Last week I put myself out there in a blog post describing a long-shot dream that my wife and I share to move to NYC for at least three years while I go to law school. This week I’m going to share with you what we’re actively doing about it today, even though our goal is eight years away.
For the past three and a half months this is all my family has seen of me. Obvs I’m studying, but for what, you say? For those of you who don’t already know, I’m the Fuzz by day… that’s right, 5-0; the Man, the po-po. For those of you who have known me since my childhood you know that becoming a police officer was an unlikely career path. But it has proven to be an incredible experience that has served as a catapult for my current dreams and aspirations (perhaps the subject of a later blog post).
Anywho, I’ve been a cop for ten years now. Last year I got promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and I just made the cutoff to test for Lieutenant, and so that’s what you see me doing in the picture (what I’ve been singularly focused on since early July).
This one below is a picture I shared on the Facebooks from when I was studying for the Sergeant’s exam, circa 2013.
Yeah, so that’s roughly 5000 pages of material that the NJ Civil Service SME’s pull 80 questions out of to create a process of determining who should/can be a Law Enforcement Supervisor or Manager. And here I find myself again, studying like a slave, looking like a ghost, missing my family. I’ve been haunted with thoughts that I’m a workaholic the past few days, and wondering if my kids would say that about me. I’ll ask them, and I’ll let ya know what they say (also perhaps the subject of a later post).
My Lucy has essentially been a single mom since I started studying, which is an incredibly important piece to this puzzle. My friends haven’t seen nor hardly heard from me, my kids play their sports and march in their bands without dad on the sidelines or in the stands, and even my family members are missing me. My Pop (dad) lives in Florida, and he was up here for a month. I saw him once. He left to go back last week. I didn’t see him before he left. So much sacrifice, time and money, but for what?
Life Begins at 48 I say. I’m forty now, and I have eight years to get it done. One of the biggest hurdles is going to be our money. See, the way the pension system for NJ police works is that if you work a full career (25 years for me – it’s now 30) then you retire with 65% of your base salary. Also, and this will remain to be seen, you get to keep your medical benefits, which are outstanding. But if you opt for early retirement, and work only twenty years, as I am planning on doing, then you only get 50% of your base salary, and no benefits! If Life Begins at 48, then I’m going to have to make it work on half of the salary I’m making when I retire.
Let’s be honest. Two kids in college, me in law school, and NYC rent, on half of my salary? Yeah, it’s bananas. But that brings us to my current studies for the promotional exam, which is in four days!
When I was a Patrolman studying for the Sergeant’s exam, a buddy (co-worker) and I grabbed a beer after work one night to talk about the whole promotional and studying process. We were both working hard for it (by the way, he also got promoted off that exam and is a Sergeant now), and we just wanted to commiserate. He asked me a question that I was so grateful to have been asked, and I’ll never forget it. It has served as an anchor to keep me grounded whenever I begin questioning the motives behind my drive.
“Let me ask you this”, says he.
Smiling, I say, “Go ‘head.”
“If there was no raise, and the pay was exactly the same”, says he, “would you still want to be a Sergeant?”
Without hesitation, “Yes!”, says I.
He smiles and nods.
It wasn’t about the money. As I say, I’ve always been a dreamer, and it’s always been my mission, that no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, I’m here to make the world a better place. Becoming a cop was a huge realization of that mission. Becoming a supervisor meant I could have more influence in the world around me, and that’s why I wanted to get promoted. The raise was just a bonus.
But this time around is different. This time it is about the money. It’s not only about the money, but the money is a part of it now. If I am to have any chance of paying for three people to go to college, and also to pay for health insurance, and also to pay for living in NYC, then I’m going to have to beef up this half-pension as much as I can, and a promotion is the way to do that.
Aside from the money, a promotion also plays an important role in a completely different way, and that’s applying to law school. There are hard factors and soft factors (softs) when being considered for admission into law school, and I believe that the higher the rank the stronger my softs will be for when I apply to NYU Law (dream school!), but that also will probably end up being a subject of a later post. So, we have eight years to get our stuff together if we’re going to really do this thing, and getting promoted is a very important step in the process.
Oh, and the whole I-wanna-go-to-law-school thing that evolved into Life Begins at 48 actually began with studying for the Sergeant’s exam in 2011. As I read and studied case law I absolutely fell in love with what measure of wit, rhetoric, and intelligence these higher-court State and Federal Justices argued their rulings. And thus spurred this overwhelming desire to study law. So the process of studying for promotion has been an enrichment for me as well.
One last piece of this grand scheme I’ll share with you for now, and expound upon, you guessed it, in a later post… I never went to college! So, promotions, pensions, time-frames, desires, kids, and careers aside, I also still have to earn my undergraduate degree! I’ve been on that road for three years now. You could call me a Sophomore. But that part has honestly been one of the most rewarding parts to this whole thing.
By the way, I did get to see my son march in a regional competition at the University of Delaware this season. It’s the only time I saw him compete so far this year. In fact, that’s where Westy and I had the conversation that led to this blog. He came with, because he’s an awesome friend and a surrogate uncle for my kids. Here’s a picture of their marching band. They’re amazing, and they win all kinds of championships and awards. They’re one of the best in the state, indeed, in the whole northeast. I’m proud of my son. He’s a dreamer too.