What FI Seekers and Dexter Have In Common

Hopefully none of you, dear readers, are wanted by police. I’m certainly not trying to imply that this is the case. However, there are undeniable similarities between Free to Pursue readers—and Financial Independence (FI) seekers in general—and the beloved friendly neighbourhood serial killer we call “Dexter”.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dexter, he is a character originally dreamed up by author Jeff Lindsay in Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which, along with subsequent novels, was turned into a wildly popular Showtime television series. It’s quite entertaining and just watching the first two episodes leave you with a reasonable idea of what it might be like to be him. 

So what could you possibly have in common with Dexter?

Almost everything…except for the stalking, killing & disposing of the body parts.

Not convinced yet? Let me prove it with the following eight points*:

  1. You have something to hide.
  2. You sometimes question your drive to do things that are “wrong” or different.
  3. Your inner voice never quiets down.
  4. You don’t feel “normal” and you seek out others like you.
  5. You know you’re “supposed” to feel a certain way…and you don’t.
  6. The outcomes of your lifestyle are admired, but not their origin.
  7. You maintain some cultural rituals just to fit in.
  8. Doing what drives you is how your life makes sense.

Let's take a look at each of the points below, in case the list itself didn't result in some "light bulb" moments...

1. You have something to hide. 

Being careful went beyond the actual killing…Being careful meant building a careful life, too. Compartmentalize. Socialize. Imitate life.
— Dexter Morgan, p. 44 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

We all do. But what many FIers or FI seekers have to hide is the pursuit of financial independence itself.

Or one better: having reached it! 

Funny thing is, hiding debt or being in debt is so common now that it’s almost normal. Not pursuing the good, materialistic life—and the next promotion to stay above water as you do—is, well, weird, even creepy. You worry about the ridicule, the questioning of your sanity and of your values, the questioning of…you.

2. You sometimes question your drive.

When you get “infected” with the idea that FI isn’t only possible but a worthwhile pursuit, you’re officially “weird”. Society’s messages about what you need to do, what you should do, are everywhere. And, increasingly, like Dexter, you find you’re less and less compliant with the messages, which only increase this feeling of being “weird”. It can be unsettling and can easily lead to a slip up back into conformity, if only for a while.

3. Your inner voice never quiets down.

I felt weak, intoxicated, half sick with a combination of excitement and uncertainty and complete wrongness—but of course, the Dark Passenger was driving from the backseat now and how I felt was not terribly important anymore…
— Dexter Morgan, p. 137 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

The more changes you’ve made in your life in the pursuit of FI, the more amplified the differences between you and the general population. And, the closer you are to your goal, the more your values skew toward intrinsic pursuits. Your Dark Passenger (aka Dexter’s inner drive to kill) compels you to guard your newfound feeling of freedom and control over your destiny above all else. Your inner dialogue is more powerful than ever, leading you to new insights, new questions, new pursuits, an ever-improving--and ever more powerful--version of you.

4. You don’t feel “normal” and you seek out others like you.

[H]ere at last was someone who knew. He was not making idle remarks…He knew. For the first time I could look across the gigantic gulf between my eyes and someone else’s and say without any kind of worry, ‘He is like me’.
— Dexter Morgan, p. 270 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Given your official status of weird, you can start feeling pretty lonely. That drives a need to belong…somewhere. To find others like you. To find your tribe.

The internet now offers a wonderful new way to connect with others who feel, and are, different from what might be called “the norm”. The FI community is a wonderful group to tap into, to feel the warm fuzzies of interacting with others who share some of the same values, such as defining your worth with measures other than how much stuff you have and how you appear to others. 

5. You know you’re “supposed” to feel a certain way…and you don’t.

Anybody can be charming if they don’t mind faking it, saying all the stupid, obvious, nauseating things that a conscience keeps most people from saying.
— Dexter Morgan, p. 28 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

You’re supposed to be delighted to have a solid career with good prospects for advancement, even a pension. Wow, right! Right? 

You’re supposed to want the new car, the bigger house, the lavish vacations, the summer home, the two kids, the [fill in the blank]…but you don’t. Frankly, you don’t see the point of these things if they’re not deeply fulfilling. However, you do know that you must congratulate others as they achieve these societal milestones of achievement, lest you be exposed as one of the “others”. You force the look of delight and genuine admiration and utter the requisite words that accompany them while, at the same time, hiding the pity you feel that they’re spiralling ever deeper in a less desirable direction than you’ve found makes you genuinely happy. 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.
— Henry David Thoreau

What you value has fundamentally changed. Your perception has shifted to another resource more limited than money: time. 

Ample time allows you to focus on what most of the world says it values but doesn’t show through action: nurturing relationships, health, giving, personal growth & exploration, sucking the marrow out of life. 

6. The positive outcomes of your lifestyle are admired, but not their origin.

Others admire self-sufficiency, and real life vigilantes, when it’s not too close to home. It needs to be out of reach, pushed away by a number of “I’d like to but I can’t because…”. 

As far as I’m concerned, whoever’s doing this shit deserves a goddamn medal.
— Coffee shop customer talking about Dexter’s murders of wanted killers, Dexter, season 2, episode 5

Ask anyone if they’d like to live with no financial worries, knowing they have a secure future and knowing they can pursue any activity of interest, whether it’s paid or not. You'll most likely hear “Yes, of course!”. Just don’t show them it’s possible, or worse, that you’re doing it, lest you be exposed...

Just like those who admire Dexter’s work—ridding the world of horrible people—those close to him are horrified when they find out someone so close to home is a killer. 

In both cases, the concept is more attractive to others in theory than in actual application. 

7. You maintain some cultural rituals just to fit in—you can’t appear too “weird”.

Let’s be honest, there are some things that closet FIers/FI seekers—which I think is the majority of us—just prefer not to do.

However, “noblesse oblige”. We suffer through one or more of the following, just to keep up appearances:

I’m quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it. I fake it very well, and the feelings are never there. But I like kids.
— Dexter Morgan, p. 15 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  • We partake in “us versus them” dialogue (government, employer, bankers, debt collectors, insurance companies, service providers, traffic, other).
  • We participate in “life is so hard” conversations.
  • Our silence makes us appear supportive of others’ excuses for why they just can’t get ahead.
  • We talk about the good deals we or others got buying things we don’t need and/or for people we don’t like.
  • We gossip to help others feel better—and end up feeling like we need a shower afterwards.
  • We hide our non-trendy buying habits to stay under the radar (who hasn’t refilled a pop bottle with the store brand stuff or parked their car a little further away, just to look normal…just to avoid an awkward conversation).
  • We use clever excuses to decline invitations to “fancy dancy” places that just aren’t worth the money and time spent with people we don’t relate to anymore…if we ever did. It’s just not what we would call having a good time.

If you've chosen to come out of the FI closet, and you can spare yourself most of this list, good for you. You have a stronger backbone than many others in this community. Maybe I’ll get there someday. 

8. Doing what drives you is how your life makes sense.

The professional reasons for [being thorough] are obvious, but not quite as important to me as the personal ones.
— Dexter Morgan, p. 54 of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

External motivators don’t drive you. You’re intrinsically motivated to pursue what makes sense to you, what you want to accomplish. And no, it usually doesn’t “optimize your return on investment (ROI)” from a monetary standpoint. 

Money to me had always been merely something the sheep used to show each other how wonderful they were.
— Dexter Morgan, in Dexter Is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter Is Delicious

The ROIs you seek are returns on your well being (psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual). You know yourself well and listen to your gut, which speaks more loudly than external influences. You’re driven by your values, not by what drives others into conformity. 

See any resemblance? Luckily, your deviation from the norm won’t likely land you in a federal penitentiary, or worse, the electric chair. However, it doesn’t make the similarities between different types of “weird” any less right on the money (no, please, don’t pardon the pun).

BONUS: If you got this far, here’s one thing you definitely don’t have in common with Dexter, lifestyle-wise:

Dexter keeps all his assets in cash, in case he has to get out of town in a hurry. Luckily, we FIers  can invest our money wisely for the long term to ensure we can continue the lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed, no matter whether or not we're ever found out. 

*There happen to be 8 seasons of Dexter. Coincidence? Not!

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