For the past few decades, whenever I have seen an ad that says something like “The SFPD is hiring” or “You could be a police dispatcher” or something like that, there is a small, weird part of me that thinks, maybe I should apply for that. Despite the fact that I hate job hunting, and despite the fact that I don’t want to be a firefighter or police officer (and am well past the age where my application would produce anything but laughter). The urge to figure out the next thing is still deeply massaged into my psyche.
In February I gave notice at my job. The fact that I set my departure date in December 1) because when your workplace has only three employees, the replacement of one can take a while; 2) I wanted to wait until my 70th birthday, which is in December; and 3) If I held off until I turned 70 I would be eligible for the maximum Social Security benefit to which my years of employment entitled me. Or something like that.
I started a file on the museum’s shared drive, initially named “How to be Madeleine,” but, as the time passed, respectably renamed “Operations Manager Procedures.” So that over the months, as I did something–say, filed the sales tax or applied for a one-day license to serve alcohol–I could document the work flow. So life went on. In October my boss started the recruitment process to replace me. I am happy to report that she found someone great, and I am busily sharing, not just those Operations Manager Procedures, but all the bits and pieces of organizational history and lore that are tucked somewhere in my brain.
So after all these months when retirement was sort of theoretical, it’s suddenly (as of this writing) two weeks away. I find I’m feeling a little unsettled about it.
Not so much about leaving the job (there are some things I will miss, others not so much, which is how I’ve felt about pretty much every job I’ve ever departed except, perhaps, my brief stint in an investment bank, about which we will not speak again) but about the vast stretches of time that reach before me.* What will I do?
Write, of course. I have 3 (4?) books to finish. One, Sarah Tolerance #4 (still in search of a title that doesn’t suck) is a full draft and just needs… something. And I will suddenly have time to discern what that something is. Another, a contemporary fantasy set in San Francisco, is about half-drafted, and I need to finish it, because at least one member of my workshop has threatened mayhem if I don’t. There’s a fifth and final Tolerance (two chapters drafted, because nothing says procrastination like working on the next book rather than the one you should be finishing) and, possibly a Tolerance prequel. I’m still thinking about that one. So yes. Taking myself off to a coffee shop or the library to write is on the docket.
I’m going to try to organize my beading into a tiny business; I’ve done it before (I had an Etsy Store, but no idea how to promote it, and so it languished, costing me listing fees and bringing in $0. My foray into sales at World Fantasy suggests that there might be a market, so I intend to keep beading and will try to revive the Etsy store and see how that fares. Basically, as long as I can cover my expenses, I’m good. I do this because it’s a calming and enjoyable pastime, and making things makes me happy. Same thing with baking (although I really need to find outlets for my baking, or my sweetie and I are going to wind up the size of baobab trees). And I might bind some books or marble some paper: working at the American Bookbinders Museum for eight years has left its mark.
I want to find somewhere to volunteer. I’m looking at the Food Bank, but I’m also wondering what is required of a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocates basically work with kids who have to go to court, being their advocates and companions). I always feel better when I’m helping somewhere, and I haven’t had much time for that.
There are the fun things I’ll have more time for: travel and working on our house (which has suffered from the benign neglect that comes when you have two working parents, two kids who age out of the household, and no particular gift for gardening. Honestly, our back yard is horrifying and Something Must Be Done).
I come from a family of people who defined themselves by their work–certainly my father and his siblings did (when my aunt Linda moved to the retirement community where my father lived, she brought dozens of bankers boxes filled with case notes–she was a mediator and intended to keep working despite her change in venue and her approaching 90th birthday). The idea of not having a job or not producing work is… unsettling. I want to work on that. I intend to be as physically active as I can, but also maybe to take up activities that help me learn to be inactive. To do one thing at once, rather than two or three.
That may be the biggest challenge of this retirement thing: slowing down the But What Have You Done Lately drumbeat to which I was raised.
If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll join the BART police. I hear they’re hiring.
* this could be hubris on my part. I could be hit by a truck on Christmas Eve. But I come from a long-lived family and I’m in fair-to-middlin’ health at the moment, so I could have two or three decades ahead of me. We shall see.