The whole point is to live life and be – to use all the colors in the crayon box. ~ RuPaul
I have always liked the term nexus point. It’s a point of importance, intersection and change, if you want to be more artistic and spiritual, you could say it’s a point where destiny and opportunity intersect. I’m quickly coming upon one of these points in my life. In the retirement system I’m in you earn 2.0% for each year of service if you retire at 60 or later. The other piece of the equation is that the percentage is taken against, the average of your highest, consecutive three years of earnings. My new reset date, a new highest three year average comes in June of 2022. So at the end of this June I will have 16.5 years (33%) and a new set point. While this won’t make me rich in retirement it’s a pretty solid monthly check, particularly since I’ll be debt free when I retire. This past week was a pretty big week on the debt front, as I paid off the bigger or my remaining two student loans.
My original plan had been to work in my current job and retirement system until I turned sixty and then retire. My thinking was that I could access Medicare at 62, so I figured I could afford private insurance for a couple of years before Medicare. Unfortunately, that was an error, the age for Medicare to kick in is 65 and I will likely need heart surgery at some point in the next five to ten years. So I need to be well covered. So this change put my plans into a bit of chaos. This information coincided with the COVID pandemic and my job, which has always been a hard, stressful and thankless job, turned into a really difficult haul. I spent six months working 70 – 80 hour weeks. We had to redesign everything we do in the online environment, additionally, given that a majority of my job is personnel management, I had to spend a lot of time taking care of them. Of course all of them were going through the hardest period of their career and people’s reaction ranged from acceptance, to nearly mental breakdown and all were expecting me to have all of the answers, many times answers that were being created completely on the fly.
We all have gone through tragedies during COVID, and in my job for a time it really felt like tragedy management. As this fall semester came into view I thought that perhaps things would get better, but unfortunately that has not been the case. The additional pressure of the pandemic and large amounts of change, has amped people up. Our enrollments have crashed, so budgets will be tightening and people are stressed. With the entitlement that exists in our system, particularly around faculty and with faculty holding a general belief that all administrators are evil, folks at my level have become the recipients of a lot of negativity. We are routinely called names by the faculty on public comment at board meetings, we take one on one grief over every decision and faculty do not seem to understand that we are not operating in a business as usual environment. There has been massive faculty angst over our full return to campus in January and the District and executive leadership continue to march forward with new initiatives. Personally for me, I’m also having to cover an additional full-time 40 hour per week management position.
While I’ve been told I’m doing a good job, the survey tied to my evaluation had a rating level of superior, and from the evidence it’s obvious I’m doing a better job than anyone has done in my position in the last ten years, it continually doesn’t feel like enough. We’re constantly told we have to do more, we’re constantly receiving negativity from faculty, what has always been a hard job is quite frankly untenable. I’m someone who has always prided myself on focusing on getting things done. But right now, at the most complicated time in the history of higher education, it’s almost impossible to feel like you are being successful, that you’re doing anything but checking boxes and treading water. At this moment, the only reason I’m still in this job is that I’m paid very well and I need to reset my salary for retirement purposes. Spending every day at work, overworked and beyond unappreciated for what I do is demoralizing and dehumanizing, and quite frankly realizing the people you supervise and work on behalf of don’t care about you at all makes it incredibly hard to stay motivated. So at the moment, the joke is I’m nothing but a money grubbing whore doing what I have to do to make that money. This has never been who I am and being in this space has thrown me into a months long low-level depression.
So a change has to come. And the nexus point starts to form around June 15, 2022, the first real date I could make a change. But I have criteria for making that change. They include a certain minimum retirement level which I am very close to next June. I need to be debt free and as I mentioned I’m closing in on that milestone. I have a certain dollar figure of savings I need to have and I’m not sure if I can get there by next June. The better answer would be to end my time here in June of 2023, it bumps my retirement higher, it helps me make my savings goal. But right now seven months seems like a long time, nineteen months an eternity. But I do know that time goes by fast, of course if I hit my criteria in January of 2023 that could be a compromise position.
I’m somewhere from a half, to a year and a half away from massive change. My plan, driven by the horrible financial situation related to health care and insurance in this country, is to continue working after I leave my current position. The primary reason is to have health insurance. So my forming plan is to work at something fun with health benefits that I enjoy and is significantly lower stress than my current gig. I’ll need to work until sixty-five until medicare kicks in and from sixty on I’ll have that salary and my retirement from my current gig. Since I’ll likely be in some system for over five years I may even vet into a second retirement which would be great.
I have a geographic preference as well, the dearest people in the world to me are my nieces and nephews and my littlest ones are all in or around New York. So I want to be within a few hours of them so that I can be a bigger part of their lives. I want to be rural, as I have a deep interest in both natural foraging, hiking, camping and developing survival skills. I want to own a property where I can be involved in all of this. This puts me in a several hundred mile circle around New York City. This of course is a pretty broad area encompassing southwestern New York, the Adirondacks, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts, and Southern Maine. The nice thing about the broad region is that it open up a lot of possibilities in employment. Particularly in terms of staying in higher education as a program director or academic advisor there are literally hundreds of colleges in that range. And of course remote work only requires an internet connection and airport access.
So right now all of this is swirling in my mind and the depression I’ve been dealing with and the stress I’m under are all ganging up on my psyche. I’m distracted and forgetful, I’ve been having a really hard time focusing, I’ve missed two meetings this year, a first for me in my career, I’m very short-tempered right now and I’ve even made the classic reply all error that I’ve never done before.
But I’m not unhappy friends, you see I’m an incredibly resilient person. I’ve been in much worse spots in my life. I know that once I get more focus on the decisions around the next move and solidify when I will make it, I’ll become more energized. Now that I’m fully vaccinated and boosterized, now that travel opportunities are opening up, I will get on the road again for real. Travel is the true food for my soul and my little road trips over the last year have been good, but not what I need. So once I figure out my next trip and really start planning that will happen as well. Unfortunately the solution at work is to stop caring about how well I do my job by drawing hard lines around my time, this will disappoint people, but I have to take care of me first.
If there is any lesson in this rambling diatribe tonight it’s to take care of you and yours first. We must always do what’s best for our life and I do mean our life as in personal life. While we all have to work, our work life is secondary, I’ve preached this for over a decade now and every day I’m more and more convince of how truly important this is and is what will lead to happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane