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I would say the vast majority of the time the mission of this blog is to inspire readers with some of my life events, both good and bad, so that you can derive some benefit if you find yourself in a similar position.
On very rare occasions the roles can actually be reversed and it is the blog and its readers that are actively inspiring me to handle an ongoing situation that I may have found myself in.
This post recants one such situation where I pushed myself much further than I thought possible because of motivation drawn from the website and my readers.
How I ended up where I live was purely serendipitous and courtesy of Ebay.
I am quite blessed to have two natural waterfalls on my property, just steps away from my home (the top half of the largest one can be seen from the majority of rooms on the main floor of the home).
Throughout the years I have owned this property I have set aside a, sometimes sizeable, budget for land improvements.
These projects range from building multi-level composite decks to view the waterfalls from, dramatic landscaping projects with several large retaining walls, landscape lighting, conversion of HVAC to geothermal, and even transformation of a 700 foot driveway from pea-gravel to concrete.
My most recent project, completed at the end of last year, was actually one of my favorites, placing some high-powered underwater LED spotlights in the pool at the base of the falls.
I have the ability to control the color of these lights with the press of a button on a wireless remote and it made for some spectacular backdrops.
The Power Of Mother Nature:
Having lived at this personal Garden Of Eden for over a decade I have witnessed both the majesty and fury that Mother Nature can throw at you.
I have seen the waterfalls transform from a gentle cascade to raging rapids that would make Niagara proud.
However nothing I witnessed before could come close to what I experienced at the end of February, 2019.
The southeast of the United States was under a deluge.
There were periods of heavy rain for weeks at a time with no end in sight.
All throughout my region, the waterways were swelling to record levels and I witnessed many properties with newly formed lakes replacing front lawns on my commute to work.
I never thought it was possible but on Saturday, Feb 23 the amount of water exceeded the capacity of the waterfalls.
There was simply too much to go over the cliff and water actually widened the creek (which was now a raging rapid), and backed up into the street overflowing a small flat bridge in the process.
[I was returning home from errands that morning and when I encountered a river flowing over the bridge I had to back up and take a longer route, that fortunately remained passable.]
The sheer power of the falls was unbelievable.
My daughter and I cautiously made our way down the boulder steps and stood on the decks to witness the power of nature first hand.
The roar of the falls was quite deafening and drowned out most conversation.
The mist it threw up from crashing onto the pool below reached the main deck some 60 feet away and reminded me of the Maid Of The Mist boat ride I had been on at Niagara decades before.
The smaller falls could barely be seen as the water backing up just rose to its top.
Within a day or so our area fortunately got a much needed break from the rain.
The raging waters quickly receded and things somewhat normalized.
In the back of my mind I worried what had happened to my most recent waterfall lighting project.
The installers had already repositioned the underwater lights a couple of months earlier after some debris over the falls had tangled up with the electrical conduit and dragged the lights (which were only weighted down with blocks) several yards downstream where they were fortunately tethered by the wires and not lost.
For the second iteration we decided to have a more permanent solution and actually drilled metal brackets into the side walls of the plunge pool (one behind the waterfall and one to each side).
Much to my dismay this was still no match for the fury of Mother Nature.
The two brackets moored to either side of the waterfall were completely ripped out and, unlike the previous time, the light housings broke their tethers.
[The sole remaining light was the one located behind the waterfall and was thus in a more protected area.]
My heart sunk.
The total project had cost me close to $10k and I estimated that $6k had just washed away just months after they were put in.
When I first moved into this property I decided one day to go exploring and see where the water from the waterfall ultimately ended draining into.
I knew there was a nearby lake and figured that was the logical destination.
Not knowing how far it was, or if it was indeed possible to trek the entire course, I set out in hip waders.
I eventually reached the banks of the lake and then turned around.
It was a pretty long journey made more complicated with uneven terrain and multiple creek crossings.
A decade later I thought perhaps I should re-attempt this journey and, if I am lucky, maybe the lights and conduit got caught up on something and could be salvageable.
Now I’m not too keen to admit this but I had completely the wrong attire for this trek (I literally went down to the base of the falls in my flannel pajama bottoms (which I subsequently hiked up to my thighs), sweatshirt, no socks, and my footwear consisted of clogs from my surgical residency days.)
[I will give you a moment to get that mental picture out of your head.]
What I should have done when I decided to make the hike was to go back inside and change into better hiking gear (the initial physical effort would require climbing up the 70+ steps to reach my house).
Instead I foolishly chose to remain in my current gear and head directly on my way towards the lake.
What seemed like a half a mile into my journey I realized that perhaps doing this creek walk in clogs was not the wisest decision.
For those who have worn clogs, you are quite familiar that the design leaves very little in terms of ankle support.
As a result of the improper footwear, while crossing the creek multiple times and the uneven terrain, I would often find my ankle stressed in an uncomfortable position as the entire clog gave way to the lateral forces.
The open end design of the clog, particularly at the hindfoot, also did me no favors as small river pebbles would be kicked up and somehow find their way into the clog itself causing some quite painful steps.
It was likely a combination of age, physical decline, pain, and poor attire choice that made this journey far more challenging than the first one.
As I was continuing to trek the creek I kept telling myself surely the lake had to be close by now.
As the creek meandered through the valley, curving one way or another, I was never able to get a straight shot view of the end point.
Instead I would get to the next bend in the creek and be dismayed as my new vantage point only revealed more bends up ahead.
Even the lighting played tricks on my mind.
On more than one occasion it looked like the treeline was about to end and the lake begin as the last visible bend seemed to be more brightly illuminated than previous ones.
But alas, when I reached that location it only revealed more creek bends up ahead.
Inspiration From The Blog And My Readers:
I am not going to lie.
There were a dozen or more times I wanted to turn and make my way home.
A strange thing happened however.
As I was now miserably trudging along I thought to myself, this experience might make a great blog post.
I already started outlining in my head the very post you are currently reading.
I thought that if I gave up and turned around before reaching the lake that it would somehow detract from the post’s conclusion.
I therefore found new resolve and decided that I was indeed going to make it to the lake no matter what.
I am not sure how much further I walked after I made that decision but I indeed made it to the lake bank that I had once visited so many years before.
I was proud of myself as it really was mind over matter in the truest sense.
I would have loved to say that from these efforts I was indeed able to recover the lights and all was good again.
However the truth is that there was not a single trace of either light during my almost 3 hour round trip journey.
I mentally calculated that the trek was probably 2 miles each way.
For this post I actually went on to Google Maps and was able to closely approximate the path of the creek bed from my home to the lake and found it to be 1.92 miles.
There are some interesting tidbits I gleamed from this experience that I thought actually could make for some pretty powerful financial points:
Shortcuts Can Lead To Your Downfall:
The biggest factor that made this journey so much more difficult/painful was my attempt at a shortcut.
I knew I was not in appropriate attire but chose to forgo the physical exertion and extra time to climb all the way back up to the house and change.
I was “rewarded” by this decision with numerous blisters the following days and a bit of a limp from my ankle being contorted every which way.
Financial shortcuts can include falling for get rich schemes and investing without proper due diligence.
You Are Not Alone And Have Support:
It is amazing how the “light bulb moment” of creating a post out of the experience while I was still in the midst of it gave me the much needed ammunition to complete my journey.
I guarantee you that I would have turned around much sooner and never reach my destination if it was not for this motivation.
Likewise in the financial realms you have a lot of tools at your disposal to help you overcome whatever obstacles you may be currently going through.
Be it debt, divorce, or any other financial mistake you have made, there are so many resources that can motivate you, from friends and family to blogs/online community, and even financial advisors.
The One More Bend/One More Year Syndrome:
In finance there is a phenomena called the “One More Year Syndrome,” which any retiree, early or not, faces.
The dilemma is whether you should work one more year with the hopes of padding your nest egg and make your retirement safety margin that much greater or whether you can retire right now and start enjoying life.
The problem with “One More Year Syndrome” is that it can be a never ending process and year after year of working can be unnecessarily added out of fear.
In my creek journey I truly felt the emotions of this play out time and time again.
I would tell myself that the lake was just around the next bend and all I need to do was get to that point.
When I got there the process would then repeat.
My only advantage was that, having done the journey years earlier, I knew that there was definitely an end in sight.
In the financial version, however, this is not the case.
It is therefore a fine balancing act between deciding when you have enough and start enjoying life or working too long and being the richest man or woman in the graveyard.
“The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry”-Robert Burns:
Even though I paid extra to redo my waterfall lights, using more expensive materials and increased labor to drill copper metal brackets into the plunge pool wall, it was still no match for unforeseen forces that made a mockery of these efforts.
In the financial world we similarly cannot plan and protect against every potential financial downfall we may experience.
If something unexpected does befall on you, learn from it and adapt so that you will be better prepared for the future.
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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