Tuesday, May 26, 2009


After this weekend, followed by coming up to MD for a meeting, I've been doing some thinking about my job. I have a secure position, a senior position, working at a government research lab. I've been in this position for over half my life. At the same place for that long.

I've seen people come and go. And lately it seems that more are going than coming. Not only have most of the people that I started with retired, the feel of the entire lab has changed. There's much more bureaucracy than ever, more paperwork, more time taken up with stuff that has nothing to do with science. More administrators will less vision and willingness to think outside the box.

I remember when I was a new Ph.D. and how I thought that many of the old timers were dinosaurs. I had a big ego and thought that I was quite smart. I vowed that if the work that I was doing ceased to be fun or if I thought that I was no longer as passionate about the work, that I would retire. I'm starting to see that time is here.

I know that I have a year to go before retirement is mandatory. No, I'm not old. I signed up for a program that the state offered which allowed me to not only draw my salary but also my retirement for a period of 5 years. It was a financial no brainer. My wife and I both enrolled at the same time.

She decided that after 3 years of signing on that she had enough. She was sober and wanted more of life than just the job. The job had been her life for so long. It was as if she turned another page when she became sober and in recovery.

The job has been my life for many years. But I have found the same thing happening. Since being in recovery, I find that there are so many other things that I am thinking about. There are so many things that I enjoy and want to do more of. Sailing, art, and photography come to mind. As does working for a conservation group.

I have devoted myself to this career for many years, have spent time in outside conditions that most people wouldn't want to experience, have seen things of wonder that most people will never see, have had accolades, have met great people, have met egocentric butt holes, have seen the environment decline, seen fisheries go belly up, and more and more coastal problems occur.

Quite frankly I'm tired. I'm not tired of nature but tired of the struggle to "make a difference". Have we made a difference? I think in some ways we have. But I think in many other ways the work I'm doing is only indicating what is declining in terms of water quality and species and habitat. I'm not coming up with the solutions, just the problems.

And right now, I am living more in solutions. Maybe that's what recovery has done.


  1. Retirement for you will consist of making a difference where it will count, I believe.

    You have much to offer, and I know you will stay busy in many areas of your life. I'm not there yet, but even now I'm putting the pieces of my "next 20 years" in place.

  2. I am certain that you will not be "retiring" when you move on from your current employment.

  3. You know what to do and how to decide. I wish you all the best.

  4. Sometimes we reach that point where what was--isn't enough anymore. Career change was scary for me, but I didn't have a choice. I lost my job when I got sober, and being sober was more important than that old job. Art became important and my work became such that I have free time and enjoy being creative.

    Don't be afraid to step outside the box.

  5. Great post, and good luck with what you decide, I can't wait to see and read what the future holds for you.

  6. So interesting because now that I've stopped drinking I've become so much more involved in my passions -- writing and art -- and I would love to pursue them full time. There is something that is so different about being in a more clear-headed state that really does bring out the best in me. I love the last couple lines you wrote about solutions and problems. So interesting to contemplate...

  7. I feel you have a great burden right now, and i hope the people leaving comments help to ease this burden, who knows maybe it's a sign from your HP to move on because there IS something better coming down the road and you won't see it 'till you get there. good luck with this decision.

  8. You write beautifully and from a frame of reference that I can relate to.

    I cannot imagine retirement...I am likely too married to my job and the connections it brings to me for any retirement soon although people could say it would be ok for me to do so..

    I can imagine more time for pursuits like writing, and dearest old and new friends. I like the fact that you are thinking about possibilities.Keep the faith for the transition

  9. Yep, there's a whole big world out there Gunga Din--

    Too many of us spend whole lifetimes doing things we hate. You have been fortunate, and still are, in that you can choose when to move on.

  10. Sounds great Syd - taking off to live a authentic life... that's awesome.

  11. I retired in 2007, I was 48. Now I'm a consultant working in the food industry on projects I choose. People come to me for my experience and knowledge. I realised that it would be a shame to lose all the skills I had built up over the years. But now I choose what I do and only work 2-3 days every other week. When I worked in the steelworks I saw so many people retire early and then die within 12 months because they had no focus in their lives anymore. I think it's good to keep busy and also good to do something where I am responsible to someone else. It's part of my programme, I guess. But more importantly is the time I spend on me and My Beautiful. Art, photography, fly fishing., walking, giving a helping hand to the less fortunate, all play a part in our lives now and it is so good. You said two sentences that really struck a cord with me Syd, "The job has been my life for many years." and "I have devoted myself to this career for many years". I was like that. You will have made a difference, of that I'm sure. So none of it was in vain. But maybe, like me, your priorities are now changing as well as how you view the world and yours and your wifes place in it. I hope things work out for you both and look forward to hearing about your new adventures.

  12. When I sobered up I was holding a senior position in corporate media. I had long given up hoping I could make a difference. I was just part of the soulless problem.

    My work now as a freelance writer is hard, lonely and financially insecure. But it has liberated me in so many ways and I could not have done it without sobriety.

    Go for it Syd --

    xxMary LA

  13. I know how you feel. I still have much of the enthusiasm you had when you were younger. I work in an environment that can be trying at times. The last 6 months have been one of those periods. It may come to a head soon and that will be good as things will get resolved. Right now I'm thinking of these struggles as keeping my job interesting. I hope that keeps up for a while as I've got 15-20 years before I hit retirement age.

  14. oh the future, can give us a headache some times... but you're right, stay in the day. and don't give up hope. you have made a difference. every little bit is a bit that wouldn't have happened.

  15. Awesome Syd. I see people who stay in jobs way longer than they should just because it is all they know or they are too scared to take that leap. They end up being extremely unhappy people. I am excited for you and excited to see where you go from here!

  16. Oh my - - - this blog, as well as the replies - - - has brought back many memories. Some are precluded with "if only . . ." or I wish . . ." I retired shortly after my spouse died. When I stayed at home the very first time, it felt sooo good to just roll over in the bed and not look at that danged alarm clock. That lasted 5 minutes! The drive to be useful was still strong, and I got busy again - - - doing (mostly) the things I enjoyed, but also allowing myself to be bogged down with work that I had grown tired of. I discovered that I still had a major shortcoming - - - recognizing the meaning of the word 'no.' Today, I am very grateful for the people I sponsor, who have bolstered my own feeling of ineptitude, and convinced me in the same way I try to convince them - by encouragement and example - that it is possible to do ANYTHING you wish to do! That little inventory has gotten me out of trouble again, after many years of sharing with others, then turning it around and applying it to myself. I still have to remind myself, "you're retired - - - you have a choice, now!"

    The only thing I have constructive to say (I know - I'm rambling) is - 'keep the focus on yourself' or change this to 'keep the focus on your dream!'

    Good luck to you, Syd. There's a Higher Power - it seems to me - trying to get a message to you!
    Hugs and Love,
    Anonymous #1

  17. Good luck with the decision-making process. It's not easy, is it? Perhaps there's a whole other career out there for you for which you will have passion. Have you ever wondered about the word "retire" and what it really means???

  18. You said
    " how I thought that many of the old timers were dinosaurs" . This brought me to my knees in laughter.

    I know you will come up with the " right" solution for YOU. Goodluck!!

  19. Syd,
    I envy, but am happy for you, the fact that you can retire. It sounds great, buddy. I say go for it!

    I am quite serious when I say that I will be working until I am at least 90. I put that as my expected retirement date on my 401-K paperwork the other day.

    My ass was quite serious.

    Much love,


  20. I am a firm believer in several things- one being that recovery changes you in so many ways, and inevitably your life/goals change too. Another thing is how important it is to be true to you and to follow your passions.

    I think you make a difference here every day on your blog and I don't think 'retirement' means that making a difference stops- your character, your strength and your wisdom offer hope and strength to many and THAT is making a difference. Maybe not to the environment or the economy at this point, but it's certainly enriching lives.

    Follow your heart and you can't go wrong.

  21. I would go and retire on a remote island somewhere if I could and live just with nature.
    Just think if I had put my brain in gear at Uni instead of inhaling solvents I could have the same dilema.
    Still we can all say What If.
    Thanks for the kind comments syd, it makes me feel that someone somewhere is listening.
    Whateve you do syd you are an inspiration

  22. You, my dear, are at what I call the 'jumping off point.' I can't wait to read what the next few chapters in your life are all about.

  23. I wish you joy in your decision and finding your direction after you leave your present employment.

  24. Syd - I'm reminded of the principle in AA service called "rotation". Probably deserves more thought than I can reasonably put into a comment here but there has been much discussion in my circles of service of the distinction between "rotating out" of a position vs. "rotating on" to the next position.

    My life depends not on the work I do (I "...have a new employer...") but on my willingness to be useful - wherever I am placed.

    Best wishes deciding and committing to "what's next" for you...

  25. Retiring from a primary career is not a sentence to days filled with bingo and price is right. Find your passion again and start anew!

  26. I think recovery does change us in how we view things that really are important to us - ya know?

    It is a good change.

  27. Having gotten to know you and reading this post...I can say without a doubt you have made a difference. The very fact that you care enough to ask that question tells me you have. When you stop wondering and questioning what you can do to change the outcome...then and only then have you given up. (Hugs)Indigo


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