Independence Day

Today I announced to my employer that I am retiring from corporate life. A bittersweet experience over the next couple of weeks of clearing out my cubicle and hard drive of any personal information, and realizing that the people I have been working beside for the last nine years will not be coming to my new place of work and helping me with my vegetable garden, or do-it-yourself projects. Nope, as I have done for thirty years, they will continue to keep their little noggins buried under tubular, phosphorescent suns, while I look to see what independence from the business world I may be able to find.

I probably will not much miss the incessant business meetings I have had to attend, where all life focuses on strategizing, focusing, forecasting, budgeting, scheduling, developing, reporting, detailing, data mining, technical writing, and all the myriad of activities that people do, either with each other or with their computers. When I began a career in technical writing with General Electric thirty years ago, I remember how one old guy would sit at his office desk in the afternoons with his pencil in his hands, touching the paper tablet in front of him with the tip of his pencil, his back turned from the door. I would step in to speak with him and suddenly realize he was not just sleeping, but snoring. Now I am nearly at that point myself, where I can barely distinguish between when I am asleep and when I am fully alert. Days come when I drink too much coffee and only my nerves tingle without me seeing my concentration improve.

Learning my own rhythm rather than that of the business-driven clock, may help me heal from the stress and wear that I have been conditioned to accept as normal. Several have told me that retirement is not the perfect answer to the vicissitudes of living. I hear of much boredom or lack of inspiration, desire for money to spend when on a limited budget, the uncertainty of this goofy rock and roll economy that seems to have gripped us all, and the aches, pains, fears, frustration and helplessness that comes to us when the years of living stack too deep.

The challenge before me seems to be to see whether I can stay engaged in living. I find it difficult to give myself a report card on performance. I may discover that I enjoy sleeping and dreaming better than any other activity that comes along. I often find myself quite entertained to sit on the beach and watch the fog move in and out. I see the possibility that I will feel something missing from my soul that I was receiving unknowingly from years of working. Purpose, self-esteem, ambition, sense of belonging to some cause greater than my own individuality?

I would sit and write a novel if I knew commercial success was a near guarantee. For the time being, I have talked myself out of such a lengthy endeavor, and look for other outlets for my words: this journal; a memoir, an account of my early west coast ancestors, fleshing out more of the details of their nearly forgotten existence; an article or two concerning my recent switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, and how that experience has put some new shape into daily living.

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