I’ve been “retired” for a few years now. The end to my tenure in corporate IT came abruptly. 20 years I’d toiled in that field. It began joyously, as new things do. I learned quickly, and demonstrated aptitude. I’d switch employers a few times. First, due to the company failing. Again, to seize an opportunity. Finally, to be closer to home in anticipation of the birth of my first child. The final role was the best compensated, in spite of being a step down in title. It began well enough. While never ascending out of that position, I received favorable reviews and pay increases. Five years, I was there. The newness wore off, and for much of the time, I worked for a paycheck. The expecations were reasonable, the work not arduous. Opportunity was there to learn and advance. Learning came, advancement didn’t. Although comfortable, the work was not stimulating. I felt stagnant, unmotivated. The desire to do this kind of work had waned well before accepting this job. But the pay was always good, the demand for my talent high. So I was comfortable with my money and security. The fact I wasn’t happy was easy to dismiss. People aren’t supposed to be happy at work, I reasoned. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be work. So I drudged on.
I celebrated the birth of my two children during this time. No need to find fulfillment in career, when parenthood proved so fulfilling. Plus the pay and security were nice things for a family. My wife also worked in corporate IT. Her pay and security were even better than mine. So our needs were met, and then some. We lived the lives expected of us, though no arm-twisting was required. We had a mortgage, but no other debt. We ate well, and enjoyed frequent but modest travel. That second child, however, was not a good sleeper. Hence, I was not a good sleeper. This is a phase all parents endure. But at some point, I felt my extreme fatigue was not normal. Multiple doctors failed to find the cause. My work performance was slipping. I could not focus on anything, existing in a zombie-like state. But I continued to show up at my comfortable, secure, well compensated job, and collected those comfortable paychecks. Since our needs were met, and our wants within reason, that money accumulated, providing an additional dimension of security. Then one day…
The company changed ownership. With that came new management, new expectations, and new budgets. Statistics were examined, revealing my drop in productivity. Upper management didn’t want me any longer. At least that’s the impression I received as my manager and I sat in the Human Resources office one Friday afternoon. There I was presented with a document stipulating the improvements I’d need to make should I wish to remain employed. I understood my pay was contingent upon services rendered, and agreed they were not getting their money’s worth. I smiled, signed the paperwork, and assured them that I would do my best. I meant that sincerely. Yet the assurance was made knowing the best I was then capable of might buy me another month or two. I left the office for the weekend, a feeling of despair my companion for the short ride home. Within minutes of discussing this with my spouse, she suggested I quit. Or maybe she asked me to. It was such a radical action, yet so very logical. Taking control of the one thing I could in this situation, I typed out my letter of resignation.
The plan was to take some time off, spend the summer with the kids, and fix my health. Also, I needed to figure out my next move, career-wise. Because through all of this, I had come to accept that I wasn’t suited for the field I’d left. I am a life long do-it-yourselfer, thus I gave handyman work a try. While I enjoyed the actual work, I didn’t like traveling to the sites. Or estimating jobs. Or marketing myself. Perhaps those were just excuses, hiding the fact that I selected that path only because it felt convenient. Another attempt was made at starting an online store for a product I could make myself. My capstone project in college was an online storefront. I had fancied doing this on the side, but never decided what I’d sell. Well I settled on a product (keyword: settled). I did a lot of the groundwork, but never followed through. Failure to follow through having happened so many times before, it was practically my default. I emphasize this, as an eventual ADHD diagnosis provided an explanation for all of those false starts.
I’m now successfully treating the ADHD, and working on two more related conditions which I believe all conspired to get me out of that dreadfully excellent career. Not every day is good, but they outnumber the bad ones. I’m ready – yearning, in fact – to go back to work. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my family through this all. One thing is that we don’t require two large paychecks. So why not make the move to doing something I enjoy, such as writing? Well that long history of failures is one reason. Yes, I’ve accepted that much of that was beyond my control, but my confidence is still weak. Plus, it would take time, years maybe, to generate an income from writing. It would be nice to make some money again. Oh, lest I not forget; I’m most qualified to work an IT job. My degree would otherwise go to waste. Yes, I can talk myself out of any good idea. But here’s the kicker: If I were to suffer just a few more years in a cubicle, we could pay off our home mortgage. We’d be completely debt-free. Would it not be worth just a few years of indentured servitude to a corporation in exchange for eliminating 13 or so years of being slave to the credit union? Very compelling indeed. Yet it’s a slippery slope. I’ve only been making token contributions to my retirement for the last 3 years. Logically I’d next want to fortify my financial future. Not to mention, my kids are really smart. They’ll need some serious help if they go the college route.
It’s just a few more years, I tell myself. Like that “one final job” the big time art thief rationalizes will set him up for life. Then he can go clean, live the straight life. You’ve seen the movies, you know the trope. Why would I compare a life of “working for the man” to a life of crime? Why would I not?
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