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We are now firmly entrenched in the grips of summer.
So what better time than now to discuss a story about Christmas?
[As an aside, when I was a fellow in interventional radiology I was the de facto DJ (in part because I used to DJ in college with a group of friends and in part because I have an awesome taste in music). 🙂
Ever the prankster (not much has changed), and typically during the heat of July, I would sometimes cue up a Christmas song prior to starting a case.
The patients and I had a laugh as “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” started playing in the middle of a heat wave.
Even to this day I play subtle mind tricks on my daughter by humming Christmas tunes during the summer months.]
As the title above alludes to, the Christmas story in question is the Gift of the Magi by O.Henry.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it is a truly heartwarming one:
Christmas is fast approaching and a young husband and wife were stressing about what to get the other with what little money they had to spend.
The wife ended up cutting her hair to sell in order to buy a beautiful chain for her husband’s treasured pocket watch.
The husband ended up selling the one item of value he had, you guessed it, the pocket watch, in order to buy an ornate comb for his wife’s beautiful hair, which she no longer had.
It is a story that symbolizes that the love for another supersedes the love for one’s own personal things.
[Personally I think the husband got screwed in this scenario as his wife could always grow her hair back, but I digress.]
So why on Earth would I say to not fall into this noble trap the Gift of the Magi speaks of?
Because sometimes the gift you are giving is far less valuable than the gift that could have been given.
The Trade-off Dilemma.
It is very rare that you get something for nothing.
For the most part, the things that we receive or give have required some sort of sacrifice.
When I buy my daughter a gift, I purchase it with dollars.
These dollars are, in turn, obtained by me after I have trade some of my time to perform activities such as reading an X-ray.
Wow Xrayvsn. That’s the exact opposite of earth-shattering information! I already understand how the economy works in modern society!
Patience, little one, I promise there is a point to all of this.
What it boils down to is the famous adage of trading time for money.
But which of these things is truly more valuable?
I will share my own personal example of why I think the former is far more valuable than the latter.
My father’s “Magi gift.”
Long-time readers know that my father was a physician (Internist) who was the inspiration for my own medical career and FIRE pursuit.
My father was incredibly busy as an internist and picked up extra work such as reading EKGs and extra call.
Although I cannot speak directly about his thoughts why he was doing this, I presume it was so that he could gain more money to provide for my mother and I.
There were days, and sometimes weeks, where I would barely see him at all.
And on the days he worked he was certainly not in the mood to do much but relax when he finally did return home.
Sadly I lost my father when I was 14 years old.
I would hands down choose more time with him than anything that the money he obtained in exchange for his time provided for me.
His particular unit of time was extremely valuable/priceless, given his short lifespan of only 50 years.
It was quite unfortunate that it was far too late to change course by the time he realized pancreatic cancer would soon claim his life.
It really is hard not to try and make hay while the sun is shining.
Physicians in particular are a group of individuals with Type A personalities that always try to pile more and more on their plate for their occupation.
We seem to always follow the role of the ant in Aesop’s fable and never have the respite of being the grasshopper once in a while (too much of either extreme is bad).
For a majority of physicians, leaving the walls of work does not even offer reprieve as work seems to travel back with them to their homes.
For those with young families, it is important to realize that work will always be there, but your children will not.
My situation is even more dire than most.
I had 6 years of my daughter’s life (ages 4-10) robbed from me already due to a vengeful and mentally ill ex-wife manipulating the justice system like a maestro.
After finally receiving full custody of my daughter finally at age 10, the past 4 years seem to have flashed before my eyes.
It will be just a short 4 more years before she leaves the nest and embarks on her own life journey.
It is therefore imperative to try and make the most of our remaining time together before her childhood will be closed and she transitions into a young independent adult.
I suggest you do the same with your kids, regardless of age.
Whether it is 18 years or 1 year remaining, that time will rapidly evaporate before your very eyes.
Granted making money is important but it is important to ask yourself this:
What would make my child happiest for the longest period of time? More time with me or more materialistic things?
Hopefully in your household it is a resounding vote for the former.What would make my child happiest for the longest period of time? More time with me or more materialistic things? Click To Tweet
And if that is indeed the case, make sure you set aside this precious time for your child.
Do not let vacation days go unused (I have been guilty of this).
The pursuit of FIRE can be a wonderful cause, but do not be carried away and get burned.
There is no badge of honor for working every day of the year like a machine.
Instead give your kids the gift they never want to return, time with you.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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Wonderful post. Thank you for the reminder. Part-time work has been a win-win for me.
Thanks Karen for the comment. Part time work is something I am slowly incorporating into my own practice. I am down to 4 days a week work but hope to transition to a 3 day work week in near future.