I am one of those softies who wears his heart on his sleeve and is a bigger pushover than the Pillsbury dough boy. So, of course, I have a job in which I have to do things that make people cry.
Like, for instance, performance evaluations. No one likes to be confronted by his or her shortcomings, and there is no better way to rub it in one’s face than putting it in black and white on official looking paper.
If that weren’t bad enough, I have had to “write people up” for petty peccadilloes such as failing to come to work, sleeping on the job and using words that will not be printed in a family newspaper.
And I didn’t just start doing this, dearies. I’ve been pretending to be a supervisor for more years than I’d like to admit. You’d think I’d have skin thicker than a bank vault by now. But every time I think I have it all under control, one of my people goes out and does something like get cancer or retire.
Yesterday, my wife and I attended a retirement party for one of my people. Not just anyone, but a really experienced person whose depth of knowledge cannot be replaced. If that’s not enough, it was someone who is really good with customers, has a cheerful attitude and seldom complains about anything. (Big sigh.)
I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not all about me. After a lifetime of work, a person deserves a measure of freedom to travel, enjoy the grandkids, pursue hobbies and not be tied down by an eight plus hour daily commitment that, like any job, can suck the life right out of you some days.
It does seem like there should be some reward, if not a pot of gold, at the end of the rainbow.
A few others who have retired in the last three or four years showed up at the party. They appeared happy with the free time that their new lives offered, and if there was any regret about having stepped away from the daily grind, I was unable to detect it. Sure, they missed seeing some of their favorite people every day, but the trade-off seemed to balance. There was much talk of breakfast clubs and lunch clubs and get-togethers.
We work for so many years of our lives that it becomes a constant that we tend to take for granted. With so many people being out of work in the current difficult economy, this has begun to change somewhat. Even for those who are out of work, however, there is always the hope of a job just over the horizon, that we will once again find our place in the nation’s economic engine. “What do you do?” is one of the first questions asked when we meet someone at a cocktail party. Too often, our employment transcends the nature of our job responsibilities and becomes our very identity. What we do becomes who we are. As the Bible says, “establish the work of our hands.”
All things, however, must come to an end one day. Going back to the Bible again, I think of the verse from Ecclesiastes about “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Made famous by one of my favorite sixties’ oldies, the Byrds’ “Turn Turn Turn.”
So, amidst the egg rolls, the potato salad and the cheesecake, I must come to terms with the fact that it is time to say goodbye. Don’t be a stranger, come and visit us, and enjoy your new life. After all, you’ve worked hard for it all these years, and you deserve it.
And who knows? Someday, if I’m lucky, the party may be for me.