It is Sunday, the first of March. I am now officially retired. I know that not so much because the calendar says I am but because Magenic shut down my email account today. Thursday was my last real day of work. Friday was a day of paperwork and saying goodbye. Saturday I was still an employee and could access my Magenic email. Now it is Sunday and I am not an employee and I cannot access my Magenic email. This is not particularly shocking or even surprising. This is the sort of thing that first-class technical organizations do as a matter of course. Magenic is a first-class technical organization and what they did was right and proper. Still, there’s that little inaudible “click” as you realize, “now it is real.”
I took a few minutes this morning to remove the Magenic email account from my phone and from a couple of laptops and tablets that I use. Later I will go through my Lastpass password manager and remove all the credentials for Magenic employee websites. The list of favorite web sites will need some pruning as well. I’m sure that over the next weeks and months, I will be finding more bits and pieces of Magenic-related connectivity that I will have to remove from my devices. I have changed jobs before and much of this is familiar if only dimly remembered. It is different this time in several ways. The last time I did not have a smart phone, a tablet, and a laptop that were connected to my employer’s information systems. This time, I have to disconnect the now-broken links. The last time I was moving from an old employer to a new employer. This time I’m just removing connections, leaving a hole that needs to be filled in.
It is a big hole. And it is more than just digital connectivity that is changing. My job occupied a big place in my life, in my family’s lives. The mechanics of getting ready to go to work, commuting to work, working, and commuting back home took up a big chunk of my time. Even outside of “work” I spent time thinking about the projects I was working on, reading about technology, studying for an advanced degree, and preparing for certifications. The job controlled the clothes that I bought. The job controlled where I lived: my job took me to California and then to Minnesota. The job in so many ways established the rhythms and patterns of my life.
We refer to our home that we have lived in the last 17 years as Walden, after Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond. The inspiration was from our children who, being raised in suburbia and converting to urbanites, were appalled that they had pass by cows and cornfields to come visit us. Thoreau’s most famous quote is relevant here: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Now, the “drummer for working” has packed up and departed. There are other drummers in our life but it has gotten suddenly quieter here.
Our challenge is to reinvent our lives, to combine the drumbeats of some old and some new drummers into something that makes sense for us. It is not that we lack for things to do. Rather it is that there are so many things that we could do. We have to choose which ones and how to arrange them. Some of the decisions are small and trivial. With a job, I showered and shaved in the morning before I went to work and exercised at my health club after work. The question is will does that still make sense? If it does not, what is the right answer? It will not take much effort to resolve such a question, but there are hundreds of such questions that must be answered as we fill up the hole created by retiring.
The irony of the situation is that I now have much more free time to take up such questions.
The journey continues.