This past Friday I had lunch with a former co-worker. In the course of our conversation she told me that another co-worker remarked that my absence from the workplace felt like a death. Someone I was very close to would stand up to talk to me over the wall that separated us and then realize I wasn’t there. It almost made me cry to hear this. I told my friend that my retirement kind of felt like a death on my end too. Tomorrow I begin my sixth week of retirement and I must admit I am starting to struggle with it to the point of having some anxiety over it. I do think I needed to get away from the work environment. If I had my way I would not have left it completely. I would have just reduced the number of hours I spent at work. I was burned out after so many years of being a leader. Although there were good things about the work environment there was also a lot of pettiness and what I call corporate BS. However, I am starting to realize how much the social aspect of working in an office contributed to my well-being. I was a well liked and popular person. Even if some aspects of the work experience were driving me crazy, most of my co-workers enjoyed my presence. I apparently did not realize how much I enjoyed their presence or how important the social aspect of work was to me.
I must admit that I am feeling lonely, a little forgotten, and completely lacking in purpose. There was once a movie I really liked with Bruce Willis called “The Sixth Sense”. It was basically the story of a man who dies but he didn’t realize it for a long time. He thought he was living but was actually invisible to everyone else. They were simply going about their lives and he was no longer a part of those lives. Without sounding too dramatic I am starting to feel like this man. All my former co-workers, and even my own family, are still living the lives they were living before I retired. I, on the other hand, feel like the invisible man. Even when I go to the park or to a store I feel like no one sees me. I am completely alone a great deal of the time. As an extreme introvert it is difficult for me to join groups and make new friends. I have never been much of a group person and always preferred more one on one relationships.
I need to make some changes but am not yet sure what these changes need to be. I need a reason to get out of bed besides taking my wife to work.
Admittedly, it is not all doom and gloom. I do love my early mornings at home when I can have some quality alone time. The struggles seem to begin with what we used to call in the monastery the “noonday devil”. I may feel bored and a little sorry for myself. Then I start thinking too much and these thoughts often turn to anxiety when I wonder, “Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life”?
Since my life seems to have come to a screeching halt, I do have a better understanding of other people’s sadness and why many old people get tired of living. Whether you work or not, you need other human relationships, a sense of purpose, and something to do that makes you happy. I need to restore some balance in my life. It has gotten lopsided.
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