Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Retirement Finish Line -- Last Year of Work Part III

Have you ever travelled somewhere distant on a long trip and thought about what’s going on back at home?   For me, when I’m away, where I am is total reality and my normal home life just a fantasy.  That’s kind of what it feels like being three months into retirement.  Now that I’m into it, the last year of work and what was going on my head seems like a fiction.
One thing I’m noticing is, that while time seemed to be standing still last year, it’s now zipping by.   Days are full and weeks fly like days.  It’s probably because I’m learning to do what I want to do versus what I “have to” do. 
Looking back is interesting to see what the last year of employment looked and felt like.  It’s also a little boring, so I’ll try to be selective in what I post from this point out.  But I’ll finish it because I started it, and can’t help myself from my following-throughitis!
Wednesday, May 4, 2016 – 16.5 Workweeks to Go
I’m down five weeks of full time and 17 weeks of part-time work left.  All together that’s six plus months of elapsed time – which feels like a long sentence.  It feels particularly long on days like today when my calendar is clear.  I still worry about being a lame-duck with nothing to do, but, so far, that hasn’t materialized.  And with 77 workdays to go (but who’s counting), any period of lame duckdom will be short (although I’m sure it will feel long!).
Meanwhile, perhaps the best way to think about remaining work time is in work-day segments:  17 days to vacation followed by 24 full-time days and then 36 workdays on a part-time schedule.  Three segments, three countdowns – 17/24/36.  A little more palatable.  One segment at a time. 
Monday, May 9, 2016 – 15.5 Workweeks to Go
This weekend I had a thought about a work-life dynamic that, up to now, never occurred to me (or, if it did, I’ve forgotten that it did).  Here it is.
During employment there’s a need, a drive to make someone else happy.  It could be a customer but in my world it’s been a boss or bosses.  That need is the thing that keeps you on edge and not quite secure, since you can never really control how another person thinks, feels or acts and your economic fate is in the hands of others.  It fosters a low-grade (or, sometimes high-grade) existential fear.  It’s not an irrational fear but a realistic one and probably underlies most of the stress related to being employed.
As I get closer to the finish line of employment, I can let go of this need, drive and fear.  I can be more objective and philosophical about work-place decisions and projects that are going awry.  I can have distance from results and outcomes.  In short, I can be free.
That’s the attractive thing about ending employment – freedom.  Too bad I couldn’t have let it be that way for the last 50 years!  I’d be a much more relaxed and laid-back fellow.  Maybe some people are like that and can pull that off, but I’m afraid it doesn’t come naturally to me
I’ve said in the past that I can turn almost any fun thing into work.  Driven!  So now I need to work on the freedom thing -- freedom from pleasing anyone but myself. 
Here’s hoping I learn this lesson for the rest of my life!
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 – 14.5 Workweeks to Go
I’m getting close to shifting to a part-time schedule.  Although I’ll still be working, going part-time is a pretty big milestone for closing this chapter of life and opening the next one.
How do I want this next chapter to read?  I want it to be a chapter of creativity and contribution.  Creativity, first, and contribution, if it happens. 
 I’d like to learn to do this while also learning to take my foot off the gas pedal.  By nature and by nurture (if you can call the world of work nurture) I’m always fighting clock and calendar (as a former colleague of mine at this stage of life put it 20 years ago).  I’d like to learn to defuse the time-bomb of urgency and experience perpetual calmness.  The reality is that much of my time-centered stress is artificial and self-imposed.  If I can make it, I can break it.
And that’s the practice for me in these last days of employment -- to slow down – to eliminate urgency.  With less than 68 workdays left (but who’s counting), even more than I’m doing now, I need to let go of …well…everything employment-related.  
Employment is the past not the future.  To start living that way is the challenge.
Well there’s more to come but that’s enough for now!

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