As a small child, I would spend every night leading up to Christmas morning wondering what was going to be underneath the tree waiting for me. As a young parent, Christmas became a whole lot less about “what I wanted” and more about how much my wife and I could surprise our kids.
Now, Christmas means just a little something different to me.
It was Christmas 2014 when I was a seemingly perfectly healthy 34 year old husband and Dad. Then, not 15 days later into January, I went to the hospital only to find out that I had Stage II cancer.
When you’re in the hospital waiting to find out what’s going on exactly and how bad your situation really is, certain things tend to disappear from your mind entirely.
You don’t think about work. You don’t think about all the “things” you do and don’t have. You don’t even think about all the petty stuff that people did that annoy you …
Instead, you think about only one thing: You think about time. You think about whether or not you’ll be around to see your family, if they’ll be okay, and if you did everything you were meant to do with them …
There’s only one thing you want, and that’s for everything to go back the way it was before.
The Greatest Gift of All
When you receive chemotherapy and feel sick for days, the best possible gift you can get is when you start to feel like your old self again a few days later. It’s indescribable to be full of energy again. To have food taste good again. How great it is to simply breathe and not have any part of your body hurt.
When you start to get better, it feels great to be alive. And things look a lot differently than they did before. Your career doesn’t define you any more. Material processions don’t really make you feel anything. And some of the things other people get really passionate about or take so seriously seem down-right ridiculous.
People who are negative or miserable all the time make no sense to you. “Hey buddy, want to have REAL problems? Try discovering a giant tumor in your chest and then come talk to me about how inconvenienced you are”.
When you’ve been robbed of so much time, time has a completely different value than is used to. You finally understand that it is in fact “finite” – you will eventually run out of it. Time is a premium. You realize all you can do with time is make the best of it.
All you can do is give it your best shot while you’ve got the opportunity. Don’t waste your time pursuing the things that will ultimately leave you unfulfilled and unhappy. Give your love and attention to those who really need it the most. Make plans and goals to go enjoy the experiences you really want to get out of life.
Financial Freedom is Bigger Than Just Yourself
For years, financial freedom has been very important to me. And it still is. But now financial freedom represents so much more. It signifies not just the time to do as I please, but also the opportunity to make differences to those where I might have never otherwise been able to.
By turning our savings into a machine of labor-replacing income, I will ironically take money right out of my daily equation. Working won’t revolve around financial gain, because my savings will provide all that I could ever possibly need.
Instead, I will be able to focus on helping people and sharing my knowledge the way I want to. Not because it is tied to any sort of job or financial gain, but because I care. I can help other people to realize and achieve their own dreams and goals, and I will be able to do so without the artificial boundaries so many of us commit ourselves to.
And, depending on how our assets shift and grow, the sky could be the limit to what I am able to do with them. It could mean financial gain for future generations, or even funding other causes we believe in. I could create the gift that keeps on giving. This could be my legacy, and I’d have financial freedom to thank for it.
Financial freedom has never been about the money. Having “the most money” was never the end-goal. Money was just a tool. Money was just the coal that I shoveled into the hot furnace of a giant machine; a machine that I’m designing and perfecting little by little each day. A machine that will one day not just do great things for me and my family, but for others for years and years to come.
That’s the whole point. That’s what we’re saving for. Every dollar saved is creating something larger than life, larger than myself, and having a purpose that I can share with all of those who matter to me.
This Christmas, I’m thankful for getting the one thing I wanted more than anything this year: To be able to finish what I started!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Featured image courtesy of Broo_am (Andy B) | Flickr