This week I read in the local newspaper about my former employer opening up a new $1.52 billion Medical Center in our city. I had taken part in the planning for seven years, securing space and new personnel for our department, as the Director. Then, seven months before it opened, I retired. I retired early – in my fifties.
My husband warned me that it could be a huge transition from being a “high mucky muck” to a plebeian. I discussed that in advance with my spiritual director. Lo and behold, I have loved handing the responsibility of the position over to my successor. My shoulders – which have been frozen, thawed, and operated upon – have finally gotten well. If you believe in the metaphor of illness, à la Susan Sontag, I was carrying the weight of responsibility for a long time.
What became of my identity? I laughed when I read an article by the satirical press The Onion entitled, “Career-Driven Man Beginning To Worry Entire Identity No Longer Tied To Job.” It went on to say, “In an alarming shift of mindset that is said to have occurred so gradually that he failed to notice it at first, Westport Data Systems senior manager and career-driven man Matthew Bowers expressed concern Friday that his identity was no longer exclusively tied to his job.” It went on in that vein. Indeed, after seven months of Sacred Puttering (Anne Lamott’s phrase), my identity was happily invested in my other interests and roles in life. After thirty-three years of serving in churches and hospitals, it was like I was wearing a well-worn suit. In retiring, I took it off and delved into a small closet of other more casual clothes, which fit me just fine.
Once the dust settles, I might even go take a look at that new Medical Center in our City.