Many of you have probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much as I used to and my blog visiting has died down a lot. Part of it is the distraction of Facebook, but there has been another reason I haven’t been able to concentrate on blogging, and I thought I’d share it with you.
I am about to make a major change in my life. As a mutual decision between my company and me, as of January 29, 2010, I will be leaving the Big Corporation’s latest incarnation, and will be going forward into the unknown land of Not Working for a Living.
This is a direction I’ve actually been considering since the beginning of the summer, when my aunt needed a serious operation for colon cancer, and on the same day that she went in for her operation, my mother had to be hospitalized for heart failure. With all this going on, I considered retiring or at least taking Family Leave to get through this period. I didn’t get around to looking into Family Leave, and somehow got through the whole summer using personal time to go to hospitals and doctors.
But dealing with my mother and aunt’s situation made me realize my day job really wasn’t the most important thing in my life; my family was more important. And their frailty reminded me that life is short, and at some point, I too would be in their position.
Now that my mother and aunt are both doing well again, I had hoped I’d be able to regain my focus at work, but it wasn’t happening. The continued concern for my mother and aunt, who still need me to take them to appointments, shop for them, and more, as well as the weekends at the cabin in the Adirondacks, both served to reshape my thinking.
As I walked through the woods this summer and fall, I found great peace in listening and watching for birds, examining trees and wildflowers and trying to identify them, and just breathing the clean mountain air. I realized that what I do every day at work had very little to do with what I really enjoyed doing. It made me do a lot of thinking, and all of it added up to not wanting to work at a corporation anymore.
I began to feel distant from my job and from politics and other parts of daily life. More and more I just wanted to hibernate, escape from it all, and withdraw. Like a caterpillar spinning its cocoon, I wrapped myself up and waited until the next step became clear to me.
That next step is retirement. I’ve been at the same company for over 30 years. During that time, the jobs I held changed, the company was bought, merged, spun off and reorganized several times, and I’ve had many different bosses and co-workers. Throughout most of my career, I stayed in one division and just rolled with it all, until the most recent change when I was moved to another division which was then sold off. But to me it still was all the same company, and I traveled this path with many of the same people I’d known off and on for decades, so it was very comfortable.
But after awhile it all seemed the same. One year’s crisis is very similar to the crises of two years ago or ten years ago. How can I be alarmed when the business goes down, when I know it will go up again as it has before? How can I get excited about repositioning a brand when it’s the third time we’re repositioning it just since I’ve been working on it? It seems as if it’s all been done before and will all be done again. I am not saying my job is not important, I just know it is not the right job for me anymore.
A couple of weekends ago, DH and I were up in the Adirondacks and stopped at a Hannaford’s supermarket to pick up some groceries. The woman who checked us out was highly efficient – she scanned our groceries and tossed them with alacrity into the plastic bags, smiled at us and was obviously trying to do the best job possible.
I remembered having that kind of enthusiasm for my job. And I remembered earlier jobs where I’d had that feeling of wanting to be the best at whatever I did.
I worked on a farm in the summers during my college years. I remember picking tomatoes and trying to prove I could pick as many tomatoes as the farmer’s son and daughter, and being proud of the number of baskets of tomatoes lined up behind me.
I remember being a typist and striving to type faster and more accurately than everyone else.
Somewhere along the line I lost that desire to be best. And that means it’s time to leave. It’s not fair to the company I work for, and I’m sure they will do better with someone else in my position. I’ve had a great run at this company; I’ve been treated very well, and have known a lot of wonderful, intelligent people. But it is coming to an end.
It’s kind of scary to be leaving a job that pays well and has good benefits. But let’s face it; no one ever has enough money. If I waited to retire until we had “enough” money I’d never retire at all. And I’m lucky that my husband can continue to work for awhile yet, and works at home 2 days a week. So we’ll be able to enjoy many long weekends at the cabin.
What next? I have lots of ambitious plans; lose weight...go back to taking yoga classes...spend more time with my mother and aunt...visit my mother-in-law more often in the nursing home...blog more...perhaps start a writing career...clean up the house and sort through all the old clothes and piles of paperwork that are lying all over the house...volunteer at the local animal shelter...(not necessarily in that order or all at once, of course). Maybe I’ll even work somewhere part-time doing something really different from what I’ve been doing.
I have a memory, perhaps apocryphal, of being four years old and riding my tricycle down the street in my old hometown, shortly before I was due to start kindergarten. I seem to recall thinking at the time, "This is the last time I'll ever really be free." I know it sounds strange to think a four-year-old would think that, but I swear I remember thinking it. And now, for the first time since then, I'll be free, free to do whatever I want. It is exhilarating.
But I am also afraid. What if I don't accomplish anything? What if I just get lazy? (OK, lazier than I already am). What if I sleep till noon and sit on my butt all day watching CNN? What if I get lonely? What if I miss the camaraderie of work, the feeling of purpose that it once gave me? What if I find myself really becoming a hermit more than I have already?
I guess I should think positively about this change, as it is a great opportunity. I hope I will be fortunate enough to start a new “second act” that is as successful and joyous as Fran’s new life has been.
Time will tell. I just know it’s time to move on. And today as we walked in the woods in the chill December air, and the first snowflakes started to fall, I looked at the barren forest and knew that although winter is here, spring will be coming again and these same bare branches will be full of green leaves. And by then my cocoon will have opened and I’ll have emerged, either a moth or a butterfly. We shall see which one I become.