Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

The other day, a friend of mine from work called.  She was questioning whether she wanted to keep working or retire.  Her will to work was starting to wear down, but she was concerned about the impact her leaving would have on the organization.  I encouraged her to decide based on what was best for her. I assured her that the government would find a way to soldier on without her.  She agreed and remarked bitterly, “I know all these people who seem so fond of me right now won’t give me a second thought once I’ve walked out the door.”

Her comment reminded me that one of my biggest concerns about retirement and moving cross country was that I would lose friends.

I’ve often said that I have a rather faulty emotional transmission.  It takes me a long time to connect with people.  Because I am shy, I often hang back when a new group of people is forming.  When everyone else is getting to know each other and forging relationships, I am still wrestling with my nerves and trying to calm the qualms in my gut.  It takes me even longer to disengage.  By the time I’m feeling comfortable and warmly clicking away on all cylinders with my new friends, other people are getting ready to move on.

When I started my first entry-level job with the government, I was hired with a whole group of new young college graduates.  We bonded over our new experiences and similarities.  It took me some time to weave myself into the group, but I reveled in this new comradery.  A couple of years later, I got the opportunity to take a career-enhancing job in another office.  I worked on an alternative schedule and had every other Friday off.  I hesitated about taking the new job because I couldn’t imagine leaving my friends, but a mentor told me that it was better to go away and leave everyone than to have everyone go away and leave you.  I ended up taking the job, but I didn’t really “go away and leave everyone.”  Every off Friday, I got up early and rode a freakin’ bus for over an hour round trip to visit my colleagues in my old office. I kept up my little pilgrimage for close to a year, even as other folks in my original cohort left the office.

Given my difficulty in shifting relationship gears, I could absolutely empathize with my friend’s concerns about leaving her work relationships.  I told her that I knew from my own experience that such fears don’t have to come true. 

I have always heard that some people come into our lives for a season, some people come into our lives for a reason, and some people come into our lives for a lifetime.  That is exactly what I experienced when I retired.  Retirement has shown me, quite clearly, that some people were part of my working life simply for that time in my life.  Some people were in relationship with me for a reason that was tied up with our work experience.  Retirement also teaches me, though, that there are definitely people I met through work that will grace me with their friendship throughout my lifetime.

I have had several surprises about who would fit into each category.  There are some people who I thought would be friends long after my work life ended who have actually turned out to be friends of the season or the reason.  On the other hand, there are people I expected to drift away when I retired who are still in touch and are still keeping my heart company.  There are actually more of the relationships that survived my retirement and move cross country than those that have faltered.  I am blessed with such faithful forever friends. 

I keep friends by being a friend.  I recognize that everyone is busy.  Having said that, I also realize that my time is probably more flexible than that of my still employed friends.  I bend to their schedules as much as possible. With technology that makes transcontinental communication less costly than it was when my family moved across country in 1965, it is relatively easy to stay in touch. I never mind that I am usually the one who reaches out first.  Friendship is such a valuable commodity, I guard it and grow it as much as I can. Maybe I can invest the time raising the priority and level of friendship-tending precisely because I am retired. Maybe relationships, rather than dwindling away because of retirement, can actually grow because of the increased time we have for them.

In thinking about this recent conversation I had with my friend about what retirement would do to her work relationships, another thought also occurred to me. Is there really anything intrinsically wrong with relationships that turn out to be based only on a season or a reason?  Those people that have meandered out of my life since I retired were no less valuable to me nor were the relationships less sweet because our connections were limited to my work life.  Our time together was precious.  Our relationships enriched my life and contributed to who I am today.

Also, you never know.  People who wandered out of my life may one day wander back.

What do you do to tend work-related friendships after retirement?  Have you been successful in finding your “forever friends?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

9 thoughts on “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot”

  1. Very well written….and so true. I believe I have friends due to my upbringing by keeping in touch with friends in my moving so much around the world…i.e. penpals. I always had pen pals in various countries throughout my life and still keep in touch with them, although they may live in Canada, Europe, England, Turkey, and Israel. I always send at least a card at Christmas to just keep in touch. Or I email to keep in touch. I have friends I knew as a nine year old on up in my life.

    It is fun to contact people even as a teacher, I have several students with whom I still contact. I had so many moves as I grew up, that the pen pal idea stuck with me even up to the present. How fun!

    Love, Lois

    1. Interesting about the pen pals, Lois. I, too, had lots of pen pals when I was young. One day, I just decided to reach out to a small town community in the Midwest. I think I was about twelve and I wanted to meet young people in the heartland of America. I picked a town of a few hundred people in as close to the center of the country as I could find. I wrote to the town postmaster, who shared my letter and I corresponded with several kids around my age. My first love, when I was about fifteen, was a pen pal in Scotland. I also corresponded with a cousin in Tennessee, at the suggestion of my grandmother. I’m afraid I lost touch with all my pen pals, as life unfurled. Recently, though, I’ve reconnected with my cousin and I’m very happy about that!

  2. The loss of work-friends was one of the things that was hardest for me in retirement. These were friendships based on the proximity of the shared work/work environment and when that went away, so did the connection. I didn’t expect them to be forever friends, but the loss of those conversations in my daily life was tough. Like you said, some connections remained afterwards, but even now 2 years later, some of those are still sliding away. I’ve had to foster new friendships with intention. Like you, it doesn’t come easy to me to form friendships. I’ve consciously reached out to others with shared interests. Whether it’s forming a mid-week foodies group to check out new restaurants or going with a retired neighbor to yoga. New friendships of the season/reason perhaps, but important in my life. Having a supportive network of friends is still a work in progress. For me it takes conscious intent and planning.

    1. I’m not sure how to form those new friendships. It seems like most of the women with whom I have casual interactions have family and grandchildren nearby that keep them very busy. My best friends are younger than me and still working. Right now, I’m just keeping busy with activities I enjoy, even if no friendships develop from them.

      1. I do think having friends is one of the biggest joys I’ve had in life. Like everything else, those friendships can change over time. We miss the relationships the way they were, but I always hope I don’t miss “what was” so much that I forget to value “what is” in those relationships. I’ve made a couple of new friends in the two years or so since I retired and moved. I did just what you and Pat did- concentrated on doing activities I enjoyed and kept my heart open to new people. It takes time and, for me, I’ve learned I can’t really “manage” the task of making new friends the same way I manage other challenges like maintaining the blog or deciding on a new doctor. It has to happen naturally and I have to trust that just being me is enough to attract, grow, and solidify new acquaintances into friends. It can be awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning stages, but it is so worth it!

    2. I think you are absolutely right, Pat, in that making friends and tending those budding relationships does take mindfulness. They will grow organically, but in their own time. In the meantime, it is great that you are enjoying the activities for their own sake.

  3. Like all of you, I too find it difficult to maintain friendships that were formed, in the beginning, because we worked together. In my case, I’m 5 and 10 years older than my two best friends from work . But we were much, much more than work buddies. We had children at the same time. We went on vacations with our families and to each others’ homes throughout the years. I’m the first to retire….now 2 years ago. Though we’ll always be important to each other, we no longer have the daily contact. We talk on the phone about once every 2 weeks and get together several times a year. Plus, my husband and I do have theater subscription tickets with one of my friends and her husband. But it’s just not the same and I miss having women in my daily life. I’ve been taking some art classes, dog training classes and joined a book club, but so far no real friendships have developed. I just keep busy with other folks around me with whom I chat during the activity.

  4. Terri, very interesting post. I’ve been retired for almost 4 years. I worked with an organization for 34 yrs. Like other folks have posted, we raised our kids together, went on vacations together, celebrated the trials and tribulations of life together. I have very little contact with those folks now, unless I initiate it. I’ve reached the point in my life where I want reciprocity so I initiate the contact less and less. However, they remain significant in my life, cornerstones.
    My closest friends are those who I met outside of the work experience. Maintaining friendships does take mindfulness and energy. I aspire to be a good friend.
    I have had a penpal, from England, for 50 yrs. We just celebrated our 50th birthdays in Portugal. It was our 5th time to visit with each other. We plan to see each other again in 2021.
    I concur with your advice to your friend – do what’s best for you. On my last day of employment, I walked out of the workplace without one person recognizing the pivotal moment (there had been a retirement party). I was the one who called my immediate supervisor (she worked in another location) to say good-bye. It would seem that everyone was getting on with their day, taken up with the busy-ness of their lives. And so I, too, got on with the rest of my life.

    1. Thanks, Mona… very well said. I guess we all need to discern what we want our lives to be and trust that we will encounter the right people to be our companions along the way.

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