Many years ago, I asked my father when he retired what he did all day. He thought a moment and shrugged, “The day goes by.” He neglected to add that the days go by really, really fast. Ironically, that’s exactly how I feel about the last forty years. They went by – really, really fast.
I neglected to devote a post to this at the time, but I decided last year that forty years as a professional writer was long enough. My first magazine article – an interview with the technical adviser for Jaws, who worked at Stanford – was published in 1976. Last year, I saw per-word rates inexorably dropping. I could have continued, but the idea of doing the same amount of work for less money annoyed me. I joined my wife in retirement.
What do we do? We hike more. We exercise more. I do more crossword puzzles. I’m cooking more of the recipes I’ve collected over the years. I’m spending more time on fiction.
All that worry and wonder. It still seems so vivid. The joy of the Seattle startup finally getting funding. The realization that I was never going to make a satisfactory income as a travel writer and finding my way into technology. The anguish of the layoffs (two by the same company, which had recruited me both times), one coming just a week after we’d bought our first house. The determination I applied to gaining missing experience whenever someone told me I hadn’t gotten a job because I lacked a certain qualification. The surprise when my freelancing career took off, enabling me to set my own schedule, set aside more retirement dollars, stop commuting, and have more control over my schedule.
So many snapshots in time:
- promising my co-workers that I would tape Monica’s answer to my marriage proposal on the door of my office so they’d see it when they arrived the following morning
- delighting in the publisher’s distribution of Giants’ playoff tickets to the staff, randomly putting me at Candlestick Park the day the Loma Prieta earthquake struck
- realizing with a queasy feeling that some bosses didn’t care how impossible it was to execute a project, because they didn’t have to do the work themselves
- hearing my boss say that one of my co-workers had resigned and that I was being promoted into his job, a position I’d lusted after for years
- advising someone while working at Macworld magazine during one of Apple’s self-destructive phases to sell the stock if it ever got back up to 22 (it’s now at 143, and I hope that guy never finds me)
- grasping that no, I wasn’t flying to a telecommunications conference in San Diego the afternoon of September 11, 2001 (wish I could find that airline ticket)
- proofreading final pages of an issue that had been overnighted to me while I was vacationing at the Hilton Waikoloa
It all went by in a flash. So many worries, all for naught. So much anguish over interviews, clips, typos, all dissipated into time. The funny thing is, as fast as it went, I’m pretty sure the next forty years are going to fly by much more quickly.