Retirement Challenges

I retired from my full-time position on May 21, and am now working three hours a day, Monday through Friday, for the same company, 100% remote. It is intense work, but at least it is only 15 hours per week now, and the pay is good.

There are a lot of potential projects that present themselves for an encore career, but I’m finding that I live in the wrong place to do any of them. Some are going to be impossible to do without substantial help from others.

One thing I’ve learned, especially during the pandemic, is that I need to be with people in the work that I do. A 100% remote interaction with others is unsatisfying, and I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that.

The project I am most excited about is Mirador Astronomy Village. Nothing like it has ever been done in the United States before.

Mirador would be a residential community that is astronomy-friendly, and the majority of that residential community would be permanent residents (in other words, not vacation homes for the wealthier among us). Mirador would have no dusk-to-dawn lighting, and no one living there will ever have to worry about a neighbor putting up a light that trashes their view of the night sky or shines into their home. Mirador would have a public observatory and provide regular astronomy programs. Mirador would also have private observatories for research, astrophotography, and visual observing.

Ideally, Mirador would be located where it is clear most nights and winters are mild. New Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas immediately come to mind.

The challenges? Mirador is going to need a land donation and a group of people who can take some financial risk to build it without jeopardizing their personal economic stability. Astronomy is such an important part of my life that I am willing to move, even to a remote location, for the opportunity to live in an intentional community of astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts. What I don’t know is whether there are even 20 others in the entire United States who would make the move for such an opportunity. Running a classified ad in Sky & Telescope for a year accomplished nothing other than “great idea, let me know when you get it built.” Well, even though I have passion, knowledge, and leadership skills to make this project a success, I do not have financial resources beyond providing for myself and my family. I can’t personally fund a development.

Many other projects and activities interest me. None of them can I do in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

  • Provide astronomy programs at a public observatory
  • Volunteer at a classical music radio station, perhaps even hosting my own classical music program, or at least providing recordings and commentary
  • Volunteer for a symphony orchestra
  • Bring the best music of new and neglected classical composers to a wider audience
  • Passenger rail
  • Paved off-road bicycle path
  • Develop a comprehensive outdoor lighting code/ordinance that has support, will get enacted, and will be enforced

One current activity related to classical music is necessarily 100% virtual. Back in April, I created a discussion group called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites. I posted a note about it to the hundreds of people I am connected to on LinkedIn and Facebook, and that garnered only a single subscriber. Since then, I’ve been working diligently to find interesting and accessible classical music to feature. I am pleased with the results so far, only no one else is posting anything. Still only one subscriber besides myself. There must be at least 20 people in the entire world who have a passion to seek out and champion the best classical music that is not yet commercially available. How do I reach them?

Currently, my astronomical work is focused on stellar occultations by minor planets for IOTA. I spend about 20 hours per week running predictions, recording the events from my backyard observatory, analyzing the data, and reporting the results. My backyard observatory is wholly dedicated to this work. Wherever I end up living, I would like to continue these observations. This adds the complication that I will need access to a dedicated observatory for occultation work—either my own or one that I share with other occultation enthusiasts. That observatory should be within walking distance of where I live.

I would like to live closer to my daughter and her family in Alpine, TX. Even though I would prefer to live somewhere not too far from civilization (thinking quality health care, mostly) with a unpolluted night sky, I am beginning to consider moving to a larger city like Tucson or Las Cruces where I can better pursue my classical music interests in addition to astronomy. Tucson has direct Amtrak access to Alpine (a huge plus), but Las Cruces has no connection to Amtrak. The Sunset Limited needs to come to Las Cruces (between the El Paso and Deming stops), or at least there needs to be a bus that takes you directly to and from the train station in El Paso.

I am concerned about the direction this country is heading, and that is entering into my future plans, too. I am a non-religious progressive who believes that local, state, and federal government should be strong, competent, and efficient. There can be no higher calling than a life dedicated towards public service. I am pro-government, pro-tax, pro-education, pro-science, and anti-gun. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere where Trump got the majority of the vote in 2020. If the current Republican insanity continues (and they have most of the guns), we progressives may be forced to consider forming our own country. Or moving out of this one. Before things get any uglier. Living in an enlightened and compassionate society requires giving up some of your liberty and freedoms for the health and well being of everyone. That’s a given.

4 thoughts on “Retirement Challenges”

  1. Good luck. My husband feels the same way about this area. Don’t know where that sweet spot is, however.

    1. Thanks, Dawn. Reaching retirement age and not working full time for the first time in my life, I feel like a veil has been lifted, and the last chapter could be the best yet. But if you’re not in the right place and with the right people…options are limited. It is also interesting that when you reach retirement age and you remember you always wanted “to do x, y, and z when I retire” you begin to think you might want to do something different than that. Things are happening in this country that I never anticipated, and key among them seems to be a massive loss of hope (even among young people, and that is really scary). Why are dystopian visions of the future so popular in movies, music, literature, etc.? It is not inevitable! Turning into the young revolutionary I never was, I guess!

  2. I kind of call myself “semi retired” since I left the rat race (or actually just laid off many times I gave up) and did full time Ebay with higher value items (grocery/restaurant gear mainly). Worked 8 days a week in Seattle area chasing the mortgage and finally just sold or house and bought a place with cash in Wisconsin. Want to many money in Seattle? Real estate….but probably too late now. But I know can say I work 4 days a week.
    I had lousy skies in Seattle area, but still had built two observatories at my two different homes I lived in there. Wisconsin was a good selling point with darker skies (Milky Way visible over house) but now in a battle with LINK OUTDOOR MEDIA for destroying my SE sky with a billboard.
    I agree with your last paragraph totally! I could never live in a T***p (I don’t speak or write his name) area although my county here is mainly blue, but we are surrounded by them. Fortunately we are a blue state this time, but the GOP idiots are always overpowering our Dem governor Tony Evers. I will have a say he’s been weak and too gentle, and I fear WI will swing back red again unless we get a stronger Dem candidate. I can’t stand politics anymore and love looking out into peaceful (hopefully) parts of the sky at distant galaxies to get “away” from the problems on our little Pale Blue Dot.

    1. Thanks, Tom. Definitely worth fighting that horribly overlit and improperly lit billboard. Got a chuckle a few years ago when an Audubon magazine article called billboards “litter on a stick”. So true.

      Decades of Republican policies and tax cuts have crippled government agencies in general, so it is no wonder your government officials are timid about taking on the billboard company and their likely ordinance violations. Lots of ordinances get passed, but enforcement is often lacking—especially nowadays. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

      Our Mirador Astronomy Village project is pretty much in a holding pattern right now, because who in their right mind (with highly limited resources) would buy real estate or build with prices as high as they currently are? I hope this bubble doesn’t last too long. Affordable housing is a huge issue for most of us.

      I like Gov. Evers, but he does seem ill-equipped to handle the “off the rails” Republican legislators in this state. I voted for him in the last election, of course, but during the Democratic primary I felt there were bolder, younger candidates with more energy and vision that would have been more effective in dealing with them—and more inspiring.

      Yeah, it is indeed comforting to know that most of the universe is safely beyond humanity’s grasp: we can’t mess it up like we mess up almost everything else. Except for making it more difficult to see due to light pollution. 🙁

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