What I did not realize about high school biology and chemistry is this: All of life can be a lab assignment. Change one variable at a time and see how it affects the outcome.
But… still. After you have finished thinking back to high school; drosophila fruit flies in a capped bottle (right?), making peanut brittle the day before Christmas break (but not realizing it because the recipe is written in lab experiment form), the cute girl you never shared a Bunsen burner with (not a euphemism). Remember how some of the class was the “control” group? They were tasked with performing the experiment exactly as described. The “test” group did the experiment with only one thing done differently – a change to the amount of a particular chemical added, or a solution’s “molar strength” changed, or the heat applied was different.
All that to help you understand my ‘Great Experiment of Retirement’. I knew I was ready to quit controlling airplanes for a living. I knew I had a bunch of plans for my free time. I knew that none of them were ‘world-changers’ (unless you count ‘people pursuing their passions’ as part of a cosmic ledger system where that effort counts as a positive). Here are a few of the things I was so hungry to pursue (with a brief description of my progress to date):
- Learn to play the guitar better than my 5 chord library and 1 song repertoire. My GOAL is to be able to play long enough to enjoy a fresh campfire burned into coals, playing and singing (Beatles, John Denver, Kansas, Hotel California, etc) all the while. I have purchased a really cool classical guitar plus an awesome case, so when I carry it around, I look great. Almost as good as Antonio Banderas in that movie about Mexico where his guitar case has a gun in it. I have subscribed to a YouTube channel of guitar teaching – actually learned one song about a month ago; don’t think I remember it anymore.
- Re-write my children’s story, Plinka, prepare and submit it for publication. My GOAL is to have that on the shelves of Watermark Bookstores (a local place) with advertising that says “local author” and “next episode in store by Christmas!”. I have attended a meeting of the Kansas Writer’s Association where I got some GREAT editing ideas from two professionals in the business. I joined the SCBWI (Society of Book Writer’s and Illustrators) which is a huge group with lots of resources. I have not even started on the editing of my picture book series.
- Begin writing, with no holds barred, whatever novel comes into my mind on any given day. My GOAL is to bring a fresh cup of coffee to the computer, sit down, tune out EVERYthing, and type, in a blur, until my imagination is wrung out like an old sponge. I have, indeed, started a novel with a working title of Toxic Dust. It is gonna be epic; but at this point it is less than 2000 words of reality. I have not sat down with that attitude for at least 3 weeks, and have ONLY sat down with that attitude 2-3 times in the 94 days I have been retired.
- Write a blog post nearly every day. I have three. One is of my time working as a controller at Oshkosh, so won’t have new entries ever (maybe turn this into a book, though?). This is a second one. The third is about the laying hens we keep in the backyard for eggs and companionship. There is always some droll instance that I can describe while making a connection to some part of life. My GOAL is 5-7 blog entries a week; almost one a day among the two active blogs. Although my “farewell to ATC” post was my most-ever-read, I have only written maybe 2 posts since then.
- Take long bicycle rides on the country roads both near and far. I have two really high quality bicycles which are a pleasure to ride. My GOAL is to get in shape, lose the 30 pounds I don’t really need as earthquake insurance, and get fit while enjoying nature. I have ridden some, and have ridden a few races (which are merely rides for me; I don’t compete for podium spots because I am not nearly fast enough). Haven’t lost a pound, though. I quit measuring. I do ride my bike on errands some; it’s kinda fun and retro- and ‘planet-saving’.
- Watch ALL of “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Bar Rescue”. I used to love to watch this stuff at work on a break; we’d all talk about the food (good or bad), and the gross glop they ALWAYS found in a not-very-clean kitchen. I got bored with these shows within 2 weeks. Same themes, same screaming, same solutions, same results (70% of the businesses closed anyway).
- Read every book in my “to-read” pile. I am constantly adding books to my list to check out or borrow ( I don’t buy books very often, unless I am sure I will be reading it again. I have most of the Arkady Renko series of Martin Cruz Smith, for instance, because those are fascinating every time I read them). My GOAL is to whittle this pile down to make room for more. I have not reduced the number of books in my pile, but I have changed a LOT of the titles. I have probably ready 2 dozen books since I retired. I love, now, that I can sit and read an entire book right then if it catches my thrall. Errands can, and have, waited.
There are more, but I think that list is enough for you to get the idea of my master plan.
What I am still surprised at, and the reason I write this, is that it is NOT as easy as it looks to become a successful player and writer and rider and watcher and reader. I expected to have a LOT of time at my disposal, and I do. I expected to have the freedom to CHOOSE what I want to do each day, and I do.
What I did NOT expect is that I would pick the easy things so often. [Insert inspirational speech here]
How I look at it TODAY is that I have done 94 experiments so far… AND I get to keep experimenting to find the right combination of variables. I haven’t wasted my time; it’s just all still new information that I get to process. To be honest, safety goggles are over-rated. Especially with a classical guitar.
Enjoy your experiment today – make sure you record it somehow. You almost always have to show your work.