I will turn 62 in December. I don’t
necessarily look or feel my age, but I am. Some have told me
I?look much younger than my actual years. But this does not
change the chronological reality, flattering though it may be. I
don’t much like this feeling. I cannot reconcile this
reality with my inner self-image, which is a twenty-something young man
setting out to experience life and the great unknown beyond
Haley-ville. I certainly do not feel like my professional life is
or should be over. I also know I have more to offer than the time
remaining will allow. It is a strange feeling to know that
somewhere along the way I got “old”. How can that be?
After 40 years of professional work experience
when I finally leave, I?have lots of experience, organizational
knowledge and insight. How do I effectively transfer this to
those who remain when I leave? And more broadly, can this
company, can any company, really afford to lose this much knowledge and
experience and suffer no loss? Waves of 60+year-old, highly
knowledgeable and experienced professionals have retired.
Companies are well aware of this loss of talent and appear to
accept it. But can they really afford to accept it?
A company quickly compensates for the missing
talents and activities of departing staff. Some are picked up by
other staff, some stop getting done and nobody notices. It is
more than likely that some of the things I consider important and
critical are not and will not be done by others after I am gone.
So be it. But it makes me sad, somehow discounting the work
I have been doing.
It seems unlikely to me at this time that I will
return to Houston, Haleyville or other places lived once I retire.
So I am in the season of my last goodbyes. But I have not
figured out how to say them, so I don’t. Because of the
work I have done, I know and am known by many. Because of the
size and the geographical spread of company locations, there are many
people I?know who are widely dispersed. I now realize I may never
see many of them again. Some I am seeing for the last time, but
at the time, I?am not sure of this...so I say nothing. Some come
up to me and say, “I heard you are retiring.” Well, I
am, but so are we all, sooner or later. What they mean is,
“I heard you are retiring SOON!” But even after this
conversation, no goodbyes are said. So, I am often saddened by
the fact that I am seeing people and places for the last time and am
not saying a proper goodbye. And when I do say goodbye, as I did
with a friend and professional colleague who retired and left last
month, it is so very hard to do. A sign of my advancing years, no
doubt! I am nearly 62, after all.
This is about how you use the remaining years of
your life. I am definitely interested in this. Friends
advise me that what I do with the years I have remaining will have a
lot to do with the legacy I?leave. For my four years in the
military and 36 years in the oil and gas industry, whatever legacy
I?will leave has already been mostly “left”. And how
interesting, I find, to realize that this really matters to me.
It is not that I?would like my legacy to be that I was a likable
person, or a valued colleague (although these are important to me).
I would prefer a legacy that has to do with a significant
contribution to the department, to the company, and/or my profession,
that would not have happened had I not been here. But as I
reflect on these things, I?now realize that whatever it will be, it
already is! There is not much I can do in my remaining time to
significantly change what the legacy may be. Very sobering.
I am looking forward to life in retirement.
Jan and I are both reasonably healthy and active. There are
lots of interesting places we want to see and things we want to do.
We will have the time and, hopefully, enough money to do them.
If not, I can always work. We both have professional skills
which in the U.S. economy are still valued. But, I am
going to miss this place and the people I worked with and played golf
with and socialized with and got to know and love. There is no
way back, that I can see. So when that day comes, we must say
goodbye pretty much forever to the life we knew here at work, to
friends who remain, and those who will also leave and scatter to parts
unknown. It is hard to say goodbye to all of this and all of
them. It is hard to know you will not return again, and unless
you have a very specific purpose, would not even be welcome to come
back. Although I sometimes felt otherwise, I have been mostly
happy here. Jan and I look forward to leaving, and we are
saddened when we think about leaving.
I have been through a lot of emotions recently,
sometimes several in the same day. I have come to accept that
only time will resolve this. So I?am waiting for it to come, my
retirement, my final goodbye...the beginning of a new life, an end to
this emotional rollercoaster that my life has become and an acceptance
of a new reality. And I can see myself saying, even singing the
words of the well-known song, commonly identified with the American
Civil Rights Movement:
“Free at last, free at last. I?thank
God I am free at last.”
My best wishes to all my Haleyville High
classmates of 1972.