Entering the atomic age, T.S. Elliot remarked that the end of the world would likely come now come with “not a bang, but a whimper”. As I enter the final week of my almost 27 year professional world, I am not sure whether to expect a bang or a whimper myself. Will this be a boisterous, celebratory week or more of a low-key farewell?
With just five workdays to go, it strikes me that leaving your job for early retirement is kind of like having a birthday – it is a personal milestone and holiday that no one else really shares. They may wish you well, come to your party, or even give you a gift to commemorate the occasion, but I think the true emotional significance of the event is quite solitary. It means a lot to me & my immediate family, but it is mostly a personal accomplishment – one that changes your life forever while everyone else’s goes on largely unchanged.
This is bigger than a birthday, of course. Birthdays are celebrated every year, but retirement – like weddings and graduations, are a once-in-a-lifetime moments. That said, outside of my immediate family, I don’t typically celebrate my birthday and dislike letting people know it is my birthday. I don’t really like the faux spotlight that comes with it. (Although my wife is planning a big cake & cocktails event for my upcoming 50th birthday in April – my golden jubilee).
You would think that I might have planned out every day this week since it is my last week on the job, but I haven’t really planned anything. In fact, I think leaving with a whimper might be the best approach – just go quietly into the corporate good-night. I’d like to spend my time transitioning projects to my replacement, attending a few meetings where can still add value, maybe going out to a few low-key lunches, and privately bidding adieu to others that I likely won’t see after leaving MegaCorp. I certainly won’t be leaving with a “take this job and shove it moment” – I don’t have any grudges that need settling or reservations that must be put right.
Today, may be the biggest “bang” of the week as my gracious boss has organized a formal “going away” happy hour for me at a local bar & grill. I was really flattered that he felt like my leaving MegaCorp deserved to be marked with any sort of occasion – let alone a happy hour with dozens of invitees – but he insisted that we’d have a “real to-do”. Part of the awkwardness for me is that I have only been at this MegaCorp for three years and do not have official “retiree” status at the company, since I haven’t worked there long and am five years short of minimum retirement age. (I do have retiree status at my previous MegaCorp employer where I had 24 years service)
Part of the challenge for me will be knowing what to say when they inevitably turn to me for some profound thoughts on why I am throwing a perfectly good career into the dust bin more than a decade earlier than most people do. While most people say they are either amazed, inspired, or jealous “in a good way” that I am retiring at the tail end of my forties, I feel like the whole act of early retirement is a bit absurd. Why should I be sincerely congratulated for such a ridiculously illogical decision? The most profound comment I’ve come up with so far is to acknowledge that the line between amazingly brilliant and utterly idiotic is razor thin – and I’m not absolutely sure which side of the line I am standing on.
With that uncertainty, but in the best of spirits, I will savor and enjoy each day this week a great deal. On Friday morning, April Fool’s Day, I will arrive one last time and finally turn in my MegaCorp badge and laptop. It will be the final administrative whimper to what has been a truly banging career!
Any suggestions on ways to savor & mark the week?