It was January, long before the words “global pandemic” were a thing. Evan23 and his girlfriend were down from Ballarat where they’re studying to spend a few days in the Big City and Evan23 mentioned that he’d love it if I’d make him a new quilt. Ballarat is a very cold place.
We picked out a design from a couple of pictures on the internet. I worked out how I could do it, then we jumped into the car and drove to Spotlight to choose the fabric. It was during the massive bushfires – remember those? – and the air smelled faintly smokey and the sun looked a little orange. It was hot.
Once we got into Spotlight with its cool aircon, we were energised. It was exciting. We spent about an hour, circling the fabric stands, choosing, then discarding and choosing some more.
Is this shade of yellow too yellow?
Is this grey too blue?
Which fabric will look good on the back?
Should I do the quilting in yellow or grey thread?
We piled up bolts of fabric, peering at them to make sure we picked the BEST ones, the ones that would go together the best to make the quilt top sing. We talked animatedly, becoming ridiculously picky until we finally made our final choices. It was fun. Our brains were buzzing.
A new project! Always exciting. Things to learn, tasks to do… it’s all go! go! go!
But then the quilt didn’t get finished – or even started – for another 6 months.
Sound familiar? It’s exactly like the process everyone goes through when we first hear about the concept of early financial independence.
It’s new. It’s exciting! It’s a little intimidating… so many new things to learn, to think about and to get our heads around. It’s all go! go! go!
What’s an ETF?
How do I invest in shares? And how does the whole sharemarket thing work, anyhow? Isn’t it too risky?
What’s this Trinity Study 4% thingy?
We gobble financial information as if it was candy. Books, blogs, websites… we can’t get enough. It’s like Evan23 and I at Spotlight piling bolt upon bolt of fabric on top of each other. We grab at everything related to financial independence within our reach – tell me more! MORE! MORE!
But then… life happens. No one learns about FIRE in a vacuum. No one quilts or does other creative things in a vacuum either. We get distracted by little things like global pandemics, job insecurity and the everyday happenings of day-to-day life.
Often, people start off all excited, then spend a period of time paralysed by the fear of making the wrong decision. Quilters agonise over colour placement and which order the blocks will go. FI/RE people worry about which investments to buy and the long-term ramifications of what will happen if/when the share market falls. No one, whether they be a quilter or investor, wants to f**k it up.
So we sit. And ponder. And go over in our minds what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do. And meanwhile time and the share market marches on.
Another thing that makes quilting and the march towards financial independence similar is that the middle part is so BORING…
Case in point, look at the picture above. Who wouldn’t be enticed with all of those little dachshunds, especially when we have one ourselves?
While Evan23 and I were looking online for quilt ideas, I stupidly showed this photo to Ryan25, who gloomily reminded me that he only has one quilt and I’ve been making them for around 12 years.
“One quilt a decade is all I ask, Mum!” he went on. “I wouldn’t mind a quilt like that one, though.”
I felt stricken. It’s true, he only has one quilt, while Tom28 and Evan23 have 3 each. It was then, when he had me feeling guilty, that I made the stupidest error.
“How would you like it if I made one of the dogs to look like Scout?”
His face lit up. He’s besotted by Scout. When he decides to leave home I’m going to have to frisk him on the way out, just in case he tries to smuggle her out with him.
So I bought the pattern. I dabbled with it by adapting it to a baby quilt I was making at the time, by using the head and tail sections. I was just like someone who buys a book entitled “How to invest and what to invest in” and then either doesn’t read it or reads it and then decides to mull it over. I rationalised that I was progressing but in reality, nothing was happening.
Until last weekend.
What was stopping me until then? A couple of things. One was the knowledge that this quilt will be SO BORING to work on. It has many different pieces in each block – hell, I have to cut over 150 one square inch squares alone! BORING.
This is just like working towards FI – once the initial flurry of activity subsides and you’ve set up all of your saving + investing + frugality + side hustle + retirement stuff, then all you can do is stay the course and let time and your initial actions do their work. That’s BORING. There’s nothing exciting and sexy about watching your direct debits go to your superannuation and investment accounts. It’s mundane and, frankly, slightly dull.
So yeah – setting myself up for eventual success with this quilt is an exercise in patient baby steps. Just like FI/RE.
The next thing paralysing me was this little face.
Scout is a miniature wire-haired dachshund. Somehow, I have to work out how to get her beard and eyebrows onto that quilt filled with smooth-haired faces. I was paralysed in case I decided to do something that would screw the whole quilt up – just like our novice investor.
And just like that novice investor, I eventually decided that I had to start moving. Somewhere along the way, I have faith that I’ll work it out. While s/he (our investor) tentatively begins buying parcels of index funds, ETFs, shares or property, I decided that I’d have to start cutting out the pieces for this mammoth project. Just like earning our freedom, this quilt is not an overnight project.
So far, I’ve spent two afternoons standing over the cutting board, churning out squares and rectangles of varying sizes. There are 37 different sized fabric pieces and 15 different dogs to make. I have yet to finish the cutting out. There are more BORING afternoons in my future.
I’m like the FI/RE enthusiast in the middle of the journey. It’s all so BORING. But if I want to succeed, I have to stay the course and keep doing the BORING little steps towards success.
I have a feeling that the end goal with both the quilt and enjoying ultimate freedom in retirement will be worth it.