One Month of Freedom

“The Intermezzo”

Having been retired for over a month now,  a few observations come to mind;

  1. I don’t miss work at all.  Oh, for the first 2 – 3 weeks I was feeling strangely that I should be at work,  that I was getting away with something by not being there,  and that I had “escaped” and was on the run –  like a jail bird.    I even had dreams that I was back at work,  updating computers in my tech room.    But no,  I don’t miss getting up early,  fighting the commute traffic on the road and on BART,  and facing the mountain of help tickets and projects at work.
  2. While I don’t miss work itself,   I do miss the feeling of being part of a big,  powerful organization that I felt was doing good for the public, and that was highly respected.   I had a sense of belonging and camaraderie there, a sense of trust, and I knew literally hundreds of people – many of them for decades.    I also miss my direct co-workers,  my work friends.   We were a tight group and I think about them a lot.  So that is hard to give up, and hard to replace.
  3. I’ve ridden my bike more in the last 5 weeks than in the last 5 years.
  4. Cats really do sleep all day.
  5. It’s been confirmed that I really am a night owl,  when left to my own devices.   The natural schedule that I’ve fallen into is going to bed at about 1:00am,  and getting out of bed around 9:00am.   This is basically what I’ve wanted my whole life, but was never able to do because of my work schedule.   I’m busy all day taking care of errands,  home projects and repairs, shopping,  exercising by taking walks and riding my bike, seeing doctors and chiropractors,   organizing the piles of personal belongings and files I brought home from work with me,  selling a few things on eBay,  selling a car, dealing with retirement paperwork, getting more involved in my local town through local Facebook and NextDoor groups,  looking into volunteer service opportunities,   practicing my bass guitar, and just generally feeling very busy and like the days are going as fast as ever.   The only difference is that at the end of the day,  whatever I haven’t gotten done I just say,  “I can do that tomorrow”.   And that is a wonderful feeling.
  6. I feel a lot better when I’m not under time pressure.  Time pressure and time urgency are so much a part of the work world,  that you almost forget what it feels like to be you without that constant feeling of not having enough time for what you need to and want to do.    My typical workday had me away from home for at least 10 hours a day,  5 days a week.  And longer if I had to stop somewhere on the way home for an appointment or errand.    When you spend 10 – 12 hours a day away from home all week,  you’re exhausted when you get home and all you can manage is to make dinner,  take care of a few things,  pet your cats,  watch a little TV, and before you know it it’s time to get ready for bed.    And then the weekend comes and you have so much to do that before you know it it’s time to start getting ready for work again by Sunday evening.   Rinse and repeat for 35 years.   Basta! Enough!
  7. My hamstrings are really tight, and my body has not had the kind of stretching and exercise it really needs in many years.    My chiropractor tried to lift my leg straight up from the table and it could barely get to 40%.     I’ve started adding stretching to my daily routine, and that feels good.   For these past so many years I’ve been running myself ragged and it’s been all about doing what other people need me to do, with precious little time to even think about what I need to take care of myself.  
  8. These past weeks have been about taking the time I need to transition from a major phase of my life into another phase.  I don’t know exactly what that new phase will look like,  but that’s OK.    The most important thing now is to focus on my health.   I have some chronic pain issues that I’ve been dealing with,  and that’s put a bit of a damper on things.   But all I can do is press ahead,  add as many healthy elements to my days as possible, and remain open to possibilities.    

One of the feelings I’ve had over these past weeks can be described as “un-moored”.   My work schedule,  my supervisory status there,   the security of my paycheck,  my long-term history there, the sense of purpose and belonging,  the social group,  it all gave me so much stability and grounding.   To cut that mooring line and drift away is exciting, but a bit strange too.   I’m not going to work anymore, and yet I don’t really feel “retired” either.   But sometimes you have to just dwell in that intermezzo – that in-between period – and not feel that you have to rush out of it.    There are things to be learned from being un-moored, from being in between, not knowing,   and yet trusting.    My wise friend Jerry said, “trust your process”, and that’s what I’m doing.

“I’m interested when things are upside down – because there are so many possibilities in that one moment. There is a lot that is exposed.”   -Anna Deavere Smith

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Be Prepared

Ever since Boy Scout days, my motto has been “Be Prepared”. That’s why it’s hard for me to pack light; I’m always trying to prepare for every possible eventuality and emergency. Of course, you can’t really be prepared for everything, so what often happens is that the one thing I end up needing is the one thing I didn’t bring. But not always.

I’ve been going on a lot of bike rides lately, and my bike has a water bottle attached to the frame. My rides haven’t been very long, maybe 2 hours max, and I drink enough at home that I never bring water with me on these rides. The bottle just sits there empty, and I never really even think of it. I don’t know why, but today as I got ready for my ride I looked at the bottle and thought, “why not fill it up half way, just in case”, which was strange because I hadn’t thought of doing that in ages. I knew it was very unlikely I’d even take a sip, but for some reason on this one day I rinsed out the bottle and filled it about halfway up before attaching it back on the bike.

We have a new open space park in Alameda now, named after the person who was instrumental in getting it created, Jean Sweeny. The large piece of land was owned by the Alameda Beltline Railroad and had been sitting fenced off and vacant for many years. At one time it was an active, working rail yard, a key part of Alameda’s once industrial North waterfront. As that changed over the decades, the land sat empty, save for a lot of weeds and undergrowth, and some homeless encampments. In 1999, the land was being sold for $18 million to a developer, who planned to build 200 homes on the site. At the same time, the city of Alameda had been trying to buy the land to create a badly needed park in that area. The city felt it should have first rights to buy back the land, and at a lower price than what was being asked. This legal fight wasn’t going well for the city, until local activist Jean Sweeny, who had been holed up at the state capitol in Sacramento, and other places, poring over dusty old microfiche records from the early part of the century, found the original 1924 contract between the city and the railroad, which gave the city the right to repurchase the 40 acres of land at the original sale price of $30,000., plus the costs of investments or improvements. A judge finally set the purchase price at $966,000., which the city was able to afford and which allowed this large parcel to become the beautiful park it is becoming today. Jean Sweeny passed away at age 72, before the park opened, but her name is on it now, to be seen by all who enter and enjoy its peace and the absence of roads and cars.

Shortly after getting up to speed on the bike trail in the park today, I heard a woman calling out urgently, “Excuse me, can you help us? Do you have any water?” I looked to my left and saw a woman with two dogs and two young boys, all gathered around the larger dog which seemed to be on the ground and in distress. As I parked my bike and walked over, water bottle in hand, she said “She’s ten years old and had a seizure recently. I think she may be having another one, or is dehydrated. She collapsed and needs water!” I tried to squirt some water into the dog’s mouth, but she wasn’t taking it. So I took off the lid and filled it, putting it up to her mouth. She licked at it a bit, then we poured some on her head and body to cool her. I kept filling the lid and the dog took more each time, as the boys looked on. “Thank you so much for stopping”, the woman kept saying, and the boys would repeat that from time to time as well. Soon the water bottle was empty, but the dog, Butter, seemed to be perking up and was enjoying all the attention. She eventually stood up and started walking around, but they guided her back to a shady spot to await more water. We talked for a little while, as I petted Butter until I was sure she was OK. More water would be arriving soon from another member of their party who had gone off to buy some, and my mission was done. As I got back on my bike and waved goodbye one last time, I heard of one the boys say, “That guy was nice” and the other boy answered back “Really nice”.

As I rode away I realized that there was nothing else I could have done for myself today that could have made me feel better than helping those people and that animal. Those are the experiences we all crave – to be needed, to help others, and to be appreciated. Those are the kinds of experiences I had a lot at work (not with animals in distress, but with people and computers in distress) and that is a role I will miss in retirement. Unless I find other ways of creating those experiences. From now on you can bet I’ll be keeping a full water bottle on my bike, just in case.

Roots

Since I walked out the door of my workplace for the last time two and a half weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about work – more than I thought I would. Thinking about my co-workers, my tech room, what projects they’re probably working on now, how things are going with the government shutdown, what’s the latest drama, etc. I’ve texted and emailed my former co-workers, and was pleased when a few others friended me on Facebook. I also check my work email most days, just to see what’s going on and what I’m missing, both good and bad. Why? You’d think that leaving a demanding and stressful job after 27 years would be a relief, and I wouldn’t be thinking about it at all. But life doesn’t work that way, at least for me. I may be physically gone from that place, but mentally a part of me is still there and wants to be involved. I miss the good parts of being there, while being so relieved to be free of the responsibilities of being there.

I’m not the kind of person who makes a lot of changes. When I have something good, I put down roots and stick with it. Some of the things I value the most are longtime relationships like with Edie (35 years), friends (many years), and family (my whole life). I’ve had the same Honda motorcycle since 1985, have lived in the same house since 2000, and kept my job for 27 years. So I’m not the kind of person who lets things go easily. That has its pros and cons I guess, in the sense that “change is good”. But life has enough changes that come whether you like them or not, so I find a lot of comfort and depth in keeping people and things for a long time. As time went on at my workplace, I went from being one of the new, young, inexperienced people to gradually, almost without me realizing, becoming one of the most senior members of the staff, in a position to guide and give advice to others. I never thought of myself as a “mentor”. That always sounded like a lot of work and responsibility to me, and besides, I never felt like I had it together enough for that role. And so I was touched to hear people tell me, as my retirement approached, that I had been just that for them, and how much they appreciated it.

At my retirement party, after my boss had said a few words, he turned to me and asked if I wanted to make some remarks. He didn’t know that I had a 4 page speech folded up in my coat pocket, but I did, so I turned to the crowd and said “Since I’ve been here 27 years I think I can take 10 minutes to say a few words, right?” Members of the audience shouted out “yes!” and “take it!”, so I proceeded with my speech, which actually went about 20 minutes. Afterwards, my co-workers said they appreciated that I had wanted a retirement party, had made a speech, and had provided the opportunity for a number of others to get up as well. Some people, mostly the ones who are kind of shy and don’t like being the center of attention, will leave after years on the job with hardly a goodbye, much less a party. I think that does both them and those they leave behind a disservice. It’s a missed opportunity to sort of close out an important chapter in your life in a way that recognizes what the experiences and relationships meant to you. And it gives those left behind some closure too, and perhaps for a moment makes them think “What will I say at my retirement party?”

I don’t know when I’ll stop thinking about work so much, when I’ll stop checking email, stop caring so much. I know the time will come, just like the time will come when I have to let go of even more things dear to me. And that will be hard, because roots run deep.

Casual Friday

(Photo by Edie) Friday was always a day at work when you could skip the slacks and dress shirt and just wear jeans and a sweatshirt. It was a small benefit, yet it was still kind of an important milestone in a long week. Just when you didn’t think you could handle one more day of commuting and the office, at least there was a small mercy; you got to wear different clothes. Hey, you take what you can get. In some ways Friday was the best day of the week, because I knew I had made it to the end and had the weekend to look forward to. In other ways it was one of the toughest days of the week too, because I was also at my most exhausted and frazzled, and there always seemed to be deadlines that popped up, like people leaving town and needing to borrow laptops, judges leaving the country and needing iPhones set up for international use, end of week staff meetings, new projects announced, etc.

Today was also a Friday, but instead of wearing casual clothes and going to work, I wore casual clothes and hiking boots and went on a hike with Edie, who also happened to unexpectedly have the day off. It’s been raining a lot lately, and the east bay hills are emerald green with fresh growth, and the streams are flowing. We decided to head up to Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, a scenic and hilly park on the site of an ancient volcano. Now we hadn’t been there in awhile, and I was using GPS to guide us but was getting to that point where it was telling us to make U turns and go back and we seemed be off course. As we snaked through the narrow winding roads of the Oakland hills, we finally found that the one road that we needed to take was closed for construction, and any alternate route could be difficult and time consuming. These are the kinds of moments where I might often find myself tense and getting into a bad mood. Bickering a bit with Edie could ensue, as she tends to offer unhelpful comments at times like this. And yet this time I remained relaxed. I’m not in a rush, I’m not feeling pressed for time, I’m retired! Makes all the difference. So I simply entered “Redwood Regional Park” into my GPS, and we headed for an alternate park which is one of our favorites anyway. Being a bit lost at this point, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly we got to Redwood Park, and from the opposite direction than we had ever gotten to it before.

The wonderful thing about being off on a weekday when everyone else is working is how uncrowded everything is. The Skyline Gate parking lot had plenty of spaces, even one right in the front row near the trailhead. This lot is packed on weekends, with cars parked out along the narrow edges of the road too. There were very few people out on the trails; a few joggers here and there, a few people with dogs, but they seemed like local neighbors on their daily routines, not the crowds like us that come up from the flatlands on weekends, holidays and sunny days.

I love winter hikes in the bay area, because unlike in the summer when everything is dry, the winter is incredibly moist and green if we’re getting the normal wet winter like we’ve been having. And Redwood Park is one of the best places to experience this cool, green wonderland of fresh growth. Ancient redwoods looking extra dark with their wet bark, ferns bursting forth with life along the hillsides and forest floor, numerous forms of mushrooms, bracket fungi and clovers. Fog gently and silently drifting in clouds through the forest. This is the moisture cycle that the forest depends on to make it through the long, hot, dry summer when it can rain not once from May through October – the drought period. And now it feels like it’s just drinking it all in while it can.

We all have to make it though long, dry patches in our lives I suppose. Times when we have to persevere even when we’re in pain, physically or emotionally. When work was tough for me, and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel, I’d look at the fortunes that I’d taped into my wallet, after getting them at Chinese restaurants: “Take that chance you’ve been considering”, “You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course”, and finally, “You will never need to worry about a steady income”. These are the fortunes I’ve had in my wallet for the last year or so, and I’d look at them each day. In some way they gave me a bit of confidence and resolve to trust in my decisions and my path, and to persevere just one more day. And then finally one day the drought is over and you’re walking through a cool, moist forest with your dear wife of 27 years, just drinking it all in while you can.

I don’t know what droughts lie ahead, what will happen with the stock market, my physical health, the state of the world, or our country. But sometimes you just have to put on some hiking boots and head out into the woods and take a walk, even if it’s raining. Especially if it’s raining. It refreshes the body and soul and helps put things in perspective. The trees in the forest don’t worry about how long the rains will last, when the next drought will come, how hot it will get. They just stand there, for thousands of years in the case of the redwoods, and persevere.

My friends, maintain your course, have patience, achieve your goals, and then take that chance you’ve been considering!





My Retirement Speech

12/20/18, U.S. District Court, San Francisco. Speech given at official retirement ceremony in the jury assembly room, 19th floor.

So I guess I can’t change my mind about leaving now…

I read a funny quote about retirement:   “The trouble with retirement is that you never get to look forward to a day off”.

OK,  here’s another one:  “Retirement is like a long vacation in Vegas.   The goal is to enjoy it to the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money”.

“When a person retires and time is no longer a matter of urgent importance,   that is the time when your colleagues generally present you with a watch”.

And finally,   “The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before your boss starts thinking about your retirement”.

Now it may seem that I’m retiring a little early.    But I think of IT years as kind of like dog years;  they’re worth more and they add up faster due to the stress and aggravation.   So in that sense,  it feels more like I’ve been here 40 years.    I often wonder why I’m feeling so tired these days,  and then I start to reminisce and think back on just some of the things I’ve worked on here at the court over the years;

When I arrived, a huge asbestos abatement was underway, (1992 – 1994).   The entire building was being gutted floor by floor and rebuilt and we were moving all staff and computers to temporary locations as each floor was done one by one.   And then moving them all back again as each floor was completed.

In 1994 we opened the new Oakland Courthouse and moved 4 judges over,  along with clerk’s office staff and a new server room and tech room.   

At that time we were covering IT in San Jose – there was no full time IT staff there until 1995.

We networked the entire court, between ’93 and ’94.  There had been no network prior to that, just standalone computers.

We introduced Email, internet access, and telework.   Can you imagine?  No internet?

Introduced computer controlled sound systems in all courtrooms, and FTR,  our digital audio recording software and hardware.    

Introduced smartphones and iPads to all judges and managers.  

Then there was the 16th floor remodel in 2009,  where the entire east side was gutted and remodeled, with staff being housed in swing space for months.   I remember our front intake counter operating out of a courtroom during that period.

Countless times we moved computers when entire floors got re-carpeted, were painted,  got new furniture,  or a judge retired, setting off a domino effect of other judges moving.    Moves are such a common and consistent task that we used to have job applicants lift a 40 pound printer off the ground during interviews, just to see their lifting technique and strength.   We don’t do that anymore –  probably a liability issue. 

I managed the upgrades from DOS 3.3 to DOS 5.1,   then to Windows 3.1,   then to Windows 95,  then to Windows XP,  then to Windows 7,  and now we’ve been working on the early stages of Windows 10.   And all of those upgrades involved changing out the PC hardware too, not just the operating system.   

In more recent times we set up a new courthouse in McKinleyville, with state of the art courtroom technology and where I’ve visited 6 times so far.   We also upgraded our phone system to VOIP (voice over internet) in all courthouses, another very large project that involved both procurement and IT.  Especially Deb Centanni.    And Mike Wong and Dew Chung who handled all the network wiring issues.     

So think about the basic computer operation that was here when I started:   No network,  very few  color monitors even,  no email,  no internet,  no telework, no courtroom technology, no iPads,  no cell phones or smartphones, no videoconferencing, no Oakland Courthouse,  no Eureka/McKinleyville Courthouse,   a much smaller IT staff, many fewer PCs and programs.   Everything that came after that,  everything we have now,  I’ve been a part of building and delivering.   And I had help,  lots of help from an incredible IT staff.     But when I think back on the monumental amount of work and projects that I’ve worked on over these decades,  it actually makes good sense that I’m exhausted, and the main thing I’m looking forward to in retirement is just having some time to rest and savor this incredible experience.

So people are asking what I’m going to do when I retire.   Number one,  of course, rest.   I’m really looking forward to staying up late reading or watching movies with Edie, and then sleeping late.    And I’m going to be working on a HUGE backlog of home projects that I haven’t had time to do.   And gardening.   And supposedly I’m a bass player but somehow over the years the time to practice and be in a band has been eclipsed.    There just hasn’t been enough time.    I’ll be spending more time with my wife and my cats,  and that is really the best part.  Seeing family and friends more too.  And there’ll be more time for taking walks along the beach in Alameda, which we love,  and hiking in some of the local bay area parks.    Spending more time in our favorites Yosemite and Kings Canyon, then ranging out a little further in our van to places like Joshua Tree or Death Valley,  then eventually beyond to the desert southwest.    I don’t think there’ll be a problem figuring out what to do.   As both my father and grandfather said after they retired “ I don’t know how I ever had time to work.  I’m busy every day!”.

People are also asking me how I can afford to retire now,  and aren’t I a little young to be retiring.    Now I’m not exactly “young”,   but seeing as how I’m 58 and that the average retirement age for federal employees is about 62,  and probably closer to 65 or higher for the average American,  yeah,  I am retiring a little early.   I see it as a gift to myself, and my loved ones.   It’s an expensive gift, for sure.    Because I’m a bit under age for the full, un-reduced retirement,  I’m taking a permanent 17.5% reduction off of an already very modest FERS retirement benefit.     But that small pension,  plus being able to stay on federal health benefits,  plus what we’ve saved in retirement accounts, and the fact that Edie will still be working for some time,  and me probably looking into part-time work,  should,  if my calculations are correct and our financial advisor knows what he’s talking about,  work for us.    I’m taking a bit of a chance giving up a good income sooner than I have to,  but the way I see it,  I’d be taking more of a chance not going for what I really want,   and taking better care of myself.

 As you probably know,  Dew Chung has been selected to fill my job after I leave,  after a long and competitive recruitment process.    He’s earned it, and I’m proud of him,  as I have supervised him for over 10 years now and seen him grow and develop.     But in a way I have mixed feelings about Dew taking over my job.   Let me explain.   On the one hand,  I’m so pleased that he has earned the right to be promoted and grow in his career.  On the other hand,  I know how hard my job is, and I like Dew,  so part of me is thinking “God help him!”.    But you know,   there comes a time in life and in your career when you’re ready to step up,  to step up to another level of challenge.    You can stay where you are and where you’re comfortable,  or you can decide to step up and accept new challenges.    And that’s what Dew has done and I wish him all the best.   It won’t be easy, but few worthwhile things in life are.

I want to thank the IT team and say what an incredible experience it’s been working with such a dedicated group,  and how much I’m going to miss being part of this tight group,  especially our Friday lunches out.     I’ve never worked with a group that had so much talent,  and to a one were such good people.   We genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and the spirit of  help and cooperation under daily pressure and high stress situations is really admirable.     We all have eachother’s backs, and everyone works miracles behind the scenes every day to keep this whole operation going – most of which is never seen by the rest of the court staff, but which takes countless hours behind the scenes to accomplish.    Many of us have worked together for decades, and it’s those long-term relationships that create a culture of caring and responsibility that we have been so, so fortunate to have been able to cultivate here.  I hope that continues long into the future with the new people we are bringing on board, and those we are promoting.      

And I want to say to all of you who I’ve worked with for so many years,  I really am  going to miss being part of this family.     There are so many nice people here,   people who are smart, funny, and who have many talents.    But not everyone is so nice.   Some are a little more salty than sweet, but we love them for that too and that’s all part of the mix.    And of course I want to recognize my wife Edie,  who’s been with me every step of the way.   We’ve been married over 27 years,  and it’s coming home to her every night that’s made all of this effort worthwhile.   And there’s only one person left here who was instrumental in hiring me and bringing me on board way back in 1991, and that is our HR Director Bev Keh.   She’s been there for me from the beginning,  guiding me through all the milestones of my career, and finally through the retirement process.  Thanks so much to you Bev, and your amazing staff.  

And finally,  if I may,  a word of advice.   I’d never be retiring now if I hadn’t started thinking about and planning for it 27 years ago when I first started work here.   I went to every retirement and financial literacy class or seminar offered in this building that I could.    It’s your future and your freedom, so the more you learn about it the better off you will be.    And let me stress three letters:  T S P – the Thrift Savings Plan.   For those of you in FERS,  and that’s most of you,  the TSP will be your most important resource in funding your freedom one day.     You absolutely must contribute at least 5% of your income,  to gain the 5% matching funds the government will throw in.  That’s free money that you just can’t refuse.    And then aim to increase your contributions every year,  working your way up to 15% of  your income,  and ideally,  hitting the IRS maximum contribution limit of $19,000 year for those under 50,  or $25,000. a year if you are over 50.    There’s an old saying “Pay yourself first” and if you save into your TSP starting as early in your career as possible, and increasing your contributions as much as possible,  you will thank yourself a thousand times over when you’re approaching your freedom date.   Contact HR for more info,  or go to TSP.GOV.

And so at the end of my career here at the U.S. District Court, I’m left with an enormous feeling of gratitude.   This job has not been easy at all,  in fact it’s been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  And there have been times along the way when I just wanted to quit.   But through thick and thin,  we all stick with it every day,  we do our jobs,  we work with some great people,   we never miss a paycheck (well, usually we don’t),   we appreciate those commuter checks and the holiday party every year, and most importantly we support the judges who are the whole reason why we are here.   They do their best for the hundreds or thousands of citizens who come to our court every year seeking justice,  and for that I am honored to have played a role for the past almost 3 decades.   Serving here is not just “a job”.   We are part of an organization that was established in 1850 in San Francisco during the wild gold rush days,  a pillar of the Constitution, and the bedrock of our democracy.   It is more important and necessary than ever, and you are all  – each and every one of you – playing a role in that and you should be proud.     Thank you all so much for your friendship and understanding and kind words over the years.         

35 years of intense work and now what?

Ever since Edie and I arrived in San Francisco for the first time in October of 1984,  driving my father’s old 1970 Chevy Nova which had made it all the way cross country,  I’ve been working.  (We’ve both been working, but this particular blog is from my point of view).  And working my butt off too, at some of the most stressful and demanding jobs.  Waiting on tables,  working in downtown hotels doing AV work for meetings and conventions,  going back to school full-time for electronics and computers (while working part-time), and finally landing my career job with the U. S. District Court where I worked for 27 years in an increasingly complex IT (Information Technology) environment managing the office PCs and courtroom technology operation and supervising 4 IT specialists.    I got a lot of satisfaction out of my work,  and was deeply committed to it.   As the decades went on though,  I could feel the effect it was having on me physically,  so punishing was the daily grind of commuting and dealing with the constant stream of incoming problems, projects and deadlines.   I found after a while I was seeing doctors more than  I was seeing my friends.   And as one prescription followed another,  I was starting to collect pill bottles in a way that was somewhat alarming.   I had to escape.    Actually, I started planning my escape years ago, decades ago really,  attending every retirement or financial planning workshop offered at work,  doing my own research on saving and investing,  and each year increasing the amount saved in retirement accounts (IRAs and 401K).    This meant putting savings first and impulse or luxury purchases last, shopping at discount stores and thrift stores, bringing my lunch to work,  doing as many home and car repairs myself, and just making savings the highest priority.  At the same time we enjoyed trips to India,  Nepal,  Italy, Morocco, Egypt and other parts of the world,  as well as traveling in the U.S.,  and buying our home in 2000.   When it was time to spend, we spent,  but that was only possible due to all the time we spent saving.  So after 35 years of working, planning and saving,  I finally walked out the door of my workplace for the last time on December 28th 2018,  after having turned in my keys and ID and hugged goodbye Bev, the same HR director who hired me back in 1991, and then stepped into the world as a free man.     By the time I walked out that door I was so exhausted by 27 years of work there,  8 months of planning the execution of this specific retirement plan, and then a final intense month of retirement parties,  cleaning up my desk and files,  hiring and training my successor, bringing home personal belongings,  attending holiday parties,  saying emotional goodbyes to people I had known for decades, that I couldn’t really feel anything.  I was kind of numb,  wrung out, spent, and yet somewhere deep inside I knew something big had changed and there was no going back.     This blog will hopefully explore what happens when a super busy person jumps out of the rat race and sees what’s next.     Oh, where to begin;   Catching up on 27 years of lost sleep,  getting healthier through better diet and exercise,  dealing with some chronic pain issues I’ve been experiencing for some time now, having way less stress,  spending more quality time with Edie and my cats,  catching up on a huge backlog of books and magazines I haven’t had time to read,  getting back into playing bass more,  cooking more home made foods,  seeing friends and family more,  working on a huge list of home projects and repairs,  planning more camping trips around the state and beyond,  maybe doing some part-time work,  etc.    I’ve found the last couple of weeks very revealing in that I feel busier than ever.   The days go so fast and by 12:30 at night I still haven’t gotten to all the things  I wanted to do that day.   Time is like a closet in that sense.    If you get a new closet, at first it seems like you have a lot more storage space.  But nature abhors a vacuum, and the closet – like free time –  soon completely fills.   I’m just looking forward to filling my new closet with the things I want to put there,  not things that other people demand I put there – as has been the case these past 35 years of my work life in San Francisco.   Stay tuned as I share some of that stuff with you…