I know what you’re thinking … “Geez, not another post about retirement!!” Well, I can’t promise the subject will never crop up again, but this will be the end of it for a while.
Sheila is officially, officially retired. As of December 31, 2019, she is no longer in the work force after far too many years of working way too hard, most recently the past 21 years as an environmental/Health & Safety consultant for a large, international firm.
In this last job, in particular, she spent a huge majority of her working hours away from home, traveling all over the country (as well as outside of it) a minimum 4-5 or more days per week away from home. Of course, this was tough on her with family responsibilities as a mother, grandmother, and wife to consider. But she did her best to meet all of those challenges head on.
Last night, Sheila’s employer honored her with a really nice dinner … just a small select group from the company, including her immediate boss and a few of the company partners. It was cozy, but lovely and appropriate, especially considering how her travel schedule kept her away from the everyday office employees, to the point where most office people knew who she was but wouldn’t ever recognize her.
There were very nice things said about her abilities, her intense work ethic, her professionalism. A few thoughtful gifts were presented to her after a tender and emotional little speech by her boss. All in all, a completely suitable low-key event for Sheila, exactly as she hoped it would be. Sheila is not big on being the center of attention, but she truly appreciates the sincerity behind the words, companionship, and honorarium.
I’m writing about this for two reasons.
First, I’m very proud of what Sheila has accomplished through all of these years. She managed to successfully raise three children while juggling work and home responsibilities, and you can see in how her kids live their now-adult lives the work ethic, intelligence and love she bestowed on them. Family is THE key focus in Sheila’s life, and in spite of the working and traveling she had to do to keep the family thriving, she managed to raise some of the best people I know. I am very proud of both Sheila and her family.
After her first full month of retirement Sheila is finally able to take some deep breaths and start to relax. It’s great to see that and it’s well deserved.
Secondly, her retirement made me realize several key things about the “new” work environment. Very few people today stay with a company for 20+ years, and as a result, the organizations don’t really foster development of a close-knit bond between employees. As it happens, Sheila and her immediate boss are personal friends and I expect they will remain so. There is a very select group of other company employees that might remain in contact with Sheila, but that remains to be seen.
When I retired almost 3 years ago, I had worked for my company for 19 years. While I always felt I was an integral member of the organization, my retirement was nothing more eventful than a blip on the organizational screen. No little dinner, no short speech, no lovely parting gifts. Just an adios and zero other contact beyond a very random social media “like”.
Honestly, I don’t care about that at all and carry no grudges or ill feelings. I mention it because it is very indicative of how the work force is today.
When most of us are working we feel like we are important to the organization and put forth a very concerted effort to be the best we can be. If you’re lucky, you’ll be properly compensated for that effort (I certainly was) and after all, isn’t that why you work? To get paid?
Still, the emotional part of the equation is there. Money is nice, but everyone wants to feel that they are something more than just a means to an end and it seems that far too many employers miss that part of it.
It was really great to see Sheila recognized for her amazing talent, intelligence and work ethic last night. Heaven knows she fully deserves it. We will now spend the rest of our lives puttering around the house, traveling a bit, enjoying our kids and grandkids and being eternally grateful to have met each other at this later stage of our lives.