Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's so bad about retirement?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing that I can tell so far. I am enjoying myself completely and utterly.
I know that some people are craftsmen, artists, teachers, or scientists who are just following their bliss and lucky enough to get paid for it. These last several years I have worked for much less than I did at the peak of my engineering career. In part because my interests changed in directions that weren't as lucrative, but also because the design jobs weren't there for me. Maybe I lost my heart for it? I didn't seem to fit in anywhere I worked. People were nice to me. The work should have been interesting to me. I just couldn't find the beam.
I used to go to sleep at night picturing streams of bits hitting gates, filling registers and then being read or reset at just the right moment. The logical sculpture or, perhaps choreography, just stopped happening inside my head.
You know, I worried that I just couldn't "think" like an engineer anymore, but I took computer science graduate courses and did very well. I liked the programming, but I just wasn't passionate about it. I was more methodical about it than I was with hardware and probably less inventive.
It is sad really. When your career passion leaves you...for whatever is as bad as having a 20 year marriage end. Maybe it is you? Your love no longer excites you, but you can't quite figure out when that changed. Maybe you just aren't trying hard enough? You're spoiled and you expect too much?
And, just maybe, the jobs weren't there anymore?
So, just like a divorcee in mid-life, you look for a new passion. I went for nursing. In retrospect, I wish I had pursued either recreational or occupational therapy. But then, you don't always know until you try. I got a lot of good things out of the 10 years or so that I worked as a part-time nurse. I made some very good friends. But, like dating someone for 10 years without making plans to stay together, I've let my nursing license lapse.
For the last five years, I've worked in IT. I don't have any formal IT training. Honestly, when it wasn't heartstoppingly critical, it was boring as all hell to me. I loved/hated when things broke and I had to figure out how to make them work again. The hate came from the fear that I wouldn't be able to fix the problem, but mostly I loved, loved, loved troubleshooting. I know there was a lot more I could have done to be good in IT. I just wasn't interested. I think, in part, it was because I was working alone all day and so there was no one to get into trouble one to play with. I am happier as part of a team.
Another factor is that when I got the IT job at age 57, I figured it was the best I could do without driving 50 miles each way to work in Concord or Massachusetts. It didn't pay well, but better than my nursing work and the work was much easier. Inertia is not a good excuse, but it kept me at that job.
I don't think I'm done though. I am glad that I got to retire. It is an incredible gift to be able to re-tire myself for the rest of the trip to the end of days.
I know the beam with my name on it is out there somewhere. I just have to find it.

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