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The "R" Word

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

It has been a while since my last post. The holidays are always a busy time, and this year was no exception, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of why I have been so quiet. It has been an eventful few months that has forced me to answer a nagging question about my future.

More about that in a moment, but first a quick update on my Appalachian Trail plans.

Last year I shared my plans to hike the first 1,000 miles of the AT this summer. I also shared my need for some rather significant oral surgery before I start the trek. I am only a couple months into what now promises to be a 12-month ordeal. It is all, routine but far more of a hassle than I imagined, and it is now forcing me to reevaluate my plans for this summer. I am still working through the details, and it appears that I will either push the entire thing out until next year or break it into two parts, one this year and the other next year. I will know more by late April. A big thank you to everyone who has sent me words of encouragement. I will post an update as soon as I know.

In the meantime, as I said, it’s been an interesting couple of months.

Since I was laid off in October of 2021, I have consistently said that I was not quite ready to say I was retired. I questioned whether there was another chapter in my career. While that may be true, if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that my fear about having the financial resources to weather whatever storm comes our way has also played a role in my unwillingness to embrace retirement.

Our financial advisor has repeatedly assured us that we will be “okay”, “fine”, “in good shape”, but I would have appreciated more definitive adjectives. All I wanted was something simple such as, “There is absolutely no financial risk, regardless of what happens in the world over the next 30 years, including global nuclear war.” Is that really asking too much?

I love my wife for many reasons, not the least of which is her optimism. For her the future is always bright. She has absolute confidence that, together, we can weather any storm. She would say that I see the world through a scarcity lens, where she sees the world through one of abundance. I used to argue the use of the word “scarcity”, but that last paragraph may suggest she knows me better than I am willing to admit.

In the spring of 2022 Marilyn was laid off as well. Neither of us saw that coming, and it changed our world, although in very different ways for my wife and for me. When she lost her job she thought, “How great. I am going to take the summer off and have a great time with my husband. I am not even going to look for work until the fall.”

I thought, Oh shit!

I know my wife and she is very confident about her choices so when she said she was taking the summer off, I knew my choices were to spend my days worrying about the future or try to adopt more of her abundance mindset, and to my credit I think I did a pretty good job of the latter. It hasn’t come easy for me, and fortunately, I have had the bandwidth to focus on my personal growth. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” We had a great summer together and that would have never happened if it were not for her.

Then, as if the universe was looking out for her, after an eight-month career break, the perfect job for her opened up at the exact time she started to look for one. In late November Marilyn started her new job with Infleqtion, a quantum technologies company located in Boulder, Colorado. She joins the company at an exciting inflection point in the history of the company and the world of quantum technologies as they bring exciting new products to market based on their 15 years of laboratory research. She loves her job and the people she works with, and I am thrilled for her. It is interesting how things have a way of working out, and many times in ways that you would never have expected.

The downside of her new job was that I had become quite accustomed to having my wife around and suddenly there was a deafening silence in the house. For most of the year since I had been laid off, I have had things to keep me busy. First there was last year’s holidays, then publishing Seeing Clearly, then after Marilyn got laid off, I had a playmate to hang out with every day. I had no reason or opportunity to adjust to being retired. I had ignored it for more than a year, but after she went back to work the question of my future was demanding an answer. Life has a way of giving you the lessons you need, when you need them?

At just about the same time that Marilyn joined Infleqtion , I received a phone call about a job opportunity for me. On the surface, it seemed as though it was written for me. I knew the company, their products, and what needed to be done to be successful, and I felt confident I knew how to do it. They are a global leader with a product that is improving the lives of millions of people, in a market I know with a very attractive compensation package. If you were going to build a test case to see if I was really retired, this would be the way you would do it.

I imagine that you can see how this ends. It took me seven interviews before I knew the answer.

My first thought was my eyesight. Can I do this?

Since I stopped working in October 2021, my vision has become significantly worse. I thought my eyesight was bad a year ago. I was wrong. By comparison, it was little more than an inconvenience. Today, there are meaningful changes in the things that I can do. I am not helpless by any means. My visual capabilities are mostly up to the challenge of retired life, but are they up to the high paced world of corporate America I wondered?

As I thought about it, I realized that, over the last several years I have met people who have far greater visual impairments than me that are doing amazing work from computer programming to music and everywhere in between. This isn’t a job in quantum physics like the scientist at Marilyn’s new company. It’s about strategy, relationships, and leadership. All things I am more than capable of handling, yet a couple of interviews into the process something was gnawing at me. It felt like fear, but what was I afraid of? Failure?


A few more interviews into the process and I started to get a handle on just how big this job would be. It would require all of me, and my visual impairment certainly would not make it any easier, yet that did not frighten me. It is exactly the type of job I have chased after my whole career, yet there was still a nagging fear that I could not get a handle on.

On the seventh and final interview, as we are walking through some of the details of the job, “a day in the life,” the fear I am feeling finally becomes crystal clear.

The job will require, all of me, and that is an investment I am no longer willing to make. I know there is more I want out of life than a paycheck. I feel that for most of my career I have been playing a strange game of football, fighting for every yard, and with each first down I move the goal line farther away. There is no opponent or official who is doing that. I am literally doing it to myself and now I am about to move the end zone once again. It is an unwinnable game. The more I have, the more I want, and the further I have to go to get there. In a flash of clarity, I know that this isn’t the right move for me and withdraw my name from consideration. Maybe they would have never chosen me. I will never know, but what I do know is that the minute I walked off the field and stopped playing the game, I felt lighter, more alive, more fulfilled.

So, I guess that answers at least one question.

I am retired.*

Only one question remains.

Now what?

* Unless something really, Really, REALLY interesting comes along. Okay, it’s a work in progress, but I’m trying.

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Richard Willison
Richard Willison
Jul 12, 2023

Thank you for updating on your journey! I share several of the twists and turns your story has taken but can't even begin to relate to the breadth of the whole of it. Glad to hear of your retirement. I still have 2 of the 6 nearby to you and hope to get out there again. Keep well and I trust our paths will cross soon. All the best to you and Marilyn. Buzz


Chris Monnette
Chris Monnette
Jan 11, 2023

It’s a challenge to find the balance, isn’t it? Thanks for your message. I hope you guys had a wonderf holiday season!


Well, said Chris, and congratulations for recognizing what was happening. I've struggled with this same thing, and the demand for "all of me" is one that I once loved and am no longer willing to embrace. And yet...! I hear you. Please keep writing.


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