As if I don’t have enough going on during the current convergence…dealing with the my little Tracker, the “automotive heart transplant candidate,” I have also been helping move my 86 year old Mom and 93 year old Dad back down to the farm. Turns out, they aren’t city folk after all…
Throw in one more simultaneous life-change, and you have the makings of what I have been calling “The Perfect Storm,” as all these things converge during the same week. Coincidentally, sixty days ago, I could not have known about the first two “storm elements” when I announced my intent to retire from the self-proclaimed “Worlds Most Respected Service Brand” after 24 years.
It’s an interesting paradigm, this virtual environment. I work on a team of 40 people around the USA, and we have no idea who’s twenty and who’s seventy. So when news went out of my intent to retire, I got a lot of “Wow, you don’t SOUND old enough to retire!” comments. So I felt compelled to explain myself more than I would in a typical office. “I am not a quilting Grannie…I just want to stop working while I can enjoy my passions, like hiking, biking, kayaking.” Reaction was mixed – From “You are going to face financial ruin by retiring early,” to “Congratulations on reclaiming your life!”
I know a lot of people work from their RV…running businesses, websites, software companies, etc. By “working,” I mean supporting themselves on the road, funding the lifestyle through flexible work arrangements or entrepreneurial endeavors. But I think I may have been the rare exception, taking my full time, M-F corporate job on the road, one where I had to sign on to Instant Messenger at 8am every morning, and be available, producing data analysis reports until 5pm. Thanks to the help of my brother Don, I even had a VOIP phone with a Dallas number that rang anywhere…even Mexico. I’d like to think I was taking telecommuting to a whole new level.
There are so many things I won’t miss. That nauseating knot in my stomach on a Sunday night, knowing I need to set my office up first thing Monday morning. Having the first question of trip planning be “How strong is the signal there?” Or having to start my day to something called an “ALARM!”
Although I have been with the same company for 24 years, I have had as many positions as I have milestones. Positions that have taken me to some phenomenal “regional meetings” in places like Hong Kong, Paris, Vietnam, South Africa, and Muscat, Oman. It was one incredible ride!
I think back to the first computer I ever had…an old Compaq that I found left in a supply cabinet because no one knew how to use the DOS commands and Function keys. I claimed it as mine, but wasn’t about to admit I didn’t even know how to turn the darned thing on! I prided myself in being the first on my team to have their own laptop…A 20 pound boat anchor with a screen the size of a large Smartphone today.
Defining moments with the company have been many, as I worked my way up the corporate ladder and back down again. From a dramatic lifestyle change of relocating from small town Texas to manage the United Nations account with an office on the 19th floor of the UN Secretariat Building in Manhattan, to my virtual invisible worker drone job on a homogenized team of 40.
Perhaps no greater milestone was “seeing the buildings fall” on 9/11, and realizing my life, my career, my friends paths would be altered forever for both the good and the bad. I still recoil at the sound of fighter jets overhead, or the smell of burning rubber. But it was a day where I never felt more like my company was “family,” as our President hosted daily “check-in calls,” just so we could all feel a connection after having been displaced from what was once our offices in lower Manhattan, now scattered to whatever office space could be secured within the Tri-state area.
And now to the final chapter. Taking my job on the road, working full time from a 120 square feet, where my office had gone from what was once a window office with a wall of file cabinets, to a slimline IBM Thinkpad with a view that changes weekly.
But the direction of our company has changed. My goals, once customer focused and relationship-centric are now 100% based on how many hours I bill out. There are no longer metrics based on Customer Satisfaction. I am no longer a Data Analyst with a focus on relationship building, but instead someone who logs cases about data analysis to justify my existence to the client. Even our HR team has been “offshored,” attempting answers to my questions about my future in an accent I struggle to understand. They say the mark of true wisdom is not only realizing that something no longer serves you, but how long it takes you to make a change. I realized some time ago, but finally got the courage to admit…the corporate structure no longer serves me.
So tomorrow, I will box up the Thinkpad and the Corporate Card for the last time…just two small items that now make up the sum substance of my “office.” Today, I am a savvy “technomad,” defying the odds, coaxing out the last bit of bandwidth from the elbow of the Outer Banks, to the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, to the hills of San Miguel de Allende. Tomorrow, I will be just another retired RVer. But I have pride in what I have done, and faith in my ability to create the life that lies ahead.
“I am an Idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way” ~ Carl Sandburg