I have to admit it…this feels really different. After a year of dealing with lockdowns, too many deaths from friends and family, and just trying to get through it all, I am ready to try something different.
I have been working full time since I was 20 years old. I started my “adult working career” just weeks before my 21st birthday. It was a case of being thrown into the deep end…in frigid cold waters…in a raging river of dramatic reality…and finding a way to survive.
God has a hell of a sense of humor.
Most who knew me from my High School and College days know most of the “origin” story. As a complete over-achiever in High School, to one of the worst versions of a meandering, rudderless college student, I needed a strong “kick in the head” (and parts south to the head), to drag me out of what would certainly be along story of trying to graduate, with some type of degree, on the “6-8 year plan.”
I was an education major, who had aspirations of becoming a High School History teacher, with minors in PE, Art, and Music. Yep…a dog of many talents, but master of none. And then realized that I didn’t have my Dad’s (a lifelong educator) temperament, and found myself wanting to kill children during my student teaching. Small detail. Not good.
I played college football, baseball, and a ton of music in my off hours, loved the girls, and partying, and even found a way to attend some classes…once in a while.
There is a running joke in my family, that while my daughters are all over achievers, earning various Magna-Cum, Summa-Cum honors, I was “In-Cum-Plete.” It was a testament to my salesmanship and talents for charms and persuasion. I deserved “F’s” in most of the classes from which I ended up finagling incompletes, but in the end, I was kidding nobody but myself. The only saving grace, was the fact that college was about $2K a year…all in. Because if I had to pay today’s prices, to basically be a full-time screw-up, my parents would have killed me.
But God had another plan.
He decided it was time for me to have an “early exit” from college, and for me to grow up, be a man, and a responsible citizen. And the best way to do that, was to bring me a new family, a marriage, and need to find a job…fast!
And so it began…47 years of “making it up as I went,” with career(s) so disparate at times, that it would take a Bar Chart to make sense of it all. There was more than one span over this time, that jobs/businesses overlapped, making almost impossible to define the question “what do you do?”
I’d like to say that this chart was created with an exaggerated sense of drama and humor. But let me assure you…it is accurate, and anything but funny. My life is a cautionary tale, making the argument for being successful by finding one thing, doing it well, for a long time. I clearly lived a life telling my very successful kids, to “Do as I say, NOT as I do!”
But, I have to admit that I was lucky. I am blessed with a wide range of talents, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning new things. I lived life on the “bleeding edge” of technology and media development. I won’t bore you with details of “near misses with huge success,” or actual awards, honors and successes earned. I will tell you that it was all hard-won, with a relentless effort to “keep moving upstream,” no matter what the river threw in my path.
But, now it’s time to start living the “semi-semi-retired life” of my “golden years.”
That term always cracks me up. “Golden Years.” Pffffttt…
These days, by the time you finally have your kids through high school and college, and paid for a handful of weddings along the way, you are “blessed/cursed” with having to deal with the decline and eventual passing of your own parents.
All of this leaves you a handful of years (if you are lucky) before time and reality catch up with you, and you begin your own decline.
Judging by watching some of my older golf buddies, even those who are “healthy” from playing LOTS of golf, 70 is the trigger point for most men. I can hardly count a single one who didn’t have to start getting “new parts” or taking loads of medicine to try to hold on to the “old parts.” 70…seems to be the magic number, when “he does pretty good for his age, all things considered,” becomes the standard way to look at things. I’m 67. Do the math.
So…as sad as it was to lose two parents this year (my Mom, Deb’s Dad), after losing my Dad in 2012, I admit to looking forward to the freedom to not be afraid of the next phone call or text message about their condition. As much as I love them…and miss them…the last year was relentless. I don’t miss that part at all.
After losing a handful of close friends, who were my age, or younger, I finally did it. I “fired” almost all of my remaining Broadcast clients (or put them on very specific exit plans), kept a handful of money-making projects that I actually LIKE doing, and started plotting the “How To Live The Life I Want With the Time I Still Have,” part of the plan.
Before I finish, let me tell you that I am blessed with an amazing wife. She ENDURED all of the machinations of the aforementioned chart. She is the opposite of me. Highly educated, with enough degrees and post degrees for three people, she still needs to work another 4-5 years to max out her retirement. But it was this wonderful, “Love of my Life” partner in all things that matter, who told me, “Stop. Really. Stop. You’ve worked for 47 years. That’s enough. Please, have some fun!” I love this woman.
And so, it begins. Beside my commitments to volunteer work with Rotary, and a handful of other small semi-regular projects, I am diving headfirst into THREE areas of fun, interest, and activity.
Golf. I played exactly 3 rounds of golf from October 1st, the day my Mom took her final, defining fall, until April. Yes…I do marketing for my country club…but even at trade dollars, that works out to a little more than $1200 a round. Not good. And so, I signed up for the “Senior Men’s Group,” Men’s league, and a series of lessons (to try and break the spell of a perpetual 17 handicap, and over the top swing). I am going to play at least three times a week, because I both need to, and want to. I need to get healthier. There are very few 80-year-old fat guys around. Time to take weight loss seriously.
Music. Dear God. I missed playing music so bad that it ached. Music has been part of my life since I was 9 years old. I have a full studio, with more instruments than a small music store. But, I have wanted an electronic drum set for years. I bought one. And now feel like an idiot for waiting. What a release it could have been during the Trump years. It is gloriously fun, quiet for the neighbors, and great exercise. I have a long list of songs I want to record, to which I will add videos for a handful of them.
Model Railroading. I know. This sounds like a “grandpa” thing to do. And you would be correct…mostly. I have been an enthusiast of “making miniature things,” since I was very young. Model railroads, lead cast miniatures, model airplanes, and boats…I’ve built them all in my life. But, the crates of HO scale trains and equipment I have saved in boxes for decades, are coming out. I have grandsons that would appreciate them…and I have wanted to model Bedford Falls (from It’s a Wonderful Life) for a very long time. This is a “fallback hobby” that I can continue on rainy days, or early mornings that used to be consumed by East Coast broadcast clients. It will be a long, slow, process…that I hope to finish before I croak.
And yes…there will be lots of traveling. Mostly to see our kids and grandkids, but with a recently inherited RV, the “means of getting there,” has a new option. Add to this, a long list of home improvement/gardening projects, and a never-ending smaller list of items from “She Who Is Not Able To Retire Yet,” and you have a pretty full, happy life!
I feel refreshed. Ready to live. Semi-semi retirement is going to suit me.