|Jack Ganssle's Blog
This is Jack's outlet for thoughts about designing and programming embedded systems. It's a complement to my bi-weekly newsletter The Embedded Muse. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm an old-timer engineer who still finds the field endlessly fascinating (bio).
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October 18, 2019
A couple of years ago we attended a seminar about applying for Medicare. Most likely everyone in the room was 64 years old, and I wondered how many were thinking "wait a minute: roughly three weeks ago I was 30. What happened?"
The years sneak up on one. My kids are 28 and 32 but it seems they were in diapers just a short while ago. The government says age 60 is "elderly," so when Marybeth reached that august age, I told my friends I was sleeping with an elderly lady (OK, I'm older than her, darn it). My brother-in-law countered that when his wife, my sister, went back to school late in life, he relished stating that he was bedding a college student!
After reaching elderly status myself I noticed many contemporaries retiring. Some hated their jobs, others had health problems. All were excited about this new phase of life.
Not for me. I love the embedded field. There's so much going on, so many things to learn. I do have a number of hobbies, sailing, woodworking, reading and sawmilling being the top few. Work does detract from the time I can spend doing these activities.
This summer I turned 66 and continue to find that life has a way of surprising you. I don't have the energy of youth. Or of a 60-year old. Travel is getting harder and my patience with it is wearing thin. Another night in a hotel, sitting on a plane for too many hours - it all is getting old. I spend a lot of time on the road and have visited over 80 countries on six continents, some many dozens of times. Working with engineers in so many places is fascinating and fulfilling but being away from home is no longer my cup of tea. The getting-there part is a hassle.
When not traveling I spend too much time in front of a computer, when the siren song of the boat or the workshop beckons. It's getting harder to block out that call.
Two or three years ago I set a goal of retiring completely at 70. But recently my body has been telling me it can't sustain the current pace any longer. While Marybeth's and my health remains pretty good, we don't recover from assaults quickly. Even a cold lingers for three to four weeks, rather than a matter of days not so long ago. We worship at the altar of Ibuprofen too often. Doctor visits have gone from rare to too often.
So, I've decided to slow down, to try for 20 hours or so per week instead of the standard 40ish that stretches to far more with international travel. I'm cutting back on travel, too, aiming for just one or two trips a month instead of four or five.
It's been a month or so of the degraded work schedule. The result: Things are getting fixed around the house. We're doing a major refit on the sailboat. I have more unbroken time for reading.
I've turned away several interesting-looking large projects in the last few weeks. These would require more focus, attention, and time than I'm willing to commit. One required a half-dozen international trips over a four-month period. That's a bit too much like having a job.
My first paid electronics job was as a technician working on Apollo ground support equipment in 1969, at age 16 (I was a geek from an early age!). After 50 years - 50 years! - in this industry, it's time to slow down. Embedded is still utterly compelling, but I plan to engage at a less frenetic level going forward.
After all, the clock is ticking faster every year.
Feel free to email me with comments.
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I'll present my Better Firmware Faster seminar in Melbourne, Australia February 20. All are invited. More info here.
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