"The summer night is like a perfection of thought."Read Wallace Stevens' Poem, The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm
Summer is winding down in Ohio. In another month it could be so chilly here that a sweater will be necessary, or I suppose it could be hot enough to turn on the air conditioners again. It is Ohio, and the saying goes, if you don't like the weather, just wait - it'll change.
It's Friday before the long Labor Day Weekend. My friend Julie and I sat on my front porch this evening, waxed philosophically about life, and ushered out summer with gin and tonics and laughter - soul repaired.
We talked a lot about our jobs and what we want in our futures. As boomers, we have been watching (with intense envy) over the past couple of years as some of our friends and family retire. Julie and I though, we have a few more years before we can even think about it. Divorce and long stints at singlehood have put us both in a different category than our friends and family who are married and retiring with a spouse. It's the HML category, or How Much Longer (said with real surprise - and maybe an expletive in front of it - pick your favorite).
But if you are reading the papers or blogs, you know that many boomers (especially women) are facing what Julie and I are facing - many more years until retirement. You also know that we could face layoffs or be shifted around in bigger companies and have the sometimes difficult task of answering to a boss younger than most of our children. It is a bizarre dynamic. Or if you work for a small company, like another friend, you could go to work one morning and find out - there is no more work. Not only bizarre, but terrifying, especially when you can't find another job to replace it.
Negotiating the work environment in the last stages of our careers can be a bumpy ride, to say the least. I'm not sure I ever thought about the end of my working career. I just always thought I would be able to find a job, and well . . . you know . . . . work, earn money, buy gin, rinse and repeat until I didn't want to do it anymore (because God knows I don't want to do it anymore) or didn't have to do it anymore. This is not to say there was no planning for later life, but it is to say that the best laid plans are sometimes the first to fall apart.
Maybe the way of the office and "cubicle nation" are just falling apart, and aren't we lucky to be in on the tail end of that (she quipped snarkily). Maybe it is just the way things are, and it's time to rethink what work looks like.
There are a lot of great books and a lot of great blogs out there trying to help people of all ages think creatively about earning money in alternative ways, and about living life in ways that maybe some of us have not considered before.
Some of my favorite books and blogs on this topic are: Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim. Or this guy Chris Guillebeau and his book The $100 Startup. Or these guys, The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Or these wonderful folks in Minnesota who started a food blog called Pinch of Yum and share with readers how they can start a food blog and make money doing that too. And these wonderful folks in Canada, who I have been reading now for about three years, Not Buying Anything. There are lots lots lots more. People every where in every age group want to escape what we have always called the rat race. Who wants to be a rat anyway? Right?!
You just have to start reading any of these people above, and their books and blogs will take you in all kinds of directions. Including some directions that you might not have thought of before. There is no right or wrong way to negotiating the end of our working careers, or re-envisioning a new career.
One of my favorite songwriters, Dan Bern, wrote a song called Jerusalem. It's a snappy little song - about a lot of things. There is a verse that goes: "And if you must put me in a box make sure it's a big box/ with lots of windows/ and a door to walk through/ and a nice high chimney/ so we can burn burn burn everything that we don't like". You can listen to him here. His advice is good. If you've put yourself in a box that says you must work at the same job for 20 (or even 50 years - the woman I work with is 80 - more on this later), then I suggest you start cutting some windows and building a chimney - maybe there is a better way. Maybe there is some other way to continue to stay employed without the "hassle" of an office job.
What I'm saying is: NOTHING is cast in stone. If you are feeling the need to escape cubicle nation, write your escape plan (keep it secret - the best escape plans are secret). Smile and write your escape plan. Life is short and no one should toil away (at least in my humble opinion) at a job that is making them miserable. Amiright??!!
Cheers! To escape plans and more time on the porch. Happy Labor Day Weekend. Enjoy some time outside. Play with your grand kids (or kids), or take your dog for a walk, pet your cat, hug people and tell them you love them (well, only people you know - otherwise the men with nets might show up).