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12 December, 2006

Two Weeks To Go

Two weeks to go and then everything changes – because that’s when I retire.

I still can’t quite imagine what it will be like. Of course, I won’t stop being busy every day. There are so many things I want to do! But I won’t have to be busy doing other people’s things. My life will belong only to me, for the very first time. And for the first time since I left my parents’ home, no piece of my life will have to be sold to anyone else to pay for its upkeep. It will be something like being rich - but without the private jet.

I suppose it is so hard to imagine because it is such a long time since I had any kind of freedom. I left school and started work at 17 (I went to sea, working as a galley boy on a North Sea trawler). I did various manual jobs after that (mostly in factories) before I went to university. During my undergraduate days, I lived on a government grant but during my PhD studies, I worked, doing freelance programming jobs and writing weekly ‘how to…’ articles for a computer magazine. After that, I did a year as a computer auditor for the British Government and then joined a small company as a human-computer interaction consultant. I then went back to uni and did four years as a post-doctoral research fellow, investigating topics in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction before joining a multinational software company in their R&D centre in Cambridge. Gradually, I moved out of R&D and into design and management, then out of the UK into Switzerland and, finally, Australia.

And here I am after 25 years of work and 18 years of education, two weeks away from the end of all that, suddenly about to be able to please myself as to what I do and when I do it.

In some ways it will make little difference to my life – I’ll still spend large chunks of each day slaving over a hot computer, solving problems and being as creative as I can. Yet, in all the ways that matter, it will make all the difference in the world. Self-determination! Freedom! To spend my life how I want to! There is no other kind of wealth in the world that matters! It is an incredibly privileged position to be in – and one I intend to relish as long as I can.

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