I was a wartime baby, born in 1943, not a baby boomer. My generation came of age just a bit before the big Sixties changes. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, if we wanted to be special (and what teenager doesn’t?) we would emulate beatniks, not hippies. Our musical rebellions were Billie Holiday and modern jazz, not the Beatles and the Stones. Although, I loved The Beatles and the acid rock bands, I was too old to think of myself as a real participant in the Sixties. When the Woodstock Festival took place in the summer of ’69. I was married with a toddler daughter, knee-deep in my graduate studies, too much of a straight arrow to consider camping out to hear a bunch of rock and roll bands. I didn’t grow my beard and start wearing love beads until 1973.
The most interesting thing about my childhood was my weird father. He was intensely political and argumentative. Otherwise, we were as ordinary as you could imagine. My mother was unusual only because she had no discernible character flaws – a well-loved woman who did her duties cheerfully as a mother and as a temp secretary until she got a regular seasonal gig with the IRS.
Whether she was a good wife, I couldn’t say. I don’t recall witnessing a single show of affection between my parents. They rarely fought. When they disagreed, it was about practical matters. She did her best to stay out of the political arguments, but my brother and I needed her. When things became heated over whatever American imperfection my father chose to goad us with, we would beg our mother to weigh in. She invariable sided with her boys, sometimes as exasperated by my father as my brother and I were.
In my book, KNOTS, I tell the story of a man like me who became a dropout in 1973. In the book, I tried to write a about what it was like to be out of step with the times, to face a new world as someone who’d made critical life decisions under outdated cultural assumptions.
So many of us who got married in the late 1960s faced those sorts of cultural dilemmas. We were young married people with children, while folks just a couple of years younger than us were smoking pot and having casual sex. Inevitably, about half of us ended up getting divorced. My first wife and I were finally able to untie the knots in 1977. I met Valerie in 1980 and we’ve been together ever since.
Our daughter, from my first marriage, Betsy, somehow managed to survive the miseries of parental separation, divorce, remarriage, co-parenting and all the rest. She now lives in Boston, doing paralegal intellectual property work for a big law firm.
The career issues were as challenging for me as the marital ones. I had chosen to get a teaching certificate as an undergraduate, switching my major in 1964, when it became apparent that I would be put in uniform, handed a rifle, and dropped into a rice paddy the minute I graduated in 1965. The Vietnam War compelled me to earn the only credentials I could leverage into a salary until 1982, when I got another bachelor’s degree in computer programming. Between 1965, when I graduated college the first time, and 1982 when I got my first programming job, I bounced around in the education profession.
I could have stayed a teacher. I actually liked a lot about the jobs. I didn’t quit so much because of the nature of the work, which was fine by me. Nor because I wanted more money. I quit teaching because I felt that I had been forced into it. There was a whole world of opportunity that was not tied to a safe teacher’s paycheck. I needed more of a challenge than the halls of academe or the School District of Philadelphia could offer me.
I loved programming. I worked for banks in downtown Philadelphia, then I went into contract programming work. In 1987 I landed a job with a consulting firm as an “expert” in systems design and development. I stayed as a consultant until I retired, on my 65th birthday, in 2008.
The best thing about the consulting work was all the different kinds of companies that I worked for. Every new client was in a different kind of business. Every client had a unique organizational structure, a different culture. It was a fascinating journey through American enterprise.
Ironically, my specialty was as a trainer. I would be asked to spend a few months with people starting big projects, helping them understand the steps they’d have to take in order to finish the project to the satisfaction of their management. The most efficient way to do this was to hold a series of classes in which the attendees were from user management as well as the programmers, analysts and technicians who would have to create the new systems. For a period of months or years after the the classes, I would visit the clients, kind of like a project uncle. Then on to the next client, the next project.
In 2002, I switched to a firm that specialized in consulting to Federal agencies. Typically, because it was government work, I stayed on one project for six years! That was the job I held when I retired. By then, I had a nice house and enough money saved to finance a comfortable lifestyle – depending on how long I last.
As if I had been preparing for the life of an author my entire life, I started writing novels the day after I said goodbye to my last client. The results can be found on the “books” page of this website.
As with any art form, a novel is not finished until someone other than its creator experiences it. A novel is just bits in computer memory or marks on a page until someone reads it. My novels are meant as entertainment and, because I can’t help myself, they are a little bit educational, too. I hope you enjoy the experience.
© 2015 Stanley Cutler. All Rights Reserved.