It’s been a year since I stopped work. Except of course I didn’t stop. I kept on with different stuff. I just threw the switch on a career. I hopped off the fairground ride; stepped off the conveyor belt. I removed myself from responsibilities and expectations that had slowly and silently begun to choke me.
The world did not end. The sun continued to rise every day. I just gave up a role and a title I had strived for, worked for, but perversely, often struggled with. I stepped down from my executive position and experienced life this year in a different way. I’ve had time to refocus and notice stuff I hadn’t before.
So it was a freeing, I guess you could say.
This year I have not needed so much to be the adult in the room, responding calmly and professionally while others felt no similar constraint. No longer has my mind needed to size up diverse and pressing challenges. I am no longer the leader; the one who can not rely on excuses. Results and outcomes mattered in my previous role. Excuses were irrelevant. I no longer need to be the pain bearer for the sins of others. My doctor no longer needs to lecture about my stress filled lifestyle.
These are all good developments. Don’t get me wrong! It’s just that there have been a few others I wasn’t quite fully prepared for.
When you lead an organisation it is like your child. You care for it and the people in it. You want to see it grow and do well. Maybe sometimes you begin to believe that you are the best and only person to guide it. Not sure I ever believed that, but I certainly felt protective of it.
When I walked out the door for the last time (and even in the weeks and months before) I discovered I was no longer the ‘go to’ person. What I thought no longer seemed to matter quite as pivotally as it had before. The transitioning had begun, as it had to. Now of course, what I think has no relevance or importance to anyone apart from friends and family. It has taken a while for me to get used to that, but now I kind of like it.
When you’re at the peak of your career you think you have a lot of valuable knowledge and skills, and maybe you do. What hits you in the face though is how little value it has after you step down. I thought I had things I could continue to offer. How foolish! Others thought differently. My professional opinion has not been sought this year and my wisdom not tapped. Alas! I sort of expected that would be the case but it took a bit of adjustment and my ego, which had inflated over the course of my career, needed time to get back into its box. I’m pleased to report it is safely restrained. I am at peace now in a way I was rarely able to be in the career world.
As I said, this has been a kind of freeing. Not as neat and straightforward as I might have expected, but a freeing anyway. Giving up my sense of importance, my belief in my indispensability, and putting my ego on a reduction program have all bought real blessings in a way I could not have imagined.
So, a year into ‘retirement’. What have I to show for it?
Do I miss being at the centre of things? Yes, but not enough to want to go back.
I am more settled and content just to ‘be’. I am more available to people than ever before. I have time to think and time to be. I enjoy the company of friends and family.
I still haven’t mastered the exercise regime that leads to a trim healthy body, but I reassure myself that one day I will. We are capable of outrageous self deception sometimes aren’t we?
I have let go of a need to ‘achieve’ anything. I am happiest now when I am creating and doing stuff. I love to give and receive hugs and to really listen to people.
Have I learned something worthwhile this year? Absolutely!
Disappointments and areas needing further work? You bet! Wouldn’t life be dull if we had it all worked out?
Happy New Year. Peace and blessings to you in 2014.