Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Retirement, Identity Crisis, and a Troubled Economy

My Facebook status is “Bittersweet - wrapping up a 34-year science career and beginning Act II.” I’d loved my job while I had it -it was a fantastic combination of interesting, important, not too stressful, and well paying, but its someone else’s turn now. It will be interesting to figure out who I am, now. I no longer have the assurance of being a Senior Environmental Scientist - that’s who I am, it says so right here on my business card. I’ve kept a few (very few) of my textbooks, the rest were donated to help build water science program in Afghanistan. Most of what was in my file cabinet were either notes from classes I took in grad school or reference copies of journal articles. There’s a giant blue recycle bin just outside my office door and I recycled them all - even the author copies of my own work. Times have changed and most of the articles are available online. There may be a deeper philosophical truth symbolized there - science evolves, time moves on, and perhaps scientific information and theories are more appropriately suited to a fluid medium like the Internet than a static one like printed paper.
I chose to retire, picked my own time in order to proceed with our sailing dream. I retire with good savings and a good pension and insurance plan, I have no financial worries. I would think that having had control of the situation, being here by choice would minimize any feelings of uncertainty. I have new sympathy for what people who have lost their jobs in the current economy must feel, because I'm still feeling a small identity crisis. And that's without money worries or the blow to self-image that being laid off must bring.

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