Author Topic: Turning sixty - how can that be good?  (Read 650 times)

Offline Joseph

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Turning sixty - how can that be good?
« on: Feb 14, 2015, 16:09 »
I'll be sixty in a couple of weeks.

I mention this because I'm looking forward to it - celebrating a six decade milestone, forty of them as a power engineer.

You probably haven't heard many people - if anyone - casually and positively talking about getting older - especially old! - and I think it's good to hear that when you're thirty you have something to look forward to instead of with that silent dread you might experience in anticipation of when that day comes. For example, I now see something like retirement, which is just around the corner, as a regular day that, when it happens, I can just stop working, relax, and the paychecks will keep coming in.
Sure, it's helps to have a pension - BCIT has one of those government defined pension plans that are becoming rarer these days. I get to tell you now, when you're only twenty or thirty (or fifty) that retirement is coming, you might want to prepare. Start now. Take 10% of your wages and put them away somewhere - RSP, Tax Free Savings account, or under your bed, but put it away. If there's one thing I've learned, you should be able to live on 90% of your paycheck if you're a power engineer. We make not bad cash, don't we? If you can't put away the money at your present wages now, then... you can double your paycheck and probably still won't save any money. It's not about the amount, it's about the discipline.

Pay attention to what I just wrote about saving for later. I'm sixty, and I know stuff. Do it. Start now. 10%.

Yes, there are some things that I miss, like my knees. And I know I'll probably not be throwing myself full speed at a hard hit baseball and somehow coming up with it and throwing the guy out at first. Those were some fantastic experiences in my life!, and I notice that the ground is a lot harder than it used to be, and when I throw myself at it I tend not to come up for a while. Physically, there are some struggles that have showed up that I wasn't looking forward to. I don't have the big biceps or shoulders I used to (yup, miss them too) and if I did a spinning back kick you better call 911 because I'll have pulled three major muscle groups. My eyes aren't what they used to be. I need naps. Listen, turning sixty is not all joy.

But all in all, I recognize that the wisdom and maturity I have experienced over the years have given my these fantastic gifts. I know who I am and I know what I want, and just as valuable I know what I don't want. I have some answers to the big questions like "who am I, what am I here for, and where do I go when I'm done". I would have thought that these would have been something very important to teach in school right up there with math and physics, but that's a whole other story. Mind you, I think other things should have been taught in high school, like how to handle a credit card, how to buy a house, and how to meet babes, but that's just the old guy talking. I am sayin' however that as a mixed up turned around kid who couldn't get a girlfriend or was intimidated by aggressive people... life is much better now. At sixty you tend to have a lot of that stuff figured out. I no longer needed to jump off a perfectly good bridge with elastic bands tied to my ankles yelling "bungee". I recognize that I no longer enjoy the unanticipated consequences of brash actions like partying all night, having a shower, and then heading to work. I really like my sleep, and usually get it. I feel good. I eat better. When I drive, instead of yelling out the window things like "get out of the way slowpoke and let the important people through!" it's now about how "everyone goes home safe". I'd rather make my way home peaceably rather than screaming in panic like my passengers when I was thirty.

There's something else I've enjoyed as a sixty year old - being a power engineer. The older you get the more you tend to work in places that are not as physically challenging, and hopefully a little more intellectually stimulating. You can do that as a power engineer, but fifty or sixty year old millwrights still have to pull wrenches. In my present job I can show up to work with a sprained arm or even a broken leg and can still do my job. As an instructor, they pay me to talk! (they got the right guy :-). I used to work at Rogers Sugar, and as a Second Class Power Engineer I would walk around on a shift and do my rounds every couple of hours. You know the drill - temperatures, flows, levels... and it was pretty good. Easy, if you knew what you were doing. If everything is going well, you're not busy at all. One time a pipe-fitter was in the power house putting in some reducing stations and replacing the old ones. Some of the piping was pretty big. Heavy. Cumbersome. As he was hauling on a chain block pulling a two hundred and fifty pound safety valve up about fifteen feet to the mezzanine deck, he looked over as I wandered by with my rounds sheet and asked "how do you go about getting such a great job?". We were both fifty, and I liked mine a lot better than his at the time. He lamented about how to get work he had to go wherever the jobs were, he'd rather be home with his wife and kids, the overtime wasn't as important as it used to be... things had changed since he was thirty or forty.

As an older power engineer, even working on shift, life was pretty good. Moving up to chief is certainly an option as you get older and more experienced. Chiefs don't pull ashes or carry bags of salt to the softener, and they have someone else open and close the big valves.

Right now I'm an instructor in the power engineering department at BCIT. It's fantastic work, and it will probably continue to be so as I run it out until I retire. How many other trades like careers can you work the hard hours when you're younger and make pretty good cash, and then as you get older move into physically less active jobs, especially if you move up in your tickets?

As I mentioned, I'm turning sixty and it's pretty good. We don't hear enough in our society about that. I have every intention of working in comfort until I retire. I moved out of shift work (it was getting pretty hard to make it through the nights) and into a dayshift job that I was able to qualify for - as an older, more mature guy. I might keep working past 65 because it's actually pretty rewarding. As long as I stay in shape, eat well, and don't do anything stupid (something I was not so hesitant to refrain from for the first four or five decades) I intend to enjoy life as a power engineer - or whatever else I do - for a long long time.

Being an "old guy" is pretty good :-)
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