My name is Michael Constantine. I was born in Romania and educated by the state, because that’s how they operated back then. Whatever the state finds you’re good at during your childhood education, that’s where they place you for your adult education. An education paid for by the taxes my parents were already paying was wonderful, and it was a field I thoroughly love…I just didn’t like that citizens had no freedom to choose. It was one of many choices we did not have.
I wanted more freedom, even if it meant I would live a similar life. At least it would be by my own choice. Like many eastern Europeans, I looked into immigrating to the U.S. and found there was a very long waiting list. However, by knowing the right people, I found it would be quicker to apply for asylum in Canada and then request to be placed in the bordering United States. It was not something every Romanian citizen could do, but having the right contacts & connections worked to my advantage.
I was superb with mechanics, thanks to my education. If it had moving parts, I could figure out how to build it, fix it, or take it apart & put it back together again. While in Canada, I worked various jobs as an electrician & an all-around handyman while taking English language classes. By the time I was able to get into the U.S., I was fluent (although much of the U.S. slang was difficult for me to pick up).
I was fortunate to have gotten a union job, where I advanced quickly. I always got along with people, I think they appreciated my eagerness to learn & improve myself. I worked hard as a mechanic, and I took side jobs on my own to make extra money & meet new and interesting people.
As the years went on, an offer was made to a small number of us in the union for a buyout in exchange for an early retirement. I had no wife, no kids, no family in the U.S., and I pinched many pennies (as they say here). I did the math & realized I could live comfortably with my pension & side jobs at that point, so I took it. The choice was mine to make, which was something I would not have had in Romania, and it felt wonderful to have made the decision by myself.
So that was it for me. Early retirement while still in my 50s, enough money to not worry about my future, side jobs for extra income….but what do I do with myself now that I have all this free time?