"then, I realized that having a mortgage payment was a mental burden, and limited many of my choices, and enslaved my freedom to an employer."
+1 I preach this frequently to those that will listen. Debt truly makes you a slave. Especially to an employer, and they count on it. You cannot quit job and move at will. Of course they are nice, they allow you to not come to work a couple weeks off per year. Arent they generous!!. As long as you take them in small increments, and around the normal holiday seasons, one week at christmas, one week at thanksgiving, maybe a week in summer, etc. Dont even think of asking for a month or two leave of absence to go have a life enriching experience, its not in their plan.
Many americans work too hard, and then they die. They have been programmed to do so, they confuse success at a job, with success at life. Their jobs and personal identity become one. Most never realize they wasted their life attempting to get ahead, to beat the other co-worker, to pay for an excessive house they dont need, and only really get to sleep in, and pay for an excessive car they only drive to work in, until its too late. Some never do realize it, such is the depth of the brainwashing accomplished by our society.