A few months ago when I made the decision to retire it was quite a positive event. I looked forward to having more free time, the ability to sleep when I wanted, wake when I wanted and to do (or not do) whatever came to mind at the time. No more 4am wake-ups. No more weekends at the office. That was (and is) sweet music to my ears.
Now, with only a few days remaining until the big day, the perspective is just a little bit different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still wonderfully appealing, but tempered with the realization that a major part of my life is coming to an end. With a few brief interruptions, I’ve worked steadily for more than 45 years. Work becomes a way of life. For most of us, the center of that life, as it’s the one part that normally involves a relatively inflexible schedule. Start at this time, lunch at that time and go home at this time. The remainder of one’s life must be molded to adhere to that schedule. It provides structure, ingrained over time. It isn’t so hard to understand how some folks find it difficult to deal with the void that being retired can create.
During my working lifetime, unemployment held only negative connotations, nothing good could come of it. The prospect of being permanently unemployed carries its own set of unsettling feelings, mostly, for me it’s simply the idea of not having a job. That seems so foreign, it almost defies the imagination. A job or career is much more than just the work that one does. Think about this for a moment: If you subtract sleeping hours, most of us spend more time with our co-workers than with our own families. We, inevitably, get to know these people as more than just people we work with. We get to know them personally and form a sort of friendship. We learn from each other, solve problems together, laugh together and commiserate when one of us suffers some unfortunate event. We may or may not socialize with them outside of the workplace but they are still important to us in a way that other acquaintances are not.
In a few days I’ll be leaving my “work friends” behind, closing a chapter in my life. I am looking forward to filling the blank pages of the next chapter. I think it will begin with taking my morning coffee in my bathrobe on the back deck…