AFTER MY COLLEGE freshman year in engineering, I was hired for a part-time summer job by a civil engineering firm in my home town. The office was in an upscale building where a lot of respectable businesses were headquartered. The company had an impressive name. But after starting, I discovered it was just a one-man show. Mr. Jones was the owner. I became his sole employee.
Jones was probably in his mid-70s. He’d headed up his own company for decades.
MY WIFE RECENTLY GOT the chance to showcase her artistic talents at a cultural festival in Kansas City, Kansas. Lori’s craft is stained glass, and this was the first time she’d displayed her creations in public.
She began working with glass five years ago, shortly after she retired. We’ve discussed the possibility of turning her hobby into a business. She’s dreamed of selling her artwork so she could at least cover the cost of her craft.
A MAN DIED AND MET Saint Peter at the gates of heaven. “Saint Peter,” the man said, “I’ve been interested in military history for many years. Tell me, who was the greatest general of all times?”
“Oh, that’s simple. It’s the man right over there.”
The man looked where Peter was pointing and said, “You must be mistaken. I knew that man on earth, and he was just a common laborer.”
“That’s right,” Peter remarked,
MY FIRST ACT IN retirement was to turn off my phone at night. The second was to change my socks. More about the socks in a moment.
I’m an Episcopal priest. My decades of fulltime active service were spent leading several parishes. Upon retirement, turning off my phone at night meant I was no longer readying myself for emergencies and crises. My wife—and our children in the early years—would no longer have me leaving suddenly because something awful was unfolding in the lives of others.
WHEN I GRADUATED high school in the 1950s, I was age 17—and totally directionless. But living in New York City offered many opportunities, some of them right outside my front door.
At the time, the larger banks and insurance companies sent letters to recent graduates offering job interviews. I chose to accept an invitation from American Surety Co. I had no idea what a surety company did.
The venerable old company was housed in the second largest skyscraper in Manhattan—the American Surety Building at 100 Broadway in lower Manhattan,
I HAVE BEEN FIRED, downsized, restructured and laid off 10 times in my life. The first time was at age 16, when I worked for a McDonald’s-like hamburger joint, and the last time was shortly before I turned 70, when I was working for an insurance company as the manager of regulatory compliance.
I can’t blame this on discrimination. I’m a white Christian male, five feet 10 inches tall, college educated, and of sound mind and body,
AFTER MY FIRST TWO years of studying electrical engineering at Virginia Tech, I got an internship at Frito-Lay working at its research headquarters in Irving, Texas, far from my New Jersey home. I was paid handsomely, treated well, had access to state-of-the-art computer equipment—and was miserable.
Some of that stemmed from spending the summer away from friends and family. But I was also having a career crisis even before my career began.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to work as an engineer for the next 40 years.
LAST MONTH MARKED two years since I leapt into the unknown and left the security of the corporate world to begin a second act as an independent writer. How’s it gone? Have things panned out as I hoped, financially and otherwise?
Let’s be clear upfront that this move was never about making money. It was about taking a shot at my long-held dream of being an author. I’d put that dream on the back burner for three decades as I did what was necessary to support my family.
FOR MUCH OF MY ADULT life, I’ve read about marriages in turmoil because the wife earns more than her husband. That’s always bewildered me, because I spent most of my career being a very happy trailing spouse.
My wife and I met in our early 30s while trying to rescue a three-year-old stuck on an elevator. This was more than three decades ago. I was divorced and working as a journalist, and had taken my son with me when I needed to drop by the newsroom early one weekday evening.
TWO YEARS AGO, at age 59½, I thought I was on the verge of taking a major step toward retirement. At the time, my usual zest for my work as a physical therapist was waning. Though I don’t think the quality of my patient care suffered, I found it took more effort to maintain the energy needed to complete a day at the clinic, and concentrating on work became tougher.
In addition to the tension building on the inside,
SAMURAI WERE EMPLOYED by feudal lords in Japan. They were skilled in the art of combat and highly trained—the best of the best.
A ronin—meaning a “drifter” or “wanderer”—was a samurai who’d left his clan, usually when his master died. Upon leaving, he was free to use his skills to seek similar employment elsewhere or even to choose a completely different profession. A ronin then relied entirely on himself and his skills to get by.
MY PARENTS WERE products of the Great Depression. Dad was the frugal one. He was also a pack rat. He’d save pieces of wood for that shelf that he would build “someday.” For years, those pieces sat under the ping-pong table in the basement.
One night, Mom dragged the wood out to the street for the garbage collector to haul away. Later that night, Dad dragged the pieces back into the basement. Mom was the type to get rid of things that were no longer needed.
I DON’T FIT THE USUAL profile of a HumbleDollar reader. I don’t have what I’d consider a high net worth, nor am I a college graduate. Still, I hope my story shows it’s possible to reinvent yourself.
Around 1920, my dad’s family moved—with few belongings but a willingness to work—from Tennessee to northwestern Ohio. My dad met my mom while working at Hostess Bakery, and he later worked at Willys-Overland, welding together Jeeps during World War II.
WHEN I WAS AGE SEVEN or eight, I had a glass piggybank where I saved all the small change that came my way. I loved the sight of all this money that I could save or spend as I pleased.
One day, my mom needed to go to the grocery store for some bread and found she didn’t have enough cash. She asked to borrow from my almost-full bank. I gave the money to her,
I BEGAN MY FIRST JOB out of college 38 years ago. A newly minted electrical engineer, I was assigned by Philadelphia Electric Company to work at its Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Delta, Pennsylvania. As a young child, I had visited the Peach Bottom Unit 1 Visitor Center, never anticipating that I’d someday return to the site as an employee.
My concentration in college was power engineering, so I fully expected to be working in the transmission and distribution side of the electric power business.