A Final Dinner on the Road

Retirement is an emotional time. Even when you’re looking forward to it, you’ll likely go through periods of retrospection. One of those times happened to me about six months before retirement. It was my final dinner on the road. This account is offered in hopes you’ll understand these type of feelings are normal should you have similar experiences.

I felt out of place.

I was at dinner in a nice restaurant with colleagues from my company, but there was nothing I wanted more than to pry myself out of the middle of the booth side of this table of 16 and go back to my hotel room.

A Final Conference

Google Office
A Google Office. Kinda like ours. (Source: Google)

We had been summoned to a planning conference in my company’s headquarters city.  It was held in a funky space in a formerly run-down but presumably up-and-coming section of town.  I think we were trying to make our own little Googleplex.  I found it difficult to focus there.

Now, I was at dinner on our final night in town, my final dinner on the road. These were all nice people, heads of their departments like me – one representative from each of our locations across the country. Yet I had the sudden realization – trapped as I was with my back against the wall – that I had become the outsider.

Age was a factor, yes.  I was the oldest of the group by a fair margin.  But relationships even more so.   Our company rightfully took pride on making internal promotions, and nearly all of these folks had been intertwined at various locations over the years. 

I’d taken that path myself, working in three of our cities.  Now, those who I’d had close peer relationships with were no longer around – either retired or working elsewhere in the industry.

I was the square peg and I didn’t fit.  Truthfully, I didn’t want to try anymore.

The Longest Meal

They laughed loudly as large groups do, telling tales of events and people only they were familiar with.  I smiled as much as I could, but it felt harder than it should.  I felt a mixture of anxiety, frustration and resignation.  We were still in mid-dinner.

In the back of my mind, I knew what they didn’t – I’d be retiring in the next few months.  My time had come and would soon be gone.  These folks were the future of the company and the industry.  I wondered if they would do as well as my group did. I wondered if they would do better.

Dessert came and went.  Talk continued.  Finally, a couple of our consultants got up to head back to the hotel. It was time to make my break for it. I said my goodbyes, slid out of the booth, and walked out of the restaurant with them.  The laughing continued behind us.

As our Uber arrived a cool light rain began to fall.  Not that long ago I’d have been inside with my own group, closing down the place.  Now, after what felt like the longest dinner in history, I checked the time.

It was not yet 9 o clock.

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