Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Retirement Finish Line -- The Last Year of Work

My last post on this topic was in October 2012.  At that point, I had already been reading and thinking about the transition to post-retirement life for six years.  That makes it ten years from contemplation to execution – I retired on December 1st.

Deciding to retire is an interesting and lonely journey.  You typically retire only once and there’s no practice for it.  So, in case it’s of any use to anyone, I tried to capture my thoughts through the last year or so of my employed life and I plan to share excerpts over the next few months.

Of course, once you retire, the transition continues.  I’m fortunate to live in a community with a lot of role models – people who have been retired for decades.  But for me, with only one month of retirement under my belt, I’m still adjusting.

One thing you’ll probably pick up from the series is that I had a serious countdown calendar going for the last year or so.  I didn’t post it on my office door (as one of my colleagues did), but I kept it up to date for sure.

Here begin the excerpts. 


 Friday, June 12, 2015

…the other thing that’s eating at me is worrying the next 404 days fulltime plus 122 days

planned part-time work (but who’s counting).  I’m mentally ready to be done.  Nothing I do in the day job seems that important to me.  Career has lost its meaning.  Of course this, I believe, is only natural at this stage of life.  The end of life is no longer hypothetical, so it’s hard to spend precious time doing something you’re no longer excited about.

Friday, January 1, 2016

This is it.  The final stretch of my employed life.  The transition to the rest of my life.  How do I characterize the next chapter?

First, as I look back, even though I’ve been working full-time, I think I can call it being semi-retired.  Certainly that’s true since Fall of 2011 -- last four years.  Even with a full work schedule, I’ve had the opportunity to branch out into other interests – taking classes at the community college and elsewhere.  That’s been a gift – one that, until recently, I haven’t fully recognized.

So, if I’ve already been (unknowingly) semi-retired how do I characterize this transitional year (and beyond)?  How about 2016 as the year of “conscious semi-retirement?”

If semi-retirement is a time to slow down, looking back on 2015, I’m not doing so well.  Besides the day job, I crammed in coursework and a multitude of other interests.    Doesn’t sound like going slow, does it?  Perhaps in 2016, the year conscious semi-retirement, I will actually slow down a little and give myself time to reflect. 

As I contemplate life beyond 2016, I think about what I’ll be doing with my life and time.  I sometimes think about paid-employment or setting up a business in a different field – something creative and contributing to society.  But, so far, nothing resonates.  And the prospect of having obligations to meet and a schedule to keep are real barriers to considering future employment for me.  So, the challenge and open question is “how do I want to use freedom from the requirements of paid-employment to contribute for the rest of my life?”

That’s the question to wrestle with through this transition year and beyond.  My advice to me is to leave it as an open question and not rush into anything too soon after employment ends.

In conclusion, 2016 is a year of transition.  It’s to being consciously semi-retired, -- winding down employed life and exploring what’s beyond.  That’s plenty to do. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016 -- 42 Workweeks to Go

Trapped in a salt mine.  That’s the news of the day.  Seventeen miners trapped in an elevator 800 feet below ground in a central New York salt mine.  They’re not immediate danger – nothing collapsed.  Rescuers can talk to them and send them food and blankets.  I’m sure it’s scary but probably mainly inconvenient.

At 42 workweeks to go, trapped in a salt mine is a rough metaphor for how I feel about work.    Although I’m lucky to have employment and the power to decide when to stop, it still feels a little like I’m trapped in an inconvenient circumstance.

At my boss’ request I gave my one-year notice last fall.  Since that time, I’ve let my peers and the folks that report to me know my decision and have written the requisition and job specs to hire my replacement.  I aim to craft a good ending.

Still, I feel conflicted.  I’ve spend my work-life initiating programs to make things better for my employers and my work colleagues.  It’s hard for me to turn that off and be a passenger on the bus.  On the other-hand, it just doesn’t make sense to start anything I won’t see through to the finish.  And, even if I wanted do something significant, my short tenure reduces my power to influence any change.

So I’m conflicted about engagement – mainly initiating or taking on new things, not keeping the operations running.   And I’m conflicted about ending the paycheck.  The fizzling financial markets don’t help matters as I contemplate an end to that.

All of this makes me wonder: What’s the magic number of months, weeks, days or hours for when I feel less conflicted and can begin to celebrate freedom from the salt mine of work?    Intellectually I know it’s time to hang up the spurs, but I have yet to feel the emotional release of my quest for freedom and excitement about the next act of life.

Time will tell.  Meanwhile, just plug along and do what you can. 

Like I said, I made it to the finish line and retired December 1, 2016.  More to come, though, in future posts on the last year of work.  

The posts should be more frequent now that the day job doesn’t get in the way!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Back In The Saddle Again

Late February, Marcia and I made the trivial decision  to sell the house, downsize and move into a continuing care community.  Executing that decision has taken more than a little of our time over the last few months.   The result is I have not been able to paint anything since my last effort -- an allegorical painting representing my father and two grandfathers via their occupations.

Somehow we got it all done and moved at the end of June.  My one concern with the move was where would I be able to paint in the new location?  As time went by, I wondered if I'd even remember how to paint!

After ruminating on what to paint and where to do it, Marcia suggested that I paint some favorite toys of my two-and-a-half year old granddaughter.  As to where to do this, I figured out that I could set up on the 6' x 9' balcony.

The balcony was a little tight (and hot!) but it worked.  Here's the result -- three fishies swimming in a bowl (signed by Papa -- her name for me.)

I guess the new place will work out after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Summer and Fall Production

Here's the rest of the production from the summer and fall:  two more landscapes and an attempt at an oil-painting portrait.

I can look at the first -- An Unnamed Tributary of Ben's Run -- and recall standing in the swamp with bugs and heat for a month of Saturday mornings.  I struggled with constantly changing shadows as the sun moved higher in the sky.  Eventually, I took a reference photo so I could preserve a moment in time and stop chasing shadows. 

Nature is dynamic!  When I started the painting below, everything was green.  When I ended it, all the leaves were gone.  Between start and finish, I was able to capture some color.  Sky and shadows look different every time you go out.  So, I realize that I'm capturing a composite scene.  The sky only looked this way once and when it did the rest of the scene looked different!

Finally, I wanted to try my hand at an oil-painting portrait.  I only had one (reluctant) human model.  So, I used a blurry photo from my daughter's wedding last year for most of this. I was able to plead with my model to pose for almost three hours (not all at once)!  Woo Whoo!

Here's how it turned out.  I told her that she'd love it in ten years.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Portrait and A Landscape

It's been a while since the last term finished in May, but I thought I'd post my final homework.  It's a portrait of my granddaughter done from a photo.  Marcia had it framed and it's hanging in a place of honor in our hallway -- not because it's great art, but because it's our granddaughter for crying out loud!  The medium is pastel.

Since class ended, I spent about a month being handyman around the house -- repairing, spackling and painting.   I planned to take a two-week intensive landscape painting course in June but it wasn't offered. So, I decided to use the leave I would have used to take off summer Fridays and practice landscaping painting (and, in a small way, practice retirement which may actually happen some day).

The result was that I went from painting the house to painting the house.  Well, from painting the house to a painting of the house.  In the composition was trying to capture the interesting angles and tall trees.  Here it is.   I think I'm done.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Portrait Drawing

I'm taking a break from oil-painting classes and slogging my way through a portrait drawing class.  I've learned a few things like:

  1. Portrait drawing is hard.  We're so good at facial recognition that a line or feature only has to be a little off to look a lot off.  And by little I mean a millimeter or two.
  2. It's a lot easier to draw from a photograph than it is to draw from real life.  It's hard to get someone to sit still for five to ten hours while you measure, sketch ... draw, correct; draw, correct, draw; draw, correct...forever.
Anyway, here are my latest attempts -- my last four homework assignments.  The first two are pencil and the last two are charcoal.  All are from 8" x 11" photos and the drawing sizes are 18" x 24". 


Three more classes and I'm done. And, although I'm ready for a break (it's not easy finding ten to twelve hours in a week to do this when you're working fulltime), I think I've learned a little something that will help my drawing gong forward. 

Now, if I could just take care of that having to work nuisance.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Oil Painting IV

Another term oil painting, but with a new professor.  (It's really my second time through Oil Painting II.)

Last term, I did north of a dozen paintings.  I've done four so far this year.  I'm starting a new classroom painting today and a new homework this weekend, but the jury's still out if I'll really complete two more paintings over the next three class sessions.

Slowing down, though, has taught me that there are still miles to go once I've thought a painting is done.  It takes time to just look at the object and see the final details, which, inevitably, results in little marks and highlights being added to the painting.

So, it's good not to be in a rush with a painting. It's good  not to make any marks sometimes but just look.  Understanding before action -- what a novel concept.  At least for me!

Here's the production to date.

 Classwork Still Life #1

Homework #1
Classwork Still Life #2

Homework #2
I'm sure, I'll find out  in class today that homework #2 isn't done.  Even though I think it is!


I know I'm not the first to notice this, but I'm at the age where I'm learning more about the profusion of doctor types.  I can see why people retire.  At some point there are not enough hours in the day to work and make all the doc appointments.

Over the last few years, my optometrist sent me to a retina specialist to fix an occlusion in my right eye.  After lasering it didn't work, she tried a shot in the eye.  Maybe it wasn't in the eyeball, but it was close enough!  The shot didn't fix the problem but caused my eye to droop to half-closed.  After a year of dimmed vision (and looking dim as well), it was off to the eyelid surgeon to fix the broken upper eyelid levator muscle.

Lately, my annual physical means a follow up visit to a specialist of some sort.  The latest was to the urologist for confirming check from the, ...umm.., backdoor entrance.  Fun.  Twice in the same month!  (How does someone decide to be a urologist, anyway?)

All in all, though I'm not complaining.  It's great to have expert mechanics around to keep the machine running an fixing it when something breaks. 

I guess more doc visits just come with the aging territory.  Get use to it!