Can I expect the next crew to be equally amazing? Honestly, what are the odds?

My lengthy employment history has included working at places where management ensured my life was terrible, whether by accident or intent. Quitting instantly wasn’t an option, but FIRE gives that leverage I have yet to experience. 

I’m Not Who I Used to Be

I’ve changed so much. 

  • Giggles was my nickname as a kid. Only my dad used it, but it’s an insight into who I was. 
  • I joined the Navy hoping to be a fireman. Now, I have the chance and I have zero interest.
  • I used to spend everything and save nothing. Occasionally, I’d overdraft my checking account too.
  • I was an average in high school but academically better in college.

This isn’t a sad list of has-beens but a short list of who I was. I’m not proud of all my choices, but I’m proud of how much I’ve changed.

I don’t want to be the same person I was at 18, 25, or 30. I want to keep exploring, experiencing, and evolving. Stagnant is the expectations for ponds, pollution, and politicians, not a lifestyle choice. 

Valuing Options 

When I graduated college, my identity was a professional park ranger. I had a fancy degree and several summers of experience with the National Park Service, I was a park ranger.

Then, I wasn’t. 

I had an official ranger gig, but the commute and management were awful. So, I left and took a state park naturalist position and that role dried up with the funding. 

I sat in limbo for a few years as a receptionist, pitying myself and the park ranger pipe dream. 

When the secretary job turned from boring to deeply unfulfilling, I applied for a part-time job that I was nervous to accept. I interviewed for an art and science instructor and was offered the position. After various mental gymnastics, I accepted even though I had never taught art or worked with underserved kids. I tried to console myself that quitting was an option.

It ended up being one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. 

The skills I learned from that part-time position are expertise I draw from to this day. Most of the underserved kids were inspirational and hungry for whatever I offered. Though rare, bad days happened like when a kid threw a marble at my eye.

His aim was bad and it hit the dark circles under my eyes instead. The dark circles under my eyes blended it like a big, bruising party of questionable fun.

Eventually, I quit, but it was because I was moving to another part of the country. Leaving those kids, who had already experienced so much loss, was gut-wrenching. As I write this years later, I feel tears prick my eyes as I remember their somber faces and hear the echos of their desire to visit.

The point of this rambling story is that my identity is no longer attached to being a ranger. I get plenty of joy with what I do but since being an art and science instructor, I started to cultivate an identity that isn’t tied to what I do. 

It’s a service I’m proud to provide, but it doesn’t define who I am. 

I Love My Job

In investing, diversification is coveted like the demi-god it is. FIRE is just another form of diversification but for a career. 

The last time I put all my identity into the park ranger basket, it crashed. I felt lost and broken for a few years until boredom pushed me to a point where I had to explore what I feared the most, a lack of confidence. Once I accepted my shortcomings, faced my fear, and stepped forward, I became brighter and better because of it.

I love my job, but my life is no longer my job. 

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2 thoughts on “I Love My Job: Still Sprinting to Early Retirement

  1. Congratulations on having a job you love! I agree- there are some really dedicated public servants in this country and it makes me proud!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Sam. I’m proud and fortunate to work with people who are as passionate about the world as I am.

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