In February I was contacted by Mercury, a company that I worked for five years ago, about helping them with a project. The contract would last three months and offered good pay. They caught me at a good time and I agreed to take the job, starting right after we got back from PAX East.
Beyond saying that it was not a government contract and involved writing a distributed message processing system in Java, I don’t really have anything interesting to say about the job itself. It was better than many jobs that I have had (except for the commute).
I was surprised by how easily I switched back into the work routine. It made me notice some of the things that are “hard” about being retired. Not that I am complaining about being retired – it is truly a luxury.
One thing that makes working easier than being retired is having a weekly schedule where someone else decides how I fill my time. It takes more energy to sit down and write this blog entry than it did to go into work every morning and do the tasks assigned by my boss. Part of the difference is that I don’t have to make a decision about whether to go into work each day, and another part is that I didn’t have to resist the desire to browse the internet or otherwise waste time.
It is also much easier to explain my “job” to people when I am employed. Having a job is easy to understand, and when I say that I am a software engineer it lets people make a bunch of (generally correct) assumptions about me. When I try to explain early retirement and game development, it takes a lot more time to reach the same level of understanding about what I am doing. It is also kind of interesting that it generally takes a lot longer for people to wonder if I am happy with a job, than with not working.
Finally, and most importantly, work provides me with a sense of self worth and accomplishment that is much harder to achieve when I am not working. Even if the job isn’t producing something that I would consider worthwhile, the fact that I am getting paid is enough of an accomplishment for the day to feel like a success. The bar is much higher when I am working on my own projects; just putting in time isn’t enough. I need to make real progress on something that I think is worth doing.
I have a feeling this sounds like I am complaining about being retired (the ultimate first world problem), so I want to say again that I love being retired and only took this job to buy some luxuries that I couldn’t afford on my retirement budget. But I was surprised by some of the advantages of working and wanted to share that experience.