|high school graduation – June 1979|
Today’s Think Write Thursday topic is to write about what you wanted to be when you grew up. How does it compare to what find yourself doing?
This is a story I’ve never told here. I’m not sure my kids even know the whole thing! So I’m taking a break from the Mystery Shawl … and writing a lot more than I usually do!
Growing up, I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything other than a Chemical Engineer and a Rambling Wreck … just like my father. We visited Georgia Tech the summer of 1977 and I was settled; it was the only school I applied to and I was accepted. Classes began in September 1979 and I loved everything about the school (not only because I met Marc before classes even started – he was a year ahead of me). I did well in my classes and had fun! I found Tech challenging, but I also found myself – for the first time in my life – surrounded by others who enjoyed working hard.
My father worked for Texaco his entire career; most of that time was spent in refineries (when he retired, he was managing a refinery in Kansas). In the fall of my sophomore year, I interviewed for a co-op job with Chevron (and remember getting teased about that from home) and spent my winter quarter working in their Richmond, California refinery.
I was a Craft Helper, which meant I rotated through various crafts – machine shop, pipe fitting, maintenance. I wore coveralls, work boots and a hard hat. I spent days chipping black yuck out of a bubble tower. I was 2,500 miles away from everything I loved. I hated it.
and organic chemistry. That was the first (and only?) class I ever dropped.
I changed my plans! Leaving Tech was not an option and I still wanted to graduate in four years. I was probably the first Applied Mathematics graduate with nearly all her technical electives filled with Chemical Engineering classes. I loved my math classes, especially statistics. I also enjoyed teaching; I graded for a professor my junior year and taught freshman calculus recitations my senior year.
I had only vague plans about what I might do with my degree. Marc and I got engaged the December before I graduated and he planned to return to Connecticut to an architecture firm he’d interned for the summer before. I thought I could get a job with an insurance company in Hartford, or maybe teach.
Marc ended up getting a job in Atlanta … and so did I. A small actuarial consulting firm called Hazlehurst & Associates asked me to interview; I got the job and started in June 1983 (a week after I graduated). I really had no idea what actuaries did, but I knew it involved studying and tests (I was good at that), paid well and I would never have to wear coveralls to work. Turned out it wasn’t as much about math as I thought and the studying was on my own time (but required). But there was new legislation taking effect that created 401(k) plans. Hazlehurst had a few clients that were interested in starting plans and they needed help administering them. The timing was great for me – I read a COBOL programming manual on the bus – and joined the new team. It was a great fit … finally!
Hazlehurst was acquired by Northern Trust in the early 1990’s and then sold to Hewitt Associates in 2003 … I was there for all of that. My career included programming (I also taught myself two more languages to “keep up”), administering and consulting about benefits … and ultimately managing folks (here in the US and in India) who did those things.
The Hewitt transition was difficult – too much work, too few people, not enough money … and unhappy clients. I missed out on much of Katie’s high school and college and was determined to do things differently with Sara. In September 2009, I announced my retirement and left – on the best of terms – in early 2010.
I did see Sara play tennis … and move into her own apartment … in Wisconsin! and I did get to teach knitting … and work in my LYS. (truly every knitter’s dream, right?!)
Then two months ago I retired. for real. (in other words I am no longer getting paid. for anything!)
I’m still adjusting to days on my calendar with no commitments and a much smaller to-do list. I love the flexibility, but I do find myself craving structure. TBD how this whole thing works out.
and whew. long post. but I’m glad I got it all down. and if you read this far, wow! (and thank you!) did anything surprise you?
Of course I’m linking up with Kat and Carole today!