Life update: Coming out of the fog

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Last week, my three-year old son woke up in a “mood”. He was clingy, but wanted space. Hungry, but not eating. By 9:00AM he was already on his second tantrum and his 30th request. Request #31 was for me to FaceTime his grandma because he needed to show her his booger. I said no and became the enemy. I wiped his tears while I glanced around the room trying to find something to bribe him with. I needed him to settle down so I could prepare for a 9:30AM call.  

I’ve shared little anecdotes like this with everybody and if I’m not talking to another parent, the response is usually,I can’t imagine quarantining with kids”. Admittedly, I drank more than usual for the first six weeks of quarantine because I felt the same way. 

With our son’s daycare closed, full-time entrepreneurship looked like singing songs, running circles around the couch, scooping up crumbs and blowing bubbles. In between singing and running, I would answer emails and jot down ideas I want to explore for our book. In between the crumbs and bubbles, I tackled the stack of “oh, you quit your job?” mail that nobody tells you about. My brain strained as I scanned through wordy insurance and financial documents and became frustrated when I had to read the same sentence multiple times. 

2020 mood

I made a new list of terms I needed to know now that my employer wasn’t negotiating benefits on my behalf. I had no idea when I would have the time to learn them, but somehow I managed to stumble through it and scratch things off. I was researching whether I needed to rollover my HSA the first time I saw the video of Ahmaud Arbery being murdered in the street. 

Every night after we put our son to bed, I poured myself a victory glass of wine…or two…maybe even a cocktail to top it off. The next morning I would wake up, slam back some coffee and do it all over again. More crumbs, more bubbles, more lists. This happened every day, for 70 straight days until daycare re-opened.

Even though I was within the socially acceptable limits for quarantine-induced drinkin’, my body eventually rejected my new habit. I started searching for healthier ways to fuel productivity. I stopped watching TV so I could read more and I replaced my nightly cocktail with chamomile tea.

Slowly but sure, the brain fog started to clear.

I was researching new workflows when I learned that Breonna Taylor had been murdered in her bed. Suddenly there wasn’t a bedtime routine on the planet that made falling asleep easier. Staying asleep was also a challenge. The transition back to daycare was tough for our son who started waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares. 

I’m used to worrying, but my anxiety was heightened by all the sudden changes in my life. I read countless articles trying to learn coping mechanisms from other parents and came across Aimee Rae Hannaford. Her story was posted in almost every Facebook group and twittersphere that I’m a part of. Aimee is a business owner and mother of a son the same age as mine. She entered the quarantine optimistic but three days in, her husband confessed that their original plan for him to watch the kid all day was simply not going to work. 

He was overwhelmed and she was constantly working, even outside of working hours. Her husband pleaded with her to unplug. When his lobbying wasn’t successful, he taught their son a trick to get her attention. Whenever she wasn’t responding, her toddler would call her “Aimee” instead of Mom. As I was reading, I kept wishing more ambitious women spoke with Aimee-levels of honesty about what happens when work is the third wheel in a relationship. 

As uncomfortable as it is to read…

“stories like hers normalize the corner that work-culture has backed us into. It’s easy to think her story is extreme if you haven’t been listening” Click To Tweet

So, anyway, Aimee wasn’t happy, her husband wasn’t happy and her baby boy wasn’t happy. She had been planning to take six weeks off pre-pandemic but never found the right time. If she continued working this way, she would burn-out and her family would be collateral damage. So she decided to dissolve her company and lay off all 13 employees, many of whom were people of color. The responses to her story were overwhelmingly negative and I think that’s because quitting always seems like the radical choice when people don’t like your reasons. 

Three days after I read Aimee’s story, George Floyd was murdered and this time was different. I mourned as he called for his Mama. I put away all the lists and hugged my son tighter. I missed deadlines and I grieved with my community. After I quit my job, I was most excited about life where I got to choose which moments happened “in between” the other ones. For the first 3 months, I was still operating in a place where grief happened in between my work and not the other way around.

“When we internalize systems of oppression, we mimic them to our detriment. Maybe that’s why Aimee’s story resonated so deeply with me. I could relate to a paradox of entrepreneurship where women recreate the same toxic work conditions for ourselves that we were attempting to escape.”

Fast-forward to today, as I’m watching protesters across the country and globe carry signs that tell me my life matters. Literally everybody is saying it. I usually log into Hulu to escape from reality but even there, I’m reminded of it. While I continue to be inspired by the number of people who are committed to doing the work to right past wrongs, I’m now confronted with a world whose collective consciousness changed at a pace that I didn’t think was possible.

As exciting as that sounds, it’s a hard thing to reconcile. It means the freedom I’ve been feeling, which has been life-changing, is still just a fraction of what I deserve. I’m realizing how much I’ve been talking in circles about what I can’t imagine instead of what I can. It’s like the world just gave me permission that I didn’t think I needed. And now that I have it, it’s an accelerant.

As a business owner, the most important work I can be doing right now is pushing the limits of my own imagination. I’ve been reading and exploring new ideas that used to make me uncomfortable. I’ve been examining the ways I’ve been complicit in supporting harmful organizations that have used my labor and likeness. I feel bolder about challenging the myopic definitions of activism and I feel even more called to our mission to inspire better conversations about money. 

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In a world of competing emotions that all seem to cancel each other out, the one that keeps rising to the top of the list is gratitude. I’m grateful for time-freedom, the ability to abandon my lists and take time to process the moment we’re in. I’m grateful to the FIRE movement for being a catalyst. My husband and I have always said we wanted to inspire as many Black people to explore Financial Independence as a way to achieve economic freedom — but now, I’m realizing that’s just the beginning.


  1. So many things in your post deeply resonated with me, including your more empathic response to the article about Hannaford (My husband has been a full time dad for over 8 years; doing it in a pandemic, unexpectedly, is not the same as shirking parental responsibilities). I’m so glad you feel the unlocking of possibilities. Thank you for writing and putting this out into the world and for the work you are doing.

  2. What an extra-complicated time it’s been for you, trying to navigate your new employment situation alongside – well, words fail me, I think it’s Revanche who says *all this* in lieu of finding yet another way of describing our world right now. It’s amazing to me that you posted about quitting in mid-February, it feels so much longer ago than four months!

    I’m excited to see where you take this site & your readers on your journey.

  3. I feel ya!!! As a native ATLien seeing the protest and the responses have been overwhelming. I’ve been fearful for my husband, nephews, and all the men in my family. Only to be reminded it could also be me as a black woman. I’m TRULY thankful for the FIRE movement. I’m able to work and earn at my own pace in the comfort of my home. Thank you for your post, don’t forget to BREATHE as we’ve been blessed to hug our black men another day.

  4. Ok I wasn’t expecting to see myself quoted by Bethh when I came to comment here 😁. I DO refer to *all this*.

    For my part, reading the Aimee Hannaford story was frustrating from the perspective of seeing the contrast in societal norms. So many men expect their wives to do what Hannaford’s husband was expected to do, like it or not, plus work or not. Certainly I see that in my own cohort where the moms are parenting 2-5 kids solo while the men do wage work. So for him to basically quit parenting some days in, and also have that impact her company with employees, was frustrating to see. I can empathize with her and her choice to quit, I can’t empathize with him.

    My husband and I are co-parenting and working full time during this pandemic and won’t have childcare until the end of the year, maybe. If then. We’re doing our best to juggle and share the burdens but he’s taken the lion’s share of parenting because my full time requires more than his, and I have a staff to take care of and support where he doesn’t. I see and hear the frustration and the challenges but he also makes space for me to do my work that earns half our living and shuts my office door so I can work in peace. I just wish people could have better supportive partners for whatever challenges they have in life.

    Between the pandemic, what feels like the world *finally* paying attention to the idea that BLM, my health challenges, an active five year old, our professional challenges, and caring for loved ones battling abuse and cancer, everything is A LOT right now. But in my small moments of clarity, I too am ever so grateful we are in a reasonably fortunate position in our lives to be weathering these storms.

    I look forward to what you two cook up in the coming months and years (pun only a little bit intended)!

  5. I felt this! Thank you for being so candid. The atmosphere of the world is heavy right now. It has been a strange dance trying to find a new normal with such constant shifts in a matter of months. Although I am not yet a mom your words spoke volume from that perspective as well. Looking forward to all the magic you two have coming. My fingers are crossed you two will have a FIRE course available. Greg and I are totally onboard!

  6. Thank you for this, for ALL of this. I keep checking all my favorite personal finance blogs expecting one, ONE of them to acknowledge what’s happening in the world, or how unwelcoming the personal finance space can feel to people of color. Something. Instead there is utter silence on the issue. Their silence is deafening. You’re inspiring me to begin writing in this space. We need more voices and more rallying cries. I try to battle pessimism, but often I feel like financial independence may be the only freedom we can achieve in this country.

    Stay blessed, sis. Thank you for all the work that you do.

    • Thank you sis! For your kind words and boost of support. We are here to inspire financial independence as the best pathway to real freedom.

  7. Agree 100% that financial independence is just the beginning. Can’t wait to see how it evolves for you and your blog! When we started on the FIRE journey (later than most blogs I was following as we were in our 40’s) I was thinking of FIRE as a goal, so an end in some ways. But then there are all these other questions after that — what do you want to do with the freedom? What is the best use of that time and flexibility? How do you still make a contribution? FI is perhaps the end of one journey, but then the start of another. We’re still figuring it out along the way.

  8. I personally related to all parts of this post. As a Black person working in Corporate America and looking to FIRE as a way to help myself, my family and my community … JUNE 2020 has been eye opening. I ended up putting every dime of the money that I was going to put towards loans towards BLM, Bail Funds, Go Fund Me. I am finding myself questioning “what is financial freedom if I am not free?”, but also realizing that money talks and we need to gain & use our financial powers to elicit change. It’s exhausting living in America as a Black person.

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