FAIRFIELD — Dan Sheldon, 52, was used to getting up early on Friday for his job as a firefighter.
But on a recent Thursday evening, it struck Sheldon: He didn’t have to go to work Friday. In fact, he didn’t have to go to work at all anymore.
That fact wasn’t going to stop him from going to work anyway.
“I might show up . . . have coffee,” he said, laughing.
Sheldon retired Christmas Eve with more than 29 years of service with the Fairfield Fire Department.
While the average retirement age is rising into the 60s these days, Sheldon said at his age he’s considered old for a firefighter.
“One day I realized I was an old firefighter . . . One of the oldest,” he said.
As he grew older, the job did not get any less physically demanding. He’s had shoulder and knee injuries, as well as sore muscles, but still had to be able to answer those nighttime calls.
Sheldon doesn’t consider himself out of shape, but that’s part of the reason he decided to retire when he did.
“I wanted to get out when I was still physically able,” he said.
Sheldon has big dreams for retirement, one of which is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
Before he does that, however, he has to get used to the idea of retirement. And the idea didn’t come all at once. Sheldon genuinely enjoyed going to work, he said.
“You meet all kinds of people (firefighting),” he said. “It’s a job that has a purpose.”
He never saw retirement as a way out but as a natural end to his career. It did, however, take him awhile to get comfortable with the idea of retirement.
“I had to get used to the idea,” he said. “I’ve done it for so long – for 29 years, I’ve been going to work.”
He still has two college-age children – one transferring to a four-year program and one heading to college – but he feels financially stable enough to get them through school and support him and his wife, Tonya.
It’s the mental and physical challenges that lie ahead that are more worrisome.
Making the trek across the Pacific Crest is a physical feat, of course, but Sheldon said it will also be mentally challenging to do it alone.
What may be the most challenging for Sheldon, however, is finding a new routine in life.
“I feel like there’s a lot of unknown out there,” he said. “Trying to fill (what’s missing) will be important.”
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.