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Sunday, May 1, 2022

I Didn't Retire. I Just Quit.

     My Dad worked at his hometown newspaper for his entire career, from 1923 until his sudden death (by heart attack?) in 1956 at the age of 55. He was telegraph editor and news editor at The Elmira Star-Gazette for much of that time.
     He must have been good at it, because I understand he had a number of opportunities to transfer to other papers in the Gannett Company. He never left Elmira and The Star-Gazette because, I was told, he didn't want to disrupt the family. He was busy fathering 14 of us during those years. 
     I remember Dad talking about retirement in his early 50s. I have never thought of retirement for myself. I just up and quit working a couple of years ago (age 84).
     I went to work at The Star-Gazette after college, but lasted just eight years. There was a reason I didn't stay longer. It may just be a story I tell to cover for immaturity and a lack of foresight, but I used to say I didn't want to get dead-ended like Dad did, stuck behind two fogies in the S-G hierarchy.
     I was pretty hotheaded and had a series of clashes with an egotistical bully of a boss at the paper. Then I left, just before, doubtless, I would have been fired. Then I bounced from Michigan to Ohio to Maine to New Hampshire over the next 19 years. Some of the gigs lasted as long as eight years and some were just hops, but I never again left a paper amid anger or conflict. I discouraged and/or refused some promotions, though, because I just liked being a city editor.
     And some of the major family moves were triggered by motivations just as lightweight. There sometimes seemed to be interesting possibilities out there. Anna Marie had a lot more common sense
 . . . except that she kept believing, against all the evidence, that someday I was going to be something. 
     With six kids back there at home in Dayton, Ohio, I quit to explore -- unsuccessfully -- the launch of a newspaper in Maine, where I never had been. After that fell through, we sold the house, bought tents at L.L. Bean and camped on the Maine coast until I wound up as city editor in Augusta.
     Then I quit conventional employment entirely in 1986 to become an itinerant management trainer/consultant. No salary, no money. Why did I do it? An opportunity came along, and it seemed interesting.
      I continued to avoid pretension, and at times was insulting to people because of my habit of poking holes in egos. (including my own). My so-called sense of humor, honed in a Scots-Irish family dominated by assertive women, often got me in hot water with colleagues and friends. Still does. 

     This reminiscence is triggered by the announcement today that newspaper columnist Bill Nemitz is retiring from the Portland papers after 45 years with the company. I met Bill 'way back when he was a reporter at the Sentinel in Waterville and I was at the KJ -- or maybe already launched into my solo work.
       Bill has absorbed a lot of negativity over that long, stable career. I wonder what would have happened if I had done the same.

     (This piece is appropriate for a Project Management blog because life is a project. You can find out why that is so by buying my book, "Life Is a Project: How Are You Managing?" on Amazon. Or from me. Just mail me a check with $25 and I'll ship it to you. Jim Milliken at 73 Mountfort Street, Portland ME 04101. 
     (I didn't write "Life Is a Project" for fame or fortune. In keeping with the decision philosophy of a lifetime, I did it because I wanted to.)


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