in reply to How realistic is an extended absence?
And, by that time, the entire world of IT will have drastically changed. Right now, we are busy exporting programming-jobs and data both to “the Cloud,” which turns out to be a euphemism for “places where Labor and Electrical Power are Real Cheap.™” No one, yet, is considering the consequences of this ... but by five years from now, I expect that the terror-attacks(!) that will be the consequence of this shortsightedness will have struck, and who knows what the IT industry will look like in its aftermath. You might have to have a professional license or some kind of low-level security clearance to be a computer programmer.
Nevertheless, one thing seems to be clear: there is developing a serious over-supply of labor in this market. (For an explanation of why companies are screaming that they “can’t find people,” please see the preceding paragraph.) There are way too many people competing for a shrinking number of jobs ... jobs which today are perceived to be the purview of semi-skilled labor. People in their twenties with 3-5 years of experience and a lower risk of actually costing money on an employer’s health-plan, are going to trump people in their fifties who have 35 years in. Even though experience can do the job much better, a hundred monkeys each hired for monkey-pay can figure it out somehow. And, well, you might not want to continue being a part of that.
Honestly, this is not meant as “a political rant,” and I would not have it be taken as such. (Nor do I consider my prediction in ¶1 to be a mere raving ... God, I wish it were, and God, may I be wrong.) A very similar thing has happened to every “craft trade industry” from iron puddlers to clothes washers. It might well be time to start engineering your graceful-exit out of IT. Go do something else with the rest of your life.