I have so many blog post topics stacked and ready that I can’t see the top of the pile.
Then I get a note from someone and it feels like it should jump the queue because it’s part of a dialogue.
I received an email a few days ago from a friend who recently retired from her hectic law practice after not taking more than two consecutive weeks off in 35 years. She was at the library a few days ago and met a former client. She told him of her decision to retire.
“Wow,” he said, “I don’t know how you can retire. I couldn’t. I like my work too much.”
My friend wrote this to me: “I felt affronted. I told him I absolutely loved my work but I had worked really hard and it was time for me to do other things. He scoffed. Jeez. I need a frothier response.”
Her response could have contained some of this frothy self-motivation from the same email:
“When I met him, I was checking out a library book — The White Darkness, David Grann’s non-fiction about Henry Worsley, a descendant of one of Shackleton’s crew who set across Antarctica in 2008 and again in 2015 — complete with pictures — always thrilling for me in these books — and I also picked up a 10-disc audio book — Bob Woodwards’s Fear, about Trump. The Grann book is about something I am keenly interested in. But I’ve never been able to plod through the many pages of the previous books I’d picked up on this subject… I want to listen to the Woodward book because I saw him interviewed by Bill Maher and thought, ‘Hey this could be interesting.’ My point is, I would never have been at the library on a Wednesday afternoon, nor known about the audio book, had I been working away as per usual.”
And yet, in a subsequent email, after being reminded of how well she is doing in this next phase of life, my friend wrote, “I know, but it sets me back a bit when somebody disses my retirement.”
Even the most convinced among us initially have some measure of doubt about leaving a career, especially if our full-time work has been enjoyable. Critics can feed those doubts, as they often do for artists.
But, my friend added in her email, “I do feel more purposeful, richer, and multi-dimensional. .. I don't even think I realized how distorted and stressed I was until — poof — it was mostly gone. I wake up and realize I'm not clenching my jaw. Probably saves on dentist bills.”
Work can be a great love. There are others asking for their chance.