18 years ago I retired from the University of Oklahoma after 30 years of service. At the time, I was wrapping up a three-year role as the Assistant to the Editor of The Journal of Marketing. It was an awesome job, working with Dr. Robert Lusch. He was the perfect boss and, frankly, every leader I’ve worked with or around since has been filtered through the experience of being his employee. I was completing my undergraduate degree very late in life and that activity dove-tailed beautifully with the three-year commitment to The Journal. It was a perfect job. But I knew, going in, that there was an endpoint and I would be looking for employment at the completion of my MIS degree. I don’t know who was more surprised that I was so quickly hired by Southwest Airlines – me or Dr. Lusch. He knew the company well, having helped lobby to bring a customer service center to Oklahoma City. I was taken aback by some of the Company’s marketing ploys and, as a pretty strong feminist, it was no small thing to consider going with a company that portrayed itself as the “LUV” airline – and (back then) they weren’t talking about the bonds between friends and family.
But the company offered a couple of things that I wasn’t finding in the other corporate offers: the upfront chance and challenge for your contribution to actually make a difference to the company’s future, and the chance to be part of supporting the concept that a successful corporation could honor the work of its employees by taking care of them first and the customers second. When I interviewed, I was told I would never have more than three people between me and the top leaders in the company. The commitment was that these people were engaged deeply in the work and lives of the employees. It was an intoxicating mix.
Fast forward 18 years. Through a series of personal events, it became crystal clear to me that I needed to retire, “needed” being the operative word. I desperately needed time to work through some serious trauma as a result of personal events without worrying about work commitments and a two hour daily commute. I needed time with my precious husband and family. I needed time to focus on writing, sleeping, exercise, and creating. I was, quite simply, drained. So I set the gears in motion and retirement is at hand. I’m blessed that I am going to transition from full time work to part time contractor, and to working remotely (which I LOVE and find very productive). But even though I want this, have worked all my life for this, and have been trying to get geared up for it well before the weird personal events at the end of 2016, I have found myself depressed, fearful, anxious, and terribly frustrated with myself in the process.
So what’s all that about? Turns out it isn’t that unusual when you retire. And especially if your work was partly your “mission” in life. Over the next few posts, I’m going to explore and share some of what I have learned about this process in the hopes that it might help you find your solid footing in this peculiar process.
I would love, along the way, to hear from you and your experiences with retirement! Was it easy? Hard? Did you find yourself surprised by your own reactions – or of those close to you? Join the conversation!