Saturday, March 14, 2015

Twenty. Five.

What were you doing twenty-five years ago? (I know some of you are going to say, I was in kindergarten or worse, I wasn't born yet. I used to be the young one! It goes fast, peeps. Enjoy. Wear sunscreen. Eat that cookie.) Apparently twenty-five years ago I was starting work with the federal government (though not really. I had some partial seasons before that, but they cobble them together to determine length of service). To my surprise I got a certificate saying so this week. You're supposed to get these for 5, 10, 15 and 20 but I never got those, because I have moved around so much. 

Twenty-five! That's a long time! In that time I have lived in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Wisconsin, California, Idaho, Florida, Oregon, Alaska and Oregon again. I've been a naturalist, a firefighter, a biological technician doing restoration, a wilderness ranger, a recreation planner and a kayak ranger. I've cleared a lot of trails. I've cleaned a lot of toilets. I've written a lot of plans and picked up a lot of trash. I've driven a bulldozer, a fire engine, a swamp buggy, a boat, and a tractor. I've had to run from a couple of fires, burn out a safety zone while one went around us, lost a couple good friends to the wilderness, and hauled dying people out of the woods, saving their lives. 

But. Into everyone's life who does this work comes a decision. Do I continue to work outdoors for low pay, sacrificing my body to the punishment, or do I take a higher-graded job and move up into a cubicle farm and still be able to hike at 80? Except for a lucky genetically gifted few, the first choice guarantees future relationships with surgery and physical therapists. I chose the cube and it is challenging. It's hard to feel the same sense of pride in producing a plan as I did when I cut trees out of a trail or saved someone's house. At the same time, I can take time off in the summer. I can pick my backpacking trips and I don't haul eighty pounds of trash out of the backcountry for work anymore. I don't have to go on fires and breathe smoke unless I choose to. 

Will I get the thirty year certificate?  I have four years to go (the certificate was a year late). I don't know. Our jobs are tenuous, tied to the whims of Congress. My book could become a best seller (pleasepleaseplease). Who knows? 




22 comments:

  1. Congrats on surviving 25 (or really, 26) years with the same employer. Funny, I just hit my 26 year mark too, with the local government agency I work for. In 30 years, I can retire - just 4 more years to go, I tell myself!

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    1. That's the way it works with the feds too, but my seasonal time doesn't count, so I really have ten years to go if I can survive that. Honestly I don't think I can! I'll have to look for something else to pay the bills after 30 years. Wish someone would pay me to hike!

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  2. Okay, so I won't tell you that I was in kindergarten 25 years ago (except I totally was, actually)....hehe. :) I like your advice.

    When does your book come out? Where can I get it? I'm currently re-reading Cinthia's novel and would love to check yours out.

    As for the desk job, this spring it seems like you've been able to squeeze some adventures out of your work travel. That's something to be proud of even if you don't get to do it everyday.

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  3. Haha, I was thinking of you when I wrote that about kindergarten. My book comes out in September. And you are right. I have made a big effort to get outside. It does pay off.

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  4. Twenty five years ago, I was moving from a couple of decades of office work(after some years of twin-raising) to 7 years of independent consulting. Less $$$, more freedom to explore woods and waters, visit daughters in beautiful places. Each phase had its down and up times. You have sampled many roles and many places. Don't let Puffin chew up that certificate!

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    1. Puffin is very bored and looks interested in chewing!

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  5. Wait, what? You get recognized for 25 years but they don't all count toward retirement? I'm going to retirement training soon, I hope it tells me something halfway encouraging. I won't make 30, and while I had thought I was going to do 20, at the moment I feel like I may not even make 5... It was great until this current gig, now I feel like I did in the job I had 25 years ago, and the whole point was to not feel that way anymore.

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    1. The certificates are for your service comp date which if you were a seasonal for ever like me, is seven years of time that does not count towards retirement. So it's nice but....doesn't get me too excited. I hear you...I get to work on interesting things but mostly want to be free.

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  6. Keep writing. Your first bestseller won't be your last.

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  7. I admire your independent spirit Mary.
    Can't wait to read your book.

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    1. Hi Kim, pretty soon we will be backpacking!

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  8. Hi Mary, let's see, 25 years ago I was working as a Winter caretaker for remote fishing lodges. I did that for 25 years up until 5 years ago when I retired. Now I take care of my remote homestead year round. No way could I work in a cubicle. At 67, I'm still doing all the Wilderness things.

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  9. Winter caretaking sounds fun. I do have to say that I cringe a little inside when people say they could never work in a cube. I think I take it too personally...as if they are implying I am somehow less of a person for doing so, and less adventurous and soft than they are. I choose to see it as funding my adventures. I don't have to worry about money like some of my friends do. maybe I am just trying to make myself feel better.

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    1. Sorry, that never crossed my mind

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    2. Oh no worries, I envy you bring able to make it work. I wasn't able to. Like I said it's my own issue and one I need to reconcile.

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  10. John, that sounds like a wonderful work life to have had and a wonderful retirement. I think of myself as a 'no way could I work in a cube' kind of person, but I did it for 30 years and I'm doing it again now. I guess it's a trade of life for monetary security. For me it does make me feel less adventurous. Not in the outdoor sense, the scaling mountains or living in a tent year-round or any number of other things most people Do see as adventurous, but in the sense of not having the guts to stick with finding work that feeds my soul and not worry about the pocketbook, or retirement. Good on you for making the good life work.

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  11. With mountains out the window and cats near the computer for play time, can it really be considered "in a cube?" Smile.

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    1. I guess not. If I could eliminate the computer it would be perfect! Still, it does keep my mind learning stuff. I'm doing a roadless analysis which is pretty interesting....I keep telling myself I have computer skills AND outdoor skills, which means I could land just about anywhere.

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  12. Mary, I suppose, like everything, it's all in how we frame it. People tell me all the time that they could never live in a tent. I love living this way. Maybe it's whether you like the thing they are telling you they could never do that makes the difference. I spent decades tied to a computer, but most of it I worked from home like you do. People were envious of me, and I tried to see how good I had it, but it ate me alive. If it is just a way to get to the weekend or get to retirement, no amount of logic applied will make it feel good. It just won't. You at least work hard to get out and balance, I let it suck me down.

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    1. Thanks, Dragon. I have to work hard at finding little sneaky ways to make it workable, and I wouldn't want to be out clearing trails still, but there are days when I just want to chuck it. Eyes on the prize though. I won't be doing this forever.

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