A Fond Farewell Heading into Retirement
My 22 years as an editor in the machine tool industry have flown by, but it’s time to bid farewell to the many friends who have made it such an interesting and unforgettable ride.
Writers don't retire. I will always be a writer.
— Andy Rooney
Farewells are rarely easy, and this is no exception. After almost 22 years as an editor serving the machine tool industry, I’ve decided to step away, or more officially, retire. This is my final column, and about the time it’s in print, I’ll be headed into the sunset. While I’ve dreamed of this moment for a long time, it doesn’t come without some feelings of loss and sadness.
In Chris Koepfer’s final column before his retirement (December 2018), he says, “I never considered myself a writer; my professional passion is about manufacturing.” He and I are quite different; maybe that’s why we worked together so well. While I have some technical aptitude, and obviously a strong interest in manufacturing, I’m a writer first. My degree in technical writing led me into this profession, and it was the perfect fit. But my knowledge about manufacturing had to grow slowly over time.
Although I’m not a manufacturer by trade, I’ve long considered myself a “member” of the precision machined parts industry, nonetheless. For many years, suppliers of machine tools and support equipment, tooling, related software, and materials have welcomed me into their showrooms and production facilities to discuss their latest developments and demonstrate how they work. Shops have been proud to have me visit so I could tell their stories of success in technology implementation. Trade shows and conferences have given me the opportunity to make still more friends and meet so many amazing people.
When I told one of these close industry friends that I will be retiring, she suggested that I’m “going out on top.” I certainly appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t know about all that. What does it mean to go out on top? For me, that expression first brings thoughts of sports figures who retire from their games immediately after winning a championship or perhaps while still in their prime when they have plenty more to offer. I think of athletes such as Bjorn Borg, John Elway or even Lou Gehrig, who left their fans longing for more when they walked away.
To me, one of my favorite football players of all time, Barry Sanders, is a prime example of going out on top. While his team, the Detroit Lions, experienced little success during his career, he demonstrated the potential to be the greatest running back of all time. Instead, though, he retired after only 10 seasons, averaging more than 1,500 rushing yards per season.
Of course, people can go out on top from any career. Someone might sell a machine shop (or any other business) at the height of its success to draw the best price. Another person might climb the company ladder and leave when she feels she has accomplished every professional goal she has set out to do. Maybe it’s not as much about success or admiration, but more about leaving on their own terms and not when everyone else feels it’s right. Upon his retirement, Barry Sanders said, “My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it.” That’s pretty sound logic, despite what others felt he had yet to achieve.
And that’s where I stand. Sure, I’m younger than typical retirement age. I believe my contributions and experience are still valued. And I’ve always appreciated my job and, without a doubt, will miss many aspects of it (most of which will be the people I’ve gotten to know). But there’s a lot about life that I’ve been postponing for far too long because of lack of time. We never know how long we have on this Earth, and I don’t want to miss my opportunity.
Fortunately, as I learned a long time ago, just like anyone else, I’m not irreplaceable. Long-time Modern Machine Shop editor Derek Korn is moving into the role of editor-in-chief for Production Machining. He’s well-seasoned and a great fit for the job. I know the brand remains in good hands with him and Lori Beckman leading the editorial charge. You can continue to expect the best coverage of the precision turned parts market right here.
Thank you to all of PM’s readers who have made my time in the industry fun, exciting, interesting and unforgettable. It’s been an honor to serve, and I wish you the best.