Weekly status update [0008/????]

I’m writing this right before crashing out early for tomorrow’s trip; I plan on getting up at 5:30am and hitting the road by 6am so that I can get into Baton Rouge at something resembling a reasonable hour.  We’ll see how well I manage.

  • In preparation for the aforementioned trip, I picked up a Samsung Chromebook 3 from Amazon this week.  My full assessment will have to wait until I’m back, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  It even natively supports Colemak, which came as a pleasant surprise.
  • Speaking of which, my wrists are behaving quite a bit better… or, at least, they were, until I was lazy last night and didn’t put them on before going to bed.  Sigh.  I plan on wearing them for at least most of the day tomorrow, which should help some, but I’ve got to stop doing that.  It’s not doing me any favors.
  • Not a lot of gaming this week, other than the usual little stabs at the various free-to-play games you’ve gotta do every day to keep up with the grind.
  • Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had a couple of old coworkers/friends over on a whim yesterday afternoon, and we had a blast playing video pinball (both Pinball FX 3 and The Pinball Arcade) along with the perennial Towerfall Ascension.
  • I went to a farewell dinner for one of my old teammates; they’re moving to Raleigh, which makes me sad to see them go, but I suspect they’re going to be a lot happier there from a social perspective.  It’s rather too quiet here for most people.
  • (Re)read some more of the Culture series, watched a few more episodes of The Punisher, solved more puzzles.  Steady state, in other words.

Now to try and get some sleep.  I usually have a lot of trouble sleeping the night before traveling, but I hope that won’t be the case this evening, particularly given how much less stressed I am about this trip than, uh, any other one in living memory.  I guess it’s time to find out!

A question of time and space

We had our second “folks from work” game night last night.  This time it was where we wanted to have it the first go-round, Fercott Fermentables.

The difference was striking.  Fercott has a fantastic, laid-back vibe; we played in the far back last night, but the next time I think we’re going to colonize the nice wooden table in the front, which has more room for a larger game like Power Grid or Concordia, and more seating for the more casual games that we could play as well.  They have lots of beers, if that’s your thing, but also a surprisingly solid selection of what I call “hipster drinks,” only half-snarkily.  I drank two Shirley Temples and a really good root beer.

I’m glad that my discomfort the time before came from the circumstances of venue and not just a general “I can’t handle playing games in public” sort of situation.  I should have known better; I used to spend almost every evening at the local game store, after all.  But I’m now actively looking forward to our next game-playing venture, something I couldn’t say the last time.

Also, Power Grid continues to hold up, more than a decade after its release.  Also also, I won, I think for the first time.  I promise that that’s not why Fercott left such a positive impression.  Well, mostly promise.

Down where we belong

We had our first real “game night” outside of the workplace tonight since I retired, at a local bar and restaurant.  It was nice; given that we took over a prime table at 4pm and didn’t leave until after 8pm, the venue showed remarkable restraint in not kicking us out.  But I have to admit that it was also a pale shadow of the gaming I did at work.

Part of it, a big part, is comfort.  Bars are loud, and I’m a little hard of hearing, so they’re never ideal venues in the first place.  I also don’t drink, so the prime benefit of holding game night in such a place is lost on me.  But these are honestly superficial issues.  The real difference in comfort is, for lack of a better term, a complete difference in feeling.  In belonging.

At work, we have a really nice gaming table that a coworker and I (mostly him) got made to order.  It’s in a well-trafficked area, so sitting at the table is a good way to say hello and/or goodbye to lots of coworkers and friends as they come and go.  Some people linger a moment, watching the action, even occasionally asking a question or two about the game we’re playing.  I had a specific place where I almost always sat, a place where I put the inevitable bottle of Hint Water.  It was in a place I knew, surrounded by people I knew.  It felt like I belonged there.

The vast majority of times I’ve played games at other people’s houses, I’ve felt a similar sense of belonging.  There, it’s less about familiarity; instead, the sort of warmness of being somewhere that people want you, with food and laughs and the coziness of a home well lived-in, engenders that sort of feeling of belonging.  Just this Monday, one of my old coworkers invited me over to play games.  Even though I had never been to their house before, I immediately felt at home.  I felt that I belonged.

We’ll have to see if doing this sort of thing regularly in more public venues changes my view.  Unfortunately hosting at my house is a non-starter, as it was too small to hold a table for gaming even before I packed it to the rafters with board games, and using other people’s homes is usually a scheduling nightmare.  In my experience, it doesn’t take much difficulty to stop things like “rotating game nights” to fail just as soon as they start.  I just hope it doesn’t fall totally by the wayside because that’s the easiest option, and I know it’s at least somewhat on me to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.

I’ll let you know.

COBRA commanding

I signed up for COBRA today, which was one of the big bits of Adulting I still needed to do with regards to my retirement.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, COBRA allows you to maintain the health insurance coverage that you had at a previous employer.  You have to pay for all of it yourself, rather than the (extremely) subsidized rate that most companies offer, so many people don’t opt for COBRA.  Instead, they go with personal insurance from one of the exchanges or–depressingly often–opting for no insurance at all.  Fortunately I can afford the extra expense, so I’ll be sticking with COBRA at least until the next ACA enrollment period.

When I’m a little more comfortable with the format of this blog and the state of the readership, maybe I’ll go on a long rant-slash-ramble about how utterly ridiculous it is that the number one deciding factor in my early retirement was the state of the gorram healthcare system here in the United States, not anything so practical as amount of money saved or whether I was ready to retire.  But not today.

Before I actually made the commitment, it was easy to think of retirement as a sort of bright line, a single Rubicon to cross: one day you’re working and the next day you aren’t.  But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s a long series of much smaller Rubicons that you continue to cross, one after the other.  The first was actually tendering my resignation, many months ago.  Then there was the hustle near the end of my tenure at my job to actually get everything turned back in, all of my paperwork in order, and all that.  My last day was a big one, of course, but not nearly the last.

And then that first Monday, where I woke up and realized, huh, I’m not going into work today.  Or maybe ever again.  And then this past Monday, the second one, where that happened all over again. A bunch of small realizations that a bunch of people I used to interact with on a near-daily basis are going to be much harder to see on the regular.  And now this.

I know that doing my taxes–by which I mean using a professional for the first time in a decade because holy moly are my taxes gonna be complicated this year–is another big upcoming river to cross.  But I’m more curious as to what the others will be, the ones I don’t yet know of, haven’t yet thought of.

An oblique reference to that Simple Minds song

I’m sitting at home, shivering; I didn’t bother turning the heat on, because I thought I would be throwing up a quick WordPress install, dashing off a quick blog post, and then heading immediately to snuggle under several layers of blankets to protect me from the North Carolina winter.

Sigh.  Turns out there really isn’t such a thing as a “quick WordPress install.”  Mea culpa.

Anyhow, I’m writing this the night before my last day of work.  I’ve been at my current job for slightly more than five years, and I’ve made a lot of friends there.  (And no enemies, as far as I’m aware, although that’s the sort of thing that it’s easy to be oblivious about.)  Deciding to leave was simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest decisions of my life.

On the one hand: I’ve been planning on this early retirement thing for years.  YEARS.  And working in the tech industry is a sure-fire way to accelerate that sort of plan, especially if you’re a somewhat thrifty single person such as myself.  In addition, my excitement at doing my job has been declining for a while, to the point where it was starting to impinge upon my performance, which meant it was time to Make A Decision, something I had been putting off for as long as I could.  And that decision ended up being pretty easy: when you’ve been planning on doing a thing for a long time, why not do that thing?

And yet.  Never mind the free food, the camaraderie, the ability to learn about cool new things way before the rest of the world sees them.  There’s something deeply satisfying and invigorating working in a high-energy high-skill environment, where just about everyone you interact with is smart as hell, challenging you on a daily basis to learn, to be a better person, to understand the way everything works just that little bit better than before.  My previous job was at a university; there, I could sometimes just glide through an entire day, interacting only with the UNIX systems I maintained and my regular lunch-time card game crew.  Not so much here.

There are a lot of unknowns still.  How will I handle simply not seeing people for days at a time?  I keep telling everyone that it’s crazy to “be bored” in this modern era of video games and, you know, the Internet, but will I actually be able to stave off ennui?  I’ve got plans to polish up one of my many novels and try to get it published; will it turn out that, as much as I enjoy writing, I simply can’t handle the editing/re-drafting process?

I’m not a person who deals well with change, and I’m changing just about everything about my life effectively overnight.

This blog, too, is a change.  I’ve never been able to write one consistently, although I’ve tried over the years; I had thought about bringing one up as I neared my planned retirement, then never followed through on the idea until now.  Enough people have asked me over the past week about how they could keep up with my plans that I figured, what the hell.  Surely I’ll have enough time when I’m retired to actually post something on the regular, right?  If nothing else, it’s an excuse to flex my writing muscles at some time other than during NaNoWriMo.  (Knowing me, it’s likely to also be an excellent way to procrastinate.  I could teach a master class in productivity as procrastination.)

I’m excited, and terrified, and excited all over again.  Perhaps we can see how it all works out together.