People mean well. They just don’t always convey their sentiments properly. Now that I’m telling people about my plans to retire at the end of August, I’ve been getting a lot of comments – mostly because I’m retiring early and I’m pretty visible in my industry. The comments have ranged from the typical, to the pretty personal, to the extremely skeptical. I hear this is typical for someone who is just about to retire, but I must say some of them surprised me. I thought I’d share a few of them with you. Who knows? You may get them too, when it’s your time.
“Nooooo. Don’t leave me!” I get this a lot from colleagues and long time clients. It’s nice to know you’ve helped people along the way, and you have some value, but screams of anguish do add to the guilt. As a survivor of Catholic education, I feel guilt very acutely – it’s wired into my DNA at this point, thanks to rigorous training over the years. Knowing I’d feel terribly guilty at leaving people in the lurch is why I gave 6 months notice as a part timer. I didn’t realize then it would just stretch out the guilt. Live and learn.
“It won’t last. You’ll be back working within 3 months.” Well, allrightythen. I guess I really don’t know my own mind and level of burnout. I’m just going to wander around this big house all day, alternating between talking to my cats, and screaming like a banshee because I don’t have any purpose in life. This is what runs through my snarky brain when I hear this one, but I don’t say it. In typical PR Pro fashion, I’ve settled for a smug smile, and give a “We’ll see”. That’s my mother-in-law’s way of saying “I will do what I want. So, there.” and it’s pretty appropriate for this occasion. Pity I never got to try that one out on a reporter.
Speaking of cats….
“Are you finally going to get a dog?” This one comes from those who know me best. I can’t help it – when I see a dog at a friends house or client’s office, I have to stop and get acquainted with the pooch. I love dogs, and always had one growing up. But I haven’t had one for years for a simple reason. Cats are easier. Spock, our 24lb, 45 inch long adolescent Maine Coon, is as dog-like as they come, and has taken to opening closets and hiding dirty socks all over the house when he’s bored. That’s better than his previous habit of chewing electrical cords or knocking over vases and lamps, but only by a slight margin. He’s a huge handful, but he uses a litter box, doesn’t bark, and doesn’t need to be walked on a schedule or go to day care. I prefer to get my dog-fix with other people’s pets, thankyouverymuch.
“What are you going to do first?” I think this one is my favorite because it acknowledges I have options, and I’m going to be able to do things I’ve never done before. Retirement is all about crossroads and reinventing yourself, and I’m starting to do just that – exploring my creative side through art and writing that novel that’s been percolating in my head for years. In short, I am going to enjoy life and do whatever I damn well please. The first thing I’m going to do is have a cup of coffee each morning and read the local paper – and NOT look at email.
“When are you going to book that world cruise?” This gets an unequivocal NEVER. I traveled all over the world as a part of my job the past 20 years, and I’ve been pretty much everywhere on my list, and some places that weren’t, and those I hope never to see again. The thought of getting on an airplane for 10+ hours, arguing my way through passport control, long lines, and dealing with horrific jet lag just to climb on board an enormous floating hotel where you have to eat dinner with and talk to perfect strangers is anathema. And yes, we’ve done the Alaska cruise, so I know what I’m talking about. My husband got off that ship vowing ‘never again’.
What we want to do is to see more of the United States. We just got a tourbook of the National Park system, and are plotting some fun trips over the next few years to see this amazing country we live in, but never have seen. Next year we’ll need to head back to Europe to visit friends and family, but for now, we’re going no farther by plane than our condo on Maui, and the only cruise we’re going to take involves mai tais and sunsets. I know it confuses people when I say I’m excited about staying home, but it’s something I haven’t been able to do for more than a few weeks at a time since 1996.
“No, seriously. There has to be another reason why you’re leaving.” No, there isn’t. Everything’s going well at my company. Really. I haven’t been forced out. I’m not ticked off. I wish the company and everyone in it well, and am spending these 6 months ensuring things stay well, so they won’t miss me when I’m gone. I gave 21 years of my life to these people, and it’s now time for me to do something else. It was a tough decision. Period. End of story. I have no ulterior motive here, but I’m finding it’s hard to convince The Skeptics. They seem so disappointed when I won’t dish any dirt, but frankly, there isn’t any to dish. Sorry about that, folks.
I was speaking with a client this morning who is also retiring very soon. We had a lovely chat about what we’re going to do after our transitions, and she said she’s getting a lot of the same types of comments. I guess everyone going through this has a similar experience. I’ve decided to have some fun with it and not get annoyed. After all, I’m lucky to have reached this point. I’ve decided I don’t mind The Peanut Gallery.
I wonder what comments I will get when I finally retire completely? We’ll see.