The day has finally arrived. This was my last day as a regular working stiff for the Federal Government. When I left the Kluczynski building at 3:30 PM I was officially retired from government service.
It feels weird.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote of the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. They apply to nearly any loss, not just those arising from your impending death or that of loved ones. I carried some level of denial ever since I announced I was going. I could hardly believe it would really happen. I was angry with the agency because I left under conditions that, in my mind, did not allow me to use my full abilities and diminished the impact of my service. I vacillated between staying and going, even considering the possibility of accepting a retention bonus (that was never offered) to stay on. The realization that I would lose my hardwon status as a Senior Manager and become, in effect, just another taxpayer was hard to deal with. I have never liked being another face in the crowd. But finally, I knew it was what it was. I chose this path and I was not going to waver from it.
Today, I was filled with trepidation as the final hour approached. I left with a smile but inside I wept for the loss of connections to a life and a group of people that I value highly. I got a mocha from Starbucks and walked along the lakefront, past the Columbia Yacht Club and up to Giordano's on Rush St. Along the way I mused on this change in status and realized that it was much like being born.
Surely the fetus is aware at some level that life in the womb is changing, and that its status is changing. The act of birth, however difficult it may be for the mother, must be equally surprising to the fetus. Suddenly you are thrust out of one environment into another that you are unfamiliar with. You have no choice but to adapt. Today, I was thrust into retirement, and while the landscape appears similar, the environment is not entirely the same as it was yesterday. Worse, I am doing this alone, without benefit of spouse or companion. My family and friends are there, God Bless Them Every One, but I am still doing this on my own. I will adapt none the less.
Life begins anew. I have been reborn.