tl;dr — I’m on a rant about why I retired. You have been warned.
There are many reasons to retire, not the least of which is age. I turned 66 back last December. I’ve been working to help pay my way since I was 12, and officially paying taxes when I turned 17. By the time I turned 66 I’d worked at least a half century for somebody else and was tired of doing it.
I could have started my own company in all that time, and several times I did. In the end I discovered that even if you’re working independently with or without others to help you, you’re still working for someone, in this case your customers. Many a tree has been sacrificed to all the books about customer satisfaction. Some I even read, believing the hype. None of them ever helped. At the tender young age of 66 I decided I’d worked and fought the “good fight” long enough and gave up working completely. Now, when I expend any effort, mental or physical, it’s at home, and it’s completely for me. I am truly my own boss, with all that implies. But age wasn’t the only reason I retired.
Besides hitting the magic age of retirement, there were other reasons to drop out and move on. They all had to do with my last job on a project for PEO STRI (Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation). The project itself is irrelevant. It’s the general work environment and the requirements leveraged upon those who would work for PEO STRI as a contractor.
One major cause for quitting is the general computing environment itself. For reasons that are not completely clear (except, perhaps, due to institutional paranoia), the computers within the environment are locked down to the point of being nearly useless for anything except general secretarial work. If you want to create spreadsheets or write long documents or respond to email, then the systems are adequate. If you want to do development that requires installation of tools and development software not already on the computer, then you have to jump through many bureaucratic hoops to install and use these tools. Those software requests take a long time to wind their way out, up, and back again. You better make sure you wrote the software request cleverly enough to pick up all the minor version releases of a major release, or else you go through the process again and again. If you’re trying to track a product such as Angular or the new Java, where the major release cadence is in months rather than years, then you’re going to have to hire someone on your team just to run game for you so you can keep up. A consequence of all of this is how much I now hate Windows. Windows has so wedded itself to corporate use that system lockdown, if carried out to its logical conclusion, produces a nearly useless computer. All those systems are part of the corporate surveillance state, where everything is constantly logged in case you turn out to be some nefarious insider threat.
Which leads me to the last reasons for leaving. Each year I was there I was required to attend two classes, one on security and the other called an active shooter class. You were required to take these classes in order to continue to enter the closed areas in which you worked. The security class went over the usual security strictures, but with an emphasis on the “insider threat.” I knew where that was coming from; Edward Snowden. I’m sure there are posters everywhere in government security offices proclaiming “No More Snowdens”, or if not, they probably should. Snowden got away with what he got away with not because he was particularly bright, but because the NSA was particularly lazy and stupid at the time. The NSA totally owns that breach, not anybody else. And yet year after year we get brow-beaten over maintaining security and watching out for the “insider threat,” the next Edward Snowden.
The active shooter class was to educate us on how to “shelter in place” in case some asshole with a gun came in and started shooting the place up. They always showed a short film during this class, and it was always the same one, about a kid with a long gun killing a bunch of high school students. As a father of two girls who are now in their early 30s, I lived the nightmare of 1999’s Columbine High School shooting while my girls were attending high school here in Orlando in the early 2000s, before they graduated and headed off to college. And of course, there have been so many (far too many) since, including the 2018 Parkland shooting. And yet, somebody decided it would be a marvelous idea use a high school shooting film (every time I saw it, it upset me beyond belief) in an active shooter class just in case someone within one of the closed development labs (you know, one of those “insider threats”) would walk in one day past security and shoot the place and all of us to hell.
I didn’t come away from any of those feeling safe or secure. Instead, I came away with a sense of dread and distrust, and a feeling that the Army as represented by PEO STRI didn’t trust their civilian contractor population. Such a wonderful environment in which to work.
My final day on the job was back on January 2nd. I’d taken nearly the entire month of December off (my birthday through the end of the month) and stayed at home enjoying the Christmas time of year with my wife. It was an absolutely wonderful feeling. I was pretty well decompressed. I went back to my job in a really good mood on the 2nd. Over the next hour I tried to get into systems that were fully operational before I left in December, in the process blowing up that really good mood. I got into one; the rest were unreachable for various reasons. Being January 2nd there was no one to turn to for help in sorting things out. After a secession of silly failures, I logged out of my machines, turned them off, walked into my boss’ office, and turned in all my badges with a very short note saying I was officially retired. I did this knowing full well it would piss some people off, because up to this point I’d been trying to stay on as a part timer. But that day I discovered I couldn’t take it any longer, and it was time for me to move on.
And so I did.