It’s my final day of work tomorrow. Not the last day of my current job, the last day period. I’m retiring and I’ve been ready for a year or so. It’s been a long slog getting here, but here I am and I can be thankful that I put a lot of financial preparation over several decades into being where I am today.
That preparation can be boiled down to one maxim; save early and save as much as you can. Thirty years ago that was the take home lesson I gleaned from a local seminar on retirement savings and I’m happy to say it worked.
But that’s not the real point of this post. What I’m more concerned with is the transition from an active worker to someone who no longer needs to work. For my identity, like many others I suspect, is to some extent bound up in what I do. I need to let go of this, and re-seat my identity in who I am. Ideally, of course, I should have accepted this years ago but it’s hard to overcome social conventions that prize occupation – and salary – as measures of worth above almost all else.
But now I have to. That, I’m sure, is going to preoccupy my early days in retirement above almost all else. I’m pleased this is happening; I resent evaluations that are based on what you do. It would be so much nicer if we could all focus on what we are, but, as I said, convention works against this.
That said, I have to say I have probably have spent less time caring about what I do than many others. At my retirement party, my boss said I was ‘One of a kind’ in his speech, and I found that both accurate and satisfying. I’ve never chased big bucks nor have I sought promotions or what one might call career advancement. Instead, I pushed for maximum autonomy in what I do and, on the whole, achieved that. As a biochemist, that option is perhaps more obtainable than in other jobs. I’ve also prized working with good people very highly, regarding a personable working companion as worth far more than some salary boost. By the end of my career, I was largely exactly where I wanted to be. It makes leaving a lot easier.
So what am I going to do now? Photograph, obviously, and finally with the time and freedom to seek out a wider range of opportunities. Hopefully, I’ll improve further but any improvement is really only going to be meaningful to me. Even less than before, I photograph for myself now.
Just as I did with the picture of Post-Dispatch Lake in Forest Park that you see above. (‘Post-Dispatch Lake’, what a name!). It’s one of series of photographs documenting my last days of returning home through the park and, by extension, the constraints of time and place that existed at that time. They form a record of my last days at work, and as such carry a potent emotional charge. And they are on film – somehow gaining weight through this, leaving as it does a tangible, material record of a moment caught.