Monday, January 16, 2017

"I am Not a Number. I am a Free Man."

Reflections on an Unanticipated Retirement

"Be Seeing You"

“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” - Proverbs 16:27

“Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste” – Jagger/Richards

Well, according to popular and accepted lore, I fear I now find myself in league with Lucifer as, thanks to my former employers recent Christmas-time restructuring resulting in the compensated separation of certain personnel from their occupations, (a long-imagined, fantasy fulfillment for yours truly) I am now as idle as a Donald Trump hair follicle (as idle as a Donald Trump brain cell, as idle as Donald Trump’s conscience, common sense or empathy.)

To be as clear as millions of unconsumed cases of Crystal Pepsi, as was pointed out by my HR Rep numerous times with impressive vim and vigor, I was not laid-off.  Rather, thanks to my stealthily advancing years, I was offered a voluntary “early-retirement,” and, to be fair, with both a generous buy-out and subsidized insurance coverage.  And so, sans bitterness or bile, and brimming with constructive recollections, I leave behind decades in television promotion to journey forth (or to loaf supine on the settee) in search of an altered identity and lifestyle. For over 30 years I was a television promo producer, what am I now?

Random Early Retirement Observation #1 – A number of classic rock songs no longer hold any relevance to me – Takin’ Care of Business,  Working for the Weekend,  Five O’clock World and, of course, She Works Hard for the Money.

Questions immediately arise, both major and minor – What if the ACA is repealed and the exchanges are gone when my current coverage expires?  How will the presence of a raving lunatic in Washington affect the financial markets, and our 401Ks? What time do I go to sleep?  What time do I rise? What do I do once I’m awake? How soon will my sanity sally in light of this increased isolation and skulking hermitage? Should I choke on one of my larger supplement tablets as, judging by past experiences, appears all but inevitable, will my cat be more mournful or peckish?

I have anticipated, dreamt of and prayed to my pagan deities, since almost first employed, for an atypically short run as a corporate cog; and once having achieved that, expected almost an incessant sense of euphoria – now, and seemingly forever, a free man whose time and life is completely his own. No strings and no connections, few duties or obligations - Number 6 having successfully escaped from the Village. “I am not a number. I am a free man.” But, to be working on a Friday and then emancipated  the following Monday after almost 40 years of organized routine,  how does one suddenly adjust to a completely unstructured life, now faced with 24 hours and 7 days potentially identical but for television schedule?  While, “everybody's working for the weekend,” I have no weekend. Even in this month and change since the shredding of my company identification, the identity of the day of the week is mostly an unsure estimation for me.

The Greatest City in the World In Which to Retire
An initial, and exceedingly surprising, reaction in this new Boca Raton, sandals and socks, early bird special, Matlock reality, has been my inability to simply relax and enjoy the new freedom and independence.  Still perceiving some need to be ever industrious, a desire rarely experienced before, I tally daily and weekly “things to do” lists, hustling about my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and feeling a failure should any of the scribbled goals remain unfulfilled.  And perhaps, the most jarring adjustment of them all is having much less need and opportunity to don the dressier attire. Once a man famed around the office for his sartorial sense, with an extensive and expensive wardrobe culled from the finest clothiers and haberdashers on both sides of the Atlantic (I hold a particular fondness for British tailoring) now but a fashion flop in long-forgotten, but recently excavated, t-shirts, sweaters and Old Navy pants. Yes, that’s right, Old Navy, and without commercial remuneration for sporting their economical, egalitarian mommy jeans!

Random Early Retirement Observation #2 – When the man on the 2:17am radio PSA asks, “Is marijuana use affecting your job or relationship?” I don’t suppose the proper healthy response is, “What job? What relationship?”

The intent is not to convey complaint, merely confusion.  I have neither regret nor nostalgic yearning to toil again at my desk. I am, by nature, and thus it has always been, a lazy, languid and indolent sort, ever striving to attain the most from the least amount of effort, and I remain more than happy to no longer be an active participant in the “Five O’clock World.”

Despite the uncertainty articulated, like Dusty Springfield before me, I’m  wishin’ and hopin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’ with actual aspirations in mind - which, besides increased international travel, are all creative, for that is where true satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness can often be found. A partial, still in progress list - continue and expand the reach of this blog, finish the jukebox musical I started penning many a moon ago, pull the guitar out of the back of the closet, shake off the playing rust, and write songs. Do I have the discipline to pursue such things when a comfy couch, cable, Roku and a home audio system exist, and more importantly, do I have the talent? The latter, I maintain grave misgivings and doubt about, but I certainly have the time to try. So, at 57 going on 58, with little income ahead, I attempt a change in life, fortune and fame. And, just the thought leads to a yearning for the comfort and security of the Lazy Boy, the various remotes and an open bottle of sauvignon blanc. And day turns into night and Judge Mathis turns into another Judge Mathis.

“Up ev'ry morning just to keep a job
I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob,
Sounds of the city pounding in my brain
While another day goes down the drain.
But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows,
No one owns a piece of my time.
And there's a five o'clock me inside my clothes,
Thinking that the world looks fine

Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

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