(Just Like) Starting Over

Long time readers will know that sometimes the efforts to bring our cunning plans to fruition can be hard.  It isn’t always Mexican beer and Scrabble games aboard Galapagos.  Especially as our departure date grows ever closer, actions that we once just talked about, we now must do.

This past week I celebrated my twenty year work anniversary at Boeing.  Two days later I told my manager that I would retire at the end of April.

That’s a real diamond folks. A real tiny diamond.

I have been thinking about this day for a long time, maybe three years, and still I was not prepared emotionally to hear those words come out of my mouth.  In fact, I struggled to get the words out and had to excuse myself to go for a little walk. I was overwhelmed and surprised by the intense emotions after having worried about this day for so long. After I got a grip on myself, I returned and we had a longer chat to explain my future plans.  My manager was very kind; disappointed I would be leaving but excited for the cunning plan we have laid out.  I was relieved that she took it so well. It’s hard to tell people you like that you are leaving. There’s always that niggling doubt that you are going to be letting them down in some way. I am grateful that she was so supportive.

Like most people my age, I feel as though I have been working for my entire life. I spent twenty years at Boeing, and the twenty before that working or serving in the military. To say, ‘I no longer have a job.’  really does feel like starting over: Exciting and a little terrifying all at once. If you do the math, you’ll see I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. Practically an entire lifetime.

Melissa and I have been the doing all the responsible grown up things for 35 years now and the plans we have set before ourselves are simply not a part of the typical American narrative. But who said we have to be typical? Where is that written? Youth, it is said, is wasted on the young, but I don’t buy it. Melissa and I have not wasted our youth. We have used it to build a beautiful life for ourselves and our children. And now we get to start over with a new kind of life.  It is a bold move but there is magic in boldness.

When we were young, hip and didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Evanston, Wyoming, 1981.

So we tamp down our fears about what we are giving up and grow excited about what we are taking on.  Living aboard these last few weeks has been lovely, despite the cold weather.  It reminds me our first apartment together in Biloxi, Mississippi. We were newlyweds. I was in tech school for the Air Force. Our apartment was only a little bigger than Galapagos.  It was a time for us to practice being adults and figuring out who we were as a couple.  I think we did okay.

In our first apartment together in Biloxi Mississippi in 1982. Melissa taught me how to sew and I made the Hawaiian shirt I am wearing.


The title of today’s post is from a song written by John Lennon.  I  must have a little DJ living in my head that queues up just the right song to capture how I feel.  One day I am sitting at my desk perseverating on the enormity of how our lives are changing and the next thing you know, Lennon is goofing on Elvis while Yoko makes animal noises in the background.  It was a pretty good song from 1980 and the hook just spoke to me. Be warned: this blog is family friendly, but John and Yoko, well, you’ll remember that they were not shy. You might want to close your eyes toward the end of the video.


27 thoughts on “(Just Like) Starting Over

    • Thank you Mark and Cindy. I have heard that before and all I can think is that nature abhors a vacuum. Now that I have a date set, we will be busier than ever getting ready.

  1. Bravo ! Welcome to the next chapter ! When I explained to friends and colleagues that I was taking “extreme” early retirement, the phrase “…to buy a boat and sail around the world” was automatically tagged on to the end. It made the leap much less scary and reminded me that there was a project ahead of me and a new way of defining who I am / what I do that pleased me. I see so many friends who retire with no project whatsoever and the adjustment is really brutal.

    • Thank you Mareda. I too explain the cunning plan to folks as a followup to my retirement announcement. Most people say they are jealous but I think some of them are just being polite. I have only told a few folks in my current work group so I am working on my spiel. I came into the group a little over a year ago and so I haven’t developed the same friendships that I enjoyed at my last Boeing gig.

  2. Congratulations! What an exciting time, and not just a “step” but a great leap that you have already examined from every angle to leave no doubt about your success.

    The Starting Over song is perfect!

  3. ah yes, plans that are not part of the typical American narrative. Ours never have and doubt they ever will. From 9 months of LOW budget packpacking around SE Asia in our mid twenties, to chucking aside a successful career in our ealry 40’s to sail the caribbean for 2 years with our 3 young kids and now back in the rat race and buying a tumbledown POS of an abandoned cabin on stretch island to ‘restore’. The typical American narrative is highly overated! You guys will have an absolute grand adventure on your boat – wherever it takes you. BTW, we highly reccomend the western carribean. When you wind up in Panama, hang another big left!

    • Thanks Denis. We did our share of low/no budget travel before we married. I even hopped freight trains and hitchhiked across France in my late teens and early twenties. But when it came time to raise a family we did it old school. I think raising kids on a boat would be an incredible experience for the kids and the parents.

      I’m not sure we will ever get to the western Caribbean. There is so much to do and see on this side of the canal. But we never say never.

  4. What a beautifully written and insightful post, Mike. I especially like how you pointed out youth wasn’t wasted on you and Melissa. That you used it to build a beautiful life for yourselves and your children. And congratulations on your retirement from Boeing — it’s such an exciting (and terrifying) time.

    I’ve told Melissa this before, but you have a 23 year-old version of your former self roaming the world. His name is Ron Baker and he plays for the NY Knicks — take the beard off you in the first picture and you could be twins!

    • Thank you Stephanie. When I look back at our lives, it seems just short of a miracle that we have pulled all this off. As they say, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

      Ron Baker is the second basketball player that I look like. When I was younger I was told more than once that I looked like Bill Walton. Check out Ron and Bill together and you will see a resemblance. I think that makes us triplegangers.

  5. Hey Mike,

    Congratulations achieving this milestone. Don’t ever forget you earned it…

    Those are great photos of you two. [They look familiar…]

    Soon enough you will likely be wondering where you found the time to hold down a full time position, and possibly wishing for more hours in the day to accomplish the plethora of unanticipated preparatory tasks introduced by your next adventure.

    Starting over is apt in that, in my experience, it takes some time to readjust from exiting the professional work environment, but also simultaneously [and suddenly] being together 24/7/365 in your new living quarters. [We refer to ours as the floating teak cabin…]

    Having cruised off and on much of my adult life, I have learned that ‘cruising time’ is a compressed version of what we experience in our working lives onshore. [Like pet years…]

    You will spend more time together in the next two to three years than most of your working couple friends will in the next decade… Think about that…

    What an opportunity to connect on whole new levels. I have no doubt you will both flourish in this new time machine called cruising…

    I wish you both all the best, and look forward to following your adventures.

    Cheers! Bill

    • Thank you, Bill. You aren’t the first to warn me about how much busier I will be once I don’t have to work for a living. I can’t believe how busy some of my recently retired friends are.

      I don’t think it will happen to us, but some of the wives of those same recently retired friends do a lot of eye-rolling when their husbands are mentioned. A lot of couples just aren’t used to having that each other under foot as much. One of the things we really appreciate about Galapagos is that there is space for our introverted selves when we need it. Melissa has plenty of opportunities to roll her eyes already.

  6. Congratulations Michael! In honor of our friend Jim who came close but didn’t make it (may God rest his soul) enjoy your retirement!! GO MAN GO!!!! 🙂

    • Thank you, James. I think of Jim often and I was thinking of him when I wrote the post.

      A few years back, I was telling him of our plans and he said, “One day, I am going to come into this office and you won’t be here. You will be off sailing.” Sadly, it was all of us that came back to his empty office.

      Some part of our journey is not only for us; it is for Jim and my father-in-law and my mother’s second husband (also named Jim). Friends and family that helped make this adventure possible but did not live to see their own cunning plans realized.

  7. Congratulations on getting away from work (a four letter word). I quit a steady job 14 years ago and don’t regret it a bit. We’re headed back to SE AK for out 7th trip this summer. Last summer we hunted down native pictographs on the central coast of BC, found about 100. Amazing what you can do when you stop swearing.

    By the way, how is the exhaust system holding up.

    Best to both of you,

    • Thank you Steve. You and Elsie have been an inspiration to Melissa and myself. I hope your summer cruise is a success.

      I have been knocking out a few projects each weekend and I am now getting excited to have the time to get so much more done. But the money; there’s the rub. I have been socking away extra money in the kitty to help with the big push in June.

      The exhaust elbow has held up well. Craig Theilin has a shop here at the marina and he welded up the last version. I also bought an exhaust flange and will have a stainless nipple welded to it so I can create an exhaust riser from parts stored on the boat. I am also thinking hard about moving the hot water heater out of that area to facilitate access to the exhaust, transmission and drive coupling components.

  8. It’s so wonderful to vicariously share in your preparation and readiness! I am so with you in your choice to adventure, especially while you are both relatively young. I didn’t have a plan, as I couldn’t conceive the idea of retirement! Fortunately, I had some intense, absorbing interests in which I found a way to redefine myself. But I waited too late to have more physically demanding experiences, so I’m thrilled for you and Melissa. My daughter, who had an extensive illness, retired early and spent over a year traveling the world with her son and his partner. That was a fine, rewarding and exhausting year, with no regrets. I wish you every happiness, and as you probably know, I love you and your incredible family and look forward to reading about your experiences!

    • Thank you Joanne. I didn’t realize it had been a year since I had announced my retirement and written this post. Melissa and I have commented more than once that it feels like we have already packed five years of living into the past eight months

      I am so grateful to be healthy enough to make this adventure a reality. I’m especially grateful that Melissa is likewise healthy and game for such experiences. Such travel isn’t always easy but so far, it has been so rewarding.

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