Watching The Wheels

There are a few songs that can serve as an anthem for the journey to financial independence and retiring early. “Take This Job & Shove It” comes immediately to mind, as does “Bang On The Drum All Day”.

Those songs are about escaping the drudgery of work, but I think the most appropriate song for my FIRE mindset might be John Lennon’s 1980 “Watching The Wheels”. Lennon wrote his ode to not working in response to the six years he took away from performing between 1974 and 1980. During the time, Lennon stayed home with his wife Yoko and son Sean, enjoyed family time and baked bread.

Songfacts.com writes “The song makes a statement that taking it easy and spending time with loved ones is anything but crazy. Working way too hard in an attempt to be a productive as possible, on the other hand, can be quite unfulfilling in the end.”

There are several lines of the song that echo my interactions with former colleagues and our different paths in life:

People say I’m crazy, doing what I’m doing.

Well, they give me all kinds of warnings,

To save me from ruin.

When I say that I’m okay, well they look at me kinda strange

“Surely, you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game”

While I enjoyed my career and “playing the game” a great deal, I also didn’t wrap so much of my self-importance in my job that it was difficult to walk away. Even after almost two years away from MegaCorp, people tell me that I could still start working any time I want, or suggesting new roles that I might pursue.

People say I’m lazy, dreaming my life away.

Well they give me all kinds of advice,

Designed to enlighten me.

When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall

“Don’t you miss the big time boy, you’re no longer on the ball?”

I have not found myself missing the MegaCorp “big time” in early retirement at all and look back at some of those trappings as silly now. The fact is, I really enjoy having the time to do things independently and simply “watch shadows on the wall” and doing my own silly things. While unlike Lennon, I didn’t wasn’t burned out from fame and fortune, but have certainly found joy in “watching the wheels go round and round”.

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go

Ah, people ask me questions … lost in confusion

Well, I tell them there’s no problem … only solutions

Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I’ve lost my mind

I tell them there’s no hurry, I’m just sitting here doing time …

What is your FIRE anthem?

9 thoughts on “Watching The Wheels

  1. Great post, Chief! I didn’t have a FIRE anthem, but I’m hopping on your bandwagon. “Watching The Wheels” is perfect and a song I’ve long enjoyed. “No longer riding on the merry go round, I just had to let it go!”

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  2. Living your life around the vision of Megacorp and drinking the corporate Kool-aid can definitely have an unfulfilling end. And the higher up you go, the more commitment thats expected. Good for you that you didnt let yourself get too wrapped up in it. If you have worked there for a long time like 20 years sometimes it takes a while to adjust and detox from that mindset. You realize there is more to life than needing to be part of the rat race.

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    • Like you say, it’s easy to make work your life, rather than focus on the wonderfulness of life outside of work. We’re all competitive to some degree, and work can bring that out in us – making it more important than it should be.

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  3. I hadn’t really considered my “anthem” until reading your post, but now that you mention it, mine is less related to my work in the past, and more focused on the adventures ahead. I’d have to say for right now, my “anthem” would be Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Particularly the lyric lines, “Live your life with arms wide open, Today is where your book begins…The rest is still unwritten.” Have a great weekend! ~ Lynn

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    • That’s a great one, Lynn – very positive & forward looking. I’ll have to start a FIRE playlist on my phone and include that!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While I get the anthem concept the idea that anyone should harbor ill will toward their employer is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Nobody chose that job for you and nobody makes you keep it. If anything you should be grateful they are helping you work toward FIRE. If you really think it is a soul sucking death trap then get out! It is a blessedly free country and you can work anywhere doing anything or just work for yourself. Of course while I say that I did hum Johnny Paycheck a few times behind my CEO’s back.

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  5. Watching the Wheels was the only song on my mind. I certainly received the same kinds of reactions from coworkers when I announced my intentions to retire early. That song and sports figures who retired at the top of their game were my inspirations.

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    • Yes – I like it when people quit at the top of their game. The Super Bowl is here in MN this weekend and I heard 4-time champ Terry Bradshaw say that his biggest regret was not leaving the NFL after his fourth ring.

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