I learned a lot of good stuff while I was working. I figured most of it would immediately become moot the day I retired. That assumption is probably correct, but I’ve found I actually did learn some transferable skills.
Recently, I’ve been struggling to fight my way through the administrative jungle involved in applying for financial aid to help with my mother’s care. After hiring one law firm to help, I quickly realized that my own background provided a much better machete for slicing my way through the undergrowth. For several months, I fought through vines and branches of internet research on my own, trying to understand the eligibility and documentation requirements. I spent a lot of energy wandering around in useless circles without clearing much of the jungle out of my way.
It was exhausting, but even inefficient persistent activity can sometimes result in progress. Using the experience and education I amassed during a 30 plus year career in bureaucracy as a basis for my analysis, I slowly began to understand what was going to be necessary and how to ask the right questions. A kind stranger also gave me a referral to a specialty law firm. That law firm helped me trade in my blunted, bedraggled machete for an earthmover. Working with the staff of the new law firm, I was able to work more methodically and spend my energy on the activities that were going to matter. Rather quickly, I was able to see some light at the other end of the jungle. I’m still whacking away at low-lying branches, but I’m getting there.
During that process, I met with the office manager of the law firm. She did the initial interview, pointed me in the right documentation-gathering direction, and assigned a caseworker to help me. In our conversation, she asked what I did for a living before I retired. When I explained the progression of my career and what my role was when I stopped working for a living, she offered me a job in her office. I could kind of see her thought process. My career was actually very similar to the kind of work her office does. On the other hand, her offer stunned me.
I never contemplated working after I retired. That was never part of the plan. While I was still in my job, people used to talk about how well I could do if I went into private practice when I retired. I reacted to those comments with complete bafflement. What would be the point of retiring if I was going to keep working? In my mind, I would just keep my steady job with a nice income and benefits if I wanted to work for a living.
Yes, I understood that some people liked the idea of having their own business and being their own boss, but it always just sounded like a lot of extra trouble to me. Yes, I understood that some people think they can reduce their hours and stress when they work after retirement. I’m not sure I buy it, especially for someone like me. I believe God gives us all talents and expects us to develop them. My talent happens to be worrying. I have spent a lifetime learning to excel at it. I’m not sure it matters how few hours I work. I would be wor”ry”king full time. Yes, I understood that some people are passionate about their work and can’t imagine giving it up completely. I can almost get behind that argument. If there was some opportunity to get paid for working at some passion of mine, I might concede. But battling bureaucracy? I don’t think that’s anyone’s idea of passion.
Still, when the office manager asked me about coming to work for the law firm, my first impulse was to try to figure out a way to make it work. My brain immediately stumbled over obstacles to device possible strategies that would allow me to work at a job (that I didn’t even want) while also taking care of my mother, doing the tasks necessary to keep my household running smoothly, writing the blog, maintaining my relationships, and trying to have some sort of fun in my “spare time.”
I think this process reveals a congenital defect in my reasoning ability. At some point very early on in my life, I somehow bought into a pretty basic fallacy. If someone asks me to do something, it must make sense for me to do it. I spent a good deal of my career attempting to fulfill that fallacy. I often didn’t consider whether I actually wanted to do a particular job or assignment or even if it was feasible for me to do it. I figured that, if someone was asking me to do it, it must be possible and it must be a good idea for me to do it. I’m not saying that this was always a bad thing. In fact, following other people’s plans for how I should spend my time and energy was a good thing in some ways. If I had stopped to consult my own preferences, I might have passed up some opportunities I ultimately enjoyed and from which I profited. It is sometimes easier to stretch your capabilities when someone else is pushing you than when you try to expand your horizons under your own power. Still, there were also other “opportunities” that would have been better left untapped… at least by me… and I would not have been tapping them if left to my own devices.
This time, though, when the office manager offered me the job, I managed to stop myself before agreeing. I let myself live in an awkward pause while I did not immediately reply to her suggestion. During that time, I am sure my face did express a certain degree of horror at the whole idea. Initially, the office manager thought I didn’t realize she was serious. She started reassuring me that the offer was real. She extolled the virtues of the position. I was still not responding. She got the idea that I was either dimwitted or just not interested. She looked kind of embarrassed and unsure of how to extricate herself from this particular line of conversation. My mind unfroze and I bailed her out, explaining that I just didn’t see how I could take on anything else while caring for my mother. The office manager seemed happy to let the matter go, but did mention that I should call her when I “got bored.”
I’m not bored and I don’t foresee myself getting bored. On the other hand, part of my mind still keeps revisiting that job offer. It was heartening to have someone validate my value on the job market. I felt kind of sassy and swaggery. The whole exchange was very flattering. I think part of me has always kind of felt that most of my success in my career was due to simple longevity. The fact that someone wanted to hire me for a professional position to do something new and different makes me think that maybe there was at least some actual talent fueling my career success.
I haven’t done anything mad like calling back and asking for the job. The bottom line is that I don’t want the job, but it’s very nice to be asked.
What do you think? Have you ever considered starting to work again after you’ve retired? How is it working out for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a pleasantly busy day!