Retiring

Retirement: A stage of life when you are able to invest time without being constrained by the need to earn a salary. It becomes easier to pursue things that you think are truly worthwhile without having to make compromises.

I expect people who read my Midlife Reset Revisited post wouldn’t be surprise that I retired July 29, 2022 after working in technology for 43 years. That’s something like 100k “work hours” and 30k hours in meeting.

I had the privilege of working with some extraordinary people at several great institutions. I had a front row seat to major technological changes… sometimes helping them along. Much of our work stood on the shoulders of giants whose work in the 1960s and 1970s still provides wise guidance such as Butler Lampson’s Hints for Computer System Design. I had the joy of mentoring numerous students and employees. I am grateful that I could be an industry advisor to several projects associated with the CS department at UC Berkeley. It’s gratifying to see how the ideas developed in the ROC, RADlab, and Tier projects have spread. My workplaces have included two universities, Xerox PARC, and seven startups, five of which “succeeded” by going public or by being acquired by Google or Microsoft. Along the way we built some remarkable systems and some wonderful friendships.

To be effective in most technical fields required many hours outside “work hours” invested in continual learning. Every 4-5 years there seems to be a new technology or approach to learn and master. Until recently I had enjoyed expanding my “systems” mastery. A signal that it was time to make a change was that I was happy to spend time learning about most any topic but distributed systems. I knew it would be useful to refresh my knowledge of container orchestration, to learn about Raft even though I paid the cost to understand Paxos, etc. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Yet I was eager to be reading about economics, sociology, theology, striving to understand the Krebs cycle, … oh my, so much to learn, so few years left.

I also started to notice how much of my mindspace work took: the time spent in showers, on walks, in the middle of longer bike rides, and those nights I couldn’t sleep thinking about how to advance our field or overcome a challenge at work. Rather than being energizing as it had been, it was feeling like a burden.

My wife Jackie has been encouraging me to embrace “life” as discussed in the classic book Your Money or Your Life and not worry so much about money. It’s time to invest in what I find truly life giving. My desire is to spend more time thinking about the “human heart” and mind, less about technology. To have more time to invest in my family, local community, neighborhood, church, and some NGOs I have periodically assisted. I nearly did this 10 years ago, but I flinched.

Short Term

Health: I am going to step up my exercise and physical activity. Time to reactivate Strava. Times are going to be slow. After a year of stagnation it will take some time to make new PRs, but it will be fun to have more time to run, cycle and lift some weights. I will have time to join Jackie learning Tai Chi. I am making appointments for various checkups that I should have done awhile ago, and revisit my game plan for a healthy and fit life.

Backpacking: It’s been almost a year since I have taken a backpacking trip.  I am going to find some places that aren’t burning and get away to enjoy some natural beauty and solitude. First stop Ventana. Emigrant Wilderness in the next month. When did it become so hard to get wilderness permits for the Lost Coast?! Hopefully I will be able to join a good friend on a section or two of the AT this fall. I might have gotten rid of my 4th season shelter a bit too soon. Mt Washington. Hmm.

Learning: There are many topics I want a deeper understanding. Some study will be on my own. Some will leverage community college. This fall I am hoping to take a psychology course that my daughter is taking.  Maybe she will be a study buddy. One thing I realized is that there are more books I want to read than I have years left. I am going to focus on reading what I think will be valuable, and not feel compelled to finish a book just because I started it.

Connections: I am going to take some time to visit family than I rarely see and meet some family members I have never met. I will have more time to spend with people from our church and neighborhood. I expect we will be having people overa couple times a week for the rest of the year. Groups of six are really great. If you have 8 or more you end up with multiple conversations. Now that I have more slack I am going to restart the “whose my neighbor?” experiment that I started when I took a sabbatical from work ten years ago.

Contemplation: Make space to listen to my heart, to God, and to the people around me. Being more intentionally grateful, and more attentive to what’s happening around me, and living more in the moment. More consistent in my prayer life, and working through some material about pilgrimages and personal transformation in preparation for walking the Camino De Santiago, aka The Way of Saint James.

Medium Term

Close out work lessons?: Over the years I have made notes about all I have learned about building reliable systems. I abandoned turning them into a finished document years ago… but I know some people who are working on formalizing something similar. Maybe with a bit of a break from technology I will have enough interest to put just a bit more time into my old field.

Costa Rica: Explore the country, and maybe do a Spanish immersion program.

Walk the ~500 miles of the Frances Camino in April/May 2023

Santa Rosa: We are going to move up to Santa Rosa for at least half a year.  Not sure if Santa Rosa will be our long term home, but we will throw ourselves into things as if it will be.

Long Term

The general vector is to get better at loving God, loving neighbors and growing in faith. The specifics are unknown. We don’t know where we will ultimately settle… leading candidates now are the Bay Area, Santa Rosa, San Jose Costa Rica, near Lisbon, Portugal… but all that could change tomorrow. I keep hoping Portland will make the cut, but it’s unlikely because it’s too overcast for Jackie.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:4-13 (ESV)

4 Comments

  1. What a privilege to know you and to have worked together in getting Ray Stedman et al, online back in the early days. I turned 90 in May but am still writing a lot. Jesus our Lord is very real to me so I am looking forward to what lies ahead for us.
    God be with you!
    Lambert

  2. I am so excited for you, and I look forward to hearing how this unfolds. Sending big hugs to you and Jackie.

  3. Wonderful insights – thanks for sharing. I’m still a few years away from this major milestone and will be watching you intently to see how your retired life develops!

  4. Mark, thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights. I feel truly blessed to be able to journey with you on the adventure of life. I love to see the amazing way you push the boundaries and live life so well. Congratulations on your retirement 😊.

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