I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do…
It is my own personal holiday, an anniversary, a day of great happiness, significance, and personal freedom and accomplishment.
On 25 June, 2010, I retired from my job as a public servant for a Florida municipality. It was an early retirement, I was 62 years old.
I had wanted to work for at least 5 or 10 more years, mostly so I could collect more retirement and social security, but I could tell I was no longer welcome there. In spite of 20 successful and productive years, with interesting work, congenial colleagues and enlightened management, a new County Administrator had moved in and the changes filtering down from the top finally caught up with me. All the good people who could leave, did, including my close personal friend, mentor and supervisor. I was alone,and I had a target on my back.
I became persona non grata, my career came to a standstill, my position and responsibilities eroded, and I was passed over for promotion raises and bonuses. Overnight. Worse, I was given progressively more difficult and responsible assignments, but less resources and authority to do them. I was denied the opportunity to learn new technologies and assigned the maintenance of legacy systems and obsolete software. Towards the end I was even asked to train my own replacement. (Yes, that actually does happen!) It was clear I was being set up to fail, and I feared that when the axe did fall, I would be dismissed under delinquent, even disciplinary circumstances, with my retirement benefits threatened. They couldn’t fire me outright or cut my salary because of Union rules, although as “Management” I was not allowed to join.
Fortunately, I was able to move before they could. I could rely on my VA medical benefits for health insurance until I was old enough to qualify for Medicare, and I had just payed off my mortgage in full two months before I retired. I was debt-free, had a nice IRA in the bank, and my wife and I had health insurance. I collected almost a year’s salary in unused vacation and sick leave and cashed in my pension plan. I was able t coast along until my Social Security kicked in.
I take no credit. It was mostly luck, not skill or planning on my part. Many of my co-workers were in a similar position and they suffered the bloodbath I just barely missed. But I escaped scot- free. I was just old enough to make my escape.
Here it is, ten years after, and I am still doing fine, and doing absolutely nothing. My health is better (except for those extra years), I live a stress-free life, my marriage has never been better, and I am still debt-free, with money in the bank and a pension and social security income that allows me to live modestly, but comfortably, with a nice reserve for emergencies. If I want to eat steak, or buy a book, or get new tires, or fix the roof, I don’t have to budget for it. I pay cash for everything. I go to bed when I’m sleepy and get out when I’m not. I haven’t worn a necktie in ten fucking years. And no, I’m not going crazy having “nothing to do”. I watch TV, surf the net, do social media and listen to 1970s hard rock as much as I want. Life is good.
I know what its like to have a kick-ass job and an exciting career. I know what its like to be in the center of things, making wonderful things happen. I know what its like to get up at 3AM and drive 5 miles in the snow to the Lab because you dreamt of an exciting solution to a problem and couldn’t wait until morning to try it out. If you have a job like that, its worth anything to keep it.
But if you don’t, and if you are lucky or smart enough to find a way out–go for it. Because one day you’ll realize they don’t care about you any more, and they will do anything to get you out of the way. Do it to them before they can do it to you.