One of the ongoing jokes in my family is that that "Ashley can remember when she was 2!"  While my brothers may not believe it, I'm convinced that I have a very distinct memory of sitting at the field at my future high school with my mom when I was 2.  We were eating PB&J sandwiches, watching my older brother's soccer practice.  I don't really know if it's an accurate memory-- can 2 year olds even eat a sandwich?-- but the validity is unimportant.  The takeaway here is that I remember lots of random stuff.  


The Background

So fast forward to when I was ~10.  I remember sitting in my parents living room playing "office" with my best friend.  We liked to set up fake businesses, usually a medical office, and we would pretend to be the secretaries.  We'd write checks, issue prescriptions, create sign-in sheets for our patients, make paper "databases" of our patient's medical records, file paperwork, make phone calls... the whole shebang.  I loved it.  I couldn't wait for the day when I'd grow up and get to go to a real office and do that stuff every day.


A few years later I found myself working a bit in my dad's home office.  He has his own Heating & Air Conditioning company, so I would occasionally help out by filing paperwork or entering information into the computer for him.   I didn't realize it at the time, but seeing him run his own business was pretty instrumental in my life.  He loves what he does.  Every decision of every day is his to make.  If he wants more business, he accepts more jobs.  If he wants to take a day off, he shuffles around his calendar to give him that time.  He knows every customer and has great working relationships with all of them.  Running his own business is obviously not always rainbows and sunshine, but he does very well for himself and it seems like a rewarding career.


College & The First Job

By the time I went off to college, picking my major was an obvious decision: I wanted to major in business.  My business major would be a perfect stepping stone to getting a job in a big office somewhere where I would get to do all sorts of fun paper pushing in my very own cubicle.


Amazingly, I managed to snag that exact type of job by Sophomore year (big thanks to my BFF Margaret for getting me that position!).  The job was about an hour away from our school, so at first it was only a summer/winter break job.  In senior year, I took the plunge and decided to do part-time during the school year, commuting over an hour each way, 3 days a week, to work a total of 15 hours a week.  But the commute didn't phase me.  I was living my lifelong dream.


The Awakening

Fast forward to a little over a year ago.  I had graduated college and entered the full-time working world.  I was still loving the office job, but had recently stumbled upon No More Harvard Debt.  I've always been a frugal person, but reading about what Joe had accomplished with his money was astounding.  Even though I didn't have student loans (thanks Mom and Dad!) I realized how impressive it was for him to pay all his loans off within a year.  Shortly after, I discoveredMr. Money Mustache.  I devoured every single post by MMM in about 5 days.  I was blown away by his idea of early retirement.  But was it for me?


Early Retirement...

I recognized that I was still in the honeymoon period of my career.  Everything was still new and fun.  But I knew a day would come when I resented the 9-5 grind; when I'd want to stay home and do my own stuff.  Like I said in an earlier post,  I didn't know what "stuff" I wanted to do after reaching financial freedom.  But that didn't matter-- I just wanted options.  So I focused my sights on early retirement.


Early retirement meant that I needed to cut my expenses and save up a bunch of money as quickly as possible.  That would allow me to "retire" around age 30, while most people were still trying to figure out what to do with their lives.  Since I still enjoyed work, it was a no-brainer to stay in the government.  It was a place that continually gave me raises (whatup, career ladder promotions!) and where my job security was high (it's practically impossible to get fired from the government! You can, however, get furloughed...)


... Or Not?

And now, my view has changed once again.  I've started reading more "lifestyle design" blogs.  These are people who still work, but do it in a radically different way.  Most have built their own businesses (usually online) and are traveling the world or doing whatever they want, while still bringing in money.


I'm beginning to think that that's the life I want.  I want to have the ability to be my own boss, to do my own thing.  And I want it now.  But to become my own boss, I risk a lot of the money that I worked so hard to build up these past few years.  And I was so convinced that early retirement was what I wanted!  What if being my own boss fails miserably and then I'm back to $0 and have to work for The Man for 10 more years?  What if I change my mind yet again?


Despite those "what ifs", I think it's time I put my mind to it.


It's time to break out of the cubicle and into the outside world.


And I'm gonna start figuring out how to do that now.