Once you’ve tasted freedom, it’s hard to go back

The siren call of semi-retirement

We have been renting the same cottage on Lake Superior for the past 13 summers. It’s the best place on earth.

I have been trying to quit my job.

“Trying?” you ask.

Yes. Trying.

When Mr T and I returned from vacation two weeks ago, I gave my two weeks’ notice.

I thought that would be it.

But my boss has been trying to figure out how to keep me.

Which is completely bizarre to me. It’s never happened before.

Not that there is anything that could have made me stay in some of my previous jobs. Except for quitting to go to grad school, I quit because I hated the situation (and the boss) and there is nothing – not even more money – that could have made me stay.

But this time, I am quitting because – this is not how I want to spend my remaining work years.

Last week, Mr T and I learned that a classmate has cancer and has less than six months to live.

The next day, I found out that a friend of mine from when we worked together in Austin had died of natural causes at 64. Sixty four is not that old, y’all.

And last year, a good friend of mine died after three years of cancer. Her husband had finally retired and they were going to Do All The Things – and she was diagnosed of cancer and they never did any of the things.

I spent all of 2020 unemployed. It was stressful not having an income, but we were still so lucky compared to other people. And outside the lack of income and a global pandemic, it was, oddly, a good year for me. I did all kinds of great volunteer projects that made me feel my time mattered: Mr T and I volunteered at the food bank, I managed a project to donate free face shields to health-care workers (Mr T delivered the shields and our house was the western pickup point), and I helped an anti-racism group define their messaging and develop a website.

Most importantly, I helped get rid of the former president by doing everything I could to make sure that eligible voters in Milwaukee, a swing city in a swing state, cast a ballot. I volunteered for two months at the election commission, processing voter registrations and absentee ballot applications, and Mr T and I volunteered as pollworkers on election day.

Last winter, I went back to work full time.

My boss is super nice. My co-workers are super nice. Everyone is really nice.

But – it’s a big company with lots of bureaucracy. I put together a monthly department newsletter with hard deadlines.

It’s hard. It’s hard to be on a deadline all the time and to be responsible for getting work and approvals from other people when you have no authority over them.

I was cranky all the time. I started taking migraine meds again. I woke up every morning dreading what might happen at work. (Not from my boss, but from others outside of the group.)

It’s like that everywhere, at all corporations, I think. A former boss lamented to me, “I just want to be a floor manager at Home Depot.”

I decided to quit. I decided to quit and look for something part time, just enough money to pay for our health insurance. With our remaining time, we would volunteer on causes we care about. Mr T is going to volunteer for his friend who is running against Ron Johnson (we have got to get rid of him) and I want to work on voting rights and systemic racism and prison reform.

After Mr T and I returned from vacation last month, I gave my notice.

That was a week ago and my boss has been brainstorming to figure out a way for me to stay: would I work part time? What if they got rid of all the work except the newsletter? Would I stay until the end of August to get the August issue out? Am I interested in being a contractor to work on projects?

I have to tell you, it’s really flattering to be wanted.

He’s talking to HR to figure out what these options would look like.

And I am thinking, “Maybe I don’t need to look for a part-time job that pays $15/hour and requires me to be onsite. Maybe I can work ten hours a week for my current pay and pay for health insurance and be liberated the rest of the time.”

So that’s where I am. I will let you know what happens.

Y’all, it’s a good market for job seekers right now. It’s bizarre.

One thought on “Once you’ve tasted freedom, it’s hard to go back

  1. Good for you! Retirement can be great – IF you have something to GO TO – and obviously you do. If you can work out a part time thing, by all means do it. One thing I have learned is that one needs something that provides some fulfillment in retirement. After nearly five years, I went back to work for my previous employer doing the payroll. I had done it years before, and then had supervised that function, but found that the few hours it takes me now mean a lot. It also provides a small schedule – which one also needs in retirement. One can read all day long – and I have done that – but retirement is even more enjoyable if you find something meaningful to do Good luck!


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