The Retiree

Today is my birthday.

My 55th birthday.

My age now officially matches my status: retired.

After a whole 4 days of official quasi-retirement, I’m still struggling with this label. Since I didn’t really “retire”, (rather, I was “retired” – as in out to pasture), it feels disingenuous to describe myself as a retiree. It implies choice, of which I had none.

When you actually choose to retire, people throw you a party. There’s cake and balloons. You get to reflect on accomplishments and people say nice things about you. You may even get your own fun Powerpoint presentation (true at the last retirement party I went to!).

When retirement is thrust upon you, you just fade into the sunset. (Well, after a few drinks at happy hour with friends!) One day you just aren’t there anymore.

When you choose to retire, the typical plan is not to work anymore. And that’s not the case for me. Since I was 16, I’ve never not worked, and my 55 seems much too young to not go back to work. Quite honestly, since I’ve been home, I feel like I’m working harder than I did at work! But the pay sucks.

The retiree label makes me feel like I should be older than 55, and who wants that? In my brain, I’m stuck at 26 and I’m just not sure how I got to 55 already.

I don’t like the label very much at all. I’m a retirement fraud and so I declare that we should no longer use the term! I think I’ll use entrepreneur. Dreamer or princess. Maybe superhero (as suggested by one friend)… something a little more fun and interesting. Something that speaks of action and possibilities. I’m open to suggestions!

I certainly don’t want to imply that I’m bitter or resentful about the whole thing. I’m not. Disappointed by how and why it was done? Yes. Disappointed by people I thought would reach out and didn’t? Yes. But disappointment is about the only negative emotion I can muster about the whole thing. I just feel to young, too healthy and too ambitious to be here.

But it’s only temporary.

IMDb: The Retiree (2015)

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13 thoughts on “The Retiree

  1. You are one of my favorite writers! Your ability to communicate your feelings in an articulate way is uncanny. I suggest you give yourself the title of “Blogger Extraordinare”- and of course continue sharing your observations about life with us. I always learn when I read you, and that is a job worth being proud of!

    • Hi Christine!
      So nice to hear from you! Thank you so much for your kind words — you made my day! You should know that one of my goals as part of this next chapter is to write a book. I’m calling it my “Everest Goal” because I know it’s not easy to do or to get published, but if I don’t try, we’ll never know! Thank you for your support and encouragement over the years. It means so much coming from you.
      I hope you are having a fabulous summer!
      Michele

  2. Michele,

    As always, I appreciate your blog, even when the subject matter is of the difficult sort. Having the shared mutual experience of retirement thrust upon both of us, I’ll offer three things that impacted me most, in service of letting you know that a) You’re not alone, b) That many folks do care (a point I know you already realize, but good things SHOULD be repeated), and c) That it will get better.

    I LOST PART OF MY IDENTITY
    A big part of who I was centered around the “professional me”. That was kind of stolen in the course of a 30 second (if that) announcement via video conference. I went from a “Director, Organizational Effectiveness” to a, well, “nothing”. That was hard to deal with for many months. In the end, I had to come to a kind of separate peace about it, recognizing that I am in fact more than a title. Having a wonderfully supportive family…including my beautiful wife* and daughters…all of whom believed in me…even when I had doubts…helped greatly.

    I FELT SHUNNED AND DISOWNED
    I had three vice presidents in my reporting chain, and none of them has ever asked how I was doing. No one reached out. No emails. No LinkedIn messages. I had known two of these three individuals for over a decade, did important work for them, and in the course of 30 seconds, I was seemingly erased from their memory and existence. However, that made me appreciate even more those co-workers who did reach out to me, and with whom I am still in contact. That also made me a better leader, by the way, because I know have an even greater appreciation for the importance of empathy.

    I HAVE FLASHBACKS (still)
    As noted above, my notice came in the form of a video conference message (I wasn’t asked to speak) that lasted something like 30 seconds. It was a prepared statement, delivered with no emotion. I was not thanked for my nearly 28 years of service. I was not given an offer of assistance. Just 30 seconds of my job being eliminated and now Kelly will give you information on your package, and an abruptly hung-up video monitor. I still go through those 30 seconds in my mind and in my dreams (occasionally) as if it were some kind of bad acid trip. No one has asked for or likely wants my feedback on the behavior demonstrated as a leader during those 30 seconds, but I will say this: The fact that my leadership team (any of the 3 of them) couldn’t deliver that message to me, face to face, is shameful. On the plus side…and I will name a name…Kelly Gropack, who explained my package to me, was professional, kind, and responsive. She was everything my former VP wasn’t. In the midst of that horrible morning, I experienced some humanity.

    As I’ve said before, please let me know how I can help you Michele.

    – Steve

    PS – I just recently framed and placed in my new office my official certificate of retirement. For me, it represented a kind of coming to terms with it. I’m now almost somewhat proud. You will be too.

    (*) PPS – The head of HR had a very pleasant conversation with my wife a week or two ago when she was visiting Scranton. Apparently, the shunning was a complete success, as she didn’t ask my wife how her husband (me) was doing. Note that I worked with/under this person for 13 years.

    • Thanks, Steve. Minus the flashbacks, I can relate to all points. There was a certain pride in saying I was a “Director” at such a prestigious company. And yes, it was part of my identity. Luckily, I had several other things that were part of my identity (mother, wife, musician, blogger, health nut, band parent, etc.) so this was just a little chip off my ego. But I’ll admit it did hurt a bit to be discarded. My disappointment was with leadership, as was your experience. I had gone to our team offsite to say good-byes a few weeks before I left and not a single VP in our organization thanked me for my service, wished me well or otherwise acknowledged my presence. It spoke volumes — and was noticed by many of the associates in attendance. Let’s just say it didn’t speak kindly of their “leadership”. There were others outside of my organization that I expected to hear from and didn’t. But certainly, those who were always there for me, continued to be there. I totally get the disowned part.
      Like you, my HR rep was also very good during the initial conversation. My boss read from the script and, yeah, I guess it was about 30 seconds and he was gone. He did offer assistance after the fact, but it wasn’t an offer I found to be genuine. Perhaps it was, but given my experiences the past few months, it was hard to take seriously. Besides, I had already made up my mind that it was time to move on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!
      So, we get an official certificate of retirement…???? 🙂

  3. Michele –
    “So, we get an official certificate of retirement…???? 🙂”

    Yes, you should. Mind you, it kind of looks like a “Highest English Grade in High School” certificate, but that’s okay. It has my name, it says “Retirement” and the CEO signed it, so it’s good enough.

    I am sorry…but not surprised…to hear of your experiences with the leadership team. It was those kinds of experiences that made me all the more adamant about helping those who found themselves in a similar circumstance. I can’t undo what was done to me, but I can help others in need. That’s my “payback”.

    – Steve

  4. Hi,
    I can totally understand, I did officially retire, after 20 yrs. in a job I didn’t really love I was happy to go. But my husband was given an “early” retirement pkg. with a warning that if he didn’t accept this pkg., the next offer might not be as “generous”. The only people who would call it generous was management, but he took it. Effective day 2 days short of a service Ann., so he lost whole yr. of service. The list of inequities goes on,and what he had hoped to do, consulting those jobs along w/the economy just went bust. He struggled with depression for a long time, and was way too young to really retire.
    So he got a couple of p/t jobs, one at a vineyard which expanded his knowledge and friends. He volunteered more and that lead to another job for a number of years. It’s been a roller coaster for him, but downsizing and life changes he has grown his inner self by expanding his interested.
    So make this is not a retirement, it is a reinvention do more of what you like, learn something new and look for a place that you could volunteer that might lead to new networking possibilities.

  5. Michele, you had a great career (as did Steve)!!! It’s sad that things had to end on a sour note but I’m guessing that when people don’t know what to say, they say nothing. Unfortunately, that just leaves a void. Miss you already at work!

    I’m looking forward to your next chapter and hope to be a part of it…maybe at some nutritional education classes??? Maybe at a book signing?? Maybe at a chamber concert cocktail hour??? All the best in your next chapter – partial retirement! Full retirement to come in another 20ish years, after all you’ll only be 46 then, right?

    Chris

  6. Sadly, I have another friend in the same situation, I do believe. She will be 55 very soon. In May, her company was taken over. They down-sized, and let people go from those making the largest salaries,downward. She had been working there 31 yrs. When she told me, I cried for her. I’m very upset for you,as well. The. I look at all you e. Been through. Perhaps God is saying, “Just take a little break, Michele!” 😊💜 I agree that if you feel you are too young to retire, then you are. I, myself am sick of the question. I think entrepreneur is a great title for you. You have many avenues you can take. You definitely have the spunk to do it. Best of luck to you and I’d love to know where you go from here! God bless you inyour endeavor. 😘

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