When you retire from twenty six years of loyal and dedicated service to your employer, and when your employer is you, there are many things you don’t get.
You don’t get the big tribute dinner, where your coworkers, friends and bosses celebrate your work history with you, while telling poignant and funny anecdotes from a podium, over a mediocre meal. You don’t get flowers or balloons at your desk on your last day, with random cute notes poking fun of your quirky habits like “the break room will miss the aroma of your mud-thick coffee” or “sorry I hid in the next stall and listened to your conversations with your boyfriend over the last year–haha!” (making you wonder if that’s true or not). You don’t get the plaque engraved for some special wall in your home (or random drawer), with your name, date of retirement and a big “26” right in the middle. You don’t get the gold watch. You don’t even get a pen. You might not even get one person saying to your face, on your last day, the words “thank you for all you’ve done”.
What you do get, however, is something no one else can give you, or tell you.
You get the deep vein of gold at the core of your being, carefully cultivated over years of pressure, waiting for this day to be mined. By you. You get the knowledge that you once had a dream and didn’t stop to talk yourself out of it, but stepped right in to it fearlessly. All by yourself. You get the self-respect that you made it all happen, on your own terms for over a quarter century, the bulk of your adult working life. You get the flexibility that allows you to reach with both arms and pat yourself on your back on both sides, knowing that you gave yourself utter freedom in your life, by making the sacrifices you did. You paid that price for no paid time off by paying it forward yourself, and crafting the work/play life you wanted with no one else’s permission but your own. You gave yourself the gift of looking back with your own, deeper voice, telling you “JOB WELL DONE” remembering that when the going got tough, you just got creative.
When 9/11 hit, and you went from a booked practice over a month out, to every single phone call in a three week period being people canceling but not rescheduling–to a good week being three clients in the whole week vs the six a day you had become used to. When your bills increased but your income dropped by 2/3 that year; you never gave up. You stayed the course. And you sent out that tri-fold stapled flyer on the cloud paper, offering a steep discount for your clients to come back. But more importantly, you crafted that flyer with two words opposite the address side, blazing in bold, 50 point font visible to every postman and every recipient: HAVE FAITH. Of course you knew, those hundreds of mantras sent out in to the world were for yourself. And you did have faith, and they did come back.
That deep vein of gold is something that will never be tucked away for your kids to find later tucked away in that drawer and not know what to do with. It’s not something that will run out of ink or ever stop working. In fact, it is something that has, and will, continue to make you stronger.
The stories others may have told at a podium are written in your heart and engraved in to your soul. Because you wrote them yourself, year by year.
I walk out of my Heart Space tomorrow, for the last time as its owner and creator. My baby is being handed in to capable and grateful hands and I couldn’t be more pleased.
I won’t be carrying a bouquet of flowers or a handful of “enjoy retirement!”cards. I won’t be feeling the weight and tangible gratitude of a time keeper on my wrist to reflect on.
I have become my own gold watch. And world, I’m still ticking.
(as an addendum, I wrote this piece before I realized that my husband and I had purchased FIRST CLASS round trip tickets to return from this trip, the day after my last day of work, before we knew this transition was going to take place. The person I’m selling the practice to, bumped up the date to months before I anticipated. The reason we purchased FIRST CLASS tickets for this specific trip was because we both wanted to achieve….drumroll….GOLD status on American Airlines before the end of the year. Divine choreography indeed)