Thursday, June 27, 2013

Don't Think Hank Done it This Way

So we're striding down the road of life, cheerfully aiming at FIRE for all the great life-family-church reasons discussed in other places in this blog, and Mr. M decides to sign up for a drastic pay cut in August.

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 "But what could possess you to do such a thing?"  you may ask, "didn't you just recently graduate with a PhD and get a full-time job doing relatively straightforward thermal analysis on a kickawesome NASA-related project?" you may continue, "AND WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS INSANE THING OF NOT EARNING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE?!?!" you may rudely shout at me, at which point I will politely interrupt you with the following explanation.

Why do you suppose I got a PhD? (see, I'm being all Socratic here, which means you're supposed to think about this deeply)

It is my settled conclusion that the sole justification I have for earning a PhD in engineering is this:

so I can do what I want.

I got that enormous slip of parchment (truly - it's HUGE) so that I could study what I liked, research what interested me, do the work I enjoy, and support my family in ways that give me pleasure as well as reward.

So I'm taking on two classes in the fall, teaching undergraduates about thermal engineering.  There's not much else work-wise that I'd rather do than that, so it was a very easy decision.  My regular work will continue at 25 hours/week, with the accompanying 37.5% pay cut.  I might get paid for the teaching; I'm not sure.  I don't actually care very much, because the 62.5% of my base pay is still plenty for us to move towards our FIRE goals, albeit a little slower. 

But what, I ask you, (see, Socrates would be proud), is the purpose of slogging through high-pay-low-reward work just so you can be FI sooner? 

By the time you get there, all your experience will be in that one field where they paid you like a king to do your specialty.  If you ever want more professional work, guess what it will be?  Hope you're not burned out.

It seemed to me better in keeping with my own goals and philosophy to take the opportunity to do something I really love, get experience teaching in my field at the undergrad level, and hopefully, open doors to more and more of the work that I really enjoy.

Caveat: this decision will not sit well with either side of our family.  We're already thought a bit off for the bike-commute, the herbal remedy use, and our one-car status, and I suspect the only reason my family didn't write me off during the PhD was their expectation that I'd at least get a high-paying job after this shenanigan.  Well, I did, and there was a sigh of relief.  Will there now be a gasp of alarm when I dial it back?

The funniest thing is, both sides of our family set up their lives so they could do exactly the work they wanted to do!  My wife's dad just wants to be the best engineer.  And he is.  My parents live in a beautiful place, spend a lot of time together, cook great food all the time, and have most of the summer to themselves.  Are they FIRE?  No, they run a bed and breakfast.  However, the latter can look a whole lot like the former, and would bear a more striking resemblance if they could ditch some of their unhealthy consumer habits.  Perhaps this means my concerns are overwrought, and I certainly hope so.  But regardless, I'm looking forward to pursuing work that is really challenging and satisfying to me.

MMM has a good article on this.  Since I love teaching, and they generally pay you to teach engineering stuff, I expect that this type of work will be a part of my diet for as long as we live close to any sort of demand for it.  Maybe someday it'll be the sole active income stream.  That would be fine by me.  I would be lying if I claimed "satisfied working advanced mustachian individual" status at this point in my life, but that destination is on the flight path.

After that, perhaps luthiery?

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, funny to hear about this from the blog...