Well it seemed appropriate to tackle this issue seeing that it was Labor Day this week. One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make since my diagnosis has been the sudden “retirement” from working. I had been working since I was 12 years old with my first paper route. Yes back then, kids delivered the daily paper seven days a week using their bicycle. It started a work ethic and responsibility much earlier than most of today’s youth. In 35 years in the work force I was never fired or laid off, and at the end it was a medical condition that caused me to stop working. I say this because today I am sure most of us know someone who has lost their job in the last few years. In fact, this week many of my good friends at my former company will be laid off and add to the growing list of unemployed. Who knows, I may have been one of them. And given a choice between that and an ALS diagnosis…you can guess my preference.
So how often have we all dreamed of early retirement? I think most of us dream of that not because we want to stop working, but rather, we are not happy in our jobs. One of my mentors always ended our conversations by saying “have fun out there.” He said that because he loved what he did. I have another friend who was laid off, found another sales job but was just as unhappy and decided to go back to get his MBA and in the process has started a new career and you can see how much happier his is as he looks to the future. I miss working. Not so much the grind but everything that comes with it. I miss the people, the offices, the competition, the desire and drive to get better, the battle to be number one, etc. My number one job has always been as husband and father, but through this process I have lost some of my identity. I am no longer a “provider” for my family financially. Can I provide for my family in other ways? I wish I could do more around the house but physically I can’t. I have received a tremendous gift through all this though. I have more quality time with my kids than most men dream of. I will be present for all athletic and school activities, and I see my little ones on and off the bus every day. But it is a transition.
A big part of working for me was showing that daily work ethic for our children. Thank god for my wife Susan. Her path in dealing with the effects of ALS is very different than mine, and a tremendous amount of pressure has been put on her shoulders. Thank goodness for the work ethic her father instilled in her; perhaps it prepared her for this moment when someone else may have cracked under the pressure. I have never seen a more dedicated employee than my wife. Her dedication sometimes caused arguments when we had sick kids because she always had meetings she couldn’t miss. The only sick day I have seen her take is when she physically could not get out of bed for two days. She also loves and is very, very good at what she does. As my daughter grows up Susan will be a great role model for her.
My retirement was supposed to be filled with golf, bowling, drumming, travel, etc. Instead I sit here typing with one finger while one hand holds my typing hand up. I have a small list of things to try to do around the house, and I will take a long walk on this beautiful day with my dog. If it sounds a bit boring that is because it is. When you haven’t prepared for not working anymore it can be a bit challenging. That is probably why Brett Favre can’t retire. He loved what he did and has no clue how to fill that void. My void is being filled with odds and ends and as many things are for me today, it is a work in progress.
They say less than 15% of people enjoy their work. How sad. The people I know who love their job found a passion and made a career out of it. Some make a very good living at it but many lead very simple lives. If you are working I hope you enjoy what you are doing, If not, I hope one day you will. If a door closes on you this week or in the future, have faith another door will open. I always thought my mentor’s phrase of “having fun out there” only had meaning for work. Now I realize it should relate to life! One of my favorite phrases has always been “Attitude creates Altitude” and with such a void in my life today without working, it has never been more important than now. Be careful what you ask for because early retirement isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. My advice is finding a career you love and work until you can’t anymore. At the end you may find you never worked a day in your life! Now go have fun out there!