A Few Milestones
Today marks nine years since my retirement from the Army, and it’s been overwhelmingly positive in retrospect. I got a good job, moved back home, and have spent a significant amount of time furthering my development as a musician, songwriter, and producer. There have been ebbs and flows over these years, some times of drama, but mostly a nice steady arc to the days. We got a great house six years ago, and I’ve been enrolled at Berklee Online for the past several years. Aeyong has turned our yard and house into a natural conservatory of sorts, and we’ve got a beautiful green space that envelops our house and will only shelter us further with time. We lost Bridget to the inevitable march of time, but have since welcomed Skittles, our Chihuahua mix and resident spoiled princess of the brood.
I spent about five and half years working the regular grind as a federal employee, but about two and a half years ago I switched to “Fee Basis” which is somewhat equivalent to a contractor, but without the contract. I get paid directly for the work and there’s no ongoing agreement or contract that binds either the VA or myself. That being said, our clinic has had Fee Basis examiners the entire time I’ve been there and long before as far as I know. That switch is probably the single biggest improvement in quality of life I’ve ever experienced, even compared to my retirement from the Army. I went from working full time to working nine days a month and earning twice as much. This is largely predicated by my ability to perform a large number of exams and handle complex cases that the regular federales don’t like to bother with. It’s really been a perfect storm of an employment situation for me.
I’ve had significantly more time to work on my various passions, and I’ve added filmmaking, video editing, video effects, drawing, and writing to the multitude of musical disciplines that provide great fulfillment and purpose to my life. As part of the added boon of income, we’ve been paying our mortgage off at more than triple the required amount, and so we’re hopefully going to see it paid off in the next two years, about twenty two years ahead of schedule. There’s one big milestone that we need to pass, and that’s another salary waiver approval for Fee Basis employees. The VA has been allowing Fee Basis to earn double their normal authorized annual salaries due to shortages of personnel and it’s been a policy that’s required renewal every two years. This year marks the end of a two year period, so we just need one more approval. By all signs it should happen because the VA has been one of the departments that’s seen expansion under the last several administrations.
Once the house is paid off, I intend to keep working at about the same rate I do now, but being completely debt free will put us in a position where we could probably survive without me working at all. I like the extra security of financial surplus, not to mention discretionary income, so I imagine I’ll keep working indefinitely, albeit on the reduced schedule which will eventually decrease even further. A lot more has happened over the last nine years - we’ve both passed fifty and it’s receding below the horizon, we’ve attended a lot of great concerts, and taken a few small trips. We plan to travel more once the house is paid off, although we’re limited by our dogs and some health issues. It can also be argued we’re both home bodies who really enjoy living in our own little world.
File under short term milestone, I’ve quit practicing any musical instruments for the past month, trying to get this chronic elbow tendonitis to fade away. It’s been in the left elbow for almost two years, and the right elbow started acting up a few months ago. It’s just the cumulative effect of playing so many different instruments - guitar, bass, drums, keyboards. It got worse when I bought acoustic drums and had been working on my double stroke by repetitively practicing the stick bounce off the drum head. That shock is transferred directly to my lateral elbow and it really has taken its toll. The problem with the elbows is that we’re constantly using them, and even something as trivial as picking up a coffee cup or tearing a piece of paper can tweak the injury. I have seen some improvement in the symptoms, so I’m hoping to start gradually re-introducing some practice to my schedule starting next month.
One benefit of the extra time is that I rekindled my interest in drawing and writing (which have been gathering dust for years) and I’ve made some progress, although I have a long way to go. I look forward to combining all my various disciplines into great storytelling in the future.