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From the Cancer Wars to Moorings

More than 12 years ago, I took early retirement from Hewlett-Packard.

I hestitate to publish this essay. It is not obviously about running a business or getting a job. Nevertheless, the life experience behind these words expresses the core of my belief system and lies at the core of everything I write or create. In the end, I can only share myself and my life through my work. I hope and pray that my experience and my choices will resonate with some of you who encounter this essay.

The fundamental driving force behind my "retirement" was that I needed to be home with my family. As many of you who have shared my life journey know, my wife Joyce had cancer during that period. Joyce is a cancer suvivor, but the impact of the disease on our family was devastating. I saw no option but to leave HP to do the necessary work at home, to battle what I called the "Cancer Wars."

Even at the moment of my departure, I was also opening a new, dramatically different stage of my life. In my farewell message to friends at HP, I tried to express the simultaneous ending and beginning:

Today, June 14, 2002 is my last day at Hewlett-Packard.

I am taking early retirement.

I wish that I had had the opportunity to speak with each of you individually, but my time here at HP has run out.

As most of you already know, many years ago, my father was the service manager of the Cadillac dealership in Palo Alto. One of his customers was Dave Packard. Dave and my father sometimes talked about HP. Dave told my father: "We tried to create a kind of family environment at the company. We believed that if you brought in the right people and created the right environment, everything else would work out."

You - and others who have departed before today - have been my family on the job during the past 20 years. Our work together has been the music of my life. I thank each of you for sharing a little of your lives with me. I thank each of you for allowing me to share a little of my life with you.

Over the years, I have learned that we cannot predict the twists and turns, the ups and downs, of our life paths. For now, our paths are diverging. Some of you are retiring; others are staying. The path is leading me to spend more time with my family, my wife, our four children, my parents, my brothers and with my friends. For me, the path is leading me to explore consulting and art, photography, music and writing -- and to try to re-connect with the spiritual side of work that defined my years of teaching in the elementary schools.

I do not know what the future holds. Perhaps our paths will cross again.

For now, farewell.

Thank you

--- Until we meet again.

- Mike

At that time, I had just turned 54; today I am 66 years old.  During those years I had to make many decisions that profoundly affected me and those closest to me in life. The decisions themselves were easy. I knew the answers to my choices immediately; I simply could not not do otherwise. Living with the consequences of the decisions was often excruciating, but I would not change any of my choices.

The Cancer Wars tested me at my core on a moment-by-moment basis. The key to moving through that period (or, really, any life stage) lay in finding the anchor points, the touch points, the Moorings, that centered me in the eye of the whirlwind.

The Moorings imagery emerged unexpected in the midst of a required class that I believed would be useless for me.  About 5 years into my "retirement," I had to take a class on instructional design for my teaching certification. I was studying material that I had used for more than 30 years in my education and my high-tech careers.

One of the class assignments involved outlining a course and mapping the course to key Adult Education principles. As I worked on the task, the imagery of Moorings, of anchor points, in the midst of our life struggles emerged in my consciousness. Over time, the class outline led to the book that I am writing, *Moorings: Touch Points in a Broken World*, and the associated imagery became the foundation of one of the focus areas of my life work, embodied in the Moorings section of my Center for Education and Change web site.

From my earliest adult years, I have tried to integrate all the diverse and often conflict-ridden areas of my life into a coherent whole. The Cancer Wars and the Moorings experience of recent years reflect my striving to be whole now, as I move through the October of my life. And the journey from the Cancer Wars to Moorings is the foundation for all my other writings and creations about business, management, career development,  the job search, the arts, and basic educational skills.

"It's all One." - Abraham Maslow

Regards, Mike Genevro

 

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