It’s always, always about the money, but then sometimes it’s not…. just about the money.
I am planning to retire at the end of June at age 57. I guess by today’s economic standards, that’s considered early retirement, at the very least it’s retiring early. This decision has captured much of my thought process for months now. I discuss it more than enough to my friends and family. Whether they have already retired, or are not ready yet, they have pretty much heard enough about my retirement plans. Can you afford it financially, all of them often asks? Of course not, is my most honest answer. This job must be stressful; and you just can’t take it anymore some openly assume. Of course not, again, is my most honest answer to that assumption as well.
After thirty years of government service, I am emotionally mature enough, intellectually crafty enough and just plain already crazy enough, to not allow work related stress to force me into financial suicide, as would be the case if I were retiring for reasons related to work stress. For the record (and the sensitive), I believe work related stress is real. It’s just not a significant factor in my current decision.
Admittedly, however, there are inevitable, but not well thought out changes to the system and changes to the work environment, from a psychological point of view, that I would have preferred not to have happened. But that darn inevitability of change did not contribute in a primary way to my decision to retire at this time, even though I often complain that it does.
Perhaps that change to the work environment, in terms of psychology, caused me to take notice to how much I have changed. A lot of life happens in a thirty year span of time. Thirty years are a long time by any standards. The job is included in that life in big part; but in no way is it the whole. It is simply more about what I do, than it is about who I am.
In terms of the career, if I net my bad days against my good days plus my benefits, I have more than won. It has been a good run. And while financially, I am not now, and probably never will be fully, or partially for that matter, ready; it is my time.
In terms of explanation, I relate it to high school, an earlier and much simpler time and space. For me, and most middle-aged (to older) people, high school was great fun, if only in hindsight. (It really was fun, GHS class of ’78.) But there came a time to graduate; to commence to a new phase of life. I can imagine that being 22 years old in the 12th grade would NOT have been fun if the time to graduate had passed three years earlier. I guess I am starting to feel like it’s time to graduate before I age out of the environment.
So just like in high school, it is time to commence to a new phase in life and a new space in time. I hope to reflect back on the highs and lows of my more than 30 year professional era with clarity and appreciation. There was fundamental fairness and blatant disregard; happy times and sad news; good friends and bad co-workers (some definitely); and long drives and short memories. But I guess all is fair in love and a thirty year government career. So I will choose not to expend my current energy on my perceptions, memories and observations on specific regrets, particular times I was wronged, or “could have, would have or should have beens”.
On any given day when I reflect, I may feel like I have accomplished the highest mountain climb; or I may feel like I survived the most raging storm. But I believe I will feel grateful, above all.
There is still a question in my mind. Will l feel regret after retiring in June? Like always, should I have made it about the money? Will I chicken out, defer retiring and work longer? When June comes will it always, always be about the money, or will this be that sometimes when it’s not?