Posted by: eaubeauhorn | March 5, 2011

The Beginning of the Beginning

Ha. In some ways it’s definitely the Beginning of the End, but that is trite and besides, it feels more like a beginning to me than an end.

What is ending is my bondage to Corporate America. Lo but these last decades have felt more like I was in jail but being paid to be there. Paid well, but it was still jail. A good friend who has observed the effects of the bondage on me over many years, observed that I was going to be uncontainable come my freedom. I said, well, I think I am uncontainable now due to my need to escape my chains, and that come freedom I will be ever so much easier to be around. We shall see, won’t we?

As of July 1st I will be officially retired; about a ~ $40k pension plus social security when I decide I have the time to apply for it. Plus a quite reasonable sum in the bank. Others in my income bracket have expensive cars, expensive toys, fancy clothes, houses in exclusive neighborhoods, they eat at fancy restaurants, drink fine wine, etc. Me…nah. My entire reason for taking on this bondage at about the age of 40 was to secure just such a retirement as is now imminent. In retrospect, I have wondered if perhaps I could have made a better choice by taking on a “gubment” job, which would have secured a larger pension, but then again….the “gubment” stuff is starting to make squinching noises from too much out-go and too little in-go. It may have been the best decision to make the choice I did, after all. Public utilities have their problems, but the electricity has to be on, and the company will continue one way or another. Rate cases keep them afloat. Mine has been working people way too hard and simply refusing to spend money, even money that needs to be spent, but it is afloat and had no layoffs. There is something to be said for that, and with a little distance my attitude towards them may change somewhat.

Will I miss my comrades in bondage? Yes and no. I think I hit the jackpot in terms of the type of work I ended up with and the type of people who do it. It is in the far reaches of egghead types of work, a small coterie of engineers doing what is essentially research. We talk to each other in acronyms, have inter-cubicle discussions of how this or that affects reliability of the transmission system, or how this or that definition of federal criteria is going to affect things. For someone intellectually centered as I am, in some ways it was heaven, IF you discard the bondage aspect.

The happiest I can remember being (it really stands out in my mind) was when I was driving from Rhode Island to New Mexico on my way back to school in the late 1980s. I had sold almost all my stuff at a tag sale, UPS-ed myself four or five boxes of things that would survive the trip, and then spent a week figuring out how to load my hatchback with the rest of my stuff. I had a LOT in there, including things like a small desk, a rocking chair, a stereo with large speakers, and all my clothing and kitchen stuff. A LOT. Packed to the roof like a suitcase; I had to buy a mirror to put on the passenger side so I could see to back up.

So I was off, to a new life, happily leaving behind the old one of struggling to make a living, having people hound me to play the violin that I was so good at but did not enjoy any more. Freedom personified. There are two things I remember most about that trip, other than the incredible sense of freedom: one was driving across the Texas panhandle during monsoon season, when there are scattered thunderstorms. Everywhere I had lived before, you could not see beyond the next hill or the next grove of trees; if there were scattered thunderstorms, all that meant was that suddenly it would start raining and then a while later stop. On this trip, scattered thunderstorms meant that I could see five of them from where I was on the road; you could see to the horizon! One storm over here, one over there….maybe one approaching, but I could see it coming! Woo hoo!

The second thing, probably also in Texas, was pulling up to a stop sign to get on an entrance ramp for the freeway, after stopping to eat or something. There were two, quite tall, quite large stop signs. They must have been ten feet off the ground and three feet across, each. But for someone who had always lived with trees, this was astonishing: there was no vegetation around them; they were just sitting there in space. A completely new visual/spatial experience for me. Astonishing!

And the plants were the same way; in this arid environment, each plant had many square feet to itself, needing all that room for nutrients and water, when the water fell. Dots of things surrounded by bare ground.

My first trip to NM was by plane, for freshman orientation. (Wild, being old enough to be these people’s mother!) I flew into El Paso in early July. (That was my first view, from the plane, of those plants surrounded by bare dirt. Polka dots!) It was the type of airport, back then, where you got off the plane and then walked to the terminal. First, there was the heat; I think it was about 105 out, with near-zero humidity, and the air had a very pleasant odor that I had never encountered before. I found out later that it was what we call the creosote bush. I still love that odor and would keep them as pets if I could get them to grow inside.

Then there were the five years it took me to complete the last two years of my degree, but I had learned that at my age I could not take more than barely full time and expect to succeed; I had also determined (correctly) that when it came time to get a job that grades would be more important than how long it took me to get the grades.

After the five years, there was the start of the job that first looked like an incredible opportunity for a near-poverty-all-my-adult-life person such as I, and then as I finally got used to having an income, started to look like bondage. I also remember looking once at the little 1987 Toyota Celica I had bought used, and thinking how marvelous it was to be able to have and drive a car! And how people did not realize what they had, most of them. Everyone I was working with seemed to be striving to have more and more, instead of my then-focus on Wow! what I had.

I seem to have digressed from The Beginning of the Beginning to First Stage of Life Review, but what the hell.


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