Retirement Goodness #2

Another nice thing about retired life: stepping outside each morning at 7:55am and hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing over the loudspeakers at Naval Base Ventura County in the near distance, singing along under my breath.

It sounds corny, but it is a calming and edifying way to start the day.

Driving Courtesy

My newest bumper magnet is being taken literally by a remarkable number of drivers. I am starting to count the number of people who pass me and pull back into my lane.

Current average on the 101 is about 72 per hour, but traffic has been light.

Early Morning, BSA Golf Classic

I swore my retirement would not be about golf, but here I am, not four weeks in, on a golf course at 8am Monday morning.

In my defense, I am here for a fundraiser for our local council of the Boy Scouts of America, and I am not playing, just carrying drinks and snacks to the foursomes as they work their way around the course.

I am more of a hiker than a differ, but on a day like this, with the temperature a modest 73F and a light breeze blowing off the Pacific onto the Spanish Hills, I see the appeal of the game.

Retirement Goodness #1

I’m going to make a list of all of the good things about retirement. #1 on that list has to be Never having to ever read another professional self-help article again (e.g., “How to Write More Professional Emails;” “16 Tips to Make Yourself a Better Boss;” “Data Analytics for the Ignorant but Curious;” etc.)

“Looks like Literature is back on the reading list, boys!”

A Sweet Day

Phase V does not officially begin until midnight on the 31st, but today marks the start of my terminal PTO, so yesterday was the last day in the office in my career. Slammed right up to the last minute, I hadn’t had much of a chance to reflect on or savor the moment.

Then my son came home after a day at Universal Studios with a box full of pure Portland goodness: a half dozen of Voodoo Doughnuts’ most over-the-top creations.

Pacing myself through a vegan apple fritter, I thought quietly about an amazing if somewhat unconventional career. It was a road sparsely traveled, and that did make the difference. As I stepped off that path and onto another, I paused to pray that this new road would be just as scenic.

B”H

Eight days till retirement and I’m averaging 15 work hours per day and 5.5 hours of sleep per night. Five months ago I figured at this point I would be marking time, like Warren Schmidt.

Apparently not.

Just as well. Schmidt should be nobody’s post-career role model.

Last week was a 75 hour work week. This week will be pretty close. I’m drained.

All I can think is that G-d is laying this week on me so that when I retire at the end of the month I will have absolutely no regrets.

The Stepaway

For most of my working life, I thought retirement was a dumb idea. Working was good. It gave me routine, purpose, and a paycheck. My first boss, Larry Powell, worked well into his eighties. My longtime role model, Harold Burson, worked into his nineties. My in-laws retired from the military in their sixties but kept working well into their seventies. All of them stayed lucid, active, and healthy.

Retirement I saw as G-d’s waiting room, a long, slow wait for illness, incontinence, and an appointment with the mortician. My dad essentially retired in his early fifties, was diagnosed with dementia at 64, and died six weeks before his 69th birthday. I had seen others retire, move to Palm Springs, and go into terminal decline. The lesson as I took it was clear, and I swore that I would exit the day they carried me out feet-first.

As with many things, life happened, and my view became more nuanced. My marriage went through a mid-life crisis and, thank G-d, came out the other side. My son, our only child, started dating and went off to college. COVID hit. Burnout happened, and I didn’t even notice.

In the meantime, great things had come into my life. Our move back to the US had proven profoundly positive. My involvement in the Scouting movement became a source of fulfillment. I reconnected with my faith in a way that was more meaningful and sustainable. For the first time in my life, I had activities – avocations – outside of my working life and enjoyed them immensely. And I had begun keeping a list of things I wanted to read, write, do, make, and achieve while I still walked the Earth, and that list was beginning to fill a notebook.

Perhaps as important as all of it, I rediscovered the vocation I had always wanted and never had the resources our courage to take: scholarship.

And my family. Oh, Lord.

One night, as I was adding item #496 into my Bucket List (seriously, not hyperbole), my wife and son staged an intervention. They sat me down as if speaking to an addict. My wife told me that she knew I had been working for many years to support the family and that we were now in a position that would allow me to pursue the activities that gave me the deepest fulfillment. My son put his hand on my shoulder and, summing up, said, “dad, it’s your turn.”

I wept long into that night, overwhelmed by gratitude, humility, and pure relief. Finally, finally, I was able to face what I had been burying for a very long time. And I vowed that this new phase would be anything but a gold watch, golf, gin, and grandkids: I would step away from my career, but what I would step into would be a different kind of post-career life.

After a lot of thought, I reached out to the founders of my company. They were supportive and understanding, especially when I told them it would not be immediate but five months hence, giving the company and I adequate time to plan and adjust without causing disruption.

A load was lifted. There was no guilt, just resolve. The fifth phase of my life would begin August 1, and I was going to do it right.

That fifth phase is what I will chronicle here. Join me as I redefine the post-career life.

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