Sunday, March 27, 2011

Now Every Day Is Saturday

In the past couple of months, I've inadvertently almost retired and accidentally almost closed my business.  I still have enough client work to be able to shop for name brands, but my 55-hour work week in 1994 has dwindled to about 12.5 currently.

I'm not complaining, mind you.  I've worked since I was 16 (part-time for my parents) and that's plenty of years for anyone.  Retirement is an odd and difficult transition to make, though, when one's life has been defined by work.

As a single mom of two back in the days before single parenthood was a normal and accepted state, and deadbeat dads weren't prosecuted, my job had to come first or my little family would have become a sad statistic.  I was audited by the IRS for deducting child care long before it was legal -- and won the case.  I spent far more hours at work than I did being a mom, but somehow the kids became successful adults and great parents themselves -- more than a minor miracle.  (Or maybe a statement that they did better without me micro-managing their every move -- teaching a kid independence isn't a bad thing.)

After battling and clawing my way up the corporate ladder (a woman in a strictly male industry, before equal rights was the law), I still had to be better than every other manager.  Okay, they were all men so it wasn't that hard...but still...it meant longer hours, far-less-than-equal pay and very few of the perks the male managers enjoyed.  (So what if I wouldn't have played golf, rafted down the Rogue River or vomited breakfast vodka on a deep-sea fishing trip -- I still wanted to be invited!)  The day I resigned, threw my company car keys on the controller's desk and walked home was the third best day of my life.  Seriously.

Starting a new business in a new profession with new skills but no experience and no potential clients was NOT a piece of cake -- but within a month of initial marketing, there I was -- truly "in business" for myself -- the fourth best day of my life, especially since I worked from home in my jammies.  That was 17 years ago and my original client is my one remaining client -- the rest were given governmental incentives to convert to mandatory new technology.  Thanks, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  My own taxes paid to eliminate my own business -- oh, the irony.

I now have to make a real adjustment in letting go of my overactive, compulsive, pain-in-my-ass work ethic in favor of trying to transition to retirement.  There's very little real advice online in doing this.  The "advice" columns are so basic and contain such obvious and banal ideas that "duh!" is the only possible response.  "Learn how to budget your reduced income."  "Volunteer your time."  "Garden."  "Exercise."  "Spend time with grandchildren."  "Read."  "Start a hobby."  "Take a class."  "Travel."

DUH!  Thanks, anyway -- I was looking for something a little meatier -- like, how not to be seduced by trashy daytime TV, or how to make the kitchen literally disappear except at regular mealtimes, or what do you do with all these empty hours if you hate to shop, or how to avoid the constant temptation to add to your Kindle collection, or how not to go blind reading blogs all day, or how do you squeeze another trip to France from a non-existent vacation fund?  You know, the really important retirement issues.

As I said, though, I'm not complaining.  In fact, I LOVE:
  • Having time to write without checking the clock every 15 minutes.
  • Having time to actually market what I write.
  • Having time enough to do everything that must be done in my life, with a lot left over to just do nothing. 
  • NEVER having to answer the damn phone for work.
  • Cheering the day I unplugged and packed away my fax and discarded very old computers and software manuals. 
  • Having time to actually learn how to use my cell phone
  • Knowing I'll pay only itsy bitsy taxes on teeny tiny business income.  
 And the best part -- since I no longer have to structure my day and week around work commitments. every day is Saturday, except, of course, Thursday (trash day) and Sunday (church day).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read your latest and think you will manage to do your writing without the collar around your brain that has been there all along. The biggest hurdle I had was the thought of actually not contributing to every day things like making money or doing something constructive ( no pun)! Adjusting to the thought that you have transitioned from participant to spectator as the parade passes by is most difficult for me. My thinking still about all the stuff we did for {our employer} still occupies my other life when I am asleep. It all goes away when your significant other (my case) wakes you up and says I just killed a scorpion on the wall in the bathroom. Weeks can be spent analyzing where it got in or how it managed to get where it was discovered by the household serial bug murderer.

That my dear is how retirement transitions from active participation in life to the other side of the line. What you want to avoid is being on a first name basis with the A-holes that are interviewed daily on the news media. Since we had such a long winter it seems that the news was the most interesting and depressing thing to watch. The depressing thing is the fact that this country actually elected these people and gave them the chance to make some decisions on our behalf. How they could mess that up and then talk about it for a year or better is not a good thing to mentally review with a power tool in your hand. So really pay attention to what really interests you now and let the old stuff sit on a shelf for a while. I always have the next day planned well in advance by at least 10 minutes or so each morning.

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