Posted by Tim Stobbs on April 8, 2016
I feel like I should almost be walking around my office with a sign on my back that says “The End is Near,” so I can stop talking around the issue of how much longer I plan on working. While I don’t plan to formally commit to a given date I am thinking of something in the range of late 2017 to spring 2018 which of course even talking about to people gets them a bit nervous. It’s like they suddenly all realize that when I talked about taking an early retirement for the last decade I was actually serious about doing it.
I don’t provide an exact date because it depends on several variables like how much renovation work we do before I quit on the house or do we do that afterwards, how the stock and bond market does in the next few years and what other opportunities come up in the mean time. So for now I’m keeping things vague and plan to give more formal notice when I get closer.
What has been interesting as I start to close in on my last two years or so of my engineering career if that fact I’m actually already starting to shift gears in my head to my post full time day job life. I’ve signed up for a online writing class and I’m working on a series of novels right now. Then I have to get back to editing the novel I finished last year and wondering when I should start putting out the submission letters to publishers. I’m also thinking about when I should start up a new writing blog and when I should finally shut down this one. I do want to provide some post-retirement updates to those that are wondering how it all turns out but at the same time I can’t see keeping this blog going indefinitely. Then I’m also working on plans on how exactly to pull the money out which accounts and when. Then also deciding what exactly I’m going to tell people at parties when they ask what I do for a living: do you go with ‘private wealth management’ or ‘writer’?
Yet oddly enough the one pain point I realized during this last stroll was: I will no longer be an engineer at some point. I will likely cease membership in my professional association after a few years post work and no longer even bother wearing that iron ring and the thought of this actually scared me. Why? Because that title as been a particular part of my identity for twenty years now. I’m so used to thinking of myself as an engineer and introducing myself this way that breaking that habit will be particularly painful for me to do. After all saying it was an excellent short hand for how to describe me to others, so I could say “I’m an engineer” which would translate to: smart guy, good with numbers, geeky, and may have issues with social situations.
On the other hand, dropping that title from my identity will provide an opportunity to define myself without the usual baggage. This of course is rather good since I in fact do well in most social situations and aren’t so geeky that I can’t talk to regular people. In fact, one of my highlights to employers has been you get the geeky engineer who can actually explain stuff to the non-technical crowd. So when I free from that title I can be just who I am rather than my old stereotype.
In the end, I can to really ask myself: who do you want to be? I don’t need to conform to a stereotype so I’m free to just be myself with all the complexity that implies. It’s a bit of an exciting time to have that opportunity to reinvent yourself, but of course also a bit confusing to reshape an identity that has been core to my life for 20 years.