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I had a plan. It was all worked out: I’d retire in 2025, after I turned 60. Our financial advisor said we were on track to make it happen. It was exciting to think about, and there were days when it seemed like it couldn’t come soon enough.
But I also knew that when the time came, I might decide I wasn’t ready to retire. Sure, it was sometimes nice to fantasize about a weekend that never ends, and never having to hear that alarm clock on Monday morning again. But I was in a groove, professionally speaking: I was enjoying my job and getting a lot of satisfaction from it, at least on the good days, and I could easily imagine wanting to keep at it a while longer.
Mostly, though, I was content for retirement to be a few years away, because I needed to figure out what I was going to do with myself. Retirement, I figured, shouldn’t just be about not working anymore; it should be about going on to whatever it is you want to do next. I needed time to work out what that was going to be.
But it wasn’t left up to me. In early April, my employer of thirty-one years notified me that — for reasons that had nothing to do with my performance, my skills, or anything that makes sense — my job was going away. My services would no longer be required. The first thing I did was drive out to my wife’s workplace so I could tell her the news; after that, I called our financial advisor to see what this did to the plan.
The news was reassuring: this was only a couple of years ahead of schedule, and the numbers still worked out. We’d be OK. I’m not sure I quite believe it yet, but the bottom line is that we don’t have to panic. We’re not going to be unable to pay the bills.
So for the last month, I’ve been winding down my work, handing things off to other people, saying goodbye, and finally just waiting for the clock to run out. Today at 4, I finally shut down my work laptop and closed the lid for the last time, and it wasn’t really until that moment that the reality of what had just happened hit me. A big part of my life just vanished. All of my daily routines and habits. A 31-year career, all of it with the same company: how could it not feel like a major facet of my identity? For a moment, it felt like staring into an abyss.
But I think I’m already learning some lessons from this, all of them things that I knew but had apparently forgotten.
I knew that it was a mistake for me to allow so much of my identity to be tied up with my employment. It was a good job, but it was just a job; it was never who I was. After all, I can remember a time from before I got that job. Who was I then? I must still be basically the same guy, just older and hopefully smarter.
And it was a mistake for me to rely so much on a particular expectation of the future, because I never had that much control. I should have realized that I did not actually know what the future held. Had I remembered that, I might not find it so hard to confront the unknowns I’m facing. They were always unknowns, but I had deluded myself otherwise.
I imagine tomorrow is going to just feel like the start of a long weekend, and nothing about Saturday or Sunday will be unusual at all. But in a few days, Monday morning is going to arrive, and I’m going to realize that my time is my own. And I’m going to have to start figuring out what to do with it.Published in General
A moving and honest post! BXO, you should spend more time writing. You have a real gift for it and now you’ll have the time.
Last December I had a post about ambitious amateur filmmakers, some of whom make it to a director’s chair, and you had one of the most interesting comments about what a young filmmaker learns. There was real writing skill, sure, but you’ve obviously had an interesting life to back it up. Now we can hear more about it.
Good one B. Wish I was that lucky. Have enough to retire now but lots of legal crap to finish first. And doing nothing but thinking about what the next phase will be. Cruises to S. America; college football games in the fall; driving between our kids’ homes in Denver and Nashville. Check out Australia and N. Zealand cruises if you have never been there. Red Herring can give you some good tips.
Well, Ricochet meetups should be part of your new life!
Gary, this means a lot, coming from one of my favorite writers on Ricochet!
I’ve only been retired for a few hours, and one of the things I’ve already realized is that I’m going to miss the connection with other people that came automatically with my job. Even if it was just about work stuff, I was communicating with other people all day every day.
So I think Ricochet is going to have to pick up the slack.
I was just discussing retirement tonight with my colleagues. I am getting very close, although whether I will or not when my self imposed deadline comes, I can’t say. But every one of my friends my age who have retired (at least 4) absolutely loves it. And I think because I have those examples, I just might! And I hope the same for you.
Best of luck. Please share your thoughts on Monday morning if you think about it.
You are embarking on a whole new journey! Congratulations! It doesn’t matter if you’d planned differently or anticipated the unexpected: this is where you are now. There is no pressure to figure out everything right away. You have the opportunity to explore and experiment; some things you look into won’t work for you, and other things will seem to be a fit. Let yourself be confused, perplexed and even a bit anxious at times; that’s what new journeys are like. I wish you the very best for this new period of your life. My retirement has been enlightening and rewarding, BXO.
You might apply to medical school.
Well, you might first take the MCAT. Preparing for that will certainly keep you busy!
I’m with Gary – I hope you write more!
My Mom used to say, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
We think we are in control. We’re not. Happiness lies not in controlling everything, but in accepting that some things cannot be controlled.
You beat me to it. We can have a weekday meetup! I’m just up the road. My husband retired in December and even though it was planned, he’s still trying to figure out what to do with himself. He loves talking to people about being retired to get their ideas and give a few of his own. Give us a shout.
I’m in Durham sometimes – let me know if you folks get together – I might be in the neighborhood.
I retired two years ago and I wondered if it would be difficult to leave my job and old routine behind. It wasn’t! It was surprisingly easy. I love retirement.
Retirement is great. Today I kept a sick grandson and took him to the doctor. Standard school virus. (Keeping him overnight.) I find things to keep me busy, but not too busy. Most of my “work” is spent in helping non-profits. My husband and I have more time together during the day. Doors open up. You find you don’t need all that much until Social Security kicks in and boosts your income.
This post hits close to home, Bartholomew. My employer of 30 years is having layoffs this month, and I volunteered. At age 67, some form of retirement is not far away, and this move will provide me with a severance package. I have a healthy savings portfolio, so that is not too much of a concern. In recognition of my upcoming status, I have changed my avatar from a red-headed Sherman (Mr. Peabody’s sidekick) to a gray-haired Sherman.
I do have to admit that my work does a great deal to define me. I work in R&D for a technology company, and every day I get to play at solving puzzles. They are not Sudoku or Crosswords or Wordle. They are puzzles of physics and measurements and data analysis. Most of the time, the puzzles do not get solved, but we get enough boxes filled in that we can advance to the next puzzle. I like solving puzzles, especially when they are puzzles nobody else has solved before. However, this particular puzzle book will soon be gone for me.
As time winds down, I take comfort that I will not have to deal with the negative aspects of work like the yearly corporate training modules (safety, ethics, harassment, etc, etc, etc) or the continual improvements in our software environment that change how we do things for no apparent reason. I also look forward to being able to make plans for travel or car repairs or medical appointments or home repair or entertainment without having to fit it around a work schedule. My wife likes to travel, so we’ll be doing that. Also, I hope to get deeper into my car hobby — maybe spend some track days on various race tracks around the country. But, I will also need to find a new puzzle book.
Keep us informed about any literal or figurative automotive rambles! (Or, for that matter, Ramblers)
This site is full of car nuts.
You never know whats in store for your life. I was moving along in life, decent job, beautiful wife, grown kids, etc. then I had a stroke during the COVID hysteria. Suddenly no job and not nearly ready for not working. I wasn’t retired, retired is when you want to stop working. I too had my life defined by my job, at least in my mind. It’s something I still struggle with. Good luck.
Whether retirement or a job change is chosen or chosen for you, the change adds a stress until you settle into your new lifestyle. Dive into it. Scratch off all those chores you couldn’t get to while you work before your schedule starts to fill up again. Have lunch dates with your wife. You will have more time and energy for family.
In the interest of inclusivity, we should recognize that this site is full of other types of nuts, too…
Many of the retirees I’ve known became busier in their retirement than when they were working full time. Maybe they become more involved with their church, volunteering at the VA hospital, taking or teaching adult education classes, etc. These people all seemed pretty happy to me. Then there have been a couple of guys who just become couch potatoes and spend their days watching sports on TV. Happy hour starts a little earlier each week. These guys seem to degrade fast.
Great idea, here are my suggested race tracks in order of “yahoooo!!!” factor:
I’m also told the new track near Pittsburgh is great and there is a sweet new track in Kentucky at the Corvette Museum.
Get busy and have fun! I expect a full report.