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Retirement 101

In late January I told the two presidents of the unions I work for that I was planning to retire in early October.  Honestly, I just didn’t want to go through another winter on the job.  As I have grown older I have become more and more sensitive to the seasons, mostly in good ways.  But winter here has become challenging. I could really enjoy the short days of light, about eight hours a day and the moisture if I didn’t have to fit all of the other things into the day; going to work, going to the pool; stopping to pick up something for dinner, the other errands.

In winter, the work day alone uses all of the light.  Think cold wet car, driving home as it gets dark. I know it sounds pretty wimpy, but it is the repetition that really gets to you, day after day and not any one drive home.  Last year we had a particularly long, wet winter.  A foot of snow and two days to shovel the driveway has not been forgotten nor will it be anytime soon.

Ok, it is also that I will be sixty-nine years old in October.  Why not retire there?  I can’t name all of the thoughts, factors, data points that led to this decision.  There is no app for understanding it.  What’s so interesting is that I have sensed the transition to retirement over time in stages.  My projects have been becoming more important and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all of the ideas I have for projects.

It was strange when I made a spreadsheet with the days of the week and hours of the day for my retirement time.  I realized that now I have a schedule imposed by the job and that it would be best to lay out some times for scheduled activities when I no longer have to go to the job.  Time to write.  Time to get out of the house and into the world.  Time to read.  Time to work on photographic projects.  The hope is that I will use my time doing things that engage me in different ways, and on the things that I can create that I want to share with others.

Now in the last month I have thought of and been excited by the thought of some travel, short trips to interesting places.  The idea of not being bound by vacation days or the job duties is liberating and exciting.  I do wish train travel wasn’t so expensive.  The thought of the time being more open is so attractive and inviting.  

Of course in the last months I thought a lot about the job.  What it meant to me, my relationships with co-workers.  I thought about what I will miss about the interactions that I have had.  It feels good when I provide help even if it is just being a good listener.  People who have a work problem are usually authentic.  I am often surprised by the stories.  In addition, PCC, the community college is a large bureaucracy that I found ways to navigate.  I think it will be the people interaction part that I will need to find in my retirement.  I have several ideas about how to do that.

I think way back to my first job, the time when I mowed lawns in Florida as a teenager.  I delivered groceries in a rambler station wagon with a push button automatic transmission.  So I have been working for over fifty years.  

Actually my first job was a failure.  The young recruits for the job were required to memorize a speech and then deliver it at the door to sell newspapers subscriptions.  I couldn’t do it.  It was not possible for me to recite a memorized speech on a door step.  It sounded so stupid so I quit before I really started.  The failure didn’t stunt my career.  I have never been open to or been able to recite a script in my interactions with other people.  

I think of some creative things I could do for the union and the folks I have been working for.  Some of the projects I always wanted to do but didn’t have the time to do.  This could be a creative way to maintain a connection to the job, after retirement.

During this transition I quickly made the distinction in my mind between work and the job.  I am leaving the job.  The work I have to do, my many ideas for projects and creations as I said can be overwhelming.  So many ideas.  The distinction seems important to me work vs. the job.

I reached a point where it became important for me to complete my advanced directive.  Retirement can’t help but remind one of mortality.  For some people the end of a career is the end of life.  I see my life work shifting just slightly. No, I’m not immortal.  Another side of me wants to just find that new road that replaces the current job road.  At the same time “No Rush” mode is really attractive to me.

I like my coffee after a nice breakfast and my feet propped up on the desk with my diary in my lap.  This is a new routine for me but I think about what it would be like if that time after breakfast stretched through the morning.  Now I drink the coffee, take a shower and head to the job five days a week.  The new time looms and I see it as if I am overlooking it from the cliff top.

As we move into fall, I walked the whole morning route ( ) in the dark with the flashlight this morning.  The air has more moisture which changes the picture,  It was easy to crawl into it.  So the cooler weather sets the feeling for me today.  Of course a day I don’t go to the job.  I am really transitioning  out of the job.  I can feel it.  I don’t have as much energy for it.  I suppose I leave my own legacy.  It is too late to think about how I will be remembered and by whom.  I have three weeks to go.

I will have completed fifteen years at this job when I retire.  For me a long tenure on a job. During  my union career I enjoyed most organizing new groups.  I feel like I will return to organizing eventually, of course on a more limited scale.  That was the job that I liked best, especially creating new bargaining units, getting through the election process and a union contract.  That work tested me the most and was most interesting.  Making the cultural adjustments was part of the job, dependent upon the group that I was talking with.  

During one of my larger campaigns Powell’s Books, I easily moved into and understood the bookstore culture, I worked in a bookstore at one time.  I think one of the attractions for the employees choosing me was how easily we communicated and the ILWU had its allure.   At the same time, when I met with the small town police group I got their culture too, well enough to understand their perspective and relate to them and be helpful.


Has anyone else in the world sat in a chair with their feet up on the desk on a Friday night, anticipating retirement in one week?  I know it is a funny question.  Retirement for me has been a story and as the day gets closer the stories come faster.  

Sitting in on interviews for my successor helped me think about the qualities, not the legal aspects of the job, but more of a cultural awareness; an adaptability frequently associated with a successful union organizer.  That is a hard thing to judge with a short interview, so difficult to quantify!

We are animals. We therefore have instincts. That said, I think it is a mistake to discount feelings when interviewing someone.  It is important to be critical, think about why you might chose one candidate over another.  What are those feelings?   Why do you feel the way you do?  So I look and think about these instincts when evaluating candidates.

I had a good encounter this week with the Beaverton Mediation Center.  I may volunteer there in the new year.  I will take a short refresher course and then apply to the program.  This is an interesting area and a place to find authentic dialogue, in hopes of solving interpersonal problems.  This is one aspect of my job that I found personally rewarding  This would be learning from people and then working to find common ground.  Of course, working at the Mediation Center would be one day a week or less.