Tag Archives: retirement

A Dichotomy of Tears

After my retirement, I determined to make this blog one in which I could write about both professional topics and personal topics, which meant I would share my thoughts about the many things I find of interest. It also meant I planned on writing about my feelings and experiences over the years. It hasn’t been easy, as I’m quite certain some of my thinking is not mainstream and — in some cases — is certainly frowned upon by some sizeable chunk of the population. Nevertheless, I keep plodding along and, in that spirit, I share here something I posted on Facebook recently.

Two things brought me to tears the other day. The first was the ending of the current episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Just knowing what has been accomplished by my fellow human beings; the incredible discoveries and wondrous inventions that have accompanied our ever-growing knowledge of the workings of the universe takes my breath away at times. The other evening was one of those times. They were tears of ineffable joy.

Japanese Umbrella

A Miniature Wagasa (Umbrella) made of Camel Cigarette Packs, Toothpicks, and thread by my Mother-in-Law, Taka Shitara

The second was being reminded of the terrible injustice wrought on the Japanese people who were living in the U.S. when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law, as well as many of my wife’s extended family, were “relocated” in internment camps. Many lost everything they had worked so hard to accomplish, much of it never to be regained. They were not the enemy . . . and they did not deserve the treatment they received, nor did those who stole their property deserve what they gained. These were tears of inconsolable anger and shame.


What Goes Around . . .

It’s been nearly three years since I “retired” from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. I’ve been through several iterations of “What do I want to be when I grow up” and I think my latest incarnation is actually working! I’ve given myself until the end of this year for it to prove out to be a viable trajectory, at least for a few more years while I still have to tend closely to my children. You can read my most recent self-assessment/self-promotion at LinkedIn.

Additionally, some of the seeds I planted a while back may be sprouting, which would be really satisfying and might steer me comfortably toward another line of work I can enjoy.

It seems understanding Social Media’s role, both inside and outside the corporate firewall, wasn’t a terribly interesting subject for most organizations and, despite my zeal, I couldn’t get the traction I needed to do what I thought made sense. Equally, at least here in Simi Valley, small businesses have had a very hard time – as a whole – seeing how social can be used to promote their business or organize their work a little more effectively. I need to say . . . there were lots of opportunity for being a charlatan and raking in some dough or for doing something I didn’t really enjoy just to make money. I’ve chosen not to follow those paths, so the challenge has been finding – again – who and what I want to be or, more accurately, continue becoming. Being frugal’s been kind of important as well. :D

It’s important to note there are lots of large organizations who recognize the value of social for reaching out to, and communicating with, their current and potential customers. There are fewer, in my estimation (disclosure: I have not researched the numbers. I have, however, been observing for a long time) that appreciate the value of social to build community inside the firewall, let alone in the space they share with their suppliers/vendors.

At any rate, I haven’t given up entirely and I was gratified to be contacted by someone who interviewed me on the subject nearly 2 years ago. He asked if the audio could be used in a couple other blogs and sent me a link to it. Frankly, I had completely forgottenI did the interview. Also, inasmuch as I am now doing some editing/proofreading professionally, I was a tad dismayed to read the copy that accompanied it, and I’ve asked for the opportunity to proofread these new publications prior to publication. I don’t believe I  had that opportunity with the first publication, which can be found here. Below is the Vimeo audio file with my interview. I don’t think I made a fool of myself. I’m hoping I actually make more sense today than I did back then. I’m gratified Dustin felt it was worthy of being repeated.

PS – I may no longer be a Chief BooMillennial Officer, but I do think I’m still an Emergineer and definitely a Serendipity Wrangler.


The Debates: S/S & Medicare Off The Table?

Social Security Cards

Truly a Lifesaver for My Family

I am 65 years old. An old fart. A geezer. An alta cocker. Two years ago I accepted an early severance package from the company I was working for, in part because of my eligibility to receive Social Security and Medicare. They played a big role in my decision to accept the package, which wasn’t mandatory. There were other reasons, but I did the math and decided not to pass it up.

I have worked since I was sixteen years old (I’m one of those whose first job was at a McDonald’s) and, save for a couple of years I spent screwing around, I’ve been putting money into both these retirement programs most of my life. How, and in what manner, they get screwed with by either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is of paramount importance to me, not just because of how my family and I will be affected, but how it will affect those who come after me.

I just learned that the questions to be asked in the first debate have been announced and neither of these programs are currently planned to be discussed. WTF? Virtually everyone in the country will be affected by any changes to them. Whether it’s making what those of us currently receive more difficult to obtain or diminished in value or changing the entire structure for those who have yet to reach a certain age, it’s important to know what the candidates plan on doing.

My concern is with both candidates. We all know what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to do. However, The Huffington Post three days ago ran an article entitled “Obama May Do Social Security Reform During Lame Duck Session, Senate Democrats Worry

Well, you can make a difference by telling Jim Lehrer to include Medicare and Social Security in the debates. Thanks to AARP, all you have to do is Go Here and fill out the form. You’re a leftie. You know the drill. I did it. I also tweeted about it, posted about it on FB, and sent an email message to about 50 of my closest friends, a half dozen of whom have already done the same.

This is an exceptionally important issue for all of us, even those Tea Bagging dipshits who don’t know which side of their toast the butter’s on. Do you want your retirement to be left to the vagaries of the market, especially when you know it’s crooked as hell and likely will steal much of your savings from you? Maybe we can fix it in the next decade, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be holding my breath. Hell, before I was 30 (that’s more than three and a half decades ago) I thought there was going to be a revolution in this country. Actually, there kind of was, but it went in the opposite direction from where I thought it would.

Think about it; then do something about it. Send a message. We want Romney and Obama to talk about how they plan to deal with Medicare and Social Security. Act like your future depended on it. Until we achieve a more just economy (hint: Socialism), this is the best thing we’ve got. Here’s the link again. Take it from me. These two programs are extremely valuable and important.


Say What? When Did That Happen?

The Long Slide

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time it’s like this.

Aging is an interesting subject to write about. After all, it happens to all of us and, as a Baby Boomer, my cohort is a rather large one. My experiences aren’t exactly unique . . . at least not in the grand scheme of things. However, I do bring a few wrinkles to the table. Perhaps the thing that stands out for me the most is the fact I still have rather young children.

If you read my blog or follow me elsewhere you should know by now my wife and I adopted our oldest child shortly after I turned 55. Not finding that enough of a challenge, we went and did it again when I was 59. I should point out my wife is younger than I am; not by a huge number of years, but the difference isn’t insignificant. It means when my oldest graduates high school I will be in my early seventies. Not unheard of, but surely a bit unusual.

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering if our journey wasn’t a little selfish. It’s all related to aging and my fear I will soon leave my children without a father, which will be the third (and probably most traumatic) time it’s happened to them. The first was losing their biological parents; the second their foster parents. I realize most of their memories of those two losses are pre-verbal and visceral, but I don’t think that makes them any less real and I don’t want to leave them until they’re full-grown and capable of taking care of themselves. I owe that to them.

Right now there is a confluence of events that’s causing me to think about my mortality a little more than I normally do. My retirement is far more devastating to my self-esteem than I anticipated. I’ve written about the separation I’ve felt and it hasn’t become any easier in the interim. It’s a bit difficult to feel competent when you don’t have the opportunity to test your skills and, given my propensity to continuously question my capabilities, I find myself struggling to find relevance.

Then there are the physical things. Oy! When I was a young man the only thing I was really interested in was wisdom. I wished to one day be seen as a wise person. I knew that would take time and that I would not be the one to determine when I had reached whatever level that might be. You don’t, after all, hang out a shingle advertising “Wise One Here”! For that reason I looked forward to getting older. Not that I wanted to rush anything, but the aging process was a necessary precondition to attaining my goal.

When I hit about forty it suddenly dawned on me I had not considered the physical consequences of aging. I was not pleased with knowing how naive I had been. Clearly, wisdom was still a long way off. Each year now brings new challenges: Essential tremors, deteriorating vision, and a host of other areas in which I experience physical deterioration, the inexorable acceleration of my downhill slide. They all seem to be converging on the next big milestone – my 65th birthday, now a mere four weeks away.

I’m not sure it would affect me as much as it has were it not for the end of my COBRA health insurance six weeks prior to Medicare kicking in. Actually, I planned on it and I’m not really all that worried about bridging the gap. However, I don’t recall ever being uninsured in my life . . . so it’s a bit weird to realize I am totally uncovered right now. I’ve suggested to my friends I might spend the six week transition entirely in bed, but I’m sure that would just give me a heart attack.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m writing now is all that coherent, as I sometimes feel I’ve lost a few of my cognitive faculties. Normal driving can be cause for concern on occasion, as I don’t seem capable of anticipating three steps ahead like I used to do so effortlessly. I suspect, at times, it’s all relative and what I’m experiencing isn’t objectively as bad as I feel it is, but how do I know? Again – Oy!

So . . . I promised I would write a little about how I’m dealing with the aging process. This is it. I believe I’ll have more to say but, in the interest of getting something out there (a skill I am still struggling mightily with) I want to post this. Please don’t hold me to anything. Clearly, these are the ravings of an old man who, having awakened one morning to find his youth behind him, is seeking to understand what the fuck just happened.

Tomorrow I’m going to address why I chose to incorporate professional and personal posts into the same blog. TTFN :)


A Less Than Auspicious Anniversary

I have an interesting anniversary arriving in about a week. Actually, it arrives in precisely a week; seven days, that is. May 14, 2012 will be two years since I retired from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Two years. It hardly seems that long ago I decided to accept an offer to retire early and strike out on my own. To be honest, I’m still not sure I made the right choice, but I did make it and I thought I would spend the next week recounting my “adventures” since then.

Does Retirement Have to Mean "Used Up"?

Does Retirement Have to Mean “Used Up”?

I should point out my retirement wasn’t entirely voluntary, though the choice was mine. I had no intention of retiring . . . ever. All the men I grew up with, including my father, worked until they dropped dead and, unfortunately, many of them – including my father – dropped awfully early. This was not my plan. The way I looked at it, work is what defines us and I expected to have something interesting to do for many a year to come. I though I would work at Rocketdyne well into my eighties.

It didn’t work out quite like I had contemplated, but it has made for an interesting two years and, I trust, will continue to provide challenges for years to come. However, it hasn’t exactly been easy . . . for many reasons. First, there’s the reality that my income has dropped considerably and we’ve been moving backward a bit each month as expenses slightly outpace income. Savings are really helpful, but they’ll be gone at the rate we’re going before the kids make it to college. This I find intolerable.

To remedy this I’ve tried, admittedly somewhat halfheartedly, a couple of different approaches I will attempt to chronicle in the next couple of days. My first attempt was to provide consulting services to small businesses seeking to use social media to market themselves and teach them how to engage with their target – and current – markets. Not only did the economic conditions militate against my being able to find success in the market I plunged into, but the very conservative nature of this town ensured people were not going to be easily convinced of the efficacy of a social media strategy. I was not prepared for their skepticism and reluctance to push the outside of the envelope. My bad.

One of the adjustments I have made is to lower my expectations considerably and work from there. This includes, of course, adjusting the rate I can charge for my services. I’m working at finding the sweet spot for that part of my endeavors.

Another major aspect of this milestone is that I will be 65 years old in less than a month. As prepared as I’ve been to accept, and even embrace, the inevitability of aging, I am still struggling with aspects I had not anticipated. I will try to go further in depth regarding these aspects in the next week. Suffice it to say that ageism is, I’m pretty sure, still very much a part our culture. The combination of reality and myth is very powerful and impinges on most everything I do. I’ll try and discuss my approach to aging and what has changed for me in the past several years tomorrow.

 


Strange Retirement Pastimes

A Whimsical Mailbox

Beam That Junk Mail Down Scottie

Being semi-retired (or, as I like to think of it, part-time retired) has its advantages. It is, however, a strange time for me and, I imagine, for most people who find themselves suddenly idle or at least not having to be somewhere every weekday. After so many years of working, not having to do anything in particular is a bit on the weird side.

To tell the truth, I have been looking for something useful to do almost since the day I left Rocketdyne, but I have taken some time to – shall we say – smell the roses. One of the things I did was to find myself driving around local neighborhoods looking for, and taking pictures of, interesting curbside mailboxes. This happened because we had a nice brick mailbox built for our house and I suddenly developed an interest in them. I never much bothered looking before.

Camera Mailbox

Smile! You're on Candid Mailbox

So I started driving around looking for exemplars of particular types, e.g. brick, wood, stone, and especially whimsical ones. I discovered it was a gold mine and before I knew it I had close to two hundred pictures of various types of mailboxes, all suburban, curbside ones. What to do with them? I considered several things. Creating a coffee table book; writing an illustrated ebook; etc., as well as using the collection to develop a useful taxonomy, thereby getting some practice at the type of organization necessary to do it right.

Then someone suggested I create a blog and share the pictures. Well, since I already had a blog (this one!) on WordPress, I thought that was a great idea and I created “Going Postal”. So, here I’m sharing a couple of pictures of my favorites, along with the link to my other blog. I’ve still got lots of pictures, I’ve been sent a half dozen by friends and even a person I don’t know, and I expect I’ll get out there again and take a few more. I’ve seen some more interesting mailboxes lately.

I am also using the blog to sort of memorialize this suburban icon, as I am fairly convinced mail as we know it will soon disappear. It just makes too much sense. If most people are like me they throw away much of what they get and we all know it’s just a huge waste of paper. Anyway, I discuss my prognostication a bit on Going Postal. You can read it there if you like.


Fittingly for Halloween, I’ve Become Invisible

Am I That Transparent?

Am I That Transparent?

Does Retirement Make You Disappear?

When I accepted an early retirement from the company I  had worked at for well over two decades, I did so because I knew both our business and the economy in general were shrinking. I knew, because of my position in the enterprise Program Management Office (actually, an attempt at a Project Portfolio Management Office, as I recall), there were going to be layoffs and I had reason to suspect I might be one of them. There were lots of good reasons to believe so, not the least of which was my propensity to push for the use of social media to both enhance internal communications and to better market an organization that had never really marketed itself (have you ever heard of Rocketdyne? You have and don’t even know it. See if you recognize any names here). Neither of these positions had proved all that popular amongst either the leadership or the rank and file.

I was also over two and half years into the demographic the offer was made to (everyone 60 and over) and whether they meant to or not, they were telling me I was getting long in the tooth and, perhaps, they wanted me to move over for younger blood. At least that’s how it felt. They may not have meant it that way but it felt a bit like they were telling me, regardless of my service or anything I had previously done for the organization, I was no longer needed and, perhaps, no longer wanted. Again, that’s pretty much how it felt.

For those, and many other, reasons I accepted the severance package they offered after some little deliberation and a lot more financial analysis to see just how tenable my position would be. I have often referred to their offer as a gold-leafed handshake; not exactly gold-plated and hardly a golden handshake. It amounted to about a half year’s salary. Fortunately, my wife and I had scrupulously saved and forsaken a lot of things we might otherwise have spent money on over the years in order to build up a reasonably large nest egg. With the knowledge it would be years before we had to sell the house and live out of our vehicles, and knowing the skills and capabilities I possessed stood me well in the business community, I took the plunge and accepted the offer.

Shortly after leaving I started looking around for the possibility of finding an organization that could use my services and wasn’t in the position my previous company was in; that is, they were hiring rather than laying off. I posted a few resumes with some very large companies and was even asked to apply for a position with a very large tech company that provided many of the tools – or types of tools – I had been learning and evangelizing at my previous place of employment. Unfortunately, nothing panned out and I didn’t much feel like spending more time than necessary beating my head against a wall, especially given the continuing deterioration of the economy.

Mind If We Stay In Touch?

Now, I’ve written before about the need – as I see it – for companies such as the one I retired from to stay in touch with former employees. I had proposed a method of doing so at least seven years ago when I suggested we provide access to our internal expertise location/sharing tool (an early, proprietary social media tool) for retirees who wished to remain engaged on an as-needed basis after they left. It seemed a small investment to make and I knew there were lots of former employees who, despite their retirement, would have welcomed being asked to throw in their two-cents worth on an important issue. We made rocket engines, for crying out loud, and our engines had propelled virtually every American astronaut since the very beginning of the Mercury project. Nobody I knew really wanted to totally stop being a part of that kind of awesomeness.

Needless to say, my proposal fell on deaf ears. Ironically, although the aerospace industry designs and manufactures some of the most technologically advanced products in the world (in our case, the Space Shuttle Main Engine, numerous other rocket engines, and some pretty cool energy products involving what we called “extreme engineering“), their embrace of computer technology is almost always way behind the curve. This is not necessarily so in terms of engineering computing, but is most definitely the case when it comes to business processes and internal communications. It was a source of mildly aggravating bemusement for over twenty years, but more of that at a later date.

Back To The Grind . . . Eventually

Back to this ongoing communications thing. I have come to realize, despite the over two decades I spent at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, my departure has made me completely transparent to the company. Many of the people I used to talk with daily, even those who are Facebook friends, haven’t said word one to me. I guess it’s kind of a cultural thing. Once you’ve retired and are presumably out of the workforce, you just don’t exist anymore. Unless, of course, I were to play golf with the company golf club. Then, at least for the duration of the game and the drinking afterward, I would exist in perpetuity. There are, as well, a few notable exceptions. Several people with whom I worked closely have remained in contact with me and I am deeply appreciative of our ongoing relationships.

Speaking of cultural mores, I suppose this is a logical extension of how we treat older people in general. We are, after all, a culture that exalts youth and all of its frivolity and mundane inanity. I suppose I should have known this would happen and, truth to tell, I’ve really been enjoying this retirement thing. I know it can’t last; we don’t really have enough money to maintain a decent standard of living and still be able to send our two young girls to college in 8 and 11 years from now. However, I’m just about ready to return to working at something that will take close to a full-time effort. Right now, though, I still feel a bit like the Invisible Man.

Photo shamelessly linked from Monsterland


Heaven Is Where You Find It?

Where Would You Rather Be?

I just got an email from an organization asking me two questions designed to get my interest in their activities on behalf of preventing any cuts to Social Security. The questions are:

  • Do you want to work until you die?
  • Do you want to eat cat food in your old age?

I pretty much have a strong opinion on the latter question, though the prescription diet one of our cats requires does smell somewhat inviting at times. I’m afraid, though, the lack of variety would disappoint me.

As far as the first question goes, I don’t have quite as clear cut an answer. I’ve always assumed I would work until I dropped. After all, that’s what all the men in my family did; at least all the real men. I managed to disabuse myself of the notion that was a good thing a long time ago. However, I also retained (and continue to retain) a vestige of whatever work ethic I was raised with.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to “work” work, that is be forced to report to a job I dislike, working with people I don’t care for, and working for people I don’t respect. That would indeed be Hell-on-Earth. At the same time, I want to be engaged, challenged, and – above all else – relevant until my last breath. I can’t imagine doing otherwise. But that involves doing, which is – strictly speaking – working.

So I guess my answer to the first question is “Yes. I do want to work until I die”. I also want my Social Security to be there for me, so maybe he should have asked the question differently. Then again, maybe there aren’t a lot of people out there who see work the same way I do. How about it?

ADDENDUM (as of 27 February 2012)

It’s been over 15 months since I wrote this, and 21 months since my retirement from PWR. I’ve been looking for work and also looking for interesting things to get involved in. I have yet to be terribly successful at the former, but I can’t honestly say I’ve tried as hard as I could. That’s in part due to my desire to spend as much time as I can being a good father to my two young children. I don’t think there are too many people my age who have young children to raise. All of my friends have been grandparents for at least a decade or so.

To hear some people tell it, you would think organizations should be beating down my door to get someone of my age, with my experience, to help them deal with social business transitions and the imminent retirement of the generation (Baby Boomers) I’m in the vanguard of, age-wise. I’m not convinced. I think our cultural affection for youth is still pretty strong and I have my doubts that HR departments or Management in general are all that anxious to hire someone who will soon be 65 years old.

I do believe I have a great deal to offer the right organizations and intend on getting a lot more aggressive about seeking out consulting or contract gigs, and I’m in it for the long haul. After all, my kids are only 10 and 8. Nevertheless, I think it’s going to take a while to break through the prejudice against us old folk. In the meantime, I’m pleased with the progression my writing is taking and I’m grateful for those of you who take the time to read what I have to say.

I assume mine is a bit different than many blogs. According to sysomos, as of June 2010 bloggers over the age of 51 make up only 7.1% of the blogging population. Less than half are male and slightly less than one-third originate in the United States. Without putting too fine a point on it, I figure that means there are likely about 5 other bloggers in my demographic group . . . if that. Since my readership is continuously growing, and no one has yet called me a damn fool, I guess I’ll continue in the direction I’ve been heading; which means an eclectic blend of personal and professional musings. I may have a few surprises in store as well. Just to see if anyone’s really paying attention.


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