Saved from What Could’ve Been
This story was written 58 days before Retirement.
“Are you sure if I turn this off it will turn back on?” I asked Bryan from IT. I was shutting down my computer for the last time, in the office I’d called home for the final six years of my career.
Bryan smiled – catching the line first used by Apollo 13 Astronaut Jack Swigert, as he was turning off the command module computer before moving to the lunar module which would get the crew home.
Shutting it Down
As I write this hours later, I realize it was the perfect analogy. I was moving from my office which was the biggest on the floor – bigger than my job status should allow (the command module) – to one just a few feet away, but long, narrow and… let’s just call it ‘cozy’ (The lunar module). My successor would move in, and I’d be close by to help in the transition.
But in reality, at that moment I was turning off my career. I wondered what would turn on in retirement.
I had cleaned out my office the previous Saturday. Now, as I sat there one final time waiting for the computer to be set up in my new cozy confines, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I think I was supposed to feel sad. I suppose I was a little. Mostly I felt tired.
I’m not going to miss the job much. After nearly four decades. the fun and excitement had faded, and the remaining passion was ebbing away.
I know that I will miss the people. A lot. Throughout the morning, three of those who I’ll miss the most, dropped by to either ask a question or seek advice. Thinking back on it, they were really just checking up on me to see if I was OK.
Becky, Jen, Quincy – I see what you did there. Thank you. I am truly blessed to have such caring friends.
The End of a Dream
Like the Astronauts of Apollo 13, a dream is ending. Theirs, landing on the Moon. Mine, simply the dream of what was – and could of been – my career.
For the past few weeks I’ve been playing a song by Matt Hammitt on the way to and from work. The title is “Could’ve Been.”
As I’ve listened in my car, I’ve thought about opportunities I grasped onto, and those that I missed. No one could be perfect or anywhere close to that in their career decisions. But mine were more right than wrong. And I was fortunate to lead teams and departments that were always very successful.
If I’d been a little more driven and a lot more political, I could have climbed higher up the ladder. Would it have been worth it? Would it even have been better? That’s what the song is about.
Did I fail to reach my destiny, or was I always destined to be exactly where I was?
Jim Lovell and Fred Haise could’ve been the fifth and sixth men to walk on the moon. But they weren’t. Instead, along with Jack Swigert, they were celebrated and immortalized for what they did do, not for what they didn’t.
When it’s all over, I hope I’ll be celebrated for what I did as well.
Because I realize now, that really is better than what could’ve been.
Postscript – 20 months later
In the final few months of my career I struggled with putting the previous 40 years in perspective. What did it all mean? What was my impact? Did I matter?
I’m not alone.
Retirement is said to be the 10th most stressful event in our lifetimes, even more than the death of a close friend or losing your home to foreclosure. And it often comes with additional stressors, such as moving to a new location or social and financial changes.
I sought professional counseling during this time and I’m glad that I did. It helped me sort through my feelings, realize that I was not unique and gave me tools for moving forward with the next chapter in life.
If you are approaching Retirement and have similar feelings, I urge you to seek out a professional counselor who you can trust. Ask H.R. if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program to connect you with someone. Often, it’s free.
It makes the months before and after Retirement much more enjoyable.
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Smart move on how you prepared for retirement. too bad you didn’t retire before me and I could have read this. I worked to the bitter end. matter of fact I finalized the negotiations and signed the documents for a new set while my retirement party was going on at the station. By the time I was done the party was over. Went home that Friday night and when I woke up Monday morning I wasn’t prepared for not working anymore. No hundred emails, no phone calls, no fires to put out and no interaction with the people I worked with. So my advise to people now is not to retire in the middle on winter (cold and snowy in the north) and to go on vacation for a couple of weeks the day after you retire so when you return you’re in vacation mode and have no interest in going back to work. I’ve adjusted but the counseling is good advice. Thanks for sharing