Today begins the first day of my official retirement from the corporate world. Yesterday, I removed all my personal files from my work computer, cleaned out my e-mail folders, deleted phone numbers from my cell phone, turned in my ID badge, and bid farewell to my workmates. I specify “corporate world” because I’m not going to be sitting around watching soap operas and eating chocolate bonbons. Today, my work really begins. Today, I must make a living as a writer. Well, maybe not today. For a few days, I just need to kick back and unwind; prepare myself for a new adventure. But, in the big picture, I’ve got zero income; no annuity; no Social Security (not yet anyway); no weekly paycheck. Today, I find out whether or not I can make the cut as a writer.
There is an aspect of retirement that blindsided me. Like most people, I have anticipated retirement from the corporate grind for decades. Every time a colleague retired, I felt a little envious and wished it were I retiring. I thought that yesterday—my last day of work—would make me feel like a kid making his first visit to Disneyland. I thought I would be excited beyond anything I could imagine. No more boring meetings; no more office politics; no more whiney customers; no more early-morning traffic; no more impossible deadlines; and no more alarm clock. But in spite of this fantasy finally becoming a reality, it missed the mark by a country mile.
What I came to realize yesterday was that leaving the job was easy. Leaving the people was painful. Working for the same company for many years, I built a social network. I cultivated intimate relationships with some people. And with others I socialized on a more casual level. But in either case, all of my colleagues were part of who you I am. It is through these relationships that I have grown as a person. And although some people might not be high on my list, in fact, to be truthful, some were royal pains in the asses, yet they contributed to the culture, and ebb and flow of my daily activities.
So, I find myself a bit lost as I write these words. In spite of my desire to sleep in this morning and cuddle up with Benjamin, my 16 year-old cat, I awoke at 4:30 and tossed and turned until I couldn’t stand it any longer and rolled out of bed at 5:45. I kissed my wife goodbye and told her to drive safely on her way to work. Then, I fired up my computer and the first thing I did was check to see if I still had access to my work e-mail. Much to my surprise I did. But the inbox was empty; devoid of the usual early-morning onslaught of messages. I feel strange. As empty as my inbox. Alone and disconnected. It feels as if my closest friend just died. Today is going to be a tough day.