Happy retirement

One of my friends from my growing up years left his job as the laboratory manager of Bozeman Deaconess Hospital yesterday. He posted a video of himself on Facebook with the following caption: “I just left work for the last time today, this week, this month, this year, this lifetime.” There was a party at the Copper Whiskey Bar and Grill and a lot of positive comments and tributes from friends. He has a lot of friends and he has been active on Facebook so there are a lot of comments there as well.

In preparation for his retirement he posted that his retirement “bible” was going to be a parody by Sarah Knight with a rather vulgar title. Knight has written a stack of books with swear words in the titles. I guess it is her way of talking, or at least of writing. She used to work in the New York publishing industry until she discovered how to forge her own free lance life. With her publishing connections and what I assume is considerable talent she has come up with a whole list of advice books. The subtitle of the book my friend has quoted is: “How to stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like doing things you don’t want to do.”

I don’t really know the life story of my friend. We did quite a few things together when we were young teenagers living in the same town. Then I went off to college and from there to the rest of my life. We haven’t lived in the same state since the 1970’s and we haven’t really reconnected. With Facebook we now have access to a bit of each other’s stories, but I’m pretty guarded about what I post in that arena and, frankly, I don’t spend much time looking at it. I could easily have missed his retirement, but I received a notice on my Facebook page because a mutual friend had commented on his retirement. The mutual friend spends a lot of time on Facebook it seems.

Back to the first friend. I wish him well in retirement. He is in a happy marriage. They have been prudent with their earnings, Their health appears to be very good. They should be able to travel and adventure and have lots of good times.

It does, however, make me a little bit sad that at least part of his final years of working was “spending time that he didn’t have with people he didn’t like doing things he didn’t want to do.” He was a manager. He ran the lab at the hospital. They had a mission of providing essential information for the treatment of people who have serious illnesses. Their work had great purpose and meaning. He had control over who else worked in the lab and how procedures and protocols were developed. I know that there is a bit of stress working in the corporate hospital environment. I know that he had to put up with a few too many meetings and learn to deal with hospital politics, but I can’t imagine that it was all that bad.

It is entirely possible that I am reading too much into it and I don’t want to pour cold water on his retirement party, but I’m hoping for a somewhat less dramatic transition from the life of everyday work for myself.

I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate the people I work with. Sure, there are some tasks that make me feel like I’m spinning my wheels. There are some meetings where I feel like I haven’t accomplished as much as I had hoped. There are some people that I have to struggle to understand. But even those things are part of what makes the work I do interesting.

I once served a congregation with a member who had a particularly prickly personality, at least from my perspective. He would put on a nice face, but underneath he seemed to be incredibly selfish and just plain mean. He said things on occasion that felt like a kick in the gut to me. He didn’t seem to understand that I was balancing the concerns of others whom I served and always wanted his concerns to be my highest priority. It took me years to figure this guy out. I had to learn to provide care for him when his life was dramatically changed by a serious illness. Working with him taught me that there is a grave danger in walking away from a relationship too quickly. I could have just dismissed him and not spent time with him and if I had done so I would have failed to understand his story. I would have missed the goodness that is inside of him.

Sticking with things even when they are uncomfortable has been a blessing in my life. I don’t want to get away from challenges. I don’t want to avoid people with whom I disagree. I don’t want to think of my life’s vocation as something I need to escape.

I think my friend and I are very close to the same age. I took a few years longer to begin my professional career because of graduate school. He has changed jobs a few more times than I. But he has been in the same job for the last fifteen years, and it is a direct promotion from another job he held int he same hospital, so he has had stable and steady employment. We seem, however, to be approaching retirement from different perspectives.

I am trying to teach myself to savor each task and each day, to rise to the challenges without too much of an attitude. I admit that this is a struggle some days. I won’t miss some of the surprises and curve balls that get handed to me. I find it harder to get up in the middle of the night to respond to a call when there have already been other calls the same week. I get tired a bit more easily. I have a few more aches and pains. I can’t make a bottle of Aleve last to its expiration date the way I used to.

But I am not unhappy. And I expect that my last day of work at this job will feel more sad than happy for me. I’m preparing to move on and I’m looking forward to new challenges, but I’m also dragging my feet just a little bit. It’s just the way I am.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!