The partial federal government shutdown, the longest on record, affected about 800,000 federal workers in all fifty states. Nine out of fifteen federal departments were affected. Given the hardships placed on government workers, it was not a vacation. Here is how I tried to make out of it what I could.
I am a federal employee, and have been for more than 20 years. The weekend in December when the federal government shut down, I was in a cabin in a state park in Maryland with my family, on annual leave. With no wifi or cell signal, I did not find out if the shutdown actually happened until Christmas eve, on the way home. Over the Christmas holiday, I waited to see what Wednesday, the first non-weekend/holiday of the shutdown would bring.
I found out I was listed as an ‘excepted’ employee. That meant that I had to report for work, but would not get paid. Most everyone else was furloughed. Either category still meant no payday.
On that Wednesday after Christmas, the Agency went through the shutdown process. Everyone I worked with was given four hours to shut their work down, fill out the necessary forms, and sign out. Anyone furloughed would be unable to use their work computers or cell phones, so contact information would be limited.
While I had to work, I could only work on those tasks that were deemed ‘necessary.’ This limited what I could do. The days were mostly monitoring emails for events that would need input from me, such things as emergencies and matters of public health. With over half of the workforce furloughed there weren’t many emails, so I had lots of downtime. If I had nothing ‘necessary’ to do, I was off the clock, until the next email popped up. After reading and surfing the web for hours, on my own time, I got bored. The news about the shutdown remained negative, with prognosticators talking about weeks or months before a resolution. This could go on a while. I had to find something to do.
I am hopefully about a year from retirement. When I retire I expect to have time to pursue some things that I just can’t find the time to do now. Things like writing, photography, and travel, and then blogging about it all. I try to do what I can now, part time. Mainly trying to learn the craft involved. It just seems that I can only work in fits and starts. (At least that is my excuse…just wait until I am retired…) Now, however, with the shutdown, I realize I have time. I decided my goal was to spend my day as if I were retired and could now work on the writing and the photography. I could set up a blog, even if it is just for me.
I have been writing for a while, working on a collection of short stories. I also continue to explore online content for more knowledge to be able to write that novel. I am taking several online courses about writing. All that said, I am realizing (this might come as a shock to anyone that works at a craft such as writing, not) that there is no substitute for actually working at writing. Putting in quality time at the desk or the camera. I figured that after retirement I would be able to put in all that time, but here was my chance. I didn’t know how long the shutdown will go on for, but I jumped in.
I set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account, all linked. I began to post some photos I took (nothing like the woods after a snowfall.) I then really took the plunge and set up a blog site. I want to write about and discuss federal retirement and then life as a retiree. I intend to touch on things that affect me (narcissistic, I know, but I also know that I am like many others out there in Baby Boomer land.) Things like preparing to travel in retirement, getting and maintaining fitness for retirees, and hobbies. In my case, those hobbies are writing and photography. I figure that at least I would be knowledgeable about most facets of federal retirement for my own edification. I am also continuing to work on my short stories, cleaning drafts and starting new stories. In an effort to further explore my writing, I joined Medium to read the articles writers post and to submit my writing for much-needed feedback from other writers.
I cannot believe how scary this all is. It is one thing to write short stories of a somewhat personnel content and never really show them to anyone (yet). It is another thing to put one’s writing out on the internet for anyone to see, read, and comment on. I read about so many brave new writers that put themselves out there for all to see, and I realize that it is a necessary requirement. I think I can rationalize it all by telling myself that probably no one will read it except for the poor friends and relatives that I inflict it on. And, most of it will be of a non-fiction nature, material I am more comfortable and practiced in producing, and good knowledge for me.
Thankfully for all the affected government employees, the shutdown has just ended. I know we will be busy restarting everything at work, but I am hoping that getting everything set up and running will allow me to continue with the blog. And, I know I will be retiring, so I need the retirement knowledge regardless. So, here goes…