For all the fears I had about retirement, I wasn’t expecting the real problems. First, there was the insurance dilemma. It turns out that my wife was too young for Medicare, and there’s no such thing as a family plan that covers both of us. I ended up juggling two different agents with three different insurance companies, facing combined payments high enough to buy a car. One company almost lost a client when they absurdly insisted I lived too close to the agent for an e-sign and demanded I drive the 60 miles to my agent.

On the other side of the coin, Humana came perilously close to losing me over my drug insurance coverage when they demanded verification of previous drug plan coverage, billed me, and then promptly forgot and wanted to start the process all over again. My patience for incompetence is razor-thin.

Next was the financial maze. Becoming retired, I had to make crucial decisions about my 401k. Moving it out of my company plan saved me a ton of fees, but when they botched the transfer and miscalculated my RMD, I was more than eager to leave that mess behind.

My retirement age brought forth the RMD and insurance challenges. I find this laughably ironic because, in our upcoming presidential election devoid of inspiring choices, both candidates are older than me.

Between this and filing my income tax, my first month of retirement was an absolute whirlwind. One of my lesser character traits is my tendency to clean and organize when I’m stressed. Everything in my shop was meticulously sorted and labeled. The vacuum cleaner and I became the best of friends.

During month two, I finished moving the solar panel for my gate camera, installing my new laser engraver in the workshop, rewired my shop to add outlets, designed, and printed a multicolor paper towel holder for the shop. I also used my CNC to carve two majestic dragons as decoration for a shelving organizer I built. All while dueling with Mother Nature, armed only with a string trimmer and a hedge trimmer.

Good luck dragons carved in walnut

As I enter month three, I’m finally developing a routine. I spend evenings after 9:30 immersed in reading, writing, or watching instructional videos. Trained by 40 years of work, I still find myself waking at 5 AM. Venn and I take about 10 minutes of morning walk and then she has her lessons. That finished, I start my own lessons. This month, it’s Blender.

What concerns me most at the moment is the startling realization that I have no deadlines to meet. If it takes me an extra two days to finish my current project, so what? This post is a case in point; I started writing it three weeks ago.

Flowers from her garden

Three (and a half) months into retirement, I deeply miss being challenged. I miss the collaboration with smart, dedicated people. No, I’m not going back to work yet—I don’t miss working with people who don’t want to contribute.

I also really miss having discussions with other engineers. When I tell my Wife about my latest project and the decisions involved, she offers a polite nod and a “that’s nice,” without truly grasping the hurdles I overcame. Admittedly, I react similarly when she enthuses about her garden. As in my wife’s case, it’s not that I’m being impolite, I simply don’t have the background to do more than look at the vegetables she’s growing and say when’s lunch.

As much as I miss engineering discussions, I’m not yet desperate enough to join Facebook or the discussions on LinkedIn. My previous experiences with the platform formerly known as Twitter were dismal enough; I can hardly imagine what it’s like now. Discord, however, seems to be a beacon for those in the technical community, and I find myself gravitating towards it.

Have to look hard to see the rabbit

I tend to get overly involved with minor projects. When I decided my workshop needed a paper towel holder, I designed a 3D printed multicolor holder with a rabbit on either end. Never mind that nobody can see it. Then there’s the whiteboard incident. On one of my trips to Lowe’s, I bought a whiteboard on impulse to use in my workshop. Where to put it, though? That’s when I realized I could use the 4” face of the 2x4s holding up the shelves.

Discussing the idea with my wife, she mentioned she had seen it before and some of those included a magnetic backing. Instant scope creep as the design evolved into a whiteboard with magnetic backing and I was headed back to Lowe’s. Just for an added touch, I designed and printed the magnetic marker holders. All that from an impulse buy that I never used (no magnetic backing).

Note the whiteboard area in the middle of the left image. Scope creep?

There is a social upside to my retirement. When I was still working, I dreaded social interactions at the end of a long day. Be it a cashier, waiter, or insurance agent, I did the bare minimum to get by and hurried off. Now, I find myself more tolerant and more likely to initiate conversation. Where I was tired before and had no desire to interact with people, now I empathize with the people having to deal with the person I used to be and go out of my way to be cordial to them. Not always and, as of yet, not often, but I’m still getting used to all this.

© 2024, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.