A bit over a week ago I cleaned out my office at work, threw out reams of no longer needed meeting papers and documents (the paperless office - huh!), and with some sadness, fond reminiscence, and much hilarity, said good-bye to my colleagues.
I'm leaving paid employment. You can see I'm avoiding the 'R' word with all its ageist stereotypes and connotations. In my last couple of days at work someone asked me how long I'd been working and it was with some surprise that I answered that I'd been working in paid employment almost all my adult life. There was a year off when my then-husband was doing field-work in a remote area of the Philippines - though even then I did some very part-time teaching - and there were a few years of part-time work when the children were small. Paid employment has been a central part of my life.
Many people have asked me what I intend to do at this stage of my life. My only answer has been 'nothing in particular'. I have no fear about filling in my time pleasurably. I'll do what I've always done - read, visit friends and family, go to the movies, watch television, and engage in some craft - at present, knitting. And I'll travel as much as my finances allow. But no-one ever asks what for me is the real question...will your identity and sense of yourself change? After all these years at work so much of my sense of who I am and of what I can achieve is tied up with work. I've never been particularly ambitious and I've certainly never been a workaholic, but now that the balance of activities within my life has been so drastically altered, I wonder how I'll respond. Even so, I'm interested in, rather than worried about what might happen.
For a woman of my generation I've been very fortunate with my work. In fact, for anybody of any generation, I've been very fortunate. I've had a range of jobs over time; most of them associated with universities. Quite a few of my jobs have been in new or developing areas of work where there's been opportunity for innovation, creativity and enthusiasm. I've been fortunate with the skill and ability of many of the bosses I've had across my work-life. Some of them have provided excellent models of good and principled leadership; some have been stimulating and creative and inspired me to think beyond what already exists; others have simply been generous and supportive in the work environment they've created. Generally, I've been blessed. Then, of course, there have been my work colleagues. Like all people I have stories of eccentric and bizarre work behaviors that are told and retold. I've had many colleagues who did honest, good, skilled work, and a few who skived off or sponged on others. And I've had some with whom I've developed deep, abiding friendships. I think one of the things I'll most miss about work is the variety and diversity of the people with whom you need to collaborate at some level, and the learnings this brings.
So, I'm into the second week of this new phase of my life. A big transition. Possibly the biggest transition other than having children. I wish I could stand outside myself to document what happens. Anyway, it will be interesting.