Well, it’s done. I pulled the trigger. I’m outta there.
How do I feel about my retirement? I’m not really sure I can answer that yet.
A little about my career.
My first serious job was at a very small company called Testo that manufactured coin operated games. It was a great place to start, because I was involved in the manufacturing process from raw materials to end product. I learned how to run the big machine shop tools – lathe and vertical mill, along with sheet metal tools, DC Arc welding on aluminum, deburring, painting, assembly, and a really rigorous and complex setup and testing process. That was all good stuff to know, but there was a more important thing. Much of what I learned there formed my political opinions – opinions that still stick with me today. I won’t go into those much on this blog, but lets just say it’s the philosophy that extremely independent small scale entrepreneurs would follow. I began to look at this job as a launching point into my own company. One thing that my supervisor and the owner of the company hammered into me – be independent, and don’t trust big companies. Big companies lure you in with the promise of higher wages and a nice benefit package. The problem – people tend to get locked into these companies due to the benefits, and they never reach the same potential that they would have on their own. My friends almost had me convinced that this was true.
Fast forward about three years. I’m a newlywed, have my first house, and thoughts are turning to family. The small company I’m working for is not really growing, and there are dark clouds on the horizon. Mechanical coin operated games have new competition – electronic video games. My supervisor, who was really sharp with electronics, built a Pong game, mostly from scratch. He left the company shortly after that. Enter my father in law – he had been pushing me to try to get hired into one of the local aerospace companies. His company, Hughes Aircraft Company (HAC), was growing like mad, so he told me to apply. I did…..it took about six months, but I finally got a call. I went in for an interview, and the rest, as they say, is history.
My first couple of weeks at HAC were a shock. Coming from a small, tightly run company as I did, I felt like I was suddenly back in High School. I was an hourly employee at first, part of a crew of about 30 people. About half of the people were there to work hard. The other half did as little work as possible. The Union appeared to exist mainly to protect the folks who wanted to screw around….but the Union wasn’t all bad. I was hired to replace an older person who was about to retire, who’s name was Chris. He was a former watch maker, and a really nice guy (sadly he’s been gone for years). His job was a tough one – building ruby rod laser transmitters. The assembly part of this was easy, but the alignment part was very difficult. Luckily, this was right up my alley – it was very similar to what I had to do on the coin operated games. Soon I had that position locked down. My career went on from there with a lot of twists and turns….the company promoted me to a production supervisor, paid for my bachelor’s degree, and gave me more opportunities than I ever could have dreamed of. I worked in Manufacturing, Business Operations, Finance, and IT. The company went through many changes over the years too – HAC was bought by GM in the mid 1980s, and later my division was bought by Boeing. I survived through all of the turmoil that these changes caused, and thrived.
So, did I get locked in by the benefits, as my old friends at Testo warned me about? Yes, I did, but gladly. I never felt like I was being held back. I was encouraged to rise in the company and expand my knowledge and responsibility. If you start your own business and are successful, you could become rich – but of course most people aren’t that successful. You will never become rich at a company like HAC. You will earn a good solid living, with good benefits. So here I am, at 59 years old, with a pension that will provide enough income to help Laura and I survive into old age. Thank you HAC!
Leaving work was difficult in some ways. I had many friends there who I miss. My job was enjoyable most of the time. There were bad things, though. My job carried a lot of stress with it. I was a project manager and had to make difficult things happen. As any project manager knows, this can be rewarding when it goes well, and gut wrenching when it doesn’t.
So much for work.
Getting back to question about how I feel about my retirement – I feel a mixture of relief and anticipation and nervousness and restlessness. I feel like I am in the starting gate, and I feel like I’ve been there too long. I feel like I’m on a time schedule to get things done that have been festering for a few years. Home improvement and maintenance. Car maintenance. Financial and estate setup and paperwork. Other things. I feel like if I don’t get all of this stuff done, the “company” will come down on me. When I sit around just watching TV for a while, I feel like I’m cheating somebody. Bottom line, I need to break myself out of this mindset, and move along on the next phase of life. Yes, I do need to do the work that I list above, but on my own schedule. I’m somebody who has always fit into the structures that a career tends to force you into. I need to break that structure, and live in the now for a while – but I need to do this without just drifting. For me, this blog is going to be about finding my way out of the starting gate, and about what is on the other side of that gate.
I’m blessed with having the love of my life at my side – her name is Laura. We’ve been together for about 10 years now. Laura is retired now as well, so we are both ready to start on this new stage of our life. I think we are both ready for adventure. More to come.