’30’ after 30

All done after 30 years of journalism at The Oregonian and OregonLive.

All done after 30 years of journalism at The Oregonian and OregonLive.

On my last day of work, I got up as I usually do a little after 5 am. Got dressed, packed my exercise bag and headed to the gym, anticipating a sweaty workout on the elliptical.

The door was closed. I’d forgotten they wouldn’t be opening until 8 am today on New Year’s Eve.

No problem. That left me time to come back home, fix breakfast and ruminate a little about what lies ahead.

As I write this, a noon appointment looms with Mandy in the Human Resources Department, at which time I will receive my final paycheck, turn in my company-issued laptop, ID badge and power cords — the symbols of today’s digital journalism.

This afternoon, after 30 years at this place,  I’ll walk out of The Oregonian/OregonLive newsroom for the last time as a staffer. If this were a news story written in the print era, I’d be signing off with the numeral “30.” Newspaper reporters used to type those two digits to signal the end of their story.

Nowadays, not so much.

***

Picking up where I left off this morning…

What once seemed surreal — the end of my career as a working journalist — is now real. I’m writing the rest of this post as an ex-staffer.

People ask me: How does it feel? What do you plan to do?

Honestly, it feels great. Liberating, in fact. No resentments or regrets that I’m retiring a couple years ahead of schedule.

What gives me perspective is this. I went out this morning to Southwest Portland to visit with Susie Reimer for one more news story. She’s the hard-working owner of the Humdinger Drive-In, a restaurant she’s been running for 35 years.

As a high school dropout, she’s done remarkably well to keep her modest little restaurant going all these years. But as I wrote in a profile of her this summer, all those long hours haven’t paid off in the way she hoped. At 63, the same age as me, she has no retirement savings, just like half of all retired Baby Boomers.

Burger stand owner Susie Reimer typifies the plight of too many Americans who have little to show after a lifetime of long hours and hard work.

Burger stand owner Susie Reimer typifies the plight of too many Americans who have little to show after a lifetime of long hours and hard work.

How ironic that my own retirement comes just as I’ve finished writing the third of three major articles on the U.S. retirement. In addition to Susie, I wrote about the plight of older workers — people who for financial reasons must keep working beyond traditional retirement age. Some do so because they’ve been laid off late in life or hammered by major medical expenses. Others because they need to help support parents, children or grandchildren.

Another piece is due to be published next week exploring the racial gap in retirement. That is, the enormous inequality in net median household wealth between whites, African Americans and Latinos.

As I write the stories of fellow Oregonians who face steep challenges in retirement, I know I am damn lucky to have enough resources — not to mention a loving, reliable life partner — to quit working now.

***

So what do I plan to do?

Nothing immediate, other than to chill for at least 30, maybe 60 days. I want to adjust to whatever new rhythms present themselves, think about what might engage me, and entertain possibilities that might drop in my lap. I’ll do all that while doing a little more hiking, biking, blogging and exploring in general.

Laptop is gone ... and so is George from the newsroom.

Laptop is gone … and so is George.

I’m grateful for the 30 years I spent at The Oregonian in various reporting and editing roles, as well as the 10 years before that in Salem, Bend and Milwaukie.

I’ll  reflect on my career, on newspaper economics and more in the coming year.

For now, it’s time to say “30.”

VW, Reimer photographs: Kristyna Wentz-Graff, The Oregonian

 

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18 thoughts on “’30’ after 30

  1. I was “retired-off” at the age of 61 and there is not a second I regret not taking their offer (I am 67 now). Yes, it is an adjustment but give yourself at least 6 months before making any important decisions. 30-60 days is not enough. CHILL! It will be fine!

  2. They were lucky to have you, George. I’m sure you’ll approach your retirement the same thoughtful way you have the rest of your life. Also, you can always change your mind. The world can always use a good story and a great writer.

  3. While you may feel ready, I am not at all happy to see you and so many others leave. Not at all. But, best of luck, George, in whatever endeavor you decide to take up.

  4. Great plan, my friend. After I left eight years ago, someone asked me what I did every day. “I find something meaningful to do every day, even if it’s only meaningful to me.”

  5. George- you have given much and you are right it is time for reflection before jumping. I was glad that I waited almost 4 months (I had said I would wait 6) before responding to requests and opportunities because it changed my perspective and opportunities. I know that in that time you will find YOUR natural balance between what’s good for you and what you can do for others. Enjoy this time my friend.

  6. I also worked my last day on Thursday as well. I am very excited and apprehensive about the future. I have been getting up at 5:30 every day for the last 35 years and plan on enjoying every day, no more Monday’s!

  7. The Oregonian may be losing a writer/editor but the world is gaining one!
    I don’t know if it will help others, but my mother-in-law has this philosophy – it doesn’t matter how old you are or what you do or or whether you are retired or working full time – you have to have “work” ethic and a schedule. All the best as ideas flood into your life!

  8. Such a nice thing to say, Lakshmi. With your mother-in-law in mind, I will “work” to do my best in retirement, whether it’s writing or riding (a bike — not a horse).

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