The best of times; the worst of times; it will be the summer of discombobulation. In July 2012, when I will have completed 50 uninterrupted years of government service; in uniform and in mufti; I will finally turn in my government building pass and join the ranks of private citizens. No more worrying about arbitrarily imposed deadlines, having my remarks on even the most mundane issues vetted and mangled by bureaucrats who have no idea what I’m talking about anyway, but who worry that I might violate someone’s prerogatives if I don’t change ‘wherefore’ to ‘therefore.’
The year 2012 will be the year that I will be forced to completely reinvent myself. Four days after my seventeenth birthday – and, yes, military personnel are government employees – I started working for Uncle Sam, and except for some moonlighting gigs as a newspaper reporter, editorial cartoonist, part time lecturer, and magazine writer and photographer; and my after-hours activity trying to develop skill as a creative writer; I’ve not known what it means to be just another citizen.
I thought the transition from military to civilian employee was difficult; and, there were plenty of adjustments I had to make; but, this will be a difference on a stellar scale. I will have to adjust to not having someone looking over my shoulder with a jaundiced eye as I do the things that come naturally to me; not having someone second guessing every public utterance I make to make sure it agrees with the latest policy. My daily schedule will at last be mine and mine alone to determine.
I like to think I’m prepared for the big leap; but, the devil’s in the details. Instead of doing my writing in the early dawn hours, or being at my keyboard until well after midnight, I’ll be able to write any time of the day or night. If I decide I want to spend an extra few days photographing the scenery and wildlife of Chesapeake Bay, I’ll do it. If I see or hear something stupid in and around the halls of government – at any level – I won’t have to bite my tongue and forego commenting because it’s not in my area of responsibility. Heck, everything; anything; I have an interest in will be in my area of responsibility.
Do I sound like a closet anarchist, just waiting for someone to open the door? Perhaps; perhaps not; who’s to say? I just know that what awaits is an unknown country that I can hardly wait to explore.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial